About Us Services MinistriesSermon Message Bible StudyChurch Calendar Contact Us


Statement of Faith

The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell You

Listen to this week's message!

Map to the Church

Prayer Requests

Enhance your daily reading of God's word. Click here for free, printable Bible Reading and Prayer Journal sheets!

Wednesday AM Bible Study Archives


"The Wonderful Gift of Our Fellowship "
Romans 16:1-20

Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
May 11, 2005

Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, whom he had never met, to explain why he hadn't yet come to them, and that he was expecting to be able to be with them soon. He also wrote to explain the the Gospel that he had been preaching while he had been unable to come to them. A third reason Paul wrote was to endorse a fellow Christian named Phoebe; a woman coming to Rome on business who needed the assistance of the Christians there. It is believed that Paul gave her this letter to take with her to the believers in Rome, in part at least, to let them know that they were to fully accept her and give her whatever help she needed. Perhaps without knowing it herself, she bore in the folds of her robe the whole future of Christian theology - the expression of a common faith that unites us in Christ even today.

That brings us to Romans 16:1-20. This passage reveals Paul's passionate love for people. It teaches us that there are some precious blessings to be found in our fellowship with one another as Christians; and that such a fellowship is so precious that it deserves or diligent protection.

A. We enjoy the blessing of our brothers and sisters in Christ. God made us for relationships with other people; and we need each other. Paul mentions 28 specific people in these verses, and alludes to a whole lot more. He had some specific blessing to identify many of them by:
1. Phoebe (vv. 1-2).
a. Some have suggested that she was leaving Cenchrea, a port in Corinth, and was on her way to Rome for reasons of business - which would suggest that she was wealthy. Others have suggested that she was on her way there for a legal reason - which might suggest that she was a wealthy widow. She may have even been travelling for official church business. Whatever the reason, Paul commended her greatly as very much worthy of the help of the Christians at Rome.

b. She's identified as a "sister". She's a fellow believer.

c. He calls her a "servant" of the church in Cenchrea. The word in the Greek is the one we get the word "deacon" from; and so she may have been an official "deaconess" in the church, or she may be simply a servant of the church family there in a non-official capacity.

d. He says that she's to be received in a manner "worthy of the saints". It may be that her business was non-church related; but she was to be welcomed and helped as if her business was "church" business.

e. She's to be received in such a manner because she has been a helper of many in the Church - Paul included. Can you think of a more honorable thing to be called than "a servant of the church"? A "helper of many"?

2. Pricilla and Aquila; a husband/wife team (vv. 3-4).

a. When the Jews were persecuted and driven out from Rome (Acts 18:2), these two came to Corinth, where Paul met them and worked with them as a tent-maker. They provided him with a living. Then, after two years, Paul set out for Ephesus; and Prisca and Aquila went with him. They had such an impact on the ministry that, as Paul observes, all the churches of the Gentiles knew them and were thankful for them.

b. They "risked their own necks" for Paul's life. What exactly happened is something we don't know; but we do know that Paul's ministry once caused the whole city of Ephesus to nearly break out into a riot. Perhaps in their efforts to protect Paul and his ministry, they literally placed their lives on the line. Perhaps they literally risked being beheaded. What devotion!

c. A church met in her house. In these early years of the Church, there were no church buildings. Christians met in the homes of believers whose houses were big enough to accommodate a gathering of around 40 people at a time. There may have been several hundred such "house-churches" in a single city. This couple hosted one such church in their home. It may even have been that Aquila was the pastor.

3. Epaenetus (v. 5).

a. His Greek name means "Praised". What a good name!

b. Paul describes him; "my beloved". This man's heart was significantly knit with Paul's.

c. He was the first to become a Christian in Asia. At one point, Paul wanted to preach the Gospel in Asia; but the Holy Spirit wouldn't permit it (Acts 16:6). The Spirit apparently had this duty set aside for someone else; and Epaenetus's conversion was the result.

4. Mary (v. 6).

a. There's many outstanding women in the Bible named Mary; and it was a common name.

b. Paul wanted the believers in Rome to know that she had worked hard for them. Sometimes, God reveals to His people who some of their secret benefactors are; and when that happens to us, we need to show appreciation for such people.

5. Andronicus and Junias; possibly another husband/wife team (v. 7).

a. They were Jews. Paul calls them "my kinsmen" - perhaps, like Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin. Perhaps they were even close relatives.

b. They were Paul's "fellow prisoners"; having been, at some point, imprisoned with Paul. (Paul doesn't elevate the sacrifices he made for Christ above theirs. Together, they were "fellow prisoners" for Christ.)

c. Paul describes them as "of note among the apostles". This could mean that they were considered to be in an official "apostolic" role - that is, much like missionaries. Or it could mean that they were known by the apostles and were esteemed very highly by them

d. Paul recognizes them as having known the Lord longer than he. They were in Christ before he was. It may be that they escaped the persecutions of Paul before he was converted.

