My big idea for today is to see that although the landscape has changed the body of Christ still needs each individual member. My prayer for us today is that by hearing this message that together we would know true unification within the body of Christ. If you have your Bibles today you can join me as we turn to, you guessed it Romans Chapter 16 starting at verse 1.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.Romans 16:1-16
5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.
9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.
11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.
Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.
14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.
15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.
16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.
In order to help me share with you today, I have separated my thoughts into 3 sections or points. When we look at this passage and others like it, we my find that because of its specific nature it’s application may not feel super relevant to our lives in our postmodern culture. So, my intention today is to focus on the implications of what Paul is saying rather than try to fabricate an unintended life lesson. This will probably lead more into the teaching rather than preaching, if that’s ok. With that being said, we are going to look into some aspects of the early church life and see what we can see. The first aspect of the early church we’ll look at is…
The Social Composition of The Early Church
Most of us who read the Bible today don’t find a lot of interest in reading a list of names in a greeting like our text. We know they were obviously real people. To us there are things we can learn about who these people were and their societal makeup. Names in the ancient world meant something and the name carried a certain amount of information about that person. So, names are a clue. Also, we can find clues in the context. And we find clues in associations. For instance,
Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.Romans 16:10-11
11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
The household of Aristobulus refers to slaves that serve there. Herodion, was a freed slave who took the name of Herodian family. Narcissus, also a freed slave who possessed servants in his household.
Priscilla and Aquilla, Phoebe, Lydia (Acts), held benevolent positions, hosted house churches, and financed missionary trips. These were all seemingly wealthy people and we know a bit about them through the context of Paul’s writing. In other cases, we may discover ethnicity or class stations. Paul’s letter to Philemon regarding the slave Onesimus, this name means useful. It’s a name given to slaves to encourage them to live up to.
The social composition of the early church was quite diverse made up with the vast majority of slaves and freedmen/previous slaves, many of which were women. These were predominately the lower class. It’s important to remind ourselves that God has a special concern for the poor and the downtrodden. Paul reminds the Corinthians to recall their station in life when they were called to faith.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.1 Corinthians 1:26
James takes it a step farther…
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.James 1:27
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.John 15:10-11
I’ll move to my next point. The second aspect of the early church we’ll look at is…
The Organization of The Early Church
The organization of the Early church was apparently fairly loose. We see the mention of house churches and households which may have also been house churches. The loose structure of the Christian community reflects that of the Jewish community as it was also broken up into many small synagogues. It is believed that these churches in Rome were most likely to have been divided into cloisters/smaller gatherings where the entire group would be that of the believers weaker in faith that Paul spoke of, while others were gathered of those believers who were entirely the stronger in faith. Those divisions were reflected in the corporate associations. Paul’s call for reconciliation between these two factions would have meant unity in the churches of Rome.
The idea of house churches was one that most likely came out of necessity. The culture and commerce of the first century would not have allowed for buildings and facilities to be available to Christians. The early Christians began assembling out of association to their belief in Christ, but then quickly began to form inner cliques that reflected certain leanings separate from the gospel. These were the disputable things that had nothing to do with salvation or the Gospel.
The simple application here is that we are to unite as Christ followers and not allow divisiveness in the church. Being united as one body working together with Christ as our head. I understand the as humans we will not always agree, but Paul gives a solution.
So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.Romans 14:22
Bait of offense is real, and the Devil knows that we like to fall for it. We must continue to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ even if we disagree about the non-essentials of our faith.
I’ll move to my last point. The third/final aspect of the early church we’ll look at is…
The Women In The Early Church
Now we could go on forever about this topic, so I’m going to keep it within the context of the passage. Paul’s purpose here was to shatter the concepts about the status and value of women in a highly male dominated culture. This is not uncommon for Paul throughout his work he has emphasized the value of those on a lower socio-economic scale. He has called for slaves to be called brothers. He has given in great detail the elevation of our status as Gentiles as adopted to sonship. Becoming children of God. And here he is doing it again by calling out the work and well-established ministries of women in the church. Out of the 27 Paul mentions more than a third are women (10).
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28
In this passage Paul is bringing out 3 aspects.
- Women made up a significant part of the early church.
- Women are given the same access to God that men have.
- Women engaged in significant ministry.
These things we should all be able to agree on. Before the new covenant, Women were only allowed to participate by proxy though their husbands and were relegated to the outer fringes of worship.
God has called us all to take up our part. Christ alone has elevated our status from wherever we came from to His child and in this he has given us a task. He has called us to his own in a societal organization that is fashioned after His son Jesus that we may be saved and save others. That old devil wants to steal this from you. He does not want you to realize your true potential in Christ Jesus.
Jeremiah thought he was to young. Isaiah was unclean. Jonah was afraid and racially motivated. But Samuel, Here I am Lord, speak for your servant is listening. The body of Christ hasn’t changed much in composition. Oh, our organizations have grown, no doubt. But the essence of our calling and our roles is very much the same. Are you asking God what he wants you to do? Are you seeking His will for your life and ministry?
Will you join me in a commitment to increase our prayerfulness? It just between you and God. Here’s the thing, If we become invested in someone through our prayers we will become emotionally invested in them as well. You will we more and you will love better. Engage with someone today.
Share all the ways God has shown you mercy and grace. Will you allow the Holy Spirit to stir faith in someone through your testimony? Would you join me as the Holy Spirit moves on us to be unified in the spirit of Christ? These are the kingdom values.
This is truly the work of God. The intentional actions of the body of Christ. Remember the devil seeks only to kill steal and destroy. Steal your freedom, kill your joy, and destroy your destiny for hope and love. But God has a plan! He’s stealing from your neighbor, your family, and your loved ones today.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
Jesus, He’s the Son of the living God, and we can receive from Him today His Righteousness, His purpose and His calling. Will you call on him today? Your salvation/forgiveness is just one prayer away. Will you trust in his ability to do what He said He would do? Will you believe today? Many of you need a fresh touch from God today.
Is there some form of unbelief or a fracture of trust as it relates to God in your life today? God wants to redeem and restore those areas of your life? He wants to restore Joy and hope for you today.
You’re hearing this now and the Holy Spirit has brought someone or something to mind. He wants to speak life into this today. He wants to bring healing in this area today. There are areas of deep regret when it comes to your relationship with God and you have rejected Christ as your savior …It’s not too late.
It’s not too late to humble yourself before him today, hold out your arms and open your hands to receive from him today. Will you say yes to Jesus, today? Will you bow your heads with me? Some of you already know the Lord, but maybe he’s put something on your heart that you need to deal with, you need to ask his forgiveness today. If that’s you will you just acknowledge that to him today. This is just you and God here. Now someone here may not have that relationship with Jesus and today you’ve felt him tugging at your heart, you’ve been hurt, and you’re guarded, I know. Jesus is here and wants set things right in your life.
If you’ll say Pastor, I want Jesus to be my Lord and savior. Remember, it’s just you and God here. Will you pray with me today, We’ll pray here as a family and you can repeat after me?
Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner. I ask you today for your forgiveness. I believe that you died for my sins and on that 3rd day, you rose from the dead. I ask you to come into my heart today. I trust and follow you as my Lord and savior. Guide me and help me to do your will. In Jesus’ name Amen.
“‘“The Lord bless youNumbers 6:24-26
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’