Romans 16: 1-20

Committed and Connected Community

A few years ago, the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy warned of an epidemic sweeping across our nation with disastrous health effects. The epidemic he warned of was not Covid; it was an epidemic of loneliness. He first issued a warning in 2014, and in 2023 he issued an advisory further detailing the dangers of it and the need for connection and community. Loneliness was deteriorating the physical and mental well being of many, and was deemed as detrimental as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!  

Murthy appealed for the help of the nation saying, “Given the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation, we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis… We are called to build a movement to mend the social fabric of our nation.”

One of the greatest needs of our nation and community today is not financial, educational, or political but relational. His advisory helped me see the great opportunity for us to meet the needs of people today by providing opportunities to connect in meaningful ways. 

Today’s culture is lost and confused in how to create and building meaningful relationships. They have taken God out of their lives and are struggling to fill the gap. Their loneliness is just another evidence of that.

The deepest level of human relationship is relating with others of our relationship with God. Church is an organized community of people deeply committed to the mission of Jesus and to each other. Church is the key means through which Jesus makes himself known in the world, and it is to be the key source of our devotion and encouragement. 

In the last chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul begging to acknowledge some of the specific people he was writing to, and his simple and specific greetings gives great insight on the nature of the church. 

Some have ignored this chapter. Martin Luther’s monumental commentary on this book completely left this section out. Some have thought that because it does not contain theological propositions then it must not be important. But Scriptural teaching comes to us in both proposition and example. This passage of personal greetings offers a great deal about the church in Rome and the nature of the church in general. 

This letter was never detached from actual people. He had them in mind as he wrote. And now he provides a greater window into the people of this church, and the audience Romans was addressed to. 

The church is a diverse and tight community of believers whose unity in the purpose of making Jesus known brings them into a commitment to one another. 

1. Commendations. This is like the academy awards speech in which you can thank and commend people, and Paul does just that. 

The Exemplary Servants

[I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant 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. 

The first person mentioned is a lady named Phoebe.  Phoebe is a girl's name of Greek origin meaning "radiant, shining one." In the Bible our Radiance comes from the Lord who blessed people with the light of his countenance. 

She has been a patron of many. protector, helper, patron. properly, a woman set over others. b. a female guardian, protectress, patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources. She seems to be a woman of means, and she is committed to the cause of Christ. She is called our sister. Referring to the endearing way she has served. 

v2. She is a servant, a deacon. This word is used in the New Testament in many different ways. It is used of those who wait on tables, but it will also become a technical term for leaders in the church. You have pastors/elders and deacons. She is a servant/deacon of the church in Cenchrea.

This word deacon does not have a feminine form. It is only in the masculine. In GReek there is no deaconesses. In 1 time 3 it list qualifications for elders in the church, then it says likewise deacons … and then it says women also…. It provides qualifications for women to serve in the office of deacon. And if she is a deacon, it means she has been put forward, affirmed in her character by the church, and given a role with a title, which all that means this church has organization and leadership. And the church she is going to has an appreciation of that office, title, and process. 

Additionally, some today have begun to argue that part of the commendation for Phoebe may be because she was bringing the letter of Romans to the church in Rome. Paul had written it and entrusted it to this business woman to go and deliver the letter. 

The Devoted. 

[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. 

Also called Priscilla and Aquilla. This is a couple that was in Rome but when the Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from the city, this couple moved to Corinth where they met Paul. They were tent makers as was Paul, so they met and worked together at making tents and sharing the Gospel. They were instrumental in the life of the preacher Apollos. Many times in church and ministry you will hear people refer to the “tent making” meaning they are ministering somewhere but finding ways to provide for themselves outside of ministry. 

They had a church that met in their house! V5 It’s one thing to go out and share the gospel with people in the town, its another to have them into your house. But that is the mission Jesus gives to his people. We share not just the gospel but our lives as well. 

Sunergos. Fellow workers. Paul was not the only one doing ministry. These two stood by him. They risked their necks for him. v4. they laid down their trachelon. It may very well have been in the riot in Ephesus that this happened but we do not know exactly. They were dear to Paul. Their heroic acts leads not just Paul to give thanks but all the churches.

They were not just watching online. They also were not just sitting at home reading their Bible. As important as that is, it is incomplete. 

