Summary: Heavenly greetings adorn the final chapter of Romans. Holy kisses resound where happy families unite in joy and celebration. How wonderful is the family of God!
I love the warmth that you find in these greetings!
Romans has the most extensive list of names for personal greeting of all the New Testament letters. This is especially interesting since Paul had never been to Rome.
It indicates something of the mobility of some of the early Christians as well as Paul’s wide range of relationships among the churches.
Nine of the people in this list are women. Paul’s personal relationships to brothers and sisters in Christ imply a deep respect for the work of both men and women in the church. Even if their respective leadership rolls were different.
Phoebe, in verse 1 is the messenger who brings this letter to Rome. She is called a servant of the church in Cenchrea. The word servant is the word for deacon with the dative ending.
Some believe she served as a servant in the official sense, but the word deacon is so often used to simply mean servant in other contexts that this is not at all necessary. Anyway, she is authorized not only to bring this letter but is highly recognized by Paul as a great helper of many people including Paul.
Another interesting thing that we learn from this list is: there is a church meeting in the home of Priscilla and Aquila, as well as other households, and groups. (See verses 5, 10, 11, 14, 15).
The picture that we get of the church is not like here where we come from several miles to meet in one place at the same time.
The description of the Roman church is that of groups of Christians meeting in homes or meeting places all over the city.
Try to imagine Christianity in the days before telephones, modern transportation and church buildings. If you were a Christian living only a few miles from other Christians, you could be pretty isolated, as far as fellowship goes.
If there were two or three families in the neighborhood who were Christians you would be the church of that neighborhood. Imagine the intimacy and depth of relationships that would develop in such an environment. Somehow I don’t picture them sitting in pews with charts on the wall telling the song numbers and attendance and offering, do you? How do you suppose they did communion? They had no place to order Bible material for classes and no song books that we know of. Even the larger groups of several families must have looked very different from the way it does today. Acts 20 tells about a church meeting where Paul was preaching on the third floor of a building in Troas. Paul preached till midnight. That is very different from today where 20-25 minutes is considered plenty. Paul preached so long that Eutychus, a young man sitting in a window, fell asleep and fell out of the window! The whole church was disrupted over that one, you can be sure! I wouldn’t be surprised if Eutycus never sat in the window at church again.
But the Bible says that after Paul came down and threw himself on the young man and held him in his arms and announced that he was alive… what do you think they all did? They went right back upstairs to the meeting and broke bread together. Just imagine taking communion after that episode.
To beat that, after they had communion, Paul continued talking till daylight! And some of you think I’m long winded.
Other descriptive sections about their meetings during New Testament times include James 2, which pictures an interesting setting. It sounds like a living room. He describes a rich man coming in well dressed with a gold ring on, and the host has him seated in a nice chair, but a poor man comes in with shabby clothes and he is told to go, stand over there, or sit here on the floor by someone’s feet. That is one good thing about pews, they equalize everybody in the audience, don’t they.
Wait till we look into the way the church at Corinth must have looked! Needless to say, it was surprisingly different than what we typically see in church today.
When I think about these things and look at the Bible, I’ve always had questions that are left unanswered. What do you think they did with their little children? Was there a nursery in the Troas Church of Christ? We don’t know. But we can guess that church looked a lot more like a family reunion fellowship that what we look like here today in this assembly. So what is your point preacher? Just this: The church Jesus built is a very flexible spiritual entity. The Church is the body of Christ. It can take the posture of what we look like today, or it can take the shape of small household groups or informal settings like we read about in the New Testament. We are a part of a living, growing, flexible, spiritual community.