For a long time I have been fascinated by the list of workers given in these verses. Paul sends greetings to these Roman Christians and includes a small note about each of them. Many of the traits of these faithful, and mostly anonymous, followers of Christ are examples for us of the kind of workers we need to be in Gods church. As I began my detailed study of these verses, I was pleased to find that other Bible scholars before me also found this list of workers fascinating to them.
The gratifying thing about dealing with names from Imperial Rome is that the Roman government kept good records. Researchers (notably J. B. Lightfoot) have come up with some interesting ideas as to the identity of many of these Christians workers. I will use some of these ideas in this study, but please understand that most of this is speculation reasonable, educated speculation, but nevertheless, speculation. I am especially indebted to Dr. Lightfoot, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, and F. F. Bruce for much of this background information.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cen'chre-ae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well.
It is assumed that Phoebe was the bearer of this letter to the Romans. From the language used here, it seems that Phoebe may have been going on business to the Roman capital. It has been suggested that she may have financially aided Paul at a difficult time in his ministry, so the inference is that she was a woman of substance. Those who think that a woman should be a quiet mouse have not read the Bible. Throughout the pages of scripture we see examples of strong women who were used of God. It is Gods desire for all men and women to reach their full potential in him.
Phoebe may have been a wealthy woman, but she was willing to help out others. Notice in verse 2 Paul says, "she has been a helper of many and of myself as well." One way we can help out in the work of the Lord is to help financially. Phoebe, I believe, is an example of someone who is willing to support the ministry with her offerings. We say that in the church we need more Sunday School teachers and we need more choir members, but we also need those who are willing to give financially to Gods work. All of us cannot give the same amount, but each of us can give as the Lord has provided for us.
Greet Prisca and Aq'uila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I but also all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks; greet also the church in their house.
Acts 18:3 tells us about Pauls meeting with Priscilla and Aquila, "and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them, and they worked, for by trade they were tentmakers." Paul was a tentmaker by trade and so were his friends Priscilla and Aquila. This is an example of Christian workers who were willing to share their resources with Paul. Traveling from town to town, Paul could not have carried a large amount of supplies with him. So Priscilla and Aquila provided him materials, a place to work, and perhaps even customers.
What resources are we willing to share with the church? We may not be able to help with large financial gifts like Phoebe did, but we can share out talents, our abilities, our expertise.
Greet my beloved Epae'netus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ.
Epaenetus was from Asia and since his name seems connected with Priscilla and Aquila and the church that meets in their house, it is assumed that he was an Ephesian. Hunter points out, "An interesting discovery was made in Rome of an inscription in which was the name of Epaenetus, an Ephesian." Epaenetus was a new convert to Christianity a few years before this writing. Now we find him working alongside Priscilla and Aquila in their church in Rome. It is one thing to make a commitment to Christ. But we must follow up our spoken affirmation with a commitment to action. Many people say they are Christians, but we must put actions behind our words.
Greet Mary, who has worked hard among you.
This is one of 6 Marys listed in the Bible. We dont know much about her except that she was a hard worker. What a great testimony she was a hard worker for Christ! Will people say the same of us? Let us not be afraid to get in, roll up our sleeves, and do a work for the Lord. God is looking for hard workers those who are willing to take on the difficult tasks without complaining.
Greet Androni'cus and Ju'nias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners; they are men of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
Bruce comments, "...they were of note among the apostles, which probably means that they were not merely well known to the apostles but were apostles themselves (in a wider sense of the word), and eminent ones at that; and they had been Christians from a very early date...." As apostles, Andronicus and Junias would be traveling missionaries. God is looking for missionaries in the church today. Most of us think of missionaries as those who go to a foreign country. But a missionary is anyone who takes the gospel message to others at work, at school, to your friends, to your neighbors. God is looking for missionaries to tell others about Christ. Are you willing to go?
Greet Amplia'tus, my beloved in the Lord.
Ampliatus was probably a member of the Imperial household. There is a tomb of Ampliat in a Christian cemetery in Rome with an inscription from the first century. Ampliatus is known as the one who was beloved. May this be our legacy. May people think of us as beloved as one who reached out to others in love, caring and helping others. A church family is an important network of support and love. Let us be an encouragement to each other.
Greet Urba'nus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys.
In an inscription in A. D. 115, Urbanus is mentioned as a freed slave who was connected to the mint. Notice that Paul refers to Urbanus as OUR fellow worker. Denney explains, "The our (as opposed to my, verse 3) seems to suggest that all Christian workers had a common helper in Urbanus." I believe one of the great needs in the church is that of helper. Have you ever been in an organization where there were more chiefs than Indians? Churches today need people willing to just help out. There are so many tasks to be done, that the small, core leadership of most churches becomes quickly overwhelmed. What we need are helpers. You dont have to be willing to take on a huge job, just help in some small way. When you do, you will find God will bless you, and you will see the work of his church moving forward.
Stachys is found in inscriptions from the Imperial household. He was a government worker in a government that opposed Christianity. We need more people like Stachys who are willing to stand up for what they believe. Let us not be afraid or intimidated by others, but rather let us stand up for what we know is true and right.
Greet Apel'les, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobu'lus.
