Romans 16:1-6

In Romans 16:1-6 Paul begins a chapter filled with gratitude, appreciation and greetings to people who are important in his life. He starts with the most important and speaks directly to them one by one, and as he goes, the grouping begins to happen and it grows until he is at a macro level. So he starts with one and ends with many, but that doesn’t change the importance of each of these individuals or the impact the group overall had on him. It’s another example of the humanness of Paul. He was a powerful minister of the gospel, but he certainly didn’t do it alone, and he definitely had many others in his life that were essential to accomplishing what he did.

He begins by praising a woman who was obviously important in the ministry. Paul certainly knew the value of what women could do in serving the church. Apparently Phoebe was on her way to Rome (probably entrusted with this precious letter) and Paul sends an advance recommendation of this sister in Christ so the Romans will receive her and support her during her stay in their city. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” Paul legitimized Phoebe as his helper and that of the church.

Next comes Priscilla and Aquila who are mentioned several times in the book of Acts as associates of Paul and helpers to Apollos. Apparently they were now back in the city of Rome. “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.” Their devotion to Paul is deep – risking their own lives for his. These two are husband and wife that are united in a extreme devotion not only to Paul, but also in their efforts to help create healthy churches among the Gentiles.

Paul gives us a hint about how the church was structured in that day – where it was held in churches. Priscilla and Aquila were hosts of one of those churches in their own house. “Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.” Paul calls out a man named Epaenetus. This man is of note because he was apparently among the very first converts of Achaia (where Corinth was and where Paul wrote the letter to the Romans). Epaenetus was dear to Paul; beloved isn’t a term Paul used cheaply. Mary is not someone we know much about other than her willingness to work hard and help Paul with ministry.

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