Romans 16:1-16

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Romans chapter 16, where we are today. And very simply, we’re going to look at this section of scripture. And Paul’s going to talk very personally now that he’s he’s shared about the Christian faith in the first eight chapters of the Book of Romans, what we are to believe as Christians. And then chapter nine, nine and ten, he talks about nine, ten, 11. Actually, he starts to describe for us how that fits in a and a Jewish gentile world because we know Jesus was a Jew. And and God’s message came through the Jewish people and now it’s gone out to the rest of the world and to the Gentile world. And so the Jews and Gentiles are trying to figure out what this should look like. And so nine, ten, 11, sort of bridges that gap between Jew and Gentile and living for the Lord. And then in Chapter 12 and to the rest of the book, it’s then the practical of how to live out your Christian faith, what that looks like, that you believe, what you believe and how it determines the way you behave, right? It’s your orthodoxy, what you believe and your orthopraxy how you live it out. And the apostle Paul, he writes many of his letters that way in the New Testament, Paul’s written 13 letters in the New Testament. Some say 14. I say 14. If you believe 13, you believe wrong. That’s okay. But he wrote 14 letters because I include the book of Hebrews and the Apostle Paul’s writings.

But but he writes often he talks about the belief of the Christian life and then the behavior of the Christian when they believe because what you believe is is ultimately lived out. If you want to know what a person really believes, just look how they live, right? It declares to you the the the worship of their heart. And so the apostle Paul, in talking about the book of Romans, he describes for us what the Christian life is about. And you find the very beginning without Jesus, you’re in a very desperate place. In fact, the wages of sin, the Bible tells us, is death. But Jesus comes, pursues us. There’s nothing that we we have done to avail ourselves to Christ. But Christ, in his grace, gives his life for us. He meets us in our deepest needs and our darkest hour. Jesus knows everything we’ve done, and he loves us the same right in Romans five eight. While we’re sinners, Christ demonstrates His love towards us and we become adopted into Christ when we embrace Jesus and what He’s done for us. On the cross in Romans Chapter eight, it starts off with that beautiful phrase. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans Chapter eight is one of the most powerful chapters in all of Scripture. I know that’s an opinion, but it’s true.

All right. And it’s a beautiful section that defines who we are in Jesus, our identity in him being adopted into God’s family and how God is for us and works all things together for good. To those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. And as Jesus gives his life for us in Romans 12, we’re called to give our life for him. And we enjoy that relationship in Christ. And and we begin to live it out. And now very, very practically, we see now, Paul, not just talking about living the Christian life and not just declaring to us what the Christian life is about and belief. But but he shows his intimate personal care for the church in Rome as he’s writing this letter to Romans right. To to the city of Rome and the church in Rome. And Paul, in this chapter is revealing to us how beautiful ministry becomes because the purpose of ministry is always been about people. It’s not about accomplishing tasks. It’s about reaching hearts. Sure, when you do ministry, you may accomplish a task, but the ultimate drive behind ministry has always been personal. It’s always been about people and and those relationships. The the point of ministry is, is to make it personal. Now, when we talk about making it personal, I don’t mean that it becomes offensive to you, right? Oh, it’s personal, but rather the way you get involved in ministry and how God’s desire is for you to first know the heart of God.

And as God transforms your life, you share his heart for this world and the way that you interact with people. Because, well, God made people in his image, which gives us incredible value. Nothing else in creation is made that way. God, it tells us in Genesis, breathes His spirit into us, and we become a living being made in his image. And it’s to say, out of all of creation that we are we are able to connect with Creator God. And not only did God make us in His image, God also gave his life for us that God became flesh and dwelt among us. It tells us in Genesis chapter one or excuse me, John, chapter one, he dwells among us. So Genesis deals with the creation. John deals deals with his life becoming flesh and giving himself for us. And there’s nothing more valuable than God’s life that God would become flesh and die for you. It’s a God who pursues you, who loves you, very personal, God, very relational. And if you want to show your love for God, one of the best ways to do that is seen in how you care for others and ministry. Then it becomes that tangible way of expressing our love for God and the way we care for others. I mean the Christian faith you think about we describe our church.

