So – this is our final Sunday studying the book of Romans. We’ve been at this for 9 months – with one month off due to a certain Michael. This Sunday we’ll be reading the whole of Romans 16 as Paul gives his final greetings, warning and blessing.
A lot of people skip through this long list of names Paul recites…around 26 in all. I love them though – they help to connect this work to real people; people like you and I who had to work through the “deliciously chewy theology” of this letter (as N.T. Wright puts it). Phoebe is introduced and is likely the person delivering the letter. Most likely, she would be the one reading the letter to the congregation and answering questions they may have or explaining bits along the way.
Priscilla and Aquilla are familiar names which you can read about in Acts 18.
Interestingly, 10 of the people named by Paul and described as co-laborers and equals in ministry are women. The most controversial of those is Junia. Google her name and read some of the articles. I’ll wait. …………………….. It’s pretty intense, isn’t it? There is a lot to think about when it comes to this ancient and mysterious woman of God. I know she’s changed my thinking a lot.
Several of the people greeted are in the households of people we know in Roman history. Narcissus was probably the same one from history who was close to Emperor Claudius. Aristobulus was a Jewish name associated with a Jewish king of Israel’s inter-testament history. It’s unlikely these two were believers – Paul greets the households of these men – most probably household slaves.
What can we infer from Paul extolling the ministry and co-equality of women and slaves in the midst of ancient Rome? How does it inform our understanding of God’s social economy in the sphere of his kingdom?
In v16-20 Paul warns us about teachers who cause divisions by teaching things contrary to what they’ve already learned. What does he say to do concerning them? How would we apply that to our present world of teachers and churches?
Paul finishes off his letter with a blessing and a reminder (v26) that this is an age-old, ongoing story, this gospel we’ve embraced. Let’s determine to allow the Story to go on through us!