6. Amplias "my beloved in the Lord" (v. 8).

7. Urbanus [whose name "city dweller"]; "our fellow worker in Christ" (v. 9).

8. Stachys "my beloved" (v. 9). His name means "ear of corn". Perhaps he was from the country, and Urbanus was from the city. Paul wanted to be sure to greet both of his precious friends: "City-Boy" and "Corn-Cob".

9. Appellas (v. 10); "Approved in Christ". What a name of honor! May we all aspire to it!

10. The household of Aristobulus (v. 10)

11. Herodion, "my countryman"; another fellow Jew (v. 11).

12. The household of Narcissus "who are in the Lord" (v. 11). Perhaps not all in this household were "in the Lord". Paul had to specify.

13. Tryphaena and Tryphosa - possibly twins, whose names meant "delicate" and "dainty". They weren't too delicate and dainty, though, because Paul refers to them as those who have "labored in the Lord (v. 12).

14. Persis (v. 12); called "beloved" and one who "labored much in the Lord" (v. 12).

15. Rufus (v. 13).

a. He is called "chosen in the Lord". Some scholars believe Rufus might be the son of the man the Roman soldiers had pressed into carrying the Cross of Jesus (Mark 15:21).

b. Paul mentions "his mother and mine". Rufus had one of those wonderful moms that was a "mom" to more than just her own kids.

16. Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them; Philologus [whose name means "lover of the word"] and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, "and all the saints who are with them" (vv. 14-15).

B. We have the blessing of sanctified diversity. God brings people together in Christ from a whole variety of different backgrounds, different ethnic groups, and different social and economic levels. Out of the 28 people Paul mentions, there's at least nine women - perhaps more (since some names are hard to define gender-wise). Some are apparently slaves, and some are from households of nobility (those from the household of Aristobulus may even be from royalty. Herodian may have even been a slave from the royal family). Some are Jewish; some are Asian. Some have names that clearly demonstrate their Roman heritage (such as "Olympas" and "Hermes"); some are Greek (such as Philologs); some are Persian (such as Persis); some are Jewish (such as Andronicus and Junias). Some were well off (like Phoebe). Some had an up- front sort of ministry (such as Prisca and Aquila), and others were the behind the scenes helpers (like Mary).

C. We have the blessing of God-given unity. Paul sums it up by saying, "Greet one another with a holy kiss" which was a standard form of affectionate greeting in those days, much like when we hug. "The churches greet you" (see vv. 21-24). In spite of all that diversity, there was an essential unity. You find phrases like "sister", "saints", "fellow workers in Christ Jesus", "fellow prisoner", "beloved", "approved in Christ", "in the Lord", "his mother and mine", "brethren", "helper of many", "The churches (plural) of Christ greet you".


The blessings we enjoy in Christian fellowship are great indeed. This explains why Paul suddenly changes his mood. Verses 17-20 are abrupt and serious. Paul had such a love for the blessedness of Christian fellowship that he considered it well worth protecting from the things that would threaten it. You can almost feel the urgency in his words. Paul eludes to three things that could threaten the precious fellowship we enjoy.

A. Attacks in terms of doctrine (v. 17). Paul isn't saying that we all have to be in complete agreement in every point of doctrine. He surely recognizes room for disagreement and discussion in some areas. He's talking here about controversies over the essentials of the apostolic faith (1 Tim. 6:3-5).

B. Attacks through getting our eyes off Christ. When "division makers" come and get our focus either on to themselves or on to ourselves, at the expense of a Christ-centered focus, they're a threat to our precious fellowship (v. 18).

C. Attacks on moral practice. Nothing can ruin our fellowship faster than becoming tolerant toward sin (v. 19).

D. Note where these attacks on our fellowship originate from (v. 20).

* * * * * * * * * *

Paul urges us to keep our eyes open; and we can take what he says and develop three "test" questions for every controversy or dividing issue that our church encounters: (1) Is this a denial of the basic doctrines of the faith? (2) Does this draw our attention from giving Jesus Christ first place? (3) Is this resulting in a friendly attitude toward biblically defined sin? If the answer is "yes" to any of those things, then let's recognize that our fellowship is being threatened; and let's protect it diligently.

Printable Version

Bethany Bible Church, 18245 NW Germantown Road, Portland, OR 97231 / 503.645.1436

Site Map | Privacy Policy | Copyright Information