(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 25, 2003
Ministry Made Personal
How much do you like to hear you name? I guess that depends on
why it is being used. None of us like to hear our name called if
the one using it is mad at us or suspects us of doing something
wrong. But what about when you hear your name called by someone
you know loves you? Or how about when it is being said in order
to recognize you in some special way either because of a good
relationship you have or because of something good you have done?
We like to hear our names then.
The same is true when it comes to seeing our names in print.
We don’t like to see our names written at the top of a
policeman’s ticket, but we do like to see them written on a
gift check. We don’t want to see our names or those we love
printed on an arrest report. But we do like to see our names and
those we love printed in the paper in any favorable circumstance.
What would it be like to have your name actually recorded in
Scripture in a favorable manner? Admittedly, it can be a struggle
to read through all those names in passages such as Numbers 26 or
1 Chronicles 6,7,8 or Ezra 2. Most people cannot even pronounce
them much less recognize any significance to them. But what if
they were names that you did recognize as your own ancestors or
the ancestors of people that were close to you? You would
suddenly have a new appreciation for those long lists of names,
and they would not be so boring. They would have more personal
significance to you.
Consider the fact that each of the names listed in such
passages is a real person. They may have lived and died a long
time ago, but they were people like you and me. They had dreams
just as we do. They had families, friends and relationships with
others just as we do. Every name listed in the Bible reveals the
mind boggling fact that the omnipotent, holy creator of this
universe does not just love the world, He cares about each
individual human in it by name. Those who dismiss God’s love
for the world as too general should contemplate the multitude of
individual names mentioned in Scripture and then reflect that
entrance to heaven is dependent upon their name being written in
the lambs book of life (Rev. 21). God’s love for mankind is
not just universal in providing the means of redemption through
faith in Jesus Christ, it is also individually personal as the
Holy Spirit regenerates a person to believe and walk in an
intimate relationship with their Creator.
This morning we are going to be looking the long list of names
recorded in Romans 16. Paul’s letter to the Romans was not
just some general epistle to explain the gospel message. It was
also a personal communication to each one that would read the
letter. If Paul were alive today and personally knew you, this is
a letter he would have written to you. You can receive it as
personal communication from the Holy Spirit through the Apostle
Paul to you that you might understand God and His will better as
well as walk closer to Him in holiness. Paul’s greetings to
so many demonstrate how important personal relationships were to
him. No wonder he expected to be refreshed by them when he got to
Rome, because he already has so many friends there as well as
expecting to make new friends once he arrived.
Paul begins his personal greetings with a commendation of the
woman that was coming from Paul to Rome. It may even be possible
that she was the one who was carrying Paul’s letter to the
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the
church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you receive her in the Lord
in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in
whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has
also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
Paul often addressed the Christians he is was writing to as
"brethren." Here, Paul addresses Phoebe as "our
sister." This is wonderful way in which Christians can
address each other because we have been adopted into the family
The name "Phoebe" means "bright" or
"radiant." It was also the name the Greeks used for the
moon. She was a Greek woman who was from Cenchrea, which was
about 5 miles east of Corinth at the eastern terminus of the
canal that cut across the isthmus that separated Achaia from the
rest of Greece.
Paul’s commendation of her is a letter of reference from
him to the saints at Rome. This is one of the reasons that it is
thought that she was carrying the letter to Rome for Paul. At the
very least, she was with whoever was carrying the letter. Because
it is mentioned that she is from Cenchrea, it is thought that
Paul may have written this letter from that location.
Paul remarks that Phoebe had distinguished herself and so was
worthy of his commendation. The key characteristic is that she
was a "servant of the church which is at Cenchrea." The
word servant here is diakonon /
diakonon, which is often also translated as "deacon."
There is some debate about whether this was in some official
capacity as a deaconess, but before we get into that debate, take
note that whether she held a particular church office or not, she
was recognized as someone who was very helpful to others by her
service to them.
In verse 2 Paul says that she had been a helper of many, and
of himself as well. The word "helper" here, prostatiV / prostatis, is defined by
BDB/Thayer as a "female guardian, protectress, patroness,
caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her
resources." Phoebe was not only a woman who would
personally involve herself in helping other people with her own
hands, as being a diakonon / diakonon
implies, but being characterized as a prostatiV
/ prostatis, she may also have had the wealth to help
financially. She had been a helper of this type to Paul.
