That List of Names

What do you do when you come to sections of Scripture filled with strange-sounding names, chapters like Romans 16? Because those portions of the Bible often contain very little action or instruction, we may be prone to skim over them without a lot of thought given to them (or even skip them entirely), but may I suggest that they are often a lot richer than we might think. Grab your Bible, read Romans 16, and then consider a few things we might get out of it.

“I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea…; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also” (16:1-2). Why is Phoebe mentioned in the Bible? She served! Too often we are looking for others to do for us, when, instead, we should be seeking ways to serve and help others. We don’t know much about this woman from Cenchrea, but we do know she had grasped the lesson Jesus sought to teach in Matthew 20:25-28. “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ ”

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life…” (16:3-4). Do we have the faith, courage, and dedication to risk our lives for the sake of our fellow-saints? In this country you may not ever have to put your neck on the line, but you could very well be called on to put a job promotion or a friendship at risk in standing for Christ. And to truly stand with Christ we must sometimes stand with His servants when it is not the popular or “safe” thing to do, but reading of these tent-makers and their courage should help strengthen us and enable to stick our necks out for Jesus and those who are His.

“Greet Mary….Andronicus and Junia….Amplias….Urbanus…Stachys ….Apelles….those who are of the household of Aristobulus….Herodion…. Narcissus….Tryphena and Tryphosa….Persis….Rufus…and his mother and mine….Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them….Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.” (16:6-15). As the apostle goes through this long list of people, several of whom are described as having labored in the Lord, note the mixture of male and female. In both the home and the church a distinction is made in the roles of men and women as it relates to authority and leadership (1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7), but though the roles are different, there is work for both and the work of both is important and to be appreciated. Ladies, don’t allow the restrictions placed on your role to become an excuse for doing nothing. And men, be like Paul and appreciate those women who labor in the Lord. We all need to realize you don’t have to be in authority to be invaluable. And let’s all strive to do a better job of being like Paul in expressing our appreciation for others.

“I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord” (16:22). While I wouldn’t think any special talent was required to be the penman (or as the studied like to say, the amanuensis) for the apostle, it has sometimes been said that the jobs anyone could do are too often the jobs no one does. (While I realize there were some who could not write, there were plenty in the first century who could.) And while I have no idea how Tertius came to be the penman of Romans, I’m certainly glad someone stepped up and did the job. The next time we see something that needs to be done, if we can, let’s go ahead and take care of it and not assume someone else will do it. When I find myself saying, “I wish someone would…,” it’s probably time to see if that someone is not staring back at me when I look in the mirror.

Romans 16 and other similar passages will never have the excitement of David and Goliath or Gideon and his three hundred and no man wants to have to read those names publicly, but I hope we all slow down the next time we come to a list like this and realize there is a reason we are told about a woman who served, a couple who risked their lives, folks who labored much, Paul’s host, and all the others. Male and female, tentmakers and city treasurers, let’s be faithful workers in the kingdom of God and friends to all who serve the Lord.

All quotes from the New King James Version, copyright 1995, Thomas Nelson, Inc.