“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Romans 16:20
The final chapter of Romans 16 reveals much about why this church prevailed and why ours can do the same today:
Men and women co-workers
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me,” Romans 16:1-2. Clearly Phoebe was a woman of worth who assisted Paul and his colleagues in the growth of the local church through her leadership gift and entrepreneurial skills. Many other women in the Roman Community were also singled out by Paul, presumably because they were outstanding leaders too:
- Mary “who worked hard among you”
- Tryphaena & Tryphosa “workers in the Lord”
- Persis “who has worked hard in the Lord”
- Rufus’s mother is mentioned, Julia and Nereus’s sister
However, of the 26 names mentioned in this final greeting 17 are men, “Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus,” Romans 16: 8-11. So although men and women were co-workers in both local church ministry and outreach, men stood up to be counted and made themselves available for the majority of leadership roles. Paul speaks of both groups with warm, respectful affection.
Home at the centre
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house,” Rom 16:3-5. We meet Pricilla and Aquila for first time in Acts 18:2 as Jewish Christians exiled from Rome under Claudius, who met Paul in Corinth, shared in his tent-making and became friends in the Gospel. They were a brave couple who housed Paul in troubled times and hosted house churches in different congregation including Corinth and Ephesus. The early church was centred in the home and ours should be the same, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts … You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.” Acts 2:46; 20, 20.
Threats are recognized
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, 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,” Romans 16:17. This portion of the Romans sixteen is an abrupt break from preceding verses of friendly family greetings, which demonstrates the way danger suddenly appears. Trouble-makers are threatening the Community, by adding and subtracting from the main teachings of the church. We are to stay away from these kinds of people who are not open to the truth of the gospel. Once we discern their strategy we will recognize who they are, “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people, Ro 16:18. Smooth talk …. Flattery … Deception: We must be on high alert to the heavy drag down effect of these people on any Community, while remembering they will not have the final say, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesusbe with you,” Romans 16:20.
Prayer: Father we thank you for the wonderful diversity there is in your church. We ask that you equip all of us through your Holy Spirit to be effective co-workers, who complement one another’s gifts and talents, for the glory of your name. Guide us into the early recognition of any threats to the unity of your people so that all our Communities will prevail.