Let's begin this evening by turning to Romans 16.

As an introduction to my thoughts, I want to make a single point. My personal conviction is this: if we divorce Romans 16 from the Paul's basic message in the entire letter of Romans, we will make Romans 16 say things that Paul did not say. For myself, I regard that to be an abuse of scripture.

  1. In verse 17 Paul urged them to keep any eye on those who stirred up trouble and hindered "the teaching," and reject their influences.
    1. For several years among us, this verse was used as justification for "marking" fellow Christians who should be rejected and shunned by other Christians.
      1. The reasoning seemed to follow this line of thinking:
        1. "My position is the true position; my position is God's position."
        2. "This position is a salvation matter, and if you do not agree with my position, you are rejected by God, and therefore you are lost."
        3. "If a division exists between us as Christians, it is your fault because you reject my position."
        4. "Because you refuse to accept my position, I am obligated to tell everyone that you are a false teacher, and every other faithful Christian and congregation must reject you."
        5. "I am not the problem; you are the problem. Any problem that exists is produced by you."
      2. Ironically, the practice of "marking" is not intended to promote healing among Christians, but division among Christians.
        1. I say ironically, because I understand Romans to be a healing message that was intended to close the gap between Jewish Christians and gentile Christians.
        2. The "marking" agenda easily becomes a control mechanism in which one group of Christians demand that all other Christians conform to their conclusions and positions.
        3. The basic objective is not to seek understanding, but to impose conformity.
        4. Understanding is not important; agreeing with those exercising control is important.
    2. In my understanding that practice and conclusion is precisely opposite the point Paul made in his letter to Christians in Rome.
      1. Paul began to reveal and stress his basic point to the Christians in Rome from chapter one when he declared in verse 16 that he was not ashamed of the gospel.
        1. The gospel or "good news" (which is the basic meaning of the word) was "good news" for two reasons:
        2. The first was salvation; this good news is based on God's power to save.
        3. The second was the fact that God's ability to save is so powerful that it could save Jews and people who are not Jews.
      2. To me, that is the overall problem addressed in this letter to Christians in Rome: God equally can save Jews and people who are not Jews.
        1. Jewish Christians had real trouble with Paul's understanding and declaration of the "good news."
        2. Non-Jewish Christians could easily become arrogant and boastful if they followed wrong motivations when they heard and trusted the "good news."
        3. Paul's basic point in the first 11 chapters was this: God always had planned to present a salvation that could save everyone in all nations through Jesus Christ and the work of His Spirit.
      3. Some Christians genuinely resented Paul's good news.
        1. They actively opposed the unity between Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians.
        2. Paul's letter to the congregations in Galatia documents both the existence and the basic work of such Christians.
        3. Paul said these people who opposed God's mission to the gentiles are not the slaves of Jesus Christ who serve Jesus Christ, but are slaves to their own motives who serve their own desires.
        4. They are convincing; in fact they are so convincing that they can deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
        5. The objective of these Christians is to destroy the oneness of Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians.
        6. Paul said see them for who and what they are, and do not let them succeed.
      4. Paul was delighted to hear about their dedication to obedience.
        1. He had only one thing to add.
        2. He urged them to be experts in what is good and innocent.

  2. Verses 21 through 23 are a series of greetings from Christians who were with Paul in the place he wrote the letter (likely in Corinth or Cenchrea).
    1. Timothy, his fellow worker, sent greetings.
    2. Some Jewish Christians sent greetings.
    3. The scribe who actually wrote the letter (Paul dictated; the scribe wrote) sent greetings.
    4. Paul's patron sent greetings.
    5. Erastus, very likely the same Erastus documented archeologically, sent greetings (he was a high official in the pagan city government, the city treasurer).
    6. And another Christian there sent greetings.

  3. In the last three verses, Paul closes this letter in a manner very similar to the beginning of the letter.
    1. According to Paul's "good news" that was based on a foundation produced by the preaching of Jesus Christ, God was able to establish all of them--Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians.
      1. This could happen because God had revealed the mystery which was a secret in past ages.
      2. It was no longer a secret, not longer an obscure mystery.
      3. The prophets who wrote scriptures did not understand how God would work through this mystery, but the eternal God knew precisely what He was doing.
      4. What is this "mystery" which was then revealed and made known?
        1. The Jewish prophets knew that God had a gentile mission (a mission to all the nations of people who were not Jews).
        2. But they did not know what this mission looked like, or how God was going to achieve that mission.
        3. God achieves that mission through faith in Jesus Christ.
      5. Through faith in God's Christ, anyone has access to salvation.
        1. Being God's people does not depend on genealogy.
        2. Being God's people does not depend some special knowledge or tradition.
        3. Being God's people depends on understanding what God does in Jesus Christ.
        4. All the nations now have access to God's salvation, and no one has an advantage (many Jewish Christians did not like that!).
    2. Jesus Christ reveals just how wise God is; an understanding of Jesus Christ motivates the person to give glory to God.

  4. Let me conclude by asking you to focus on what Paul did in Romans 16.
    1. He asked them to accept and treat kindly the Christian lady who was his patroness, who had helped many (who likely took this letter to Rome).
    2. He greeted Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians in the churches in Rome.
    3. He noted Jewish Christians who were respected and appreciated by congregations of Christians who were not Jews.
    4. He stressed how active Christian women were.
    5. He commanded all Christians to greet each other respectfully (holy kiss).
    6. He urged them to see Christians who sustained divisions among them (tried to keep those divisions in tact) for who and what they were.
    7. He sends greeting from both Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians.
    8. He stressed that God always intended to save people who were not Jews, and God accomplished that through Jesus Christ.
    9. The messages in Romans 16 are consistent with Paul's basic message in the rest of the letter; in fact, it illustrates his basic message.


    The point Paul wanted them to understand is basically the same point he made in the very beginning of the letter.
    1. God does not care if you are a Jewish Christian or a non-Jewish Christian.
    2. Since it does not matter to God, it should not matter to you.
    3. Instead of hassling each other, accept and encourage each other.
    4. God wants everyone to trust the same thing: His accomplishments in Jesus Christ.
    5. When people do that, it changes the way they live and what they live for.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 23 March 2003
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