Scripture reading for August 3rd: Romans 16:8-27
Paul concludes his letter of introduction with some personal notes of greeting showing that although he had never visited the church at Rome, he had many connections. The community of faith is like a family with relationship connections everywhere. Ministry happens through relationship and when someone is born again, they come into a circle of new relationships.
The first woman mentioned was a sister in the Lord, Phoebe. She was called a ‘servant of the church in Cenchrea’. (Romans 16:1) The word for ‘servant’ is ‘deacon’. Phoebe was a friend of Paul’s who probably took his letter to the church in Rome from Corinth.
Priscilla and Aquila were a husband and wife whom Paul met in Corinth. Priscilla and Aquila were originally from Italy and left Rome because of persecution from Claudius, the Roman emperor who ordered all Jews to leave. (Acts 18:1-3) They had evidently returned to Italy and were part of the church there. Paul had been a tent maker with them and worked with them in sharing the Gospel in Corinth. These two had risked their lives for Paul. (Romans 16:3-5) A church was meeting at their house in Rome!
Andronicus and Junias, were relatives of Paul’s who were imprisoned with Paul at some point. Paul indicated that they were outstanding among the apostles and saved before he was. (Romans 16:7) This is the only mention in Scripture of a woman who was part of the early apostles!
Paul listed at least 8 women who were his friends and workers for the Lord. He also listed 19 men by name that he knew in Rome and commended them to the church there. He spoke of them in very personal ways as ‘dear friends’ and ‘like a mother’. He called them ‘saints’ and asked that the church greet them for him with a holy kiss of affection.
Paul warned the church there to be on guard against those who would cause divisions in the relationships that they enjoyed. Each church must be watchful because Satan loves to cause strife and division. (Romans 16:17-19) These who cause strife use smooth talk and flattery to deceive naive people. Paul’s warning was part of his pastor’s heart and years of experience in spiritual warfare. Personal relationship with Jesus Christ forms the basis of our salvation. Personal relationships in the body of Christ are essential for ministry. God knows each person by name!