Over the past three months I have been recommending the exploration of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Each of the epistle’s sixteen chapters has important features which are compelling reasons to read the book. I invite you to scroll down and review my recent blog posts to read introductions to each chapter. The last chapter of Romans has it’s own instructive features which deserve our attention.
it has been said that Paul had “a genius for friendship.” Over his previous ten years of missionary activity in Syria, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia Minor, he had accumulated many companions, disciples and fellow-missionaries for whom he felt sincere affection in the Lord. In Romans 16 he sent greetings to 26 of them, adding words of appreciation. It is interesting to me how he valued and maintained these relationships.
The chapter opens with a commendation for one of them, Phoebe, a prominent woman whom he calls his “sister” in the faith. She was likely the courier who carried the letter to Rome as she traveled there from Corinth, presumably on personal business. She is further identified as a “minister,” or deaconess of the Christian assembly in Cenchreae, a suburb of Corinth. Paul goes on to say how she had helped him as a supporter of his ministry.
This lets us know where Paul was when he wrote the letter to the Romans. In vv. 21-24 he names eight companions who were with him in Corinth. They added their greetings to the Roman Christians. One of them was Erastus, a local government official. I have seen a first century paving stone in the ruins of old Corinth with his name clearly inscribed in Latin. If that Erastus is the Erastus of Romans 16:23, then the inscription is the earliest reference to a Christian by name outside the New Testament.
This closing chapter in the letter contains important words of caution which are relevant to believers and churches today. In vv.17-20, Paul warns Christians to watch out for and avoid any who would obstruct the teaching which they had learned. This includes the teaching of the gospel in the book of Romans. Paul’s emphasis on the sinfulness of all humanity, the need for righteousness as a gift of God’s grace, and justification only by faith in Jesus Christ constitute his gospel message.
There is in Romans an entire vocabulary of key words to describe the different aspects of the salvation offered in the Christian gospel. Rich words such as redemption, forgiveness, sanctification, reconciliation, resurrection, and glorification accompany Paul’s emphasis on justification. These varied themes display God’s goodness and grace in saving people as the colors of the rainbow appear when light is refracted through a glass prism.
This assumes Paul’s authority as a spokesman for God. He was commissioned by Jesus himself to speak and to write the Word of God. Signs and miracles validated his ministry as a true apostle (Romans 1;1, 15:15-19). Thus, in his concluding benediction he could write that God is able to establish believers in accordance with the unchanging gospel that he (Paul) preached (Romans 16:25). This gospel is universally and eternally relevant. It is summarized and explained in the book of Romans.
That is why we should read it and welcome its message.
Pastor Randy Faulkner
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