Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Making Connections

Romans 16:1-27

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Paul\'s letter to the Romans was not merely a theological treatise on God\'s plan to rescue mankind from evil. He wrote it to people he had (mostly) never met, in a city where he had never been. The purpose of his letter was that of introduction. \"Hi, I\'m Paul, and this is what I believe.\" In addition, it was a letter of request. As we saw in the last chapter, Paul hoped \"to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you\" (Rom 15:24). Paul wanted to use Rome as his new HQ for evangelical campaigns to areas where he\'d not yet been. It didn\'t work out quite that way. While Paul was in Jerusalem, he was arrested and ended up in Rome alright, but in chains. Tradition says he eventually made it to Spain before being beheaded in Rome by Caesar Nero.

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As part of Paul\'s introduction of himself, he wants the Romans to know that he really is no stranger to them. He and his fellow workers in Corinth have relationships with the church in Rome-a church made up of Jews, Roman officials, slaves, free people, men, and women. So even thought this last chapter isn\'t heavy on theology, it is filled with personal testimony and feeling, and gives us a rich tapestry and picture of ministry and body life in the 1st century-something that can encourage us in the 21st century church.

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To begin, Paul asks a favor for a friend.

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1 - 2

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Phoebe was apparently about to leave Corinth for Rome. It was customary for letters of introduction and commendation to accompany people going from one city to another. Phoebe was from the church at Cenchreae, a city about 7 miles from Corinth, and started as a result of Paul\'s original journey to Corinth (2 Cor 1:1).

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Some important things about Phoebe: She was a wealthy businesswoman (women supported Jesus in his ministry financially-Mark 15:41), a benefactor of Paul\'s, a deacon (the word can be masculine or feminine according to Vincent) in her church, and likely the person who delivered this letter to Rome.

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3 - 5

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Priscialla (Prisca) and Aquilla were fellow tent makers who reached out to Paul in a particularly low time, after Paul\'s time in Athens, when he came to Corinth (Acts 18). They were from Rome, had come to Corinth, went with Paul to Ephesus, and eventually returned to Rome. They \"risked their necks\" probably in the riot that broke out in Ephesus (Acts 19) that nearly cost Gaius his life. They were church planters, and apparently one of the churches in Rome was in their home. This is a great example of husband and wife teams in ministry.

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5b

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Imagine being Epaenetus-the \"firstfruits\" of Paul\'s ministry in Asia. No wonder he was thought of so fondly.

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6 - 15

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(6) Mary is a Jewish name. We don\'t know what she did, but we know she \"worked hard.\" It\'s not what we do for God that matters, but that we do it faithfully and fully.

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(7) Andronicus (Latin), and Junias (Greek) are likely fellow Christians, not actual relatives. They probably shared time in one of the many prisons Paul was thrown into. Their service was so well known, that even the apostles spoke well of them.

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(8 - 10) Nothing is known about these men other than they worked with Paul, they were loved by Paul, and approved by the Lord. In the end, what more could we ask for? Aristobulus-could be slaves of a grandson of Herod the Great.

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(11)? The household of Narcissus were probably slaves of wealthy freedman. Several of the names on this list appear on inscriptions in Rome, as salves of the Imperial household. Being a slave in that time was not like American slavery of the 18th and 19th centuries. These were often educated people, many of whom could and did purchase their freedom and became vital parts of their communities.

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(12) The names mean \"dainty\" and \"delicate\" but their ministry was anything but.

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(13) Rufus could be one of the sons of Simon who was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus in Mark 15:21. Some think that Mark\'s gospel was finished in Rome and so that may be why Mark mentions Rufus as he would already have been well known to them.

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(14 - 15) These could indicate house churches in Rome.

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16

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As Paul asked for special greetings to those he knew, so too he wanted each one to greet their fellow believers with a \"holy kiss. This was also a common thing for Paul to request (eg 1 Cor 16:20).

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Now Paul gets into his second major point: Be Watchful.

