Sermon Illustrations


1. Despite the great popularity of the book of Romans, chapter 16 is often neglected by preachers, teachers, and Bible students. It has almost no explicit teaching and includes several lists of people, many of whom we know nothing about except what little, if anything, is said of them here. But they doubtless were a representative cross section of believers in Rome and of Paul’s companions at the time he wrote the letter. This passage is by far the most extensive and intimate expression of love and appreciation to come from the tender heart and inspired mind of the apostle Paul. It is a rich and rewarding section that yields many insights into the life of Paul, into the lives of other early Christians, and into the nature and character of the first-century church. The apostle’s comments about these mostly unknown individuals are all the more poignant because this great apostle takes time to speak so warmly and appreciatively of these “ordinary” Christians, who were as much his brothers and sisters in Christ as Peter, James, John, and other New Testament notables. He here reveals his deep affection for those whom he had served, for those who had served him, and for those who served with him. Paul continues the personal epilogue that began in 15:14 and reveals still more of his inner thoughts and feelings, not so much as an apostle as a fellow servant of Jesus Christ. In 15:14-33 he focuses on his relationship to the Lord in his ministry. In chapter 16 he focused on his relationship to other Christians with whom he has been associated in one way or another in his ministry. He specifically identifies, and sometimes briefly comments about, those to whom he felt the closest. He reveals his love for the community of the redeemed, his mutual accountability with them before God, and his dependence on them for his own ministry and for his own well-being. In many ways, this chapter reflects the personal and practical agapē love he has beautifully described in 13:8-10 and which, a few years earlier, he had portrayed in chapter 13 of his first letter to the church at Corinth.