There is real reason to give attention to the statements that come at the end of letters such as Romans. Why? Some of those scriptures provide us small windows for a glimpse into the Christian community in the first century. Some of those scriptures are not windows, but peep holes that call our attention to some possibilities.

To me, the "today" values of these scriptures include two benefits. (1) They provide us some insight into the relationships that existed in the Christian community. To me it is fairly obvious that relationships among Christians in the first century church and relationships among Christians today are perceivably different. (2) They caution us about being too dogmatic in our conclusions. Sometimes it is too easy to conclude that we have figured everything out. Sometimes it is too easy to defend a conclusion produced by our reasoning as though it were a first century practice. Sometimes it is too easy to decide that the way we do a particular thing is precisely the way the first Christians did it. These scriptures caution us against being so definite in some of the conclusions we have drawn.

  1. Let me begin with a brief review of the things we noted in Roman 16:1-15.
    1. We spent some time taking about Phoebe in verses 1 and 2.
      1. The original language of the letter indicates she was a patroness in the city of Cenchrea and a deaconess in the Christian community there.
        1. She served significantly both in the city and in the church.
        2. In both roles she was a servant--she helped a lot of people, including Paul.
      2. She likely took this letter from Paul to the Christians in Rome.
        1. Paul asked them to help her in any way she needed help.
        2. Paul basically asked them to care for her in the manner she cared for people including Christians.
    2. We talked about Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila.
      1. We discussed how they left Rome and likely returned to Rome by using the information in Acts 18.
      2. We talked about Paul's relationship with them.
    3. I asked you to note some of Paul's emphasis in the first 15 verses.
      1. I called your attention to Paul's emphasis on Christian service, work, or labors.
      2. I called to your attention that in Rome there were gatherings composed of Gentile Christians.
      3. I called to your attention that Paul mentioned several Christian women in his greetings.

