It is only appropriate that Paul concludes this letter with people, those who have been changed by the power of the gospel. The church was and is established, formed, and strengthened by the gospel.
All the churches send you greetings.Romans 16:16b
We find 25 names here in the concluding chapter—17 men, 8 women, two unnamed women and two households.
The first name, Phoebe, is a sister disciple. She was most likely the one who carried the letter to the Roman Church. She was a “patron” who supported the church with her time and resources. We need more and more of these sister disciples in the church today.
The Universal Church
The universal church, then like today, consists of members scattered in different places in the world. But they have one thing in common: The gospel—Christ as Lord, Savior and head over all.
If you traveled to Japan, Korea, Europe, Russia, South America, Canada, and even in the uttermost parts of Africa, you will find the universal church. Every member is near and dear to the Lord. As if, with one voice, we worship the Lord.
We are reminded here that there should be no strangers in the family of God. We are all sons and daughters of One Father, and no longer daughters and sons of the world. The Gospel makes a difference.
Paul lists names here of those in his generation impacted by the power of the gospel. Each one of them distinguished themselves in service to the Lord and the church.
Is Rufus, the son of Simon—the one who was ordered to carry the cross of Jesus that day? Was his mother, Simon’s wife. I don’t know. But it’s a good possibility, considering that Mark 15:21 describes Simon as the father of Alexander and Rufus. There’s no doubt in my mind that that day made a marked difference in his life and his family. The difference was eternal.
The Roman Church was asked to recognize them for their faithfulness and greet them as faithful followers of Christ.
Are All in the Universal Church?
Sadly, not all who call themselves Christian are members of the universal church. In name only, they join the people of the Lord and try to fit in. But Christ knows who are His and those who have cultivated a relationship with Him. He knows those who wholeheartedly trust Him.
As not all who say, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, not all who sit in the pews are faithful.
Paul remembers a good number of names here, they are beloved one, spiritual children and members of the universal church.
The Lord has given Paul a warm and kind heart for those who have come alongside him in spreading the good news. He remembers each by name, form, history, condition, and character. He loved them enough to mention them here at the end of this letter.
How Will the World Know Us?
The world will know us by our love as we carry the good news to the world around us. If we live the “with-God” life, then we carry the fragrance of Christ. The power of the gospel changed our lives, giving us a godly character foreign to unbelievers. We are courteous to one another and caring. Tenderness in our actions and gentle speech are more than skin deep.
Paul reminds us to send our greetings to members of the universal church. Remember those persecuted in ways we will never understand. Remember those who are fighting the good fight against false prophets and false teachers. Love those who love the Lord—it’s a matter of the heart, not race, gender, or political association.
Paul also reminds us to pay respect and care for our spiritual brothers and sisters.
Authentic versus Counterfeit
Knowing the authentic as well as the counterfeit is obvious: Pricilla (Prisca) and Aquila were Paul’s fellow workers in Christ and tentmakers as well. They are recorded for their faithfulness in the book of Acts (Acts 18). They even established and maintained a church family in their home. Furthermore, they reflected true friendship, fellowship, and love wherever they went.
The church is not some closed, exclusive society, but a family. A place that takes away loneliness and protects from temptation—a place of the gospel. Open door, open hand, and open heart are signs of the Christian life and reflect on the local, Christ-centered church.
The truth is that most of these named people and those hearing this letter read would most likely end in a martyred death. They are a part of the great cloud of witnesses. The message of the gospel did not, and dare I say, could not die with them!
But before Paul concludes this letter, he once more warns the church against contention that might slip in unaware. Anything like false teaching and dissension are dangerous to the church—hurts the spreading of the gospel.
An ancient truth is not so old that it’s wrong. The way does not change with the passage of time, it always leads to the heart of God. Christ is and always will be the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Him.
The gospel has continuity with Hebrew Scripture, but it was not fully understood until God manifested it in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. The gospel strengthens believers and produces active faith. God brings glory to Himself forever through the gospel of Christ Jesus. He, as evidence in the life of every authentic Christian, a profound change and confident witness.
The Gospel Doesn’t Change
The gospel offered to the first century church is the same as for today. I disagree that you might be the only Bible some read today. I believe that as you live the “with-God” life, you will carry His fragrance. Such a fragrance will draw them near to you, and you can show them the gospel—the power of the Holy Spirit to save souls.
When Christ came, something powerful and unique happened—eternity invaded time and God emerged on earth. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. History – His story has been written ever since on the hearts and minds of true believers in the past and today.
You Have Been Changed by the Gospel
This is the gospel that tells us that God makes us ready for heaven and makes us right in God’s eyes when we place our faith and trust in Christ alone to save us. The one who finds life will find it through trusting God.
Because of this gospel, you have confidence in this: Your name is written in the book of life, you are numbered among the faithful, and can say undoubtedly in your soul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel!”
Now as we close this book and move on to another, let us read the final doxology with joy and praise to our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.
“I commit you to God, who is able to make you strong and steady in the Lord, just as the Gospel says, and just as I have told you. This is God’s plan for salvation for you Gentiles, kept secret from the beginning of time. But now as the prophets foretold and as God commands, this message is being preached everywhere, so that people all around the world will have faith in Christ and obey Him. To God, who alone is wise, be the glory forever through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Romans 16:25-27 TLB.