Apelles is one who Paul says is approved in Christ. As the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia points out, "In some way unknown to us Apelles had been tested and he had proved faithful." We need people in the church today who have been tested and proved faithful. It is easy to say we are a Christian if we have never had to back it up with action. But when we are tested by the fiery trials of affliction, it is then that the true believer in Christ will be found faithful. Let us be found faithful.
Aristobulus may have been the brother of Herod Agrippa. Here we find members of his family serving Christ. Even the great and the famous need Christ. We should not shy away from sharing the good news with those who are prominent in our city or our work place. They are all sinners in the need of a Savior. Let us be the bearer of Christs message to them.
Greet my kinsman Hero'dion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcis'sus.
The name Herodion immediately following the mention of Herods family seems significant. He may have been a slave of that family. God calls us all to his service no matter what our station in life. We need never feel inferior or superior in Gods kingdom. God loves the slave as much as the king. Let us also treat others the same way God treats them. Let us not look upon a persons station in life, the clothes they wear, or how educated they may sound. Rather, let us look on the persons heart just as Christ looks on our heart.
Next we meet the family of Narcissus. This is a divided family. Paul says to greet those in the Lord from this family. Obviously not all members of this family were Christians. Perhaps some were vehemently anti-Christian as that was the sentiment of the Roman court at the time.
But the family members who were believers would not be swayed by their relatives. Even though they may have been called fools and may have had to suffer persecution because of their stand for Christ. Let us hold true to Christ even if other family members may ridicule and mock our faith.
Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphae'na and Trypho'sa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.
Tryphaena and Tryphosa were probably sisters. Notice that Paul refers to them as workers in the Lord. This is what we need to be workers for his kingdom. We need to be willing to be workers. It is easy to just come to church on Sunday mornings, feel blessed by God, and then go home until next Sunday. But God needs workers in his church. He needs those who are willing to say "Yes" to the jobs ahead of us. Everyone of us cannot do the same tasks, but all of us can do some work. What job does God want you to do?
Persis is the next one mentioned. This may have been a Persian freed slave. She probably was not associated with the Imperial household. Although Tryphaena and Tryphosa are called workers in the Lord, Persis is said to have worked hard in the Lord. Persis is one of those individuals who would go the extra mile to help out. She would take a task and work hard at completing it. She would not give up. So let these three women be our examples. Let us be workers for the Lord, and let us work hard at the job before us.
Greet Rufus, eminent in the Lord, also his mother and mine.
We may have a clue as to who Rufus was from Mark 15:21, "And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyre'ne, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross." According to the patristic writing of the second century the gospel of Mark was written for the Roman Christians. If this is true, it would make sense that Mark would identify Simon of Cyrene as the father of Rufus and Alexander, two men that the Roman Christians would know. None of the other gospel writers include the names of the sons. So perhaps the Rufus that Paul greets is the same Rufus that Mark writes about. It is a good possibility. What does this teach us?
Simon became a Christian and passed his faith onto his family. No doubt he did this by being an example to his sons as well as by teaching them about Christ. If we are to be successful Christians, we need to minister to our families. Our children must decide for themselves to serve Christ, but we must be an example to them, and we must teach them about serving God. Let us not try to gain the whole world by neglecting our family.
Greet Asyn'critus, Phlegon, Hermes, Pat'robas, Hermas, and the brethren who are with them.
It seems that this indicates a family or group of people that were meeting together. Patrobas is the name of a wealthy freed slave. We must be willing to meet together with other Christians to spend time in fellowship and encouraging each other. The early Christians met in houses which were small churches. This seems to be one of them. I would love to see Bible studies and get-togethers in the homes of our church families.
Greet Philol'ogus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olym'pas, and all the saints who are with them.
Here we see yet another home church apparently headed by Philologus and his wife Julia. All of these names have been found in inscriptions from the Imperial court. So here we have a church probably located in the very heart of the Roman government. We need believers from every part of our city. We want to reach the homeless, and we want to reach the highest government workers. We want to reach the drug addicts and prostitutes, and we want to reach the leaders of our community.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
I wanted to end with this verse. We have been talking about being a worker for Christ. But remember we are only effective as we work together. Thats why Paul says greet one another with a holy kiss. We are to have love and fellowship with each other. Every job we do must be to help and assist others. We must never get so busy working in the church that we neglect others needs. Let us be sensitive to the feelings of others.
Paul ends this verse with the phrase, All the churches of Christ greet you. May all the churches of Christ be united together in one purpose. May we all be working together to see the kingdom of God advanced in our community, in our nation, and in our world. And let the work begin here in Merced, in First Christian Church, and in my life. Help me to be a worker for the Lord.
This study on Romans 16:1-16 © 1997 by David Humpal. All Rights
Lightfoot: Saint Pauls Epistle to the Philippians, Zondervan Publishing House In his comments on the contents of Caesars Household mentioned in Philippians, he examines our passage in Romans.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, electronic version © 1996, Biblesoft
Bruce: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, vol. 6, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans © 1963, Inter-Varsity Press
Hunter: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, electronic version © 1996, Biblesoft
Bruce: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, vol. 6, pg. 272 © 1963, Inter-Varsity Press
Denney: quoted in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, electronic version © 1996, Biblesoft
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, electronic version © 1996, Biblesoft