Paul’s Heart for His Fellow Workers
Good Morning! Grab your Bibles with me, if you will, and turn to Romans chapter 16. If you do not have a Bible, please help your self to one from the back table there.
Well, we have reach the very last chapter of Romans. How many of you, as we started this book, knew that there were 16 chapters? And how many of you have actually read purposely and focused through it? We have reached the end of Romans and Paul is closing up his letter. But he is not done yet. He has three things yet to say, the first of which we will look at this morning.
But before that, I want us to take a bigger look at these last two chapters of Romans. There is a mini theme in Romans 15 & 16 that we have been seeing. And that is that Paul has been pouring his heart out about the things that are important to him. We have seen over the last few weeks Paul speak his of his passion and love and heart for Christ, We have seen him express his heart for spreading the Gospel and growing disciples. We have seen him express his love for Rome and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Today we see him show his heart for his fellow workers in Christ. The next two weeks will show Paul show his heart for protecting the flock, protecting Gods Children, and his heart for worshipping the One True God.
Bu this week, as I said, we are looking at Pauls heart for his fellow workers in Christ. We are going to read this weeks passage and its a bit of a long one. There are a lot of names in the 16 verses we are going to read, 30 people named or referenced. Its not quite like reading a genealogy, but it can be very easy to just gloss or skim over. What I want to show you though, is that there is a depth and wealth of wisdom and information in this passage. Before we continue, lets read this mornings passage, Romans 16:1-16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along with your preferred version in your hands. Romans chapter 16, verses 1-16. The apostle Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant[a] of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert[b] to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia,[c] my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,[d] and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers[e] who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
Amen. All right, so as I said, thats a long list of names. We are going to look at a few of them real quick, not all of them of course, but highlight a few of them and see what we can learn from these names. We start, of course, at the beginning, with Phoebe. And there is actually quite a bit we can know about her based on these couple of verses. She served in the church of Cenchreae, which was essentially in Corinth. Paul was writing this letter to the romans from… Corinth. And so it is very likely that she was who carried the letter from Paul to the Roman churches. Paul obviously had a great amount of trust and respect for this lady.
We see Prisca and Aquila mentioned here as well, and we have seen them before. We arent going to dive into their whole story, but if you turn to Acts 18, you can read about some of their story. But again, worked alongside Paul, risked their lives for him, utmost trust by Paul.
We also see Rufus mentioned here. This is very likely the same Rufus that was mentioned in Mark’s Gospel. Mark writes in chapter 15, verse 21: And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.
Many scholars think that the entire reason why Simon was even mentioned in marks Gospel is because his son, Rufus was well known at the time of the writing. Its very possible that Rufus and his family, notice that his mom is mentioned here as well, that they were one of the first to bring the news and Gospel of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to Rome.
And so, we see some familiar names here in this last and many unfamiliar names as well. Jewish names, and Gentile names, both Roman and Greek names. And its interesting that a full third of these names are women. This during a time when women have little to no rights. When a woman’s testimony was not admissible in court. When women were not regarded as equal to the men of the day.
And we hear today that people call Paul sexist, they call him a misogynist and a woman hater. Yet we see form scripture this is not the case. We hear people say that the Bible, that Christianity, goes against women. And yet we see throughout scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, that women are shown to serve God with strength, honor, faithfulness, trustworthiness and they are quite literally, irreplaceable.
But because the Bible affirms that men and women are different, because they are created for different roles and purposes, yet equal in worth and value and in spiritual standing in the sight of God, both created in his image and likeness, but created for different roles, many thing that the Bible and Christianity discriminates or holds down women.
Scripture could not be more clear on this issue. Yes, men and women are in fact different. Men can do things women cant and/or shouldn’t do. And the other way around as well. Women can do things men cant and/or shouldn’t do. Scripture makes clear that the roles of elders and pastors are to be fulfilled by men. This is especially clear in 1 Timothy 2:12 & 13.
Its just like God made men and women different in regards to childbirth. The function and role of Mom & Wife is reserved for and designed for and to be fulfilled by women. The function and role of Father & Husband is reserved for and designed for and to be fulfilled by men. Is a mom better than a dad or a dad better than a mom? No, but they have different functions and roles. Both need to rightly raise up children the way that God designed it.
Are the men in this church, or any other church for that matter, including the churches that Paul wrote to and visited, are the men better than the women? No. Are the women better than the men? No. But they had different roles and functions. And anyone who things that because God called men to be elders and pastors means that women are not vital or capable to the ministry of the church simply has not read what Paul is saying here.
The New Testaments churches would have fallen apart if not for the women and the roles that they played. God made sure that women were used in wonderous and incredible ways. I said earlier that in that day and age, a woman’s testimony was inadmissible in court. Yet, who did God first have discovering the empty tomb and tell the apostles? Mary. And did the Bible conveniently omit that so that the story was more acceptable and believable? No. She played a vital and incredible role in the early church.
We see in churches today and specifically in our church right here. This church would fall apart and be a shell of itself with out the work and ministry of the ladies right here in this room. All of you do so much, and different stuff, things that often no body sees, sometimes things that people do see. For all those times you work and nobody sees it, Thank you, from all of us.