The mission of our church is built on the two greats, the great Commission and the great commandment. The great commandment is to go in the world and make disciples. That’s Matthew 28, 19 and 20. Jesus wants us to reach others and and to teach others about. God who became flesh and gave his life for them and to help them follow after Christ. We were created for that purpose. Make disciples right. But but in Matthew chapter 22, verse 35 to 40, he also tells us the greatest commandment, which is to love God and love others. So it tells us how we’re to engage people when we make disciples. Loving God is all about relationship, The apostle Paul said his one pursuit in Philippians chapter three is to know Christ. Our primary interest for you this morning is that you have a relationship with God and you understand what that means to walk and fellowship with Christ and you let that relationship flow out of you into your relationship with others, that as you glorify God with your life, it becomes a blessing to the people around you. And so, Paul and, and knowing this starts to show to us the the intimacy of relationship by giving us really out of all the letters Paul wrote, the longest epilogue of greetings that he has written in all of his 13 or 14 letters. He usually concludes his letters by recognizing some people, and Romans becomes the longest list of greetings that the Apostle Paul includes in any of his letters.

It is extensive. It is intimate, it is. It is personal. And it shows the tender heart of Paul and his appreciation for what God has done in the lives of others and his care for them. Sometimes we think of the apostle Paul and we think, Man, what a super Christian. Look at all the work that he did. But the reality is Paul never did it alone. Paul had a large group that traveled with him when he started ministry. Sure, it was a smaller group, but as he continued to go further into places to preach the gospel, the team that worked with the Apostle Paul continued to grow further and further, and their impact was reaching the the ends of the earth, or at least the ends of the known earth at the time. And so the Apostle Paul is working with a this large group of people, a community to make a difference for for Christ and for us. This morning this section becomes rich and rewarding and showing us early insights to the life of the apostle Paul and and to the early Christian community and the characteristics they they carried as they serve the Lord in the first century. One of the beautiful things about the Bible is not only does it give us commands or or ideas of how we are to live the Christian life or wisdom in that sense proverbially, and how to live a life to honor God.

But it also shares the stories of how Christians did it or or the Old Testament Saints would have done it in a narrative sense. I think sometimes as people, we learn best by example of seeing how other people have modeled it, and it helps us to make it a little more personal in our lives and doing it that way. And and I think with the apostle Paul, he’s starting to give us insights into these early Christians in the way that they honored the Lord together as a community to make a difference for him. And the first century church, really the first three centuries of Christianity, that that church was on fire. For their passion for the Lord and their love for the lost, and to see communities birthed in places where there was no gospel presence and to get to understand their care for one another and what made them passionate about why they were doing what they were doing. That’s what this letter shares with us. Just a little bit of insight of different people and what what made them tick or what they were passionate about as they they live for the Lord. Some of these people in this list, in fact, most of the people that Paul describes here, we don’t know anything else about them other than what Paul says in Romans.

There’s a couple that we know a little bit more about because they were more involved in Paul’s ministry in a in a direct sense. But some of them, the only thing that’s spoken about them in church history is what’s written in this letter. But I want to give you three ways this morning of making ministry personal through the way that Paul talks about the life of the church here in this passage. And point number one in your notes is this and I want to tell you this. This first point I wrestled with, I was going to I almost pulled it out. But I want to give you the biblical answer. And then I’m going to tell you I’m going to tell you a more elaborate way of explaining this that I think is is probably better, but you’re going to get at least the concise, biblical answer. And then I’ll I’ll build on this a little bit. But point number one is this provide commendations, provide commendations. And this is exactly what the Apostle Paul is about to do with this lady. I’m going to call Phoebe her. The real pronunciation of her name is Phoebe. But that doesn’t sound as good as Phoebe to me. So we’re going to call her Phoebe. But but and we’re going to go through a list of names. I’m going to tell you, I didn’t look up the Greek and how to pronounce every one of these names, So I’ve learned to say it, say it fast and say it confident.

And people are just going to believe what you say. Some of these I do know the correct Greek way of saying it, and I don’t like the way it sounds, so I want to pronounce it. West Virginia, Utah style, which is kind of where I’m from. And and whatever comes out comes out. Right. But but provide, provide commendation. An and what the apostle Paul does in the beginning of this letter. Romans Chapter 16 is he’s writing this letter and he’s sending actually, Phoebe to take the letter to the Romans to Rome. Phoebe is in charge of receiving this letter from the apostle Paul, taking it to Rome and helping them understand what Paul meant through this letter, because she was there with Paul as he was writing the letter. And she can explain things to them if they have any misconceptions of what Paul’s trying to say. But she’s been charged with taking this letter. And it was common in the first century that when you sent someone out like this, you would write a letter of commendation, that you would honor this person within this letter. So the people receiving it would understand the position or the authority that they had to present this letter. So they weren’t skeptical of who this individual was.