  2. This evening I want to call to your attention some of the other things Paul said in these 15 verses.
    1. I want to call your attention again to Priscilla and Aquila.
      1. Paul not only spoke of the churches of the gentiles in Rome, but he mentioned the fact that the gentile Christians had an appreciation for Priscilla and Aquila.
      2. He also noted a church (some of the Christian community in Rome) met in their home, and Paul sent greetings to those Christians.
      3. The problem that commonly existed between Jewish Christians and gentile Christians in the first century was often a very serious problem of significant consequences.
        1. Priscilla and Aquila were among the Jewish Christians who were part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
        2. Their encouragement and commitment to gentile Christians placed them among an unusual group of Jewish Christians: Paul (the apostle to the gentiles according to Galatians 2:8), Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, John Mark to name a few.
        3. Priscilla and Aquila were part of a unique group of Jewish Christians.
      4. I would also like to note a couple of things about this unique husband and wife Christian team.
        1. This couple is mentioned by name six times (Acts 18;2, 18, 26; Romans 16:3; I Corinthians 16:19; and 2 Timothy 4:19).
          1. Three of those times (50% of occurrences), Prisca or Priscilla is listed first.
          2. That is unusual.
          3. It is significant, but we do not know precisely what the significance is.
        2. In those six references, twice it is acknowledged that a church met in their home.
          1. Each of those times they were living at a different place.
          2. They obviously were hospitable and involved in the Christian community at different places.
    2. I would also like to call your attention to Andronicus and Junia in verse 7.
      1. Junia is a woman's name.
      2. This is perhaps another husband and wife team who are active in the Christian community and who seek to encourage others to become Christians.
      3. Paul's use of the word "kinsmen" probably notes that they are Christian Jews as is he. (Remember that Paul called Timothy "my true child in the faith"--1 Timothy 1:2.)
      4. The fact that they had been his fellow prisoners does not have to mean they were in the same prison at the same time; it can mean that they were willing to go to prison for their faith in Jesus Christ just as he had done.
      5. The fact that they were in Christ before him indicates they became Christians before Paul did.
      6. I especially would like to talk about the phrase "who were outstanding among the apostles."
        1. To begin, I want you to think about something you know and understand: most English words have more than one meaning.
          1. Merely as a extreme example, consider the English word "post."
          2. "Post" can mean a piece of wood or metal that is firmly fixed in an upright position to stabilize or support--like a fence post.
          3. "Post" can mean a marker that gives indications or information--like mile markers on a highway.
          4. "Post" can mean a public notice or declaration--like the notices displayed in a court house or police station.
          5. "Post" can mean an advertisement or listing--like when a teacher in college posts grades.
          6. "Post" can mean to prohibit--like posting your land.
          7. "Post" can mean a courier--like someone who transports a message.
          8. "Post" can mean a station--like a military post.
          9. "Post" can mean a variety of things that are related to a national mail service--like postman or post office or post box.
          10. "Post" can mean an assignment--like you are given a new post.
          11. "Post" can mean to hurry--like post haste.
          12. "Post" can mean to make an entry in a book or ledger.
          13. "Post" can mean a prefix that means "after"--like a post dated check, a post operative procedure, or a post war event.
          14. Then it can become a part of all kinds of words like post card, poster, post-graduate.
        2. The word "apostle" is used in more than one way in New Testament writings.
          1. The word "apostle" and its verb forms were common words long before Jesus was born.
          2. Jesus did not invent the word, nor did the New Testament writers.
        3. When some of you hear that word, you likely think immediately of the twelve men who followed Jesus (with Matthias replacing Judas after Judas' death--see Acts 1:15-26).
          1. Jesus clearly, undeniable made these men apostles.
          2. The twelve were unique in the early church, and one of the uses of the word "apostle" refers to them.
          3. Jesus said these twelve men would sit on twelve thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel when Jesus sits on his throne (Matthew 19:28).
          4. When describing the new Jerusalem as a walled city, Revelation says the walls have twelve foundation stones and on those stones are the twelve names of the twelve apostles. (Revelation 21:14)
          5. These twelve men were unique and hold a unique position among those who belong to Jesus Christ.
        4. The word "apostle" is also used in the New Testament to describe Christians who were sent on a mission by God or sent on a mission by other Christians.
          1. To me, the first clear use of the word in this manner is found in Acts 14:14 when it refers to Barnabas and Paul as apostles.
          2. Likely when Paul wrote about Jesus' resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15, he distinguished between the twelve in verse 5 and "all the apostles" in verse 7.
        5. In most English translations the Greek word apostolos is not always translated with the English word apostle.
          1. In Phillipians 2:25, Epaphroditus was called "your messenger and minister to my need. . ."; the point is not that this is a poor translation; the point is the word messenger in the Greek is the word apostle.
          2. In 2 Corinthians 8:13 Paul referred to "the messengers of the churches" (the representative of the congregations participating in the fund being sent to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem) and again in the Greek the word is apostles.
      7. It is quite possible that Andronicus and Julia are a husband and wife team, just like Priscilla and Aquila, and that a group of Christians who are recognized as apostles have high regard for them.
        1. If that is correct, this group recognizes a Christian woman as being one of them.
        2. In fact, this group recognizes a Christian woman among them as being exceptional.
    3. In this section, verses 1-15, Paul also stressed relationships.
      1. He commended Phoebe to them and acknowledged she had helped many including him.
      2. He said Prisca and Aquila were his fellow workers who risked their lives for him.
      3. He called Epaenetus his beloved.
      4. He referred to Andronicus and Julia as his kinsmen and fellow prisoners.
      5. He called Ampliatus his beloved.
      6. Urbanus was a fellow worker, Stachys was beloved, Herodian was a kinsman (Christian Jew), and he regarded Rufus' mother as though she were his own (remember he regarded Timothy to be his son).

Two closing thoughts for you to think about. (1) Look at the faith of these people. Being a Christian was not a part time consideration or a once day a week commitment. (2) Paul felt very close to these people, and he wanted them to feel the same closeness to each other. There is power and strength in Christian closeness.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 16 Febuary 2003
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