Read Romans 16:1-27
1I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. 3Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. 6Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. 8Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. 9Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. 15Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them. 16Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.
17I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
20The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
21Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.
22I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.
Erastus, who is the city's director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.
25Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— 27to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (NIV)
We get to the final remarks of Paul’s letter. And in this section we see a lot of names being listed. And we can learn something from this list of names at the end of Romans. Paul’s letters have been used by people over the years to put down women in the ministry. I believe this is a misreading of Paul as I think Paul was very pro women in ministry. It wasn’t until the second century that they church relegated women to certain roles only.
But in the beginning of this letter, of the 27 people actually mentioned by name from verse 1 to verse 16, 8 of them are women. And if you include the two women not mentioned by name, but by relationship, Rufus’s mother (vs 13) and Nereus’ sister (vs 15), we find that over 1/3 of the people Paul mentions in the letter are women working for the Lord.
This is an important teaching in Paul that we often overlook. Paul says in Galations 3:27-28, “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) In Christ, we are all in this work together. Each of us has been given purpose in the Kingdom, and that purpose ultimately points to spreading the Gospel and ultimately, bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
But when times are good, we have a tendency to seek other purposes or place a higher priority on things not of God. This is the trap followers of Christ have fallen into throughout history.
But Paul’s greatest concern is seen in his last warning. Paul was always worried about division in the body. This is the greatest problem of the church today. We are so divided. We are not just divided in beliefs by our various denominations, but also within individual churches by the clichés that develop. We are to have a spirit of unity and togetherness. We need to learn to have charity among the believers. John Wesley used to talk about the main points we need to agree on and then having charity with the rest of our interpretations. He was apt to say, “Is your heart with my heart.” It was a way of saying do we both lover and trust Christ, then surely our minor differences should not separate us or divide us.
Do you feel you have a purpose in life for building the kingdom? Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? Do you have “line in the sand” type of beliefs that if other believers who hold the opposite side of the view, you do not associate with them? I think this is a big problem today that divided us. Whether it is method of baptism, to predestination vs freewill, to even what we call Communion, people have divided and even refused to listen to believers on the other side of the argument. Even John Wesley and his good friend in ministry, George Whitefield, would not speak to each other for years over the issue of free will verses predestination. It was only later in life that they realized they both were working for the same purpose in the world.
Comments and Questions.
Blessings and Peace