More than personal Greetings
When reading through Romans it can be a temptation to skip quickly past the “Personal Greetings” section in chapter 16:1-16. It’s up there with the genealogies right? It’s just a bunch of names we can’t pronounce or read and will forget as soon as we are finished. We do this to our detriment though. There are some key things we can see in this passage that when seen can set the modern church on the course it has been designed to go on.
Remember that Paul is writing a letter to people in a place that he hadn’t been yet (Rom 1:10). Paul hadn’t been to Rome, and yet was writing a letter to a Christian community that was in Rome? This should cause us to ask the question “How did he know all these people so well?” Acts 18:1-4 perhaps gives us a clue as to how Paul was to know so many people in a place he hadn’t yet been. Priscilla and Aquilla (a couple mentioned in Pauls greetings in Rom 16:3-5) have come from Rome as tentmakers and bumped into Paul due to his practice of the same trade whilst he was in Corinth. Paul preached in the synagogues and no doubt was instrumental in Priscilla and Aquilla becoming people who knew and loved the Lord Jesus themselves and sought to share the gospel with others also. When we fast forward to the time Paul is writing the letter to the Romans, Priscilla and Aquilla have a church in their house in Rome. Put simply they were church planters! They took something Paul had helped them discover (the gospel) and brought it to a place that needed to hear it (Rome) and began gathering those who responded with faith in Jesus together (church planting). How many more of the 30 or so people greeted by Paul had ventured north to Rome had similar stories to Aquilla and Priscilla?
Gospel work is hard work.
The language in Romans 16:1-16 also gives us a glimpse as to the nature of spreading the gospel and planting churches. Numerous times throughout the greetings, Paul describes those he is greeting as, “fellow workers”, “hard workers”, “neck riskers”, “prisoners”. Church planting is hard work.
The great commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8) clearly shows that it is God’s intent that the message about his son and making of disciples is something that is to move and grow across the planet. It is not a task for some Christians, but for all Christians. It is to be the goals of churches who desire to be on God’s mission rather than their own. The true churches of God are not termination points for the gospel, but seek to transmit the gospel, make disciples and send Christians on to new places to plant and grow churches who think the same way. This is the testimony of God’s word and the picture history has been painting for thousands of years.
Two Questions to ask
In light of the above, two questions for you to keep close by are these.
How is your church here? – Consider, research, hear stories from the way your church arrived on the scene. It is part of a wonderful history and network of the gospel travelling across the globe. Understand your church fits into the mission and plan of God, and that’s why it arrived.
Why are you in your church? – Consider that you as a person in church must get involved in God’s mission to disciple others, know and share the gospel, and encouraging your church to be a planting church. You have a role to play in ensuring your church doesn’t become a termination point for the gospel, but rather aligns itself with the mission of God on the planet.
These are not small questions. One to understand your context in the mission of God and another to help you consider ways to continue in that mission. Think regularly and deeply enough about these and you may well find yourself aligned with the mission of the creator of the universe. A mission that will not fail. A mission that will not waste your time. A mission that counts eternally.