Summary: As Paul concludes his letter to the Romans, he commends many people in Rome while warning them of others. Paul's long list of people gives us a rare snapshot into the nature of the early church.
A. A young adult man was walking through a supermarket to pick up a few things when he noticed an older lady following him around.
1. Thinking nothing of it, he ignored her and continued on.
2. Finally, when he went to the checkout line, she quickly slipped in front of him.
3. “Pardon me,” she said, “I’m sorry if my staring at you has made you feel uncomfortable, but it’s just that you look just like my son who died recently.”
4. “I’m very sorry,” replied the young man, “is there anything I can do for you?”
5. “Yes,” she said, “As I leave the store could you holler and wave to me saying, ‘Good-bye, Mother!’? It would make me feel so much better.”
6. “Sure, I can do that for you,” answered the young man.
7. After the woman had her groceries scanned and placed in her shopping cart, she headed to the door, and the young man called out to her and waved, “Good-bye, Mother!”
a. And the woman smiled and waved back, saying, “Good-bye son.”
8. When the cashier finished scanning his groceries, she said, “that will be one hundred, twenty-seven dollars and fifty cents.”
9. “How can my bill be that high?” he asked, “I am only buying a few things!”
10. The cashier replied, “Well, your mother, who just left, said that you would pay for her groceries.”
11. The moral of the story is: Some good-byes hurt more than others!
B. Today, we will be saying good-bye to our sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Romans, and as we do so we will witness Paul saying his good-byes to the church in Rome.
1. We will notice that Paul includes in this chapter items that are typical of the conclusions in his other letters: including Paul’s greetings to specific Christians in Rome, and greetings from other Christians who are with Paul.
2. But what is not typical about this section is the number of greetings – Paul asks the Romans to greet 26 individuals, 2 families, and 3 house churches.
3. But what is most surprising about this is the fact that Paul has never visited Rome.
4. So, how in the world did Paul know about so many people from a place he had never been?
a. Some of them were people Paul had met and worked with in his missionary journeys.
b. Others he may have known only by reputation.
c. But one way or another, Paul knew them and considered them worthy of mention in this personal conclusion to his letter.
d. Paul considered many of them to be heroes, but he is also going to warn the Romans about some villains.
C. To some people, Romans 16 appears to be one of the least-interesting chapters of the NT.
1. It consists mostly of Paul’s greetings to this long list of people in Rome.
2. At first glance that doesn’t seem to offer much that would interest us today inasmuch as the names are hard to pronounce and even harder to spell.
3. But to make matters worse, we don’t know who most of these people are because many of them are never mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.
4. What I hope we realize today is that this chapter offers us a rare snapshot of early Christianity.
5. Behind this list of unpronounceable names stands a bedrock truth about the nature of the growing Christian movement and why it had the power to change the ancient world.
D. This chapter also gives us insight into Paul and his ministry, and what it was about Paul and his ministry that made him so effective.
1. If I were to ask what words you would use to describe the Apostle Paul, you might say things like serious, brilliant, logical, studious, dedicated, driven, and committed.
2. All those words fit the usual picture we have of the man from Tarsus.
3. When you think about Paul that way, does he sound like the kind of guy you would invite over to the house for dinner or to watch the Super Bowl?
4. If you were going to go out for coffee with Paul, you might feel like you better prepare by brushing up on your Greek or your Old Testament theology.
5. Do you think of Paul as being a guy who had a sense of humor? I don’t.
6. Nevertheless, one thing that Romans 16 reminds us of is that Paul was also a people person.
7. In addition to being brilliant, and serious, and driven, he had a heart for people.
8. Paul made friends and associations wherever he went – he was great at networking!
E. Let’s read through the list of people Paul wanted to send greetings to, and then make a few comments about the people and what put them on the list: 1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae. 2 So you should welcome her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and assist her in whatever matter she may require your help. For indeed she has been a benefactor of many—and of me also. 3 Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life. Not only do I thank them, but so do all the Gentile churches. 5 Greet also the church that meets in their home. Greet my dear friend Epaenetus, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews and fellow prisoners. They are noteworthy in the eyes of the apostles, and they were also in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our coworker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those who belong to the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who have worked hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother—and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send you greetings. (Romans 16:1-16)