V1-16. Greetings! Look at all those names. Shouldn’t we skip this portion? To Paul, these names meant a lot. They were people who belonged to the Lord Jesus. Here you have a practical example of the unity of the believers. You greet people for whom you feel something special and with whom you are linked in a certain way. They are people you don’t see every day. Maybe you’ve never seen them and you’ve only heard of them. But what you’ve heard gives you the sense of unity, of belonging together. It can be very encouraging then to receive someone’s greeting. It makes you realize someone is thinking of you. This encourages you.
So greetings are important. They emphasize something you share. When someone tells you to greet this or that brother or sister, this is an important assignment. And so Paul here tells the believers in Rome they should greet a number of brothers and sisters.
What is striking in these greetings is something is added to many of the names. To Paul, this wasn’t just a heap of names. These persons meant something to him. Every one meant something different. With everyone he had a special relationship. In this way, your relationship with every brother and sister will be different. If you begin to have an eye for this difference, it will result in a huge enrichment in the interactions with your brothers and sisters. There are names too that Paul mentions without adding something. You may ask yourself whether there was nothing special to mention. Was there nothing that made them noteworthy? Were they boring brothers and sisters? I don’t know. Maybe they were simply inconspicuous brothers and sisters. In any case, they were included.
You see the same difference with the Lord’s disciples. Of some, we don’t know much because not much is said about them. Of others, we know much more because a lot is told about them. But there are disciples of whom we only know their names. What they did has been kept hidden from us. But God knows it and He doesn’t forget to appreciate their value.
God has His own way with every believer. It’s nice when something more can be said of you than your name alone, but this is not to make yourself more important. It must be clear that you’re driven by love for the Lord Jesus. You see this often with the names that Paul mentions. Often, something is added about the Lord Jesus. He was the motive for their labor.
I will only say something about some of the names. Think about the other ones for yourself. The first one mentioned is Phoebe, “our sister” (verse 1). Paul had a keen eye for the service of sisters. Of all the names he mentions, the first one is a sister’s. And more are mentioned in these verses. Phoebe must have been a special woman. She had served the believers in a practical way. Maybe she had received them in a hospitable way or maybe she made visits. Maybe she wrote encouraging letters. However it may have been, by her service she had assisted many. This means the things she did sustained and helped many to be strengthened. Paul had experienced this as a blessing.
Therefore he could commend her to the believers in Rome. When Phoebe came to them, they were to receive her in a worthy manner and to assist and sustain her. This is really a letter of commendation for Phoebe.
Then there was a couple which Paul especially brought to the attention to the believers in Rome. Her name was Priscilla and his name was Aquila (verse 3). The wife is mentioned first here. They are mentioned in the reverse order in other places in the Bible. If bearing responsibility or explaining the Word of God is in view, Aquila is mentioned first. And if a practical service within the family is in view, for which the wife primarily is responsible, Priscilla is mentioned first, as here. Paul had stayed with them (Acts 18:1-31After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth.2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them,3and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.). The rest of Acts 18 shows it was dangerous to have someone like Paul in your house. This couple had even risked their lives for him. Because of this, Paul was very grateful to them.
But the assemblies of the nations could also be grateful to them. For through their courage, the assemblies of the nations could continue to reap profit from Paul’s service. Likewise, when you’re doing something for a servant of the Lord, it is also a service to others who are served by this servant.
I want to end by pointing out the last part of verse 16. Paul not only asks the believers to greet his acquaintances, but he sends greetings from all who were connected with them: “All the churches of Christ greet you.” The church in Rome was linked with all the churches of Christ that existed in all sorts of places on earth. How good it is when this too is experienced. You know the church is very divided, outwardly. Is it still possible to experience the unity of the church? Yes, it is still possible. How can this be experienced? That’s what the next letter, the first letter to the Corinthians, is about.
Now read Romans 16:1-16 again.
Reflection: Send greetings to someone who hasn’t heard from you for a long time.