Phoebe, a Servant of the Church in Cenchrea—Romans 16:1-2

"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me" (Romans 16:1-2)

I always get excited when I read about women in the Bible or see a women mentioned in the scriptures such as Phoebe. Not much detail is given about her nor is she mentioned anywhere else except in this final chapter in Romans. But she will always be remembered as the person who delivered Paul's epistle to the believers at Rome.

What an amazing task this must have been. Travel was not easy nor safe, but she was given this great letter and sent to deliver it. With it came a personal recommendation from Paul, this tells us a lot about this lady. Paul told them that she was a servant of the church in Cenchrea and many assume that she might have been a deaconess or minister there. The word for servant, translated from the Greek means attendant and is used elsewhere to denote a Christian teacher, pastor, deacon or deaconess. However the word was also used in the case of a servant or someone who did errands as a slave. Whether or not Phoebe was a deaconess or servant one truth remains, she was a great help to the many people.

Paul instructed this church to help her out in whatever means necessary as she also helped others. This is an important truth that illustrators the principal of reaping what you sow. Just knowing that she helped and ministered to others in their time of need would empower the Romans to assist her while in Rome and on her journey. This is why Paul mentioned it. He instructed them that she had been a great help to others and even himself, so in the same way they should assist her when possible. Jesus said, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" ( Luke 6:38 ). This is one of the key principal how the Kingdom of God works, we will reap what we sow. So in helping others, others will be more likely to help us. Paul is advocating that Phoebe has earned their help and respect by the help she had given him.

The same holds true for us today, we are more likely to assist those who willingly help us and vica versa. Like Phoebe were are servants of Jesus and ministers to His church. We are tasks with helping and caring for our brothers and sisters when there is a need. Today, I pray that you become aware of those needs and step in and help when possible. Just like Phoebe, you will be remembered for your servants heart and for caring and ministering to the saints of God. May this truth bless you today as you walk in it!

Christ, the Common Bond that Brings People Together—Romans 16:3-16

"Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 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. All the churches of Christ send greetings" (Romans 16:3-16)

Who cares about the laundry list of people Paul is thanking? What application does it have for us today? This seems to be a common question that arises when getting to the close of a book of the Bible. In fact, in many small group settings, a large sigh is heard when chosen to read over the list of names, hoping to pronounce them right and wondering why it matters that it is read at all.

As I ponder over these names of countless individuals that helped and ministered with the Apostle Paul these phrases stand out, "fellow workersin Christ Jesus", "They risked their lives for me," "all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them", "worked very hard for you", "They are outstanding among the apostles", "tested and approved in Christ". These are among the few attributes that Paul gives them when instructing the Romans to accept and greet them in the Lord. They obviously come very highly recommended by Paul and deserve a moment for us to ponder as well.

These men and women helped spread the gospel and preserve the written instructions of Paul in the early push of Christianity. Where would we be without these people risking their lives to share the good news of Christ Jesus? What they did was amazing and unbelievable. They evangelized the known world at that time in thirty years. What Paul said about them is true, not only for the believers in Rome but for us as well. They did work very hard for us, they were outstanding among the apostles, they are tested and approved in Christ! As we read about them we should be grateful that these men and women risked their lives for Christ so that we could know him 2000 years later.

What a great testament to know that what you are doing now could affect someone outside of your time and influence. These people had no idea of their impact in the world, they just loved the Lord and spread His good news. We can do the same. We can live a changed life by our relationship with Jesus. Not worrying about the things we do or don't do, but living in the moment with the Holy Spirit as our guide and teacher. If we listen to His direction and follow His leading then we, like these men and women, can bless the body of Christ and encourage each other in Lord, not realizing its impact on others.

Protect Yourself from Deception—Romans 16:17-18

"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people" (Romans 16:17-18)

Think back over all of the amazing truths that Paul has shared in the book of Romans. No wonder that he is issuing a warning to the believers to hold fast to the truth they know and protect it at all costs. From past experience Paul knew that others would come in after him with smooth talk and flowery speeches in hopes of causing division and confusion among the church.

His warning was against false doctrine. This is anything contrary to the teachings that they had learned from Paul. He doesn't encourage them to discuss or persuade those individuals, he tells them to have nothing to do with them. This is because deception is a most subtle form of trickery which can, in many cases, even if only slightly alter your course in life.

