Summary: Paul gives some Biblical way to love the family of God.
Loving the Brotherhood
* One day, as a minister sat in the office of his church to meet anyone who might have spiritual difficulties, only one person came. "What is your difficulty?" asked the minister. The man answered, "My difficulty is the ninth chapter of Romans, where it says, ’Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’" "Yes," said the minister, "there is great difficulty in that verse; but which part of the verse is difficult for you?" "The latter part, of course," said the man. "I cannot understand why God should hate Esau." The minister replied, "The verse has often been difficult, but my difficulty has always been with the first part of the verse. I never could understand how God could love that wily, deceitful, supplanting scoundrel Jacob."
* What is more amazing to you, that God would hate Esau or could love a Jacob? When I think of Esau I think of one who is driven by his basic natural instincts and/or desires. When I think of Jacob I think of the one who always is working an angle, always has an agenda, and always is looking out for number one. Yet, in God’s love and grace to Jacob we find the foundation for the love Jesus demonstrated and challenged us to give. He said, “Love one another as I have loved you. And oh by the way, this is the way people will know that you are mine, if you have love for one another.” Jesus called us to be a loving people and nothing breaks His heart more than to hear a group of people who profess to be His bride (the Church) is anything less than loving.
* As Paul begins to close this letter, in his final words he demonstrates what it means to really love people. Loving people doesn’t mean superficial, insincere, and artificial affection which we so often confuse with love. Rather, it means a deep connection and appreciation at the level of the soul. It doesn’t mean unanimity or uniformity, but rather harmony. The beautiful part of a musical piece is measured by its harmony. Harmony is produced by everything moving together in the same direction towards the same end, but not at the same pitch. Harmony in life is produce by moving in the same direction but not in the same way. And it is in Christ that this harmony is produced among His people which results in the world hearing a beautiful song of love for one another.
* Now, let’s see how Paul demonstrates this with his important closing words to this wonderful letter;
1. He acknowledges the people – He calls names! There are no “they” or “them” in this writing, he calls everyone BY NAME. Let this be a lesson to us, just as Paul knows the name of all these brothers and sisters, God knows the name of every person who has ever lived. He knows your name. Do you want to be frightened? God knows much more than just your name, He knows you and I from the inside out. This is personal for Him. When God calls, He calls by name. When Paul called, he called by name.
a. The weakness they displayed – This is worth mentioning, but it is only a small portion of Paul’s words. At the end of verses 10 & 11 we see a greeting to those who “belong to the household of” Aristobulus and Narcissus. Why did Paul greet only those of the households? Possibly several reasons; 1) the two patriarchs were not associated with the church. In other words, they were unbelievers who had believers within their households. One suggests that it was family while another says it was their slaves. But I suggest to you that Paul is gently pointing out that these two men needed the Lord. He greeted them out of respect and yet out of their need. Know what this can teach us?
* It matters not who you are or what you are, you still have a deep need to know and follow Jesus. Whatever a person has in this world is a weakness compared to the strength in Christ. You can be retired and think you have your life in order, but in just one day that retirement can be gone. You can be a young person thinking you have all your life ahead of you, and in instance, it can all be gone. You can be married, have you career and family just like you dreamed of, and in one minute have it taken away.
b. The witness they gave – I argue that even though no one is greeted as a witness for Christ that we find several hints at these people’s strong connection and “hot hearts” for God thus resulting is an effective witness for Christ. We know them as Aquilla and Priscilla, a husband and wife team who started a church in their own house. Have you ever considered what a strong witness an in home Bible Study is? Done in the right spirit, it speaks to the community about a love which this world does not understand. In our text we see Epaenetus begin identified as the “first convert” from Asia and the question is, “how does Paul know this?” Could it be because she has told her story? Look at verse 10 and read about Apelles who is “approved” in the Lord? How do you get approved? You must be about making disciple and the work of the Kingdom.