Paul concludes—not begins—his magnificent letter to the Romans with a long list of greetings and salutations. One wonders how he could know so many in the church there! But it’s no wonder considering what a master he was at “working the crowd.” When you read his work you know that he knew all the political and psychological angles of persuasion, but he always compelled others with a twist of love and grace.
It is obvious that Paul used every opportunity for strategic advantage in furthering the cause of Christ and his mission to the uttermost parts of the world. He was his own advance team.
So, who were these people in Romans 16:1-16? One was on her way there, probably with his letter in tow. Phoebe was a deaconess from the church at Cenchrea. Paul made sure her reputation as a “helper of many” preceded her.
He went on to praise a well-known dynamic duo, Priscilla and Aquila, fellow neck-riskers in the cause of Christ. This married couple did everything together. They were real go-getters. Ask Apollos! (Acts 18:24-26)
At least one other married couple was on Paul’s list of saints to greet, Philologus and Julia. I’m convinced that if Paul was married it would be to a Priscilla or Julia. Seems Aquila and Philologus were before their time. There’s nothing sexier than a strong woman of the faith.
Paul next mentioned his first convert to the faith in Asia, Epaenetus. No need for an extensive resume when you’ve got your man in town. I recall the blind man Jesus healed in response to accusations from the Lord’s detractors, “All I know is I was blind and now I see.” (John 9:25) All Epaenetus had to say is “I’m here because of him.”
Paul was always impressed with effort spent furthering the gospel. He loved those in the trenches with him, the fellow workers, like Mary, who worked hard for the Roman church, and Urbanus and beloved Stachys. Sisters Tryphaena and Tryphosa stood out, as did the single woman Persis. The question is, do we single out and praise those who leave it all on the field for Christ? Try making this your ministry!
While Paul gave a shout out to his Jewish kinsmen in Rome like Herodian, kinsmen Andronicus and Junias shared a special kinship with Paul, having suffered for Christ as “fellow prisoners.” In Paul’s words, they were “outstanding among the apostles,” meaning the greats of the faith also held them in high esteem.
This leads me to another key to Paul’s success in recruiting saints for service, his use of words like outstanding, beloved (Persis), approved (Apelles), and a choice man in the Lord (Rufus). It doesn’t cost a dime to commend with words. I remember long contentious elder meetings at a former church and a particular leader who always seemed to hold a different view. I remember more his description of me in later years as a “dear friend.”
Also honorable mentions were leaders of households of the faith (Aristobulus and Narcissus), hosts of house churches, slaves loyal to Christ and their masters, mothers, and a brother (Nereus) and sister act.
Here’s a thought. Instead of sharing criticisms of saints and whispering tidbits of gossip, reserve your comments to only the good things that you see. We are so quick to speak of things that paint us in a good light. Try refusing to speak of anything but good of a brother or sister in the faith. Afterwall, we all will be friends in high places someday soon.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. Romans 16:16