Summary: All individuals are destined to undergo a final evaluation by God.
A. History has recorded many ideas about the final evaluation and final state of humans beyond death.
B. I had a recent discussion with a cousin concerning ghosts.
1. We were discussing various events that would appear to conclude that ghosts exist.
2. I have my opinion. There are angels and demons which we might classify as ghosts.
3. I don’t believe the spirits of the dead remain behind to comfort loved ones or haunt enemies.
4. Jesus told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus and in it described a great gulf which prevented Abraham from returning to earth to warn those who needed to repent.
5. Paul also taught that to be absent from the body was to be at home with the Lord, and Jesus told one of the thieves he would be with him in Paradise that very day.
6. My cousin questioned the bright light those who have legally died but have been brought back to life almost always seem to see.
7. He asked; “What if the person doesn’t want to go toward the light?”
8. I don’t think we have a choice.
C. Probably the most well accepted conclusion is that our hereafter is determined by whether our good works outweigh the bad.
D. Then there are those who believe death is it and there is nothing thereafter. Some attach annihilation to this theory.
E. Paul now reaches the end of this magnificent letter to the saints in Rome, and as in most letter endings, greets his friends and gives final instructions.
I. The Final Evaluation Will Include Commendations (vv. 1-16)
A. Jesus tells several parables dealing with how faithfulness to God will result in hearing; “Well done good and faithful servant.”
1. Paul looked forward to receiving a crown of righteousness for his faithful service to Christ.
2. Reward for faithfulness is a scarlet thread weaving itself throughout the pages of the Bible.
B. Phoebe receives the first commendation.
1. For denominations or individuals who have issues with women deacons, Phoebe presents a challenge.
2. Older translations will call her a servant while more modern ones will refer to her as a deacon or deaconess.
3. The Greek word is actually diakonos (dee’ ah ka nas) and is the word we get deacon from. It refers to one who executes the commands of another, such as their master or the king. A servant or waiter.
4. Due to the separation of the sexes in the early church, it was probably necessary to have women appointed to such an office to care for their needs.
5. Phoebe was coming to the church in Rome, and Paul instructed them to receiver her as one worthy of high honor because she had helped many people with their needs.
6. Regardless of what we conclude about the position or office of a woman deacon, the more important issue is what Paul commends her for.
7. She carried out the role of what the word deacon implies. She ministered to the needs of others. She was a servant.
8. She was probably a wealthy woman who helped support Paul’s ministry and may have even delivered this letter from Corinth to Rome.
9. Women had important roles in the early church just as they did in Jesus’ ministry.
10. We would no doubt all agree that most churches today could not function if not for the support of women. Surveys continue to show more women involved in church than men.
11. Phoebe’s commendation for faithful service is worthy of our emulation.
12. Remember the important words of Jesus that as we minister to others we are actually ministering to him.
13. As a servant of Christ, we must be a servant of his church and of others.
C. Priscilla and Aquilla are commended for faithfulness.
1. They were a married couple and close friends of Paul’s.
2. Like many other Jews, they had been expelled from Rome by the emperor Claudius in A. D. 52 and had moved to Corinth.
3. They met Paul at Corinth and invited him to live with them.
4. They were no doubt able to tell Paul a great deal about the church in Rome and were missionaries like him.
5. They had risked their life for Paul and others.
6. At some point, they returned to Rome and now have a church in their house.
7. Several important lessons come from their example: we should be hospitable, we should remember believers are fellow laborers not competitors, and we should be willing to sacrifice for others.
D. Epenetus is commended for his courage to be the first to believe.
1. Imagine his fear in living among a pagan society yet being willing to launch out in faith.
2. Think of the consequences he may have faced for his belief-consequences from family, friends and work associates.