Summary: By examining Paul’s heart, we see the heart of a missionary.
Today we continue and come to our penultimate study in Romans. Let’s read Romans 16:1-24:
1I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
3Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. 6Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. 8Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 15Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
17I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
21Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
22I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.
[Some manuscripts insert verse 24: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.] (Romans 16:1-24)
In the eyes of the world, Paul’s frail frame was absurd, even comical, standing before the powers of Rome. Yet he changed the course of history. His heart was mightier than the entire Roman Empire. None of our lives would be as they are today had it not been for the missionary heart of the apostle Paul.
As we continue the study of Paul’s great heart, we should bear in mind that the four qualities we have already considered (Liturgical, Glorifying, Visionary, and Praying) were essentially vertical, whereas in today’s lesson we will see the horizontal aspects of his missionary heart. I do not think that apart from the Lord himself there has ever been a heart as aflame as the apostle Paul’s.
As we look at the horizontal anatomy of his great heart, my hope is that we all will be moved to some “sanctified envy” and imitation, so that our hearts will beat like Paul’s heart.
I. Paul’s Loving Heart (16:1-24)
The first characteristic of Paul’s heart described in this chapter is that it overflowed with personal love. If the long list of names and greetings in these verses teaches us anything, it is that Paul had a genuine love for people. In this chapter, the word “greet” appears twenty-two times, and eighteen of them are by Paul. Our text features thirty-three names. Twenty-four were in Rome (seventeen men and seven women). In addition, the apostle mentions two households, the mother of Rufus, and the sister of Nereus. Nine of the people mentioned were with Paul in Corinth (eight men and one woman). Obviously Paul maintained a remarkable number of affectionate relationships.
We do not perhaps normally think of Paul this way. We may naturally assume that though he was a great man, his greatness made him a forbidding companion. Having read through Romans, and knowing of his massive intellect, most of us would feel somewhat intimidated if we knew we were to spend an evening alone with him. We probably would spend the day brushing up on our memory work, wading through the Minor Prophets, or clarifying some points in theology. No doubt such time would be well spent, but our fears would be unfounded, for Paul was a “people person” par excellence. Moreover, he did not determine his friendships on the basis of intellectual capability or theological literacy.