If indeed Phoebe did carry Paul’s epistle to Rome, it
demonstrates even more so the trust that he placed in her and why
he commended her to the Romans. Paul wanted the Roman believers
to welcome Phoebe into their fellowship "in a manner
worthy of the saints." He was placing his personal stamp
of approval upon her as a genuine and committed believer in the
Lord Jesus Christ. They could accept and trust her because Paul
was vouching for her character.
Even in our own times we can understand the importance of
having such a letter of recommendation. When you go to a new
place where people do not know you, they should have a certain
amount of caution toward you. While they may accept you based on
your personal testimony and profession of faith, they should be
hesitant to trust you until after you have had opportunity to
prove your profession and demonstrate your faithfulness. A letter
of recommendation from someone they already know and could trust
would allow them to be able to place such trust in that new
person too. While not very many people who have moved from here
have asked me for such a letter to give to their new church home,
it is always a privilege to do so in order that someone who had
served the Lord so faithfully alongside us can quickly be able to
be involved in ministry in their new home. I appreciate such a
letter when new people move here. Paul’s commendation
enabled the Roman believers to quickly accept Phoebe into their
fellowship and trust her to minister among them.
This trust factor was even more important to Phoebe because
Paul also asked the Romans to help her in whatever matter she may
have need of them. Paul’s commendation of her would instill
confidence that they could do this and not fear that they were
being taken advantage of by a con artist.
This principle is still important. We get a lot of requests by
people who would either like us to support them in some ministry
or they would like to come and do some ministry among us. I have
learned over the years that unless I can get some letter of
reference it is not wise to have such people come. When I get a
recommendation from someone I can trust about having a particular
ministry come here or supporting a particular ministry someplace
else, I can have a lot more confidence that what is being
requested is legitimate and worthy of our attention and support.
Phoebe had demonstrated to Paul that she had a godly character
and was worthy of his commendation. As mentioned earlier, one of
the ways in which she had demonstrated her character was being a
"servant of the church which is at Cenchrea." There is
a question as to whether this is a general reference to her
serving others or a specific reference to her holding the office
of a deaconess.
In general, those who reject that there is an office of
deaconess object to this being a reference to Phoebe holding that
office, and those who believe that there is an office of
deaconess understand this to be a reference to that office.
Is there an office of deaconess in the church? It is an
historical fact that deaconesses were a recognized office within
the early church, but was this because the Scriptures set such an
office up or was that just a structural development created by
man in order to avoid any impropriety in caring for the women in
the church? Even in our morally loose society we understand that
there are a lot of ministries to women that are best done by
another woman. That would be much more true in that ancient
oriental society in which women lived lives in which they were
often secluded from men.
1 Timothy 3:11is the only other passage that makes reference
to what could be deaconesses. After addressing the qualifications
for overseers or elders and getting half way through the
qualifications for deacons, Paul says, "Women must
likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate,
faithful in all things." The passage then continues on
with the qualifications for deacons.
There are many conservative Christians that insist that this
is referring to the wives of deacons since the King James
translates this as "Even so [must their] wives [be]
grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things."
The Greek word used here, gunaikaV
/ gunaikas, can be translated as either "women" or as
"wives" depending on the context. I believe this is a
reference to the office of deaconess for the following reasons.
1) There is no Greek feminine form of "deacon"(diakonon / diakonon) which Paul could have
used to specifically identify these women as female deacons, but
Paul could have distinguished these women as wives by using an
article or a possessive pronoun – i.e. "The wives" or
"their wives" or even "the wives of deacons."
2) The verb from verse 2 ("must be" – dei / dei) also governs verses 8 & 11
which are parallels of qualification. These are also the
grammatical construction that Paul uses for transitions to new
groups (see also 2:9 and Titus 2:3,6). 3) It would be
inconsistent for Paul to require the deacons to have wives that
meet certain moral qualifications and not have any parallel for
the overseers to have wives that meet such qualifications. 4) As
already mentioned, historically, this was a recognized office in
the early church. 5) Some object because they have made
"deacons" an office of authority and do not want a
parallel office of women with such authority. That is
understandable, but both of these are offices of service, not
power. The authority belongs to the overseers / elders under whom
the deacons and deaconess serve. We have structured the
leadership of Grace Bible Church accordingly.
Some of the ladies who are serving as deaconesses here are
married to a deacon or elder, some are not, and some are single.
Each serves much as Phoebe did because they have demonstrated a
proven godly character and a heart to serve God’s church and
His people in various capacities.