Turning from the truth even a little can completely change where you end up. Falling prey to deception will keep you from being free, keep you in the dark and hold you there. However, Jesus said that it is the truth you know that will make you free and shortly before that statement he gave the key to the truth, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" ( John 8:31-32 ). Staying in the Word, seeking understanding and applying these truths will protect your heart from those who mean to deceive you.

Our responsibility is to guard and protect the truth we know. We need to keep to the teachings we have learned from the Apostle Paul and the book of Romans. This book is a wonderful exhortation of grace, freedom from the Law, freedom from our sin nature and how to walk by the Spirit of God. It is essential for the health of the believer. This is the starting point to understanding how Christ has made us free and has rescued us from the power of sin and death. If this amazing truth can be stolen away from being rooted and established in our hearts then we will not experience the freedom Christ purchased for us. This is why Paul said to watch out and keep away from anything contrary to the truth he wrote.

What a great reminder for us today to compare everything we hear and read with the Word of God. If we stay plugged in to the truth then we cannot easily be fooled and deceived. As an added benefit we will reap all the rewards of the wonderful truth found inside. Knowing these things will make us free to live for Jesus in a powerful and effective way!

Be Wise about What Is Good, Innocent about what is Evil—Romans 16:19-20

"Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you" (Romans 16:19-20)

God never intended for us to know about evil. In the beginning He made the universe, the world, all living things and mankind. Then He called it good. Evil, sin and corruption never entered the picture until Eve was deceived by Satan. He used her curiosity about evil to trick her into thinking she would be better off if she knew what evil was. The result was disastrous for mankind. As Adam and Eve partook in the tree that God commanded them not to eat of, their eyes were open to the knowledge of good and evil. The rest is history, the result was the universe and everything within it had a working knowledge that both good and evil existed, and we were not the better for it.

In today's passage Paul is giving a wonderful key to living the Christian life. We are to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. He is saying the best defense against sin and corruption is a good offense. We are to be wise and knowledgeable about what is good. Meaning we should know good and live that way. In the same way we are to be innocent or guileless to evil. In other words, we should stay away from it, having nothing to do with it.

We live our lives out of the convictions of our heart. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he (man) thinketh in his heart, so is he" meaning that what you do and say comes from the true thoughts and philosophies rooted and established in your heart and thought process. When it comes down to it, whatever you value and believe is how you will act. To benefit from this truth, we are to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil. We cannot be tempted with things we don't think, dwell on or know about. Therefore, don't think about evil things, or go looking for them. Rather be innocent concerning them, and then you will not struggle with those things.

The counter to this is to think about good, plant it in your heart and it will become evident in your lives as your mind renews to those things. The question becomes, what is the good that we should be thinking on? Paul said in Colossians, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" ( Colossians 3:1-3 ). This is the key to amazing transformation in Christ. Merely think on the things of God and be consumed with them and they will overflow in the way you live your life.

Paul is giving great instruction for us today. So much evil exists in this world, but we can be confident in this truth that Jesus spoke over two thousand years ago, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ( John 16:33 ). Knowing the goodness of God brings us peace and crushes Satan and the evil that means to destroy us. Jesus has overcome and through faith in Him, we too have overcome. Being wise to what is good will expedite this victory in your daily live.

Participates in the Gospel of Jesus—Romans 16:21-24

"Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.  I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city's director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. [May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen] (Romans 16:21-24)

Except for Timothy, not much detail is given about these men that Paul shared his life with. Several accounts of people with these names are found in the book of Acts, it is possible that these are one and the same. If this is true then it paints a wonderful picture of how the apostle Paul ministered. He would surround himself with converts to Christianity and disciple them in the Lord for several years.

Although we do not have much account of their lives we do know that Timothy was in charge of the church at Ephesus after his time with the apostle. Paul saw to it that he was trained and equipped for the task at hand. After their time learning from Paul these men went on to big things making a difference for the kingdom of God.

Another interesting piece of information that most people do not realize is that Paul dictated this letter to Tertius. He is actually the one who physically penned this letter as Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, instructed him on the words to write.

What is amazing about these few verses is that it shows the participation in the gospel of Jesus. Once these men came to know the Lord, most likely through Paul, they left everything they had to pursue it. I'm sure they left homes and families to be trained and equipped by Paul. Even though we just have a record of their names, these men were great examples of faith that will always be remembered every time this book of Romans is read.

Today, may you take encouragement from these words as you also make a difference for Christ in your homes, work places and spheres of influences. Remembering that the difference you make is eternal and like these men, not limited to your time here on earth. What you are remembered for can make a lasting impression for the years to come.

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Juli Camarin

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