In the last chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul says hello to a lot of people in the Roman church by name (Romans 16:3-16). For example:
“Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
If you’re like me, then you don’t recognize any of those names and don’t even know how to pronounce them. But that’s okay. Nobody really knows who they are, because they were just good, normal, ordinary people.
I recently read this blog post from a Baptist minister and writer in northwest London. He brought to light some fun things we can learn from this church directory in Romans:
1. The church is people, not buildings. At this point in history there was no such thing as a Christian church building. In verse 5, Paul mentioned the church “meets at the house of Priscilla and Aquila.” Think of how intimate and personal that would be, compared to the mega-church auditoriums today, filled with multi-colored lights and expensive sound systems.
2. The church was quite small. But think of the foundation they set and the legacy they left. Most churches today are small too, and we must resist discouragement if our numbers are lower than what we want. God can do great things from tiny beginnings.
3. The church was a community of workers. Read over those verses of greetings, and notice the number of times Paul refers to people “working hard.” That’s because truly serving Christ and his church involves sweat and toil, rolled up sleeves and perseverance. The church isn’t simply a social gathering with religious trimmings. You get what you put into it.
4. There is strong affection and love. People have “risked their lives” for one another. They are “dear friends.” Rufus’s mother (v. 13) has also “been a mother to” Paul too. They gave hugs and kisses to greet each other. This isn’t a group of acquaintances who shake hands on Sunday mornings, give a minute of polite conversation, and then head home. They share their lives together.
That’s a great example for us to follow. Think of the blessings we can experience when we act like that warm little church in Rome.
So value the church. Love one another. Give of yourself gladly and be a worker. Then maybe our legacy will last 2,000 years too!