Starting in verse 3, Paul begins to greet people that he
already knows that had moved to Rome. He greets 24 people by name
and five groups of people by their association.
Prisca & Aquila
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ
Jesus, 4 who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only
do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; 5
also [greet] the church that is in their house.
Aquila was a Jew from Pontus, what is now Northeast Turkey. He
and his wife Prisca, also called Priscilla, had lived in Rome
until all the Jews were expelled in 52 A.D. by Emperor Claudias.
They moved to Corinth where they met Paul (Acts 18:1,2) while he
was on his second missionary journey. Paul stayed with them and
also worked with them since they all had the same trade of
tent-making. Remember that Paul often worked in this trade in
order to pay for his own expenses instead of placing a financial
burden on the fledgling churches he was starting. They then
traveled with Paul to Ephesus (Acts 18:18). Paul continued on,
but Aquila and Priscilla stayed. Soon after they met and became
the mentors of Apollos (Acts 18:26). They also hosted a church in
their home (1 Cor. 16:19).
When Paul writes his first letter to the Corinthians ( c. 55
A.D) he includes greetings from them to that church. A year or so
later, we find them back in Rome after Emperor Claudius died and
the restriction against Jews was lifted. That is why Paul
includes a greeting to them here in his letter to the Romans. Ten
years or so later we find that they have moved back to Ephesus
because Paul includes a greeting to them in 2 Timothy 4:19.
We do not know the details of what Paul mentions here in
Romans 16:4, but it clearly gives the reason why Paul would greet
them first. They had not only been co-workers with Paul both in
trade and for the cause of Christ, but they had "risked
their own necks" for Him. We still use that same expression
to describe risking our lives for someone else. Paul was very
grateful for them, for such an act is a supreme demonstration of
love even as Jesus said in John 15:13 that "Greater love
has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his
friends." The churches of the Gentiles were also
thankful. They had faithfully ministered to the followers of
Christ wherever they went. We find at the beginning of verse 5
that they were already hosting another church in their home, just
as they had done at Ephesus. That is a wonderful example for any
of us to follow.
Paul next greets "Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the
first convert to Christ from Asia." The term for
"first convert" means "first fruit" or
"first portion." Acts 13:14 records that Paul first
landed in Asia at Perga and then went to Pisidian Antioch on the
Mediterranean coast of central Turkey. The first record of people
being converted to Christ through Paul’s preaching occurs at
Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13). This would be a reason for Epaenetus
being beloved to Paul.
Next, verse 6 "Greet Mary, who has worked hard for
you." There is nothing known of Mary except what is said
here. Paul knew of her hard work. The word here for hard work (kopiaw / kopia‘) carries the idea of
laboring to the point of growing tired and weary. Her work was
done on behalf of the Roman believers. Another good example for
any of us to follow.
Andronicus and Junias
In verse seven we find, "Greet Andronicus and Junias,
my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among
the apostles, who also were in Christ before me."
Junias could be a feminine name in which case this would be a
husband and wife or a brother and sister team. Whatever their
relationship, Paul marks them out as "kinsman." Paul
used this term to refer to all his fellow Jews in Romans 9:3, but
here Paul is distinguishing individuals, so it is more likely
that they, along with three others mentioned in this list, were
relatives of some sort to Paul.
Paul remarks that they were his "fellow prisoners."
In 2 Cor. 6:5 Paul says that he had been in
"imprisonments." The early church father, Clement of
Rome, remarks that Paul had been imprisoned 7 times. These two
had the same experience of being imprisoned for their witness of
Jesus Christ. Possibly they could have been imprisoned with Paul,
but we have no proof of this either way.
Paul also remarks that they are "outstanding among the
apostles." This does not mean that they were apostles,
but rather that they were well known and recognized by the
apostles as distinguished servants of Christ. Remember that Jews
had only recently been allowed back into Rome, so they may well
have labored among the apostles in Jerusalem at a prior time.
This idea is strengthened by the fact that they "were in
Christ" before Paul and therefore would have been saved
prior to Paul’s conversion which occurred during the
persecution that was dispersing the church from Jerusalem
throughout Judea and Samaria (see Acts 8).
Verse 8 adds, "Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the
Lord." There is no other Biblical reference to this man,
but Paul’s possessive greeting indicates a great emotional
attachment to him. Paul refers to him as "my beloved in the
Lord" and not just "beloved in the Lord."