People want to be significant and do something meaningful with their lives. But they are often distorted in what to do and how to do it. Serving God's purposes is the most meaningful thing we can do. The place that gets worked out is in the life of the church. And we are to work hard. People want significance but are not willing to do much for it. Greatness often requires taking great risks. Find other believers and attempt great things with them.

The Beloved. 

[5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. 

Four times he address people as beloved. There is a real and intimate knowing of others. Love is the glue that holds churches together. 


The Hard Workers

[6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 

[12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.

Means: Strong exertion, a struggle, physically weary, emotionally discouraged. The Israelites going through the desert (deut), Simon working hard all night and catching no fish (Luke 5:5), working night and day to not be a burden to others (2 Thess 3:8), working hard we are reviled, persecuted (1 Cor 4:12). 

God created us to have dominion (Gen 1:26). Dominion and rule in genesis are words that remind us there is some resistance. That is before the fall and curse. It get harder after the fall. Church life and spiritual work are not easy. 

Don't get depressed because of the entitlement culture that says everything is easy, should be easy, and because it’s so hard for you something is wrong, something is missed. These people were risking their lives for their faith. They were working hard. 

You get the house ready and no one shows up for small group. Invite everyone to Christmas and no one comes. Instead they persecute you, call you names. Find comfort in the Lord who came to show the way and was crucified by those he came to save. Teach your kids the Bible and the dont heart it!

Relationships require time and effort. Church requires time and effort. Want to grow. Want to invest in eternity. Spend time with others. Community is not like finding a pot of gold. 

The Next Generation

[13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.

Rufus. chosen in the Lord. Not sure why he would say this of him and not others. Perhaps there was more to it. Perhaps he is reminding him of the gospel. Regardless, Rufus and his mother are here. Rufus is mentioned here, and he is mentioned another time in Scripture.

The Crucifixion of Jesus:

[And they began to salute him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. 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. (Mark 15:18-21 ESV)

It is now at least 20 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. And here is the family of Simon of Cyrene is devotedly serving the church of God, and how did the rest come to know Jesus? We don’t know. But it certainly seems that the Father of this family was forced to carry the cross of Jesus. We know nothing more of Simon's interaction with Jesus. We only know he was from the country and coming to town and was compelled by an angry mob. Did he know Jesus before this? Whatever it was that happened, it seems to have been life changing. The centurion who watched Jesus die came to the conclusion that surely this was the son of God. Might Simon have had a similar encounter as he walked the long road from the governor’s palace to the hill of golgotha with the cross beam on his back. What might Jesus have said to him?? Rufus's mother is also there, presumably the wife of Simon of Cyrene. Paul says she has been a mother to him. She has cared for him, prayed for him, fed him. This whole family father, mother and two brothers are known by Paul.

-7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.

kinsmen. v7 sungenesis. They are probably Jewish with Roman names. And there are other Jewish people mentioned in this list who could also be called kinsmen. So why does he say this? It is likely that they were actual relatives of Paul. Some in the church were related to Paul. 

They knew Jesus before Paul did. They may even have been threatened with imprisonment by Paul. They may have been praying for Paul and were overjoyed when Paul was converted on the Damascus rd And even more these family members seem to have also been imprisoned with Paul. They are well known among the apostles. Well known among the apostles. splendid, outstanding. Hard to make of this. were they: apostles, Apostles, or those sent out by churches as missionaries in an apostolic role.


-Urbanus and Ampliatus are names common in the imperial household.

-Aristobulus is the name of the grandson of Herod the Great. When he died, his slaves would have been passed to the Roman emperor and they would have retained his name and known as the family of Arisobulus. Note Aristobulus himself is not mentioned, only his family. So king Herod who tried to destroy Jesus at his birth because he was afraid he might take his throne, is now dead and his family members are in church worshipping Jesus. Ironic.