And that leads to another thing that we can take away from this list of greetings, encouragements, and exhortations. Sometimes we do a lot of work for God. We do a lot of work for the church. And often times when we do, we don’t think anyone is noticing. No one says thank you or Good Job. We don’t feel appreciated. Some people don’t notice. We often don’t notice when others do certain things at certain times. We should, but we sometimes don’t. Even when Paul here does acknowledge theses, they aren’t immediate recognitions, but things that have happened over time. Sometimes recognition and thanks is more of a long game than an immediate play.
But regardless, when we feel like no one sees what we are doing, like maybe we are not making a difference, or affecting anything. Take heed. God notices. God sees. And we need to be careful of our own hearts and attitudes. The reason we do the work that we do is not to be seen and recognized by each other, or by man, as the Bible puts it. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6, verses 1-4:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And with that warning we need to make sure that we are looking for our reward from our Father who is in Heaven, rather than looking for our rewards from man here and now. And so, we lift our heads high, we do what God has called us to do and we let God worry about the rest. Easier said than done, I know, but that’s our call.
As clarification, this does not mean that you don’t have to recognize when people do things. This does not mean that you don’t have to say Thank you or appreciate when you see people doing things. Again, we see that Paul is recognizing and showing appreciation and making sure that others also knew and appreciated what these fellow workers were doing. But what it means is that the LORD is our provider, it is he who will deal with all things A ND we know that he sees all and is fair and just.
So, we do what God has called us to. We become, as Paul describes here, “workers in Christ,” “servants of the Church,” “working hard for you,” “in Christ,” Gods beloved, fellow workers in Christ, those of us who are in the LORD, and who worked hard for the LORD.
Our work, what we do, we do to the Glory of God. We do it to serve God. We do it for Him and that is its own reward. And God sees. We see here names written in Paul’s letter to Rome. He thanks and greets and acknowledges and recognizes and I’m sure they felt good about that. I’m sure they felt loved from Paul and felt love for Paul. They didn’t know it at the time but their names ended up being written in the Bible, Gods Word for us to all see and read about. But ultimately, we know that we would rather have our names written in Gods Book of Life than in this book to be read by men.
The grass withers, the flowers fade, the Word of God endures forever.
Maybe the last thing I want pull out of this text this morning is I want you to see that we are supposed to greet fellow workers in Christ, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow believers.
We greet these brothers and sisters. We greet those who work in Christ.. We recognize those who work hard for the LORD. We welcome fellow workers in Christ. Paul exhorts them, greet one another with a Holy Kiss. And all the churches in Christ greet you.
Now, the Holy kiss is one of those situations, where we separate the principal from the literal. Do we have to all greet each other with a kiss? No. First, that’s not our culture. That wouldn’t work, nor should it If I were to greet each of you that walk through the door with a kiss. But there are cultures and times where this was a normal greeting custom.
The principal of what is being said here is that we greet each other genuinely. We are to greet each other warmly, with love. We are to greet each other openly.
Heres the thing, we walk through that door back there, what are you here for? You are here to worship and serve the one true God, our king, our savior Jesus Christ. WE give all we have to him. We bask in his holiness, lifting our lives up to him. We focus on him, and the Holy Spirit working in us, sanctifying us, changing us, starting with out hearts, changing them from hearts of stone to a heart of flesh, becoming a new creation, working all things in us for his good and his glory.
We are not here for ourselves. So we walk through that door, we greet each other openly, genuinely, warmly. We are not to avoid each other. We are not to ignore each other. We are not to hold grudges. We are not to be fake with each other. And are most certainly not to cause division in the house of the LORD.
If there is an issue, Paul has said multiple times, as much as it is possible, as much as it is up to us, live at peace with one another. Forgive each other. Worship together. I have found in my experiences that if there is an issue between two people and they are able to truly worship their God together. That issue becomes so little, so unimportant, that it falls away.
So once again, Paul is, in this list of greetings, encouragements, recognition, in these list of names that we normally would just gloss right over, Paul is calling for unity. He is calling for us to put aside our differences, put aside our disagreements. He is calling us to come together and unite under the one thing that can change people. The one thing that can change situations and scenarios. The one thing that can change hearts and offer forgiveness and that s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the grace of God alone, poured out through our faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This we see reveal through the pages of scripture alone. And all of it, all things, all everything, to be done for the Glory of God alone.
We see next week that those who do not come together in unity, or more specifically who call for unity outside the Gospel, or without the Gospel or worst of all, through compromise of the Gospel, those we do not greet warmly. Those we do not unite with. Those we do not worship together with. Those are wolves, they are enemies of God and they are false teachers and false disciples. But we will get to that next week.
Right now, after I pray, I ask that we all come together. We all stand, as we are able. WE lift our voices together and we worship together. We worship our King. We worship the all powerful creator of the universe. We worship our all knowing supreme being, who called us for his glory before he created time. We worship the all loving God who came up with a plan of redemption, a way to reconcile our sinful and unholy selves back to the only one who is good, the only one who is worthy, the only one who is Holy, Holy, Holy. Lets come together and worship God.