Ampliatus was a common name among Roman slaves, and possibly
this man was still a slave. Slaves were not allowed to bear the
name of a free man, so those slaves that were freed would
commonly distinguish themselves from their former position by
taking a new name of a free man.
There is a highly ornamented chamber in the Christian
catacombs of Domitila that bears the name Ampliatus. It is a
chamber that is dated to the end of the first century or
beginning of the second. It is pure speculation that there is any
connection between this man and that chamber, but perhaps there
could be. This man was respected by Paul and therefore may have
made a substantial impact on both his own family and on other
people so that they would have honored him with elaborate
decorations on his tomb.
Urbanus & Stachys
In verse 9 Paul greets "Urbanus, our fellow worker in
Christ, and Stachys my beloved.
Urbanus was a common Roman name. We know nothing more of him
other than that he was a fellow worker in Christ. Stachys is a
Greek name meaning "wheat ear." We know nothing more of
him except that he was beloved to Paul. It is worth noting here
that many of these people are not leaders in the church. Most are
just common people with that were important to Paul. You
don’t have to have great skills or be especially
distinguished in some way in order to make an impact in the lives
of others. All it really takes is simply to care about other
people and be faithful in using whatever spiritual gifts you have
in serving Christ.
Next is Paul’s greeting in verse 10 to "Apelles,
the approved in Christ." This is another man we know
nothing about except what is said here. He is a man who is
"approved in Christ." The word here is used to describe
the testing of precious metals for purity. This man had been
tried and passed the test.
Those of Aristobulus
In verse 10, Paul also greets "those who are of the
[household] of Aristobulus." This greeting is not to
Aristobulus himself, which indicates that he was not a believer,
but to those that belonged to Aristobulus. This would include his
family members and possibly any servants too. There is some
speculation that this may have been the family of the brother of
King Herod Agrippa I, in which case they would have been part of
the imperial household, and therefore part of "Caesar’s
household" mentioned in Phil. 4:22.
Next, in verse 11, Paul greets "Herodion, my
kinsman." Herodian is another relative of Paul. His name
suggests that there may have been some tie to Herod’s family
as well, but that is speculation.
Paul next greets "those of the [household] of
Narcissus, who are in the Lord." These would be the
family members and possibly servants too that belonged to
Narcissus, who was not a believer. Some speculated that this may
have been Emperor Claudius’ secretary. Paul’s greeting
indicates that only a portion of this family was saved.
Tryphaena, Tryphosa & Persis
In verse 12 Paul greets three women. "Greet Tryphaena
and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who
has worked hard in the Lord."
The first two may have been sisters, possibly twins. Their
names mean "delicate" and "dainty"
respectively. They are marked out by Paul for their present work
for the Lord. Persis, whose name is derived from Persia, possibly
her native land, is marked out by Paul as both "the
beloved," and someone who has worked hard in the Lord. By
using the past tense, Paul would be indicating that she was
probably an older woman who had lived out her most productive
years. Years that had endeared her to all so that she is not
"a beloved," but "the beloved."
In verse 13 Paul greets "Rufus, a choice man in the
Lord, also his mother and mine." There is speculation
that Rufus may have been the one of the sons of Simone of Cyrene
who carried Jesus’ cross. This is because Mark 15:21
specifically mentions his two sons, Alexander and Rufus. The
gospel of Mark was written to impact Romans with the gospel.
Whether this is the same Rufus or not, Paul marks him out as a
"choice man in the Lord." The sense here is that he was
a man of extraordinary character in his following and serving
Paul also mentions Rufus’ mother with great endearment in
calling her his own mother. This is not a suggestion that he and
Rufus are brothers, but indication of the great ministry this
woman must have had to Paul some place at sometime.
Asyncritus & others.
In verse 14 Paul greets five more men plus those with them.
"Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and
the brethren with them." Paul does not make any
distinguishing comments about them as individuals other than
personally naming them. The fact that Paul then refers to other
believers that were with them would indicate that these would
have been leaders in one of the Christian assemblies that were in
Philologus & others
In a similar manner, Paul greets one couple, and a brother and
sister and one other man along with the other Christians with
them. 15 "Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his
sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them." These
would probably be leaders of another local assembly of saints in
I appreciated Robert Haldane’s comments as he wrapped up
his discussion on these various people that Paul greeted.
