Not so quick! It would be easy to glance at the last chapter of Romans and think, ‘oh, Paul is just greeting a number of folks…we can pass on that.’ There are some great things to note; take a look:
“Before 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.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. (greetings to quite a number of other folks). . . Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.
I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.
I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.
Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.
Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
And to think I usually close my personal letters with just two or three words! Note with me how Paul names and commends so many people involved in his ministry . . . wanting all to be recognized for their part. (I did not include verses 6 through 13, which eliminates quite a few other people!) In all, Paul sends greetings to 26 individuals—six of whom were women. Women! And to think that many have saddled Paul with their notion that he was down on women . . . not at all! His first two mentions are of women—Phoebe, who was probably the one who delivered this letter—the book of Romans—to the church, and Priscilla, who labored together, along with her husband, Aquila, (who interestingly enough, is always listed after Priscilla), with Paul in several settings.
In addition, an examination of the individuals reveals tremendous diversity in the Roman church—in race, rank and gender. Jewish, Gentile, slaves, city officials, and those from the imperial household came together in unity in this first century church. Why? How? ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’1
Toward the middle, Paul warns of anyone or anything that would pull them away from the pure message of the Gospel. When new teaching creeps in, three questions are prudent: ‘Does it agree with Scripture? Does it glorify Jesus Christ? Does it promote goodness?’2 (These are good questions to ask of some of the repackaged New Age thinking that is slithering into ‘Christian’ teaching today. It must glorify Jesus, or it is not Christian!) And the answer to all three questions must be yes.
Be discerning … about doctrine, about people, and about good and evil. ‘Stay away from those who cause division in your midst!’
Paul passes on messages from two other people, who are noteworthy—Timothy, who had been Paul’s travelling companion and fellow ministry partner for eight years, and Tertius, who had been Paul’s pen for this letter, Paul’s lengthiest of the 14 letters he has in the New Testament.
Paul closes with an awe-inspiring tribute to God … for truly all of life, both present and eternal finds it source in the all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, only-wise God, who in the fullness of time, made the way for us to be with him through the offering of his precious Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!
1 Galatians 3.28
2 The Message of Romans, John R. W. Stott