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25. Romans 16: “Paul Puts People Front & Center”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 12/20/2012
(edited December 2019)
It’s Holiday Time once again and as I study this chapter in the Book of Romans, I can’t help but try to imagine how the Apostle Paul would fit in at our Christmas social and church gatherings. I also question myself on where I want to fit in with other people. Should I concentrate solely on the doctrines of the faith, or take some time to extend true hospitality to others as God enables me? I’m sorry to admit that it’s often harder for me to be hospitable than it should be.
Well, if anyone had an excuse to put religious doctrine over social interaction and Christian Love, it was Paul. He literally wrote many of the major doctrines of the New Testament. For instance, there is a well-known Doctrine called “The Roman Road.” It is often shared with potential believers and has been printed in tens of thousands of Gospel tracts. It is based on quotes found in chapters 3-10 from this Book of Romans.
Plus, Paul had been a Pharisee before he met Christ. An Old Testament expert who had lived zealously for doctrines, even to the point of advocating death and confinement for those who would not submit to the doctrines he held at the time. Then Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus. In this chapter we are going to see clearly that Jesus changed Paul into a people person!
Verse 1: “ I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:”
Sister Phebe voluntarily served a specific church group. And when Paul was in town, Phebe had helped him.
Paul hadn’t forgotten:
Verse 2: “ That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.”
Why mention this one Christian by name? Well, she was important to Paul. Paul was a great preacher, missionary, Apostle, and an actual “miracle-worker” in the flesh! But Paul was not a robot. He needed help and support in his ministry. Yes, he needed PEOPLE.
We often hear Paul quoted from his letter to the church at Philippi as saying, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
But the next verse doesn’t get as much air-play: “Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.”
Paul wasn’t obsessed with Phebe, by the way. His Love in Christ extended to many others gathered there at Rome, and so he begins to commend them by name and by category:
Verses 3-4: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”
Verse 5: “ Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.
This couple, Priscilla and Aquila, hosted church meetings in their home in addition to all they had done for Paul individually. And this man, Epaenetus, was a “firstfruits” believer. Do you know what that means? He was the first open convert in the area that included Ephesus in Asia. When Paul first preached in this area, a mob tried to kill him. That means that back when everybody was shakin’ in their boots, back before anyone else publicly confessed faith in Christ in that heathen environment, Epaenetus stood up and said, “Yes, I’ll trust in Jesus for my salvation!” Paul never forgot the man’s courage.
Verse 6: “Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.”
Verse 7: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”
for BONDS OF LOVE:
Verses 8-9 : “Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.”
Real love, God’s unselfish Love, is a great gift to any relationship. Paul appreciated it and wanted to mention it here about these folks.
for CHRISTIAN FAMILY TIES:
Verses 10-11: “Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household. Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.”
Some of them, including Paul, had apparently found great Christian fellowship and Love within their own earthly families. -By the way, if you haven’t found much of that in your walk with Christ or your walk toward Christ, in other words, if your earthly family has not encouraged you to pursue Christ, please take a look at Christ’s promise to you in Mark 10:29-30 “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”
This, I believe, was part of Christ’s experience. The Scriptures tell us that His own family members doubted Him during his life on earth. But His life goes on even now and look at ALL THE LOVE HE NOW RECEIVES DAILY!
There was a day when I wouldn’t have spit for Him. I wouldn’t take one step for the cause of Christ. But He has changed me and persevered with me. He still does, in fact. And though my love is nothing special (very weak at times) and I don’t know why He would even want it, I have to say, I adore Him today. I kneel, I bow, and I even weep on occasion over Love for Him. He is NEVER going back to Calvary. And one reason is that many of his enemies, as I unknowingly was, now Love Him dearly.
If you follow Him and show His Love to others, they won’t all love you back right away. That’s just not realistic. Some never will, but Jesus promises that many will. This is a wonderful promise and motivation for all believers.
even MORE LOVE:
Now Paul’s cup is gonna overflow with Love. This man once was ready to write people off and even destroy them over religious doctrines. It’s amazing how much he has changed. Just listen to him:
Verses 12-16: “Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.”
I’m no Bible scholar, I don’t really know much about most of these folks. But they are teaching me that the Love of Our Lord is marvelous. And that Paul felt that way about it! It didn’t come second to his doctrine. Loving people came FIRST!
Will I be able to show that “Agape” Love, at least a little bit, during this season? I hope so. Paul seemed to l-o-v-e EVERYBODY in that church! The real question for me, based on some of my past performance, is: will I love be able to love anybody?
What was Paul’s secret?
To find out let’s go on with Paul’s letter. Next, he turns back to doctrine:
Verses 17-18: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
It was such a beautiful picture of Christian fellowship that Paul was painting. Why spoil it now by speaking of unpleasant things? Well, two reasons, that I can think of:
1. It’s OK to be skeptical when it comes to Christian fellowship or Loving anybody. People are not perfect and they do not always respond appropriately to us. Love leaves us vulnerable and some, both in and out of the Church, may try to exploit us with hostility or a fake and insincere offer of fellowship.
2. Holding to the Truth means that we Love the Lord. He’s worthy of Love, too. One day a man asked Jesus what the most important commandments were. He answered immediately and it’s recorded in Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
So, doctrines don’t come before Love. But if we abandon the doctrines of God because of selfishness or because of a relation we have with another person, that ain’t Love either! It actually shows that we are neglecting our Love of the Lord!
The believers in Rome at this time were BOTH Loving one another AND Loving God:
Verses 19-20: “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
How did Satan get into this beautiful chapter? Well, it’s a battle to love other people. We aren’t perfect and neither are they. That alone can turn relationships into a battleground.
But Paul says God was doing their fighting for them. They were obeying Him and loving one another. That’s the way to defeat evil.
MORE COMMENDATIONS from Paul:
Verses 21-24: “ Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
These guys were with Paul at Corinth, I believe, where he was writing this letter to the Church at Rome. How could one of the meanest and nastiest Pharisees of his day have changed into such a Loving person? Paul us all:
Verses 25-27: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.”
Paul didn’t change on his own. And it wasn’t from the doctrines and rituals he excelled at. Religion had actually blinded him and turned his heart as cold as stone. It was on the road the Damascus that Paul learned about God’s Love. He learned it directly from God’s Son and so can any of us who come to Christ with our whole heart.
Love, kindness, and fellowship come before religion, ritual, and doctrine. But Love for God comes before EVERYTHING ELSE! May you find strength this Christmas in His perfect Love for you. Let’s pray.