And so, Phoebe, even in this first century, being a female needed, I think, accommodations, especially because females weren’t treated with dignity and honor, especially in this this first century. And so for them to be able to have a voice and to understand the importance of who they were and to be heard, this was important for the apostle Paul to do for people in general and more particularly for for ladies. And so the apostle Paul writes this letter of commendation with Phoebe to send her on her way. And you find within this letter what makes her such a unique woman, because the apostle Paul describes the characteristics in her life that that really highlighted who she was in Jesus. And she becomes a woman. That’s made a tremendous difference for the sake of the gospel. And so the apostle Paul says, I recommend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church, was his Cenchrea, which is just east of Corinth, where the Apostle Paul would have met Phoebe, that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you, for she herself has also been a helper of many and of myself as well. I want to talk about her characteristics in just a moment. But but I want you to recognize that when the apostle Paul is sending this letter of commendation with Phoebe, what he’s really ultimately doing and this is where I thought we could make a point.

Number one is he’s supporting the work of mission. Paul’s life is on mission, and he wants to continue to see the church to live on mission. And so he’s supporting missions to live on mission. And so he’s doing whatever it takes for the sake of the gospel, short of sin. And we say that as a church like God has put us in a in an area to be a light for him to understand how important my relationship with God is and not to leave it with me, because that’s not what Jesus intended at all. Jesus Jesus gave his life so people can come to to know him and to walk with him and to enjoy that relationship with him. And so God wants me to use the talents and abilities and gifts He’s given to me to give them away for his glory, to the benefit of others. And so Paul’s heart is for the sake of mission to live on. Mission. Understand? God called his church not to exist for themselves, but to give themselves away for His glory in this world. And so he’s sending Phoebe on this mission to to go to Rome. And we’ve seen together, as we’ve studied Romans, that Paul’s hope is to use the church in Rome to to then send him on to Spain.

And so Phoebe goes ahead of the apostle Paul to prepare the church, which is ultimately going to send Paul on to Spain. And his heart is all about mission, whatever it takes to see God’s people expanding beyond themselves for his glory in this world. And sometimes it’s providing commendation, praise or support and whatever is necessary to see that cause going. Sometimes it’s going yourself, but it’s it’s living out the purpose which God has created the church in this world. And this is Paul’s interest to make it personal, to invest in the mission of God in this world. And Jesus said, where, where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be. You can you can see what you value in this world by where you spend your resources, your time and your money. And when you invest in something, you have more interest in it. If you want to make it personal, invest in the work of God. You’ll become more concerned or a growing concern with with the type of care that’s taking place. And this is what’s happening with with Paul in the story as he’s he’s providing this combination and encouraging us and and the aspect of how to make ministry personal through our care for people around the world. And can I just encourage you as a church to say I am blessed by the missional heart of this church? And when we make it a priority every year to 10% of our budget to send towards the mission of God around this world, we have a particular interest here in Utah, and we should.

I just went through statistics this past yesterday actually on the archive of religious data, just to remind myself of of what’s happening here. And the newer data is available for Utah. And and I found out the evangelical Protestant group within our state was in 2010 0.5% and Utah County, and today it’s 0.4%. We are we are losing, right? That’s what that is. There’s a there’s a higher number. Right. Of people. But but there’s a lower percentage because Utah County has grown. And if God’s people really care about what God’s Word says and if God’s people really believe that Jesus transforms the life, then we should share that. We should we should let that be what our life is about. When people in your neighborhood think about you, they should think about Jesus because you’re the model of Christ in your community. Now, some of you may be like, Oh, no, you think about your neighbor, but whatever. Whatever your situation is with your neighbor, if it’s not good, change it. And if it’s honoring to Christ, keep doing it right. I mean, this is what Paul is saying is God created his church for a purpose in Jesus transforms life. And you’re the tangible expression of Christ in this world.

And so the importance of making ministry personal and investing in the mission of God is how our lives, our lives achieve this. And and for Phoebe, you see it in the words I highlighted here she is a she is a servant, which means she’s she’s self selfless, not selfish. Her heart is for the people of God to accomplish it together and to serve that community for that purpose. And she’s referred to as a saint, as the rest of the saints in the New Testament. Every believer, so you’re aware, is a saint. It’s not just something for a special group of people who do more than than you’re able to accomplish in your life. Or you just look at them and think, well, that’s that’s the work for the Saints. You know, this is just little old me. No, every believer in the New Testament is a saint. And it’s not because of what we do, it’s because of what Jesus has done for us. The only thing we contribute to our relationship with God, at least for in terms of salvation, is our sin. We create the need for Jesus to have to rescue us. Jesus comes in and saves our soul and we get the privilege then of living to honor him with our lives because of the love he’s demonstrated to us and giving himself as a sacrifice, that’s what transforms us into sainthood. Not ourselves, but Jesus. And this this woman has come to know Christ in that same way.

