Summary: Learn how to cherish your spiritual family. Remarks from the Apostle Paul about his love and compassion for the Christians in Rome.
Open your Bibles to the book of Romans 16. We’ve come to the last chapter. Some of you have lived to the end of this series on Romans, and I’ve been preaching the last couple of years. Today and the next Sunday, I’ll finish this series. Today we’re going to be talking about the power of positive encouraging.
Many of you are familiar with Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Living. It’s a good book. It won’t get you to heaven, but it will really help you approach life with the right kind of aspect. Dr. Vance Havner, one of my spiritual heroes, was asked one time to compare the writings of Norman Vincent Peale with the writings of the Apostle Paul. And apparently he didn’t like Dr. Peale too much, because this was his classic reply. He said, “I find Peale to be appalling, but I find Paul to be appealing.”
Today we want to appeal to the Apostle Paul and learn some things. Now, can I say again that the book of Romans was his magnum opus, his greatest work; what the Sistine Chapel was to Michelangelo, what the Mona Lisa was to da Vinci, what the Ninth Symphony was to Beethoven, the book of Romans is to the Apostle Paul? He goes higher and deeper than any other of his writings. As I told you last Sunday, we came to the end of the letter, and what chapter 16 is, is a postscript. He’s just talking about some of his friends, sharing a few little thoughts here.
Can I remind you that every word of the Bible is inspired? We can learn so much from the Apostle Paul and about the Christian life in just reading these personal comments. It’s like when my daughters were growing up, they liked to read my high school annual. But they didn’t care too much about all the pictures and the class photos and everything. They liked to read all the comments my friends wrote about me. They learned a lot more about my high school experience by reading those personal comments than they did about looking what was in the book. We can learn so much about the church, about the Christian life, by reading these personal comments.
Now, in verses 1-20, we’re going to learn, first of all, about how to treat our Christian family, our friends and then we’re going to learn how to deal with our foes.
I. HOW TO CHERISH YOUR SPIRITUAL FAMILY
The first thing I want to talk to you about is how to cherish your spiritual family. Now, cherish is the word that I use to describe all the feelings I have hiding here inside for all the believers in Christ. And the Apostle Paul also had this kind of love and compassion for the Christians there at Rome. He makes all these personal remarks.
How do you cherish your spiritual family? Two ways. First of all, you need to learn to
1) Share positive affirmations about them
Share positive comments about them. I call it the power of positive encouraging or positive compliments. That’s what Paul does in verses 1-15. I want you to meet some of Paul’s friends.
Paul’s friends: 27 names, 21 positive descriptions
Today just keep your Bible open and we’re going to walk through this text, so we’ll be reading it as we come to it. Let’s meet his friends as he gives them positive affirmation. Beginning in verse 1, I commend to you our sister, Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.
One thing you’re going to notice is there are a lot of people on this list who are women, who are females. If you know anything about the Jewish or even the Roman culture of this time, you’ll remember that females were, by and large, sublimated and subordinated. In the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we see for the first time women receiving a place of prominence and a place of service, and Phoebe is just one of those. He said, “She’s a servant.” Now, many historians believe she was a Christian businesswoman. She was traveling to Rome, and she was literally physically carrying this letter, this epistle to the Romans, because Paul said, “Receive her like you would receive me.”
Let’s read on in verse three. Meet a Christian couple who were friends of Paul. “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow servants in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.” Then he says in verse five. “Greet also the church that meets in their house.” We know about Aquila and Priscilla, because we’re introduced to them elsewhere in the book of Acts, Acts 18. Paul met this couple in the city of Corinth. They were Jews. They were run out of Rome because of anti-Semitic persecution, so they met Paul in Corinth. They were tentmakers–Paul was a tentmaker. And so they’re sort of working their trade together. In the process, Paul developed a friendship. He says, “Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophesies, Jesus is the Messiah.” So Aquila and Priscilla became Christians. They became such close friends of Paul, they followed him to Ephesus, where Paul stayed for three years teaching and preaching.