People Paul Knew

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Romans 16:1-15

 

I.         Certain sections of the Bible are difficult to read, such as the genealogies with all the unfamiliar names

            A.        The beginning of Romans 16 is similar, even though it is a list of personal greetings to people Paul knew in Rome

            B.        Too often we skim right through such difficult sections

                        1.         Why bother slogging through names of people who lived long ago?

            C.        But look at how Paul describes these people:

                        1.         Our sister ... a servant of the church ... a helper of many ... my fellow workers in Christ Jesus ... risked their own necks ... my beloved ... who has worked hard for you ... My kinsmen and my fellow prisoners ... who are outstanding among the apostles ... who were in Christ before me ... approved in Christ ... who has worked hard in the Lord ... a choice man in the Lord

                        2.         These are people who occupy important places in Paul’s memories.

                        3.         They are real people with stories of struggles, hopes, and fears

            D.        Paul had not visited Rome before writing this letter - Romans 1:13-15

                        1.         But look how many of the brethren there that Paul already knew!

II.        The People of Rome

            A.        Phoebe (FEE bih) - Romans 16:1-2

                        1.         Here was a woman who served the church.

                        2.         She was a member of the church at Cenchrea, which is just outside of Corinth

                        3.         Paul was there briefly - Acts 18:18

                        4.         Likely it is Phoebe who carried this letter to the brethren in Rome

                        5.         Paul asked the church to receive her in a worthy manner and help her in the other tasks that she came to Rome to accomplish

                        6.         Recall that Jesus said the greatest are those who serve - Matthew 23:11

            B.        Prisca and Aquila (PRISS kuh and uh KWIL uh) - Romans 16:3-5

                        1.         Paul originally met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth - Acts 18:1-3

                        2.         They went with Paul to Ephesus - Acts 18:18

                        3.         After Paul continued on to Syria, they stayed behind where they taught Apollos - Acts 18:26

                                    a.         Apollos soon went to Corinth for a period to preach the Gospel there.

                                    b.         The church in Ephesus started out meeting in their home - I Corinthians 16:19

                        4.         Apparently they returned to Rome, probably when the decree banning Jews from Rome was lifted

                                    a.         While there they were once again hosting the assemblies of the church in their home.

                        5.         By the end of Paul’s life they once again were living in Ephesus - II Timothy 4:19.

                        6.         Paul considered them his co-workers in the Lord.

                                    a.         They had risked their lives for Paul, which he appreciated.

                                    b.         And all the Gentile churches appreciated them as well because their saving of Paul allowed Paul to spread the gospel further among the Gentiles.

            C.        Epaenetus (ih PEE neh tus) - Romans 16:5

                        1.         Epaenetus is mentioned as being among the first converts to Christ in Achaia.

                                    a.         The household of Stephanas is also mentioned as being the first fruits in Achaia - I Corinthians 16:15

                                    b.         Epaenetus may have been a member of Stephanas’ household

                        2.         Here is a man who was willing to follow Christ before anyone else in his region. He had no other examples to follow, but stepped out in faith.

            D.        Mary - Romans 16:6

                        1.         Mary was a common name, so we don’t know more about this woman other than that she was a hard worker

            E.        Andronicus and Junia (an druh NIGH kuhs and JOO nih uh) - Romans 16:7

                        1.         These two men were fellow Israelites (Paul’s kinsmen)

                        2.         Paul has been in prison frequently - II Corinthians 11:23.

                        3.         At some point, Paul spent time with these two in prison.

                        4.         Paul isn’t the only one acquainted with Andronicus and Junia. They were of note to the other apostles

                        5.         They had been converted to Christ before Paul.

            F.        Ampliatus, Urbanus, and Stachys (am pli AY tus, ur BAY nuhs, STAY kiss) - Romans 16:8-9

                        1.         Amplias and Stachys were particular friends of Paul.

                        2.         Urbanus has worked with Paul.

                        3.         It should be noted that Stachys is a name found in the register of the imperial household. Whether this is the same man or a different one, the name would probably indicate someone of the upper class.

                        4.         Urbanus is a common slave name. Here is someone at the lower end of society

                        5.         Galatians 3:28 - In Christ, we are all one

            G.        Apelles (uh PEL ehz) - Romans 16:10

                        1.         Apelles had his faith in Christ tried and he has been found faithful.

                        2.         Christians don’t always have it easy. Suffering happens to the best, but we grow from it - James 1:2-4

                        3.         By the way, his name is also found in the list of the imperial household. Again, it doesn’t mean he is the same person, but that it indicates an upper class person

            H.        Aristobulus’ household (uh riss toh BYOO luhs), Herodion, and Narcissus’ household - Romans 16:10-11

                        1.         Paul sends greetings to the household of Aristobulus and Narcissus, so it is likely that Aristobulus and Narcissus are not a Christian though there are several in their households who are.

                        2.         Again, Aristobulus is also the name of Herod Agrippa I’s grandson

                        3.         Herodion is a fellow Jew. His name suggests a connection to the Herod family. Some suggest that it is likely a slave name.

                        4.         So notice that Paul mixes masters and slaves next to each other and treats them equally.

            I.         Tryphanena, Tryphosa, and Persis (trigh FEE nuh, trigh FOH suh, PUR sis) - Romans 16:12

                        1.         Tryphena and Tryphosa are women who have done work for the Lord.

                        2.         Persis, another woman, Paul said has done even more than Tryphena and Tryphosa and is well-loved.

                        3.         What work these women were involved in is not stated.

            J.         Rufus and his mother (ROO fuhs) - Romans 16:13

                        1.         Rufus and his mother are like family to Paul, but not to be taken as Paul's literal family. Rufus’ mother treated Paul as her own son.

                        2.         There is mention of a Rufus in Mark 15:21 who was the son of Simon of Cyrene.

                                    a.         Whether is this is the same person is unknown, but Mark’s mention of him and his brother Alexander indicates that the two were known in the church.

            K.        And more - Romans 16:14-15

                        1.         Asyncritus (uh SIN krih tuhs) - Male Greek name

                        2.         Phlegon (FLEE gahn) - Male Greek name

                        3.         Hermes (HUR meez) - Common male Greek slave name

                        4.         Patrobas (PAT roh buhs) - Male Greek name

                        5.         Hermas (HUR muhs) - Common male Greek slave name

                                    a.         Hermas is noted because there was an early uninspired work called The Shepherd of Hermas.

                                    b.         Whether it is the same person is impossible to determine.

                        6.         By saying “and the brethren who are with them” may be a reference to fellow slaves in their households who are Christians.

                        7.         Philologus and Julia (fih LAHL oh guhs, JOO lih uh)

                                    a.         Philologus is a male Greek name.

                                    b.         Julia is a female Latin name.

                                    c.         It is possible they were married.

                        8.         Nereus and his sister (NEE roos) - Male Greek name

                        9.         Olympas (oh LIM puhs) - Male Greek name

                        10.       And all the saints who are with them

III.       Equality

            A.        Notice again the mixing of slave and freeman names – Paul knew people of all economic status

            B.        Romans, Greeks, and Jews names are given - Paul was friends of people of all nationalities

            C.        When you come to passages like Romans 16, don’t be intimidated by the names. Take notice of the people described.

            D.        These are servants fo the Lord, fellow Christians who were a blessing to those around them

            E.        Make it personal. Who do you know that you could describe with similar terms?

            F.        Be appreciative of all the brothers and sisters that you know and thank God for their examples.


Based on “The Faces of Romans 16" by Jason Hardin and “Another Hall of Faith” by Jarrod Jacobs

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