And and she becomes a patron, which means she’s also caring and contributing to the work of what God wants to do around the world. Phoebe’s like this. You just show me the need and I’m going to show up. I don’t care if it’s in Cenchrea or Corinth or Rome or Spain, wherever you think the need is. I just want to go and I just want to serve. And Paul lists her as as a patron for that reason. And basically what he’s saying about Phoebe is whatever she touches, it just turns to awesome. And that’s the kind of lady that she is. She she walks in the room, and when she walks out, that room is better, having had her presence in it. It’s I can think within our own church, the people as we serve, the way I see the the people of God doing that. It’s a beautiful thing as a pastor to be a part of that. When people walk into a room, they’re not just thinking about what I can get, but what God has done in me so I can give. In order to see what God desires to accomplish in this world. Point number two in your notes is this And by the way, this is the longer point. This is where we’re going to go through a list of names as quick as possible, and I’ll say as much as I can with the time that I have.

And eventually I’ve got to get to point number three. But Paul just goes through this this laundry list of people. But but he does this. He wants to honor God’s community. He wants to honor God’s community. We talk in terms, by the way, God’s community is the church. We talk in terms of the church. It’s important to remind ourselves this is Jesus’s bride. Jesus cares so much about his church. He references it as his bride. There is a particular interest. For a husband towards his bride. Doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about other people. But there is a priority in relationship that comes with being husband and wife. That bride isn’t always perfect. But I can think of no better way to show my love for Jesus. Then to help prepare that bride for meeting Christ face to face one day. To help her look more beautiful. To know what it means as Jesus has given his life. For us. So we in turn, could give our life for him. And Paul wants to honor God’s community in the same way and teaching us to do this. And and so he does this by starting to identify people that are in the Church of Rome as as he’s had relationship. And he starts off with this this couple named Prisca and Aquilla some some translations might have Priscilla and Aquila.

Both of those are true sometimes in the in the New Testament. Some some translations of the Bible use the word Prisca and Priscilla interchangeably. And it’s not wrong. Some translations don’t complicate it by just referring to as Priscilla the whole time. It’s it’s similar in our language as saying for Prisca, similar is saying if you know someone that has the name like Jennifer and instead of calling her Jennifer, you call her Jenny or Jen, right? And Prisca is that same way. And in this first century, she could be called Priscilla or Prisca. But in Romans 16 three, Paul introduces us to this couple, Priscilla and Aquila. Aquila being the husband, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, he says, who risks their own necks for my life, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles also greet the church that is in their house was Paul’s honoring this community. Priscilla Naquela is one that we’re familiar with in Scripture. Most of these names I’ve told you we don’t know much about outside of just Romans. But Priscilla and Aquila up here a few times in Scripture in Romans 18, Paul encounters them for the first time in Corinth. They were one of the groups that were expelled from Rome. Remember I told you as we started the book of Romans, that Emperor Claudius at one point had kicked the Jews out of Rome.

And so they were expelled from Rome. Priscilla and Aquilla were expelled during that time under the Emperor. Paul runs into them at Corinth, where they were now living. They do ministry together in Romans 18, and then they go with the Apostle Paul to the Church of Ephesus. So they did ministry with the apostle Paul and ended up back in Rome doing ministry again. And it tells us that they were even willing to risk their lives for the apostle Paul in the work that God wanted to do within that community. Their ministry was so impactful that they even found one called Apollos. You’ll know from Scripture if you’re familiar with it. And Apollos became an incredible leader in the first century church, and they’re the ones that worked with Apollos and discipled him and mentored him in Christ. But one of the things I love about this couple is you see Paul honoring this community is that they they are a couple that does ministry together. One of the most beautiful privileges that you can have if you’re able to do within your home is to do ministry together as as a couple to make Jesus the center of your family. I know not all of us are able to do that because sometimes we don’t always have a home in an agreement in Christ. But but if you do walk in Christ as a married couple, being able to to honor the Lord together and find ways to to serve Christ in in your own home, to make him the center there, that your home becomes a blessing to people around you.

