The Outflow of Christian Love
If chapter 15 can be likened to a great missionary-meeting, chapter 16 can be likened to the greetings that follow when the saints remain for hearty handshakes and greetings. Paul reaches as it were clear across from Corinth and grips the hands of the saints to whom he has been speaking in his letter.
First of all he commends to them Phebe, the SISTER and SERVANT of the Church at Cenchrea, the port of Corinth. In the vast city of Rome she must find a homecoming and no doubt gives us a little picture of the judgment seat of Christ where
“All the saints of every clime shall meet,
And each with all shall all the ransomed greet.”
There will be a review of our service here and every saint will receive some word of praise. Some like Tryphena and Tryphosa have laboured in the Lord; some like the beloved Persis have laboured MUCH in the Lord. All this will be taken into account in that day.
It would be delightful to be introduced to all these Christians in Rome but we will have to be content with noticing just a few of them.
There is a good representation from the sisters. At least nine of them are mentioned. Priscilla is well known, she with her husband Aquilla heads the list. And then Mary who has been called “the forgotten Mary” since reference is so seldom made to her when speaking of the other Marys in Scripture. But she must not be forgotten for she is the seventh and thus completes the list. She may have been a slave girl, she certainly was a slave of love for so Paul tells us. She “slaved for me” he says. He uses the strongest word in the Greek language for pains and effort.
Then there is that “mother in Israel.” Her name is not given but what a dear saint she must have been, and what a comfort to the homeless servant of God. She was the mother of Rufus and mine says Paul. The sister of Nereus and Julia are mentioned only, but what an honour is theirs to be in this portrait gallery. When we meet them up in heaven we will learn more about them.
As we pass from the sisters to the brethren we meet the “well beloved Epaenetus the firstfruits in Achaia unto Christ.” It is always an honour to be the first in any place to trust Christ, and what a joy it must be to lead that first soul to Christ.
And there are kinsmen of the apostle mentioned. Andronicus and Junia senior saints, with whom Paul had shared a prison experience at one time. Since they were in Christ before Paul we wonder if they prayed for him during those years when he was pursuing his mad course of opposition to Christ. It may be that the thought of his praying relatives helped to “goad” the conscience of the persecutor. (Acts 26:14).
Appeles, we learn, was approved in Christ. That is, he was one who had been tested and was found true as a member of Christ. What the special tests were we do not know. There are others but we will have to bid them farewell now and as we close our lesson this time the lovely picture of Paul’s friends in Rome lingers with us. Some were “of note” others most obscure but all the aristocracy of heaven.
We would like to follow the history of these saints. We wonder if any went home to heaven from the arena torn by the wild beasts or from the fiery stake. Surely most of them suffered during that time of persecution under the monster Nero. But they all will be there where the saints meet yonder and our interest in them will be increased by our having been introduced to them through Paul’s letter to Rome.
1. What is chapter 16 a picture of?
2. Where was Paul when he wrote this letter?
3. In whose home did the Church in Rome meet?
4. Who did Paul call “dearly beloved” in our chapter?