The Saints in Romans 16

What will we be remembered for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Do you know who Euodia and Syntyche are?

They’re not the most memorable names out there. I honestly had to check to make sure I had spelled them correctly on this blog. So who are they? They’re two women in Philippians 4 who couldn’t get along and Paul had to ask his true companion and Clement to help them get along. We may not know a lot about them, but here’s what we can be sure of. They are forever remembered in Scripture because they couldn’t get along.

What if there was a letter written to your church in Scripture and you were mentioned and you could be remembered for your problems? “Please have Sarah to stop gossiping in the church as she’s spreading harmful rumors.” “Please let Harold know that it’s not appropriate for a married man to have a reputation of gawking at other women.” “Please let the Langstons know that not everyone needs to hear how much they’re putting in the offering plate.”

Yeah. That’d be pretty embarrassing.

I have been reading through Romans 16 at night and I am noticing something quite different. Many of us when we get to this passage kind of gloss it over. It’s just a list of names of people we don’t know and what difference does it make? (Of course, if it was our name, it would make a difference.)

Instead, I have been pausing to look at the names. Some traditions are made about some of these people and about the services that they had allegedly did for the gospel. Could they be true? Of course, but I don’t know if we have enough information to know for sure.

Let’s also keep in mind that it could be a lot of these people Paul did not know personally. These people were just doing enough at a church so far from Jerusalem where everything started and basically in the heart of enemy territory that they were still well-known all over. These were the best of the best.

So as I said, I am going through looking at the names and in the end of the reading of the night, which is normally just a verse, I look up the names. Some of these names are common names and could indicate slaves that had a high position. Some of them are uncommon names and could include people in a royal household.

Women also make an appearance including Junia, the first woman apostle, whose name caused quite a stir in church history since she was supposed to be a female apostle and some scribes tried to make her name male. It didn’t work. Paul had no problem with a female apostle. Keep in mind we learn in this letter that it was delivered by a female deaconess named Phoebe.

As the person delivering the letter, she would also have read it and not only read it, but answered questions about it. Think about that. Theologians and scholars have spent centuries trying to understand Romans. Here Paul thinks that this woman can do a just fine job of answering questions about it before the church.

Because of going through this way, I find I am getting a lot more out of this passage than I had before. It’s also important to know that we need to take time to notice these people. We may not know about them, but Paul thought they were worth knowing. We can look at this and think of what C.S. Lewis said.

““It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deep about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my nieghbour’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long, we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealing with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And out charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.” (emphasis mine)”

All of these people here we can anticipate getting to spend eternity with if we’re also in Christ. They are our brothers and sisters. If we are spending eternity with them, we might as well try to get to know them a little bit here and see what we can learn from their stories.

Next time you go through that chapter, take a moment to look through and see what you can find out about these people. They’re not just a list of names. They’re your brothers and sisters.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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