That’s what Priscilla and Aquila represent, to the point that they’re willing to risk their lives to do so. Next, Paul points out this character by the name of Epenetus. We’ll call him my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. Again, as Paul thinks about the beauty of the community, one of the things that almost immediately comes to his mind is the first person who came to know Christ in Asia and by Asia. Paul’s referring to this region called Asia minor. It’s where modern day Turkey is today. And when the Apostle Paul first journeyed into modern day Turkey and he preached the gospel there, this was his first convert. And Paul never forgot that. And this individual grew in the Lord to the point that he ends up in Rome continuing the ministry. He he leaves the area he’s from and goes to Rome to to serve the Lord. Thinking missionally And and Paul is just blessed by the first person that he came in contact in this region of Asia minor in Turkey that came to know Christ. You never forget those stories. I mean, we think in terms of evangelism, the church and living on mission is called in this world to seek the lost.

And when people come to know Jesus. Evangelism is the lifeblood of the church. It gets people excited to see the effect that we have in our own community. And I think here at Alpine Bible Church to see our history as a community here, starting off with just a few people in pennies in our bank account and watching how how God grew a family, just the steady growth every year of our existence to see the impact that that God has allowed us to have in our community is encouraging to our church each and every year as we continue to grow. Evangelism is the lifeblood. And then and then when it becomes personal, like the apostle Paul and with Epaenetus here as a church, I think for decades, having been praying for for some of you to come to know Jesus and have had now come to know Jesus or or some of us here that are still sitting on the fence, to be honest, to to to embrace Jesus and to know the love of this God who has given his life for us, or even some of you today, that as you come to know Christ, you may be the only one in your family that knows Christ. But you you have this hope in your heart that that God would do more within the relationships that He has given you and the the family that you have, that more people within your own family would come to know, to know the Lord.

And and you can feel and understand what it is for the apostle Paul to say. And I went to Turkey and I didn’t know what to expect, but I just preached the gospel and I just wanted to be faithful to Jesus. And in the end, the results aren’t up to us. But to see someone come to know Christ. And life began. What a beautiful moment that becomes. And then he goes on and he talks about this lady named Mary. And all he says about Mary is she was a hard worker. And what it’s saying about Mary is Mary’s not afraid of a challenge. She’s not afraid of of difficult things. She’s she will wear herself out to help God’s people move forward in this world. She’s not a a woman of of mixed motives. She wants to give everything for Christ and she gives her life for him to to the benefit of others. She’s a burden bearer. She’s a lifter of souls. She is she is not a complainer. She’s not a nag, but rather she’s a a problem solver. You show her a struggle and she will step into it with the gospel because she understands how the gospel pursues us in the midst of darkness and births, great light in our life. It’s the gospel that gives us hope. It’s the gospel that transforms us.

And she’s seen in her own life. And so she’s not afraid of hard moments because she knows how Jesus can transform them. And so Mary gives her life there, and Paul continues to honor that community in that way. And, you know, when I think about even our own church, like one of the greatest blessings I think I have throughout the week is just showing up on Tuesday nights. I show up on Tuesday nights to serve in our food pantry ministry, and sometimes I get right in there and do things. And other times I just stand back and watch you guys do things because there’s so many of you that show up to do things. It is incredible the amount of volunteers that we have here. And if you’re looking for a way to to serve the Lord, if you want to get your prayer on and also get your 10,000 steps in food pantry is the place to do that. This past week, I counted up Tuesday night as they took the tally. After we were done, I think it was Robbie in one of our interns. I made them add up the total because we had so many people we were serving. We got I got to know what this is. 659, 659 people. We can’t we plan for a service to pack out at 125. You know, Now, that was family unit. So not everyone in a family was counted or we count everyone in a family.

And it may only be one person, a family that shows up, but maybe a group of people in the family that shows up. But from each family, 650 people are represented in that. That is incredible service for the Lord. But but our our our hope is not only to meet a physical need with people, but but continue to offer the opportunity to also find their spiritual needs met in Christ. That’s why we want to pray with people when we pass this food out, when we go out with people to their cars and we like to load up groceries and we just want to get to know people love on them, pray for them, invite them to church. And so if you’re interested in that, there’s an opportunity there to serve. And then in verse seven, he goes on and says this. He says, Greet Andronicus. And Junia kinsfolk, Paul says, And my fellow prisoners, prisoners who are outstanding in the view of the apostles who also were in Christ before me, these individuals willing to go to prison with the Apostle Paul, they are recognized. I really, I think in this passage is just being fiercely faithful. And I think there are a husband and wife. Some people debate that as this. Are these two individuals, two guys serving the Lord with the apostle Paul? Is that a husband wife combo again, like Priscilla and Aquila? As I looked at it, it’s difficult really to determine, but I’m going to say husband and wife.

