Summary: Why would Paul list such a long boooring list of people at the end of such a powerful New Testament book? Why waste the ink? The answer to that question is both intriguing and exciting to those of who belong to Jesus.
I opened the sermon by asking the congregation to join with me in singing:
“I’m So Glad I’m A Part Of The Family of God
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.”
If you’re a Christian here to day – you are a part of the family of God. You are part of the Church.
At one point in His ministry, Jesus told His disciples that one of His purposes for coming was to “build my church” Matthew 16:18. And Ephesians tells us this church was so important to Jesus that “(He) loved the church and gave himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25b
The Church is the “Bride of Christ”.
And that Scriptural term “Bride of Christ” is meant to help us understand Christ’s love for His church in the same way a husband and wife would describe their love for each other during a marriage ceremony. Ephesians sums that love up by telling us that Jesus “gave himself up for her”.
Now we need to be clear on our definitions here because – over the centuries – many Biblical words have had their meanings altered and changed.
For example, the Bible uses the word “Church.”
What is the church?
That’s right - YOU ARE.
Over the years, the word “Church" has come to mean the building we meet in.
Someone will say (for example) “I’m going to church” meaning their building.
But as one poet put it:
“The church is never a place but always a people
Never a fold, but always a flock
Never a sacred building, but always a believing assembly
The church is you who pray, not where you pray."
A structure of brick or marble can no more be what a Church is than the clothing you wear would be who you are.
In short… Jesus didn’t die for a building.
He died for YOU. And He died for ME.
He died for people.
And the people who accept His forgiveness on His terms make up… the church.
What I found intriguing about the passage we read today was that it contained references to so many people. By my count - this portion of Romans 16 mentions twenty eight (28) individuals.
And that doesn’t include the other 8 names Paul mentions in the rest of the chapter.
Thus, 1/16th of Paul’s letter to the Romans is dedicated to mentioning people by name.
Now, by a lot of standards… most of these folks aren’t very important.
* Granted, there is Priscilla and Aquila in verse 3. They are mentioned several times in the Bible and most Christians know them.
* Then there’s Rufus, who’s mentioned in verse 13. Most scholars seem to believe that he was one of the sons of Simon of Cyrene who carried Christ’s cross the rest of the way up Mount Calvary. When the Gospels tell us of Simon’s doing this, it says he was the father of “Rufus and Alexander” (Mark 15:21) which indicates that his two sons were well known to Christian community at the time the Gospel of Mark was written).
* There’s another man named Epenetus in verse 5. What’s he famous for?
(He was the first convert in Asia)
* And lastly I noted that (in verse 7) Andronicus and Junias, are celebrities because they were related to Paul (a huge attention getter in itself) and that they are “outstanding among the apostles….” Rom 16:7
But out of 28 people… THOSE are ONLY ones that we would probably consider important. All the others mentioned in this part of Romans 16 are largely forgettable. I’ve never read their names anywhere else in the Bible. There are no famous stories of their great accomplishments and great faith.
But Paul – thru the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – mentions them.
All these names are in Scripture because God wanted them there.
What does that tell me?
Well, 1st it tells me that: God knows your name
God knew the name of each and every member who was part of the Church at Rome.
And God has always known His people by name.
· Back in the OT, the Prophet Nahum declared: “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knows them that trust in him.” (KJV) Nahum 1:7
· 1Corinthians 8:3 tells us: “… the man who loves God is known by God.”
· And Jesus told us "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep…” John 10:14
ILLUS: One woman told the time her professor in nursing school gave a pop quiz.
She said “I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one: ‘What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?’"