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
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
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.
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"
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.
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".
II. THERE ARE THREATS TO OUR PRECIOUS FELLOWSHIP; AND WE NEED TO PROTECT
IT (VV. 17-20).
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.