Okay. I think it’s more likely it’s a husband and wife combo again, serving the Lord. But they’re they’re faithful to the Lord, no matter the circumstance. They’re willing to to risk for the sake of Christ. And they do that with the apostle Paul. And Paul recognizes that they’re they’re they’re related to him or kinsfolk in him, which means they could either be directly related to the apostle Paul or at least Jewish, and they’re willing to to give it all in order to serve Christ, which I think is important as you think about ministry for the Lord. What are you willing to pay? How far are you willing to go? What cost? If Jesus was willing to go to the grave for you. Would you be willing to go to jail for him? I. I expect. Some time within my life that will become a very real reality. I I’m not going to go around this world picking fights with people. But I’m not going to go back down when someone tries to call me to compromise my faith in Christ. If it costs, will you pay? Is the truth worth it? Enough for you? Is Jesus worth enough for you? Honestly, I think in order to see Christianity move forward in our country, which right now it is not.

It’s going to take more sacrifice. And God’s people have to be willing to give. That only happens. When you understand the richness of what it is to have a relationship with Jesus. When he becomes your sole prize. When you understand the extent of his love towards you. And therefore make the conscious decision. To express your love in the same way. When Jesus said the Christian life was like that. Right? Take up your cross. And follow me. That is a life of sacrifice. The idols of our heart. We’ll call, call us and cause us to sell short of faithfulness in Jesus. Before we ever get to that type of temptation where the consequences may be so high. I think it’s important for all of us. To make our primary value in life. Christ. And no matter where it takes us. Trust that there will be a God who will meet us and sustain us through it all. Paul goes on from there. It’s a sobering moment. Paul goes on from there and he talks further about some other individuals abilities. My beloved and the Lord Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ. And I’m going to say statues only because the real pronunciation of this makes me spit everywhere. But this is Statius, my beloved right and Urbanus we’ve already talked about just a fellow worker, a hard worker, but I want to point out with Apple itis and Statius just just one word to describe him.

And I think that’s all you need. Beloved. Beloved. If for for the apostle John, who wrote the Gospel of John and the the three letters and John and the Book of Revelation, that was that was his identity in Christ. If you ask John, describe yourself who you are in Jesus. That’s the way John described himself in his own letters, that he was beloved in Christ. When we talk about this Apple itis, one of the things that I want to recognize. You notice in this picture there’s there’s a picture in the background here that isn’t in the other slides. And and the reason I wanted to point this out to you is in the end of the first century, early second century, the Christians started to develop these things called catacombs. And in Italy, some were discovered and this is one from the first century, late first century, maybe early second century. They’re not quite sure when it was dug and when it was abandoned, but it was the catacomb of Domitilla. And in this particular catacomb, you’ll you’ll find within a burial chamber and on the burial chamber in Italy, where this letter is being written to, you’ll find the name abilities. Now, no one knows for sure if it’s the same apple itis in this letter, but it would make sense if this person’s being honored and his life would have ended somewhere at the end of the first century.

That because he was in a letter, they would want to provide a place to remember and his connection to the New Testament. His name is a common slave name in Rome, so there may have been many people named Apple itis who came to Christ. And so who knows if it’s him or not buried in the tomb. But it’s interesting to see. And the thing that that makes us unique is this idea of being beloved. And for us in Christ, that identity is is more than enough. And the reason for that is religion will tell you. Be good so that you can be loved. But Christianity tells you. Because you’re loved in Christ. You then from that can be good. It’s the love of God that motivates us to do good things in this world. We’re not concerned about our position in Jesus because we know who we are in Christ, because Christ gave His life for us. Jesus paid for all of me. I’m not here to prove myself to God in order in hopes that God might rescue me or love me. I already know in Christ I’m already loved. In fact, in First John, chapter four, verse eight, it tells us God is love. His nature is love. Meaning there’s nothing I’ve done that is going to make God love me less. There’s nothing I’ll do to make God love me more. His nature is love.

