"I commend to you Phoebe ... who is
a servant of the church" by A.P.
TO CHEW ON: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." Romans 16:24
In this last chapter of Romans, Paul takes considerable pains to send personal greetings. It's remarkable how many people he knows by name, considering he has never been to Rome when he writes this.
It's a motley band that includes one of the first converts in Asia (Romans 16:5), women (Romans 16:1-3,6,12), fellow prisoners (Romans 16:7), and many others who have worked alongside him at various times. My Bible footnotes this section with the explanation, "The list interestingly contains numerous names common to slaves and freedmen" -Wayne A. Grudem, New Spirit-Filled Bible, p. 1574.
The end of the chapter contains more greetings, this time for the Romans from people who are with Paul. Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius (Paul's secretary), Erastus (city treasurer of Corinth, the probable place from which Paul writes the letter), and Quartas all greet their Roman brothers and sisters.
These warm wishes underline the fact that the church is a social institution—something that can be both a weakness and a strength.
The social aspect of the church has its dangers. Paul's letters are full of warnings to watch out for people that would inveigle themselves into the fellowship to bring arguments, divisions, false teachings, a competitive spirit, immoral lifestyles, and more.
But we humans are social beings. We love to gather with others to share our lives. Weeping, laughing, eating, playing, and working are just plain more bearable and enjoyable when they're done in company.
Jesus, acknowledging the many-member makeup of the church prayed for its unity: " '...that they (those who will believe in Me) also may be one in us, that the world may believe that You sent Me' " - John 17:21.
The modern trend to criticize the church and say, I'm a believer but I don't need the church, is understandable. There is a lot of room for hurt and misunderstanding and abuse in the church. But rather than abandoning it, let's answer Jesus' prayer for church unity by pursuing the kind of cooperation, encouragement, and love that Paul demonstrates in Romans 16.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the church—Your body on earth. Help me to be a cooperative part of that body, loving fellow Christians and working toward Your ideal of unity. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.