Sermon: Portraits of Risk Takers, Ground Breakers and Fellow Servants Romans 16:1-23

Portraits of Risk Takers, Ground Breakers and Fellow Servants

Romans 16:1-23

Truth Taught- Paul commends his fellow servants to us so that we will see their example and join in by loving and serving Christ with all our heart as they did.

 

Introduction

If we’re not careful we can forget that the Bible contains many accounts of regular people. The people we read about can take on almost a superhero aura and we can lose sight of the fact that they were people like us.

It may be that in our subconscious we begin elevating the people in the Bible to something more than human so that we won’t have to follow their example. After all God can’t expect me to do the things Superman does, right?

What if these people were postal workers, nurses, teachers, construction workers, salesmen, factory workers, hair stylists, stay-home moms? Well then, we’d be pressured to do what they did, and our excuses would be removed.

Here is a list of 36 or so common everyday people with an uncommon passion for Jesus Christ. These were some of Paul’s friends and some of his soon to be friends. These are folks who were not any different from us. They were everyday common people, some had means and some didn’t. Some were skilled and some were not. Some were male, female, Jewish and Gentile; they were different from each other in many respects, but they had one common denominator . . . the Lord Jesus.

As I read this section, notice with me the Apostle’s love and active relationship he had with each and every person mentioned. These were not just names to him but dear, beloved saints of Christ who meant the world to him. These were his companions, comrades, and friends. These were the ones who came to his rescue when he was in great need. These were the ones he could and did depend upon. These were his friends.

I’m so thankful that in much the same way we share similar relationships here.

My prayer for us is that as we get just a quick glimpse of these first century Christians, we will be encouraged to also be risk takers, groundbreakers and servants of Christ.

In a few places the Bible gives us lists of people. We have in Matthew and Luke the genealogies of Jesus. In the Book of Genesis, we have the different generations from Adam on. At the end of many of Paul’s letters we have a list of his fellow missionaries sending their greetings. In Hebrews 11 we have the great cloud of witnesses who had gone on before us. Today, in the passage before us we have a great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before us. May we run the race like they did. May we finish our course like they did.

In this section we see many we are to follow their example of love and service to Christ. Then he also gives us a caution by showing us a picture of others we are not to greet but to avoid.

Prayer

Romans 16:1–23 (ESV)

16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 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.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 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. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 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 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.

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.

  1. Commending Phoebe, the Patron Servant

16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 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.

Paul mentions Phoebe and commends her to the Roman Church. Paul considered her his sister in the faith. This is an important title for all who are a part of the Church. We are brothers and sisters together in the local church. The reason we should treat one another as brothers and sisters is because we share the same Father, God Himself.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul explains what these different relationships should look like:

1 Timothy 5:1–2 (ESV)

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

It’s also interesting that while you may be related to others in the church in other ways, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Also, notice how men are to treat the ladies in the church, as mothers and sisters in all purity.

Phoebe was vital to Paul’s ministry. She was his sister in Christ. She was also a servant of Christ. She ministered to Paul and the others while they were at Corinth. The Port of Cenchreae had a small church. This was probably a church started by the large Church of Corinth where Paul was when he wrote Romans. She was a servant of Christ there and to Paul.

He also calls her a patron. This means she was a woman of means. I think we would be correct in thinking of her much like Lydia. Both women were somewhat wealthy and met the needs of the disciples. She was a servant even though she was wealthy. Paul saw her servant’s heart. She was dependable and could be trusted to come through. So much so, many believe she was the one who carried Paul’s letter.

Paul could commend this woman not only for what she had done as a faithful sister and servant of Christ but also for what she was soon to do in further service to their Lord. It is almost certain that Phoebe delivered this letter in person to the church at Rome, a responsibility of considerable magnitude.

The name Phoebe means “bright and radiant,” and from Paul’s brief comments about her, it seems that those words did indeed characterize her personality and her Christian life. Paul commends her to the church at Rome in three different ways: as a sister in Christ, as a servant and as a helper of many, including himself.[1]

It is in these verses and verses like them that some want to argue about women deacons. Can a woman be a deacon? In the sense that deacon means servant the Bible clearly teaches that we should all be deacons/servants. However, in the sense of the office of the deacon, this is reserved for men.

1 Timothy 3:8–13 (ESV)

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
2. Greeting Prisca and Aquila, the Risk Takers and Church Planters

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 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. Greet also the church in their house.

This married couple is mentioned six times in the NT. They were invaluable to Paul. Like Paul they too were tent makers. They shared their home and resources with Paul and the others.

Acts 18:1–4 (ESV)

18 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Throughout the course of their lives, it seems they were always on the move. Leaving Rome because of Claudius’ persecution of Christians, living in Corinth, Ephesus, then back to Rome. They were always in contact with Paul. It could very well be that they were the ones who started the Church in Rome.

After Claudius died, Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome, where they lived and ministered when Paul wrote this letter to the church there. By this time there were many believers in Rome, probably spread throughout the city. One of the congregations was meeting in their house, and Paul extended his greetings to them.[2]

As we look through these many names notice what it was that brought them together. Jesus is at the epicenter of all their work, plans, efforts, and life. They were one in Christ.

Notice how Christ-saturated these relationships are. Verse 2: “Welcome her in the Lord.” Verse 3: “My fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” Verse 5: The “first convert to Christ.” Verse 7: “They were in Christ before me.” Verse 8: “My beloved in the Lord.” Verse 9: “My fellow worker in Christ.” Verse 10: “Apelles, who is approved in Christ.” Verse 11: “Greet those in the Lord.” Verse 12: “Greet those workers in the Lord.” Verse 13: “Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.” Verse 14: “Rufus, chosen in the Lord.”—Piper

As I read through these names it’s like a family photo album or scrapbook with each name a person and each person unique unto him/herself. All have different backgrounds, talents, hopes and dreams. Yet at the center is always Jesus Christ.

May we be a church whose relationships are saturated in Jesus Christ.

  1. Avoiding Those Who Cause Divisions  

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Paul’s love has been seen through this chapter as he greets his friends in Christ. He has shown his love to the churches and in this next section his love is also shown. He loves the Church of Christ so much that he warns them that there are certain people they must not greet. Beloved true love warns, corrects, and disciplines. Here Paul is giving his warning to the Church of Rome. Watch out! Be careful! Not everyone is who they claim to be or who they seem.

1 Corinthians 13:4–6 (ESV)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

Love stands ready to forgive when the sinner is repentant, but love does not overlook sin.

Paul shows his love for the Church in Rome as he warns them to avoid those who disrupt unity.

Titus 3:9 (ESV)

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

2 Timothy 2:23 (ESV)

23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

The right response of believers to false teachers, especially those who teach their heresy under the guise of Christianity, is not debate or dialogue. We are to turn away from them, to reject what they teach and to protect fellow believers, especially new converts and the immature, from being deceived, confused, and misled.[3]

Philippians 3:17–19 (ESV)

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

Beloved this is an amazing list full of Paul’s friends who followed Christ for the glory of God. May we seek to do the same.

Paul commends his fellow servants to us so that we will see their example and join in by loving and serving Christ with all our heart.

 

 

 

 

*Resources Used:

Romans by Christopher Ash

Romans by Douglas Moo

Romans by John Stott

Romans by John MacArthur

Outline of Romans by Steel and Thomas

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[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 16:1). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 16:3). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 16:17). Chicago: Moody Press.

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