That also means that God’s nature isn’t contingent upon what I do or don’t do. God. God himself is love. That’s who he is. He can’t be less than who he is. God is love. And He’s provided the opportunity for me to connect with him in relationship by pursuing me, giving his life for me. And I can give my life in response to that and experience the fellowship of that love in Christ. I certainly need the forgiveness of God to walk in that fellowship. I need to lay my life down. I need to ask God forgive me, make me new in you. But but being beloved is all that I need. Because it says in Christ, I have all that I need in him. I don’t have to prove anything. Because in Jesus I am beloved and there is no no greater position than that. Paul then goes on, he says, and the community greet Apalis the approved in Christ. So not only do you have the beloved, but you also have the the approved. And when you think in terms of being approved, what is saying to you is this Apalis. He went through a tremendous time of persecution, some sort of struggle he endured, but his life was faithful to Jesus. And so he is approved because he has gone through the fire and he continued to stay committed to Christ because when he came out on the other end, he was just as sweet with the richness of Jesus.

You cut apalis and he still bleeds Christ. This is a beautiful reminder for us in serving the Lord. If you have the approval of Jesus. What else do you need? Someone was walking through this world, do things to please people. But if you already have the approval of Christ, can I just tell you who cares what people think? Who cares? And that’s the pressure that the world’s going to put on you. Conform be cancelled. Reject what’s so sacred. Turn your back on Jesus. Or you can choose rather than living a life to try to please everyone. You can live a life to please the one. It’s a way more simple life to wake up every day and just say, God, what honors you? That’s what my heart desires. It puts everything else into perspective. Yes. You want to love on people? Yes, you want to care for people. But. But I don’t have to agree with everybody. I always want to love people, but I don’t always have to agree with people. And our culture needs that and God’s people especially to show what it means to to stand on the truth of who Christ is and to still love people, even if you disagree with them. And this is Apalis walking in a complex world in Rome about the martyr, the apostle Paul. And in just a decade, Paul is going to meet his martyrdom as he’s writing this letter of Romans.

And and Apalis is standing in the midst of a tense place in this world, still caring for people, but ultimately honoring God. And when it came time to be persecuted for the sake of Christ, he still chose Jesus. And therefore Paul says he’s been approved and Paul honoring that community and he goes on and greet those who are in the household of Aristobulus greet Herodion my kinsman, greet those of the household of narcissists. Can I tell you, if you’re looking for baby names, probably the one to not pick is narcissist. I don’t think narcissists would like that either because he thinks he’s the greatest person on this list already. Who is? I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Who are in the Lord. So we we think in terms of this passage, Paul is showing the impact of of how it’s reaching entire communities and aristobulus and and narcissists when he talks to him about households. Scholars believe that he’s talking about slaves under someone’s household. The entire group of slaves came to know the Lord under this these particular households. And, you know, it’s one of the beautiful things of knowing Christ. There’s there’s probably nothing more demeaning of a human being than slavery. And to put them in a position where they’re treated like property rather than people. But, you know, one of the things I love about the Bible, when you start in the book of Genesis, do you know the Bible began written to slaves? The book of Genesis is Moses writing to the slaves.

And after spending years in slavery, losing their identity, being treated as a tool God from the very beginning of the book, the way he’s telling the story of Genesis is to help them understand their worth being made in the image of God. And can I tell you, as people in this world, I don’t want to compare where we are in America to slavery. But but but I do think it’s important to recognize that we become slaves of something. We’re worship beings and we want to find our value and we will look to things in this world to make us feel important, and we’ll become slaves to that thing in order to find our value and define our worth or our meaning, our identity, and how important it is for us who know Christ, our Creator who gave his life for us by becoming flesh, to be able to share that with others. I mean, you see in this world, people going extreme just to find some sort of identity, some sort of meaning to their life. And you have it. You have it as a church in your creator and it changes and transforms our life. When you study the the first century church to see the impact that God had, God’s word had in the community of slaves.

Christianity was a grassroots movement, and it impacted the really the poor and the destitute. And it started to make a difference in this world. And we have the same privilege today to meet people in their brokenness who don’t understand who they are. And to share who God has made them to be. And he goes on verse 12, I want to go a little faster here. It’s Triphylia and tryphosa and persis, whatever that is. These are three ladies that that Paul is talking about in the Lord and the first two ladies there. Their names are from the root word, delicate, which it carries the idea of being. What he’s saying is soft and delicate. He’s saying these women may may look small in stature, but they pack a powerful punch in Jesus. They they get it done when when things are with them in the Lord. And then he goes on with a longer list of names here. Rufus, I forgot about Rufus. Rufus was one who some believe his dad carried the cross in the first century when Jesus was being carried going to Calvary and he dropped with the cross. The person that they picked to to carry the cross was a man named by Cyrene and his son, it tells us in Scripture was Rufus. And some think that this is the same Rufus. His dad carried the cross, which is incredible, right? You’re like, Rufus, you walk in the room, someone say, Rufus, tell us about who you are in Jesus.