"The Lord’s people are not equally distinguished,
but they are all brethren equally related to Him who is the Elder
Brother of His people. Some of them are eminent, and others are
without peculiar distinction. They are all, however, worthy of
love. A church is not to consist of the most eminent believers,
but of believers, through some be of the lowest attainments. A
church of Christ is a school in which their education is to be
Paul’s inclusion in this epistle of Scripture of his
personal greetings to individual Christians is reflective of the
value that each of us has individually before God, except that
God’s valuation of us is infinitely more than Paul’s.
God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
Paul concludes his personal greetings in verse 16 with
instruction to those in Rome to follow in practice what he was
striving to do in writing. "Greet one another with a holy
kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you."
A greeting is simply an expression made or a gesture given
when you meet someone. Paul always uses the term in the sense of
giving a courtesy to someone as an expression of respect or
affection. That was the purpose of his greeting so many
individuals in Rome in this letter. It was also why he extended a
greeting from "all the churches of Christ" to the
church in Rome. Now he wanted those in Rome to also physically
demonstrate such respect and affection among themselves whenever
It was a common custom at that time for people who were
relatives or friends to greet each other with a kiss, usually on
the cheek or forehead. That is still common in many cultures
today, including some subcultures here in America. Paul’s
instruction here was for them to use this common greeting as a
way of expressing what should be their mutual love and respect
for each other because of their common bond as the body of
Christ. They were all adopted into the family of God through the
work of the Holy Spirit, therefore they should greet each other
as family. Paul adds the adjective "holy" to
distinguish the nature of this kiss of greeting from both sensual
kisses and feigned kisses. Christians are to be devoted to one
another in brotherly love (Rom. 12:10), and this would be a means
of showing that love when they met. People usually know when it
is faked, and God always knows.
This did become the practice of the church for several
centuries. It then declined for several reasons and then was
mutated into the "liturgical kiss" practiced by some
denominations. In many places societal practices frown on such
intimate displays of affection. We must admit that here in the
U.S. most people are more comfortable with a "holy
handshake" than a kiss. Yet, when this is practiced with
sensible discretion, a holy kiss and hug that reflect a genuine
affection and respect among believers is a wonderful
demonstration of the relationship we have with one another in
I agree with Robert Haldane’s conclusion that "every
attention that expresses and promotes love ought to be exhibited
among Christians, who should employ the forms and courtesies of
social life that manifest respect, in order to show their esteem
and affection for one another."
Your name is a wonderful thing to hear. I hope this passage
will encourage each of us that God is involved in the lives of
each of us as individuals. I also pray that each of us will
follow Paul’s example in showing personal respect and
affection towards one another because of our mutual love for
Ministry here at Grace Bible Church is not about programs, but
people, because that reflects God’s individual involvement
with each of us, and if follows the examples of His servants,
such as Paul, that have gone before us.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * *
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your
children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children –
draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon.
Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children : Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many
different people are mentioned in the sermon 2) Discuss with your
parents God’s personal love for you and others.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is the context of Romans 16:1-16? What would be the
significance to the Romans of Paul mentioning so many people by
name? What is the significance that these names are included in
the Scriptures? Why was Phoebe commended by Paul? Why was this
commendation important? What reasons are their to believe she
held the office of a "deaconess"? What alternatives are
their to that view? What do you believe about the offices of the
church including "Deaconess" along with Deacons and
Elders? What Biblical support is their for your understanding?
What else do we know about Prisca and Aquila? What was
Paul’s relationship to them? Name some other people that
also risked their lives either for Paul or in their travels with
him? Why does Paul specifically call Andronicus and Junias his
"kinsman"? Who are some of the people mentioned in this
section that are interesting to you? Why are they interesting to
you? Is Rufus Paul’s brother? Why or why not? Why would Paul
instruct them to greet each other with a "holy kiss"?
How was this instruction carried out in the church? What has it
degenerated into in many churches? How important to do you think
you are to God? To His work on this earth? To His people? What is
the basis for your beliefs on these things? Name some people that
God has used to help you in your Christian walk? How did they
help you? Name some people that you have found to be
"co-laborers" with you or you with them? What
ministries did you work together in? What would it have been like
without them? Spend some time thanking God for the people that He
has placed into your life that have helped you mature in Christ
and with whom you have been able to minister alongside.
Ministry Made Personal – Romans 16:1-16
COMMENDATION (vs. 1,2)
Deaconess? – 1 Tim. 3:11
Prisca & Aquila
Andronicus and Junias
Urbanus & Stachys
Those of Aristobulus
Tryphaena, Tryphosa & Persis
Asyncritus & others
Philologus & others
A greeting =