If I counted correctly, in Paul’s closing greetings to the Christians in Rome, he named at least twenty-five different saints who lived in that area. Some of those names are challenging to pronounce. Many of them are people that are not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.
When we read Romans 16 or the last chapter of other New Testament epistles, we may be tempted to hurry through the names, because, after all, these people do not appear to be major characters. Very little information is given to us about them, so why not move on to what might be more important? Please pause with me to think about some lessons that we can learn from this long section of closing greetings, Romans 16:3-15.
You do not have to be famous to be faithful. The best-known people to whom Paul sent greetings in this passage were Priscilla and Aquila (16:3). The others? We would not count them as famous. Yet, and this is significant, what Paul says about them indicates that they were faithful to the Lord. Sometimes we might think that we have to do something out of the ordinary, do something special, or do something impressive, in order to please the Lord. Serving God is about being “faithful in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:17), not about being well-known. Forget about fame. Go for faithfulness.
We are all of equal value in the Lord’s work. None of the saints who are named in this text are described as being of greater value than others. It is true that each of us has different abilities and different levels of talent (Matthew 25:14-30), but none of us is irreplaceable in God’s Kingdom. Yes, some are elders, deacons, and preachers, but that does not make them of more value in God’s service. We each have our own role to play, so let us not be concerned about competing with or staying ahead of someone else. Let us develop the heart of a servant and thank God for what we can do for Him.
It takes a lot of people working together to get the Lord’s work done. Mary labored (16:6). So did Persis and others (16:12). The church is the body of the Christ. In order for it to function well, all of the members must work together for the good of the body (1 Corinthians 12:14-26). Everyone works!
It is possible for each one of us to work in the Lord. In fact, we can all do a lot. How is Mary described? She “bestowed much labor on us” (16:5). And what about Persis? He “labored much in the Lord” (16:12). “I Want to Be a Worker for the Lord” is the name of a familiar spiritual song. When we sing that song, we claim that in our hearts we have a desire to work for our Lord. Do we back up our singing with action? Do we really get out and go to work? Here is a sobering question. If I do not work in the Vineyard of my Lord, who prevents me from doing so? The answer, of course, is I do. It is my choice: I can either do much work for the Lord, or else I can choose not to do so. What is your choice? Remember that God wants our labor to be steadfast and continuous (1 Corinthians 15:58). His promise is that such labor is not in vain.
Just knowing that other saints are working faithfully in the Lord can encourage us. I may not know much about the twenty-plus members of the church whose names are given in Romans 16:3-15, but it is encouraging to know that they were following the Master! It thrills our soul to read in Hebrews 11 of so many servants of Jehovah that lived by faith. In the same way, it is encouraging in our day to witness firsthand how twenty-first century brothers and sisters walk in the light (1 John 1:7). Hear John’s rejoicing: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4). It really is uplifting to see the dedication that so many members of the church demonstrate. Do not forget that others are always observing us. Our attitude, behavior, or speech may be just what they need to hear or see in order to lift their spirits.
The bond that exists between Christians is a unique, powerful force. Aquila and Priscilla willingly laid their lives on the line for Paul’s sake (16:3,4). Paul referred to Stachys as “my beloved,” (16:9), Amplias as “my beloved in the Lord” (16:8), and another as “my wellbeloved” (16:5). Those terms of endearment show the strong bond that exists between members of the Lord’s body. What a blessing it is when we “love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22). Jesus counted all those that do the will of God as His spiritual family members (Mark 3:31-35). Indeed, “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.”
How will you and I be remembered? All of those people about whom we read in Romans 16 are now dead. We never knew them in the flesh, yet we know something about them and have an impression of them. After we die, people will talk about us, too. What will they remember about us? While we do not have a desire to impress people, we do want to leave them with a good impression, right? Our example will speak volumes long after we leave this life. Think about it. In the future, please resist the temptation to speed through the names in Romans 16.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.