And he says, you know, you know, Jesus says, Take up your cross and follow me. Oh, we did. We literally carried the cross of Christ. That’s who he is. And then he goes and shares more people. Another list. And I’m going to be honest and just say, I think this is the Apostle Paul get in the end and thinking, you know, why don’t you start listing names? If you forget somebody, you get in trouble as a pastor. You know that if you you think people and you forget someone else, sometimes you get in trouble. So Paul is like, just give me some names. He starts listing those names out, but he wants to honor the community. And so let me give you the last point here. We want to continue the story as well with hospitality, continue the story through hospitality. So not only do we want to live in mission, not only do we want to honor God’s community where we are, but we want this story to continue. And he and he tells us this through a term of hospitality. He says, greet one another with a holy kiss. Now, the Bible says in James chapter one, verse 22, Don’t just simply be hearers of the word, but be doers of the word. And so I want you to turn to your neighbor.

I’m just kidding. I’m not going to do that in this culture. That’s how they greeted in our culture. I am I am okay with a hug and a three Pat. Don’t. Don’t. Not four, not five, three, Pat Done. All right. I want to embrace one another, wish each other well, you know, encourage one another in the Lord. But but the idea is hospitality. You make a difference to the way you care for people. Jesus loves people. And so should we. And we we come from a world full of brokenness. And you never know what a heart is wrestling with. If you see someone before you, just rest assured they probably need a couraged. And God calls us to be a people that are hospitable and the way that we care for one another. So let me end with this. In 1800. There was a man by the name of John Todd, who was born in Vermont. Before he could even remember, his family moved to Killingworth, Connecticut, and by the time he was six years old. Both of his parents had died and he was orphaned. The children and the family were parceled out to different family members. And and John was given to one of his aunts and she lived just ten miles away. And she she brought him in and treated him as if she were he were her own and she loved him and helped him go on to to college where he graduated from Yale to help him find his first occupation in this world.

And he she cared for him. One day she became ill about 35 years after she received him, she became ill and concerned with where this might lead. Thinking death was near. She wrote a letter to John. And John, in that moment, not able to just drop everything and get right to her before he came for a visit. He went ahead and wrote a letter in response, and he wanted to encourage her, knowing that she was seriously ill and she may pass. But this is this is what Orphan John wrote when he wrote to his aunt who cared for him. He says it is now nearly 35 years since he was 41 years old. I, a little boy of six was left quite alone in this world. I have never forgotten the day when I made the long journey to your house in North Killingsworth. I still recall my disappointment when, instead of coming for me yourself, you sent your hired hand, Caesar, to fetch me. And I can still remember my tears and anxiety as I perched on your horse and clinging tightly to Caesar. I started out for my new home. As we rode along, I became more and more afraid and finally said anxiously to Caesar, Do you think she will go to bed before we get there? Oh, no, Caesar said assuredly.

She’ll for sure stay up for you. When we get out of these here woods, you’ll see your candle shining in the window. Presently, we did ride out into the clearing, and there, sure enough, was your candle. I remember you’re waiting at the door that you put your arm and. Excuse me? You were waiting at the door, that you put your arms around me. That you lifted me down from the horse. There was a fire on your fireplace, a warm supper on your stove. After supper, he took me to bed, heard my prayers, and then sat beside me until I dropped asleep. You undoubtedly realize why I’m recalling all these things. Some day soon, God may send for you. He may take you to a new home. But don’t fear the summons or the strange journey or even death at the end of the road. You will find love and a welcome. You will be safe in God’s love and his care. Surely he can be trusted to be as kind to you as you were to me. Because I read that story to say what John Tyler found. Was a reflection of the heart of Christ and his aunt. Church. What we have the privilege to do is to be a reflection of Christ to a broken world. You never know where people are coming from. But we do know what everyone needs. Everyone needs Jesus. Your commendation towards the concern of mission. Your heart for his community. Your hospitality for others. That’s how God makes a difference.

Romans 15:22-33

Romans 16:17-27