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17 - 20

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Apparently Paul did not have anyone in particular in mind (\"those\" in verse 17 instead of specific names) but because of what he experienced in other churches he\'d founded, the Apostle knew that others would come in who sound great and really have \"brown nosing\" down to a science. What they are to be on the lookout for are those who \"cause divisions and create obstacles.\" Divide and conquer-is a common device of the enemy. Wolves try to separate the young and weak from the protection of the rest of the flock so they can run them down.

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That\'s why it is so important for us to not focus on small things we disagree on, but large things we can agree on, and strengthen those things and those around us in the essential doctrines of faith and trust in Jesus.

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He acknowledges that their \"obedience is known to all.\" Just because you are a maturing believer doesn\'t mean you are immune to false doctrine. 1 Cor 10:12-13

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

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I like the juxtaposition of verse 20. Our \"God of peace\" will \"crush Satan under your feet.\" To obtain real peace God must destroy evil. He first promised this in Genesis 3:15, a verse Paul is probably referring to here. And finally, he also acknowledges that it is by \"grace\" that we are saved, not our own efforts to obtain God\'s peace or the destruction of the enemy.

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So now Paul\'s companions get their own chance for greetings.

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21 - 23 (24)

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Timothy, of course, was Paul\'s prot?g? who was with him in Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 17-18) and his helper in solving the problems of the Corinthian church (1 Cor 4:17, 16:10) and the subject of 1 and second Timothy. Lucius could be an alternate form of Luke.

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Tertius was the man who took down Paul\'s dictation of this letter. Gaius hosted Paul in Corinth and was baptized by Paul (1 Cor 1:14). Gaius was dragged into the Ephesian theater in Acts 19 during the riot.

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Erastus was the Corinthian city treasurer. An inscription has been found in Corinth with his name on it.

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And finally, Paul\'s final benediction.

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25 - 27

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Doesn\'t this sum up the book nicely? It\'s all about glorifying God and being strengthened in the gospel. Jesus as the focal point of all history wasn\'t known clearly. Even the prophets struggled with the Messianic prophecies they wrote (1 Peter 1:10-12). But now it\'s all here. No \"new\" revelation is needed. No new savior is necessary. No new gospel will bring us close to God. To God be the glory through Jesus Christ-forever!

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Conclusions

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Role of Women in the early church

Paul mentions no less than nine women ?in his list of greetings in verses 1 - 16 (11 if you count unnamed sister and mother-of 29 people). Of them, Tryphaena, Tryphosa and Persis may also have been deacons - verse 12). Prisca (Priscilla) is also mentioned for her many contributions in ministry-and is listed first, I think, for a reason. Phoebe is mentioned as a \"patron\" and though this can refer to her office as deacon, it can also suggest a financial support. Phoebe was also so trusted that she carried the book of Romans with her on a long journey. Galatians 3:28 \"There is neither male nor female...for you are all one in Christ.\" We have a wife, a single mom, and a mother-all performing valuable service to the Lord.

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So in business, finances, fellowship, and ministry-women in Paul\'s life were significant. Their role in the church should not be minimized. Men and women have different roles only in that men and women are different. But one is not more or less important than another.

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Get Connected

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What I love about this chapter is that for Paul, people were not notches on his Christian Conversion Belt; they were not a faceless sea of people. As Paul went on his journeys he connected with them, and knew them well. One of the chief blessings of the body of Christ is that we have the opportunity to get to know some wonderful people-take advantage of it. Don\'t be disconnected, but connect to others.

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Show Appreciation

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Do you notice how many times Paul commends the hard work, and service of those he knew? Paul could have relied simply on what God had done through him, but he takes the time to really appreciate the good things his friends are doing. I know this sounds somewhat simplistic, but let\'s make it a point to appreciate those people around us.

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Remain Watchful

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This might also seem obvious. In chapter 15 Paul had told the Romans they were \"filled with knowledge and able to instruct one another.\" (15:14), yet he gives them this exhortation to \"watch out.\" Connecting with people and showing appreciation has to go side by side with sound doctrine; otherwise the \"smooth talkers\" can people please their way in.

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Be Thankful

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Through it all, let\'s continually give thanks to the one who, through His mercy, has brought us from a terrible darkness into a marvelous light!

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