The household of Herod’s grandson was not a very likely place to find Christian people in, was it? Such flowers do not often grow, or at least do not easily grow, on such dunghills. And in both these cases it was only a handful of the people, a portion of each household, that was Christian. So they had beside them, closely identified with them-working, perhaps, at the same tasks, I might almost say, chained with the same chains-men who had no share in their faith or in their love. It would not be easy to pray and love and trust God and do His will, and keep clear of complicity with idolatry and immorality and sin, in such a pigsty as that; would it? But these men did it. And nobody need ever say, ‘I am in such circumstances that I cannot live a Christian life.’ There are no such circumstances, at least none of God’s appointing. There are often such that we bring upon ourselves, and then the best thing is to get out of them as soon as we can. But as far as He is concerned, He never puts anybody anywhere where he cannot live a holy life.

 -Narcissus is a well known, rich and powerful freeman who exercised great influence on emperor Claudius and who was executed by Nero. This here shows it was his family, and he is not included. Hard to make, but 

Have Nots.

Stachys v9 is a common greek name for a slave. Persis v12 was common name of the slave class. 

Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas v14 are all either Latin or Greek slave names. 

Phlegon, he may sound like a Jedi, but his name was the name of a dog in Xenophon. 

The haves and have nots have found a place of common ground. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. No matter how good your are or how good your circumstances you are still a sinner in need of the grace of God. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and need the grace of God that is found in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. But also, there is no one whose sin is greater than Jesus. It doesnt matter how bad you are or how bad your circumstances, Jesus died for you. You can be saved in him, and not just saved but brought into his family. We have one Father so we are all brothers and sisters, bound together in our common sins and failures, but even more so bound together in our common hope, that we live in a world that is perishing but in him we find redemption. We live in a broken world, we all feel it, and we are longing for the promised renewal that is ours in Christ. That transcends our races, our nationalities, our socio economic strata, our educational degrees. In service of Jesus we are called to help our brothers and sisters, so the love and closeness we have in Christ with others who are not like us, is greater than the love we have with those of our own nationality, race, industry, and nieghborhood. 

Dr. McGavran's well-known statement is that people "like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic or class barriers." That is, the barriers to the acceptance of the gospel are often more sociological than theological; people reject the gospel not because they think it is false but because it strikes them as alien. They imagine that in order to become Christians they must renounce their own culture, lose their own identity, and betray their own people. Therefore, in order to reach them, not only should the evangelist be able to identify with them, and they with the evangelist; not only must the gospel be contextualized in such a way that it communicates with them; but the church into which they are invited must itself belong to their culture sufficiently for them to feel at home in it. It is when these conditions are fulfilled that men and women are won to Jesus Christ, and subsequently that churches grow.1


[10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. 

v10 Apelles is approved of in the Lord. word approved is word for testing. 1) as a qualification that results from trial and examination approved, reliable; substantivally οἱ δόκιμοι the tried and true people (1C 11.19); (2) of a characteristic of a person who has stood the test trustworthy, respected, esteemed (RO 14.18); (3) of something that has stood the test genuine and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, (Rom 5:4 ESV)

So hard to see people struggle. IN church you are brought into that. There is an approving going on. A sincereity. Paul has seen that in some of these. They have been tried and have stood strong.

for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (Jam 1:3 ESV)

Greet with a holy kiss. v16. We might start instituting this during the turn and greet. It wont be a big deal for some culture, others might cringe. Was a greeting in the early church. It was a way to show affection. handshakes and hugs are permissible.

  • Warnings. 

[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. 

There is an abrupt change in tone. After commending so many he also warns them. The church is not pure in this life. There will be wolves in sheeps clothing. They change the doctrines of the church. They must be avoided. They have something that must be protected. 

Doctrine and obedience v19. 

-watch out. There is trouble in the church. There will be people who cause divisions, create obstacles, 

-avoid such people. 

-Not everyone in the church was approved. There were some who were not truly following Christ. Not all obey. V19. 

We are seeing lives changed. We are seeing people escaping the life threatening boredom. Being all alone and scared to do anything else. 

Gospe: right doctrine. Ultimately our loneliness is not fixed by being in the church but by being in relationship with God. All these people still experieinced loneliness at some point, but that loneliness pushed them into a deeper relationship with God. WE ahve a relationship with him because of what Jesus has done for us. We have to be clear on that doctrine. that is the doctrine that saves. 

There is something greater. Something that gives life. That gives love and brings light to the darkness. Brings hope. Restores hearts that are broken. Its Jesus. It is the Lord our God. He fills us with praise and hope.