Word from Scotland
by Sandy Shaw
We come to Romans Chapter 16 . Consider what Paul has been writing about in these Chapters - the centralities of The Christian Faith - Israel and the place of Israel in the plan of God - the importance of presenting your body - and being totally committed to Jesus Christ - how we can know the Will of God - love - blessing - living at peace with those around you - respecting those over us - paying taxes - owe no man anything except love - be clothed with Jesus Christ - accept, welcome and receive one another - if you are mature in Christ bear the weaknesses of those who may not yet be as mature as you are - get encouragement from The Scriptures - may God fill you with joy and peace so that you can overflow with The Holy Spirit - and pray for me.
Such riches – these cannot be found anywhere else – only in Christ Jesus.
Paul wanted others to be part of the ministry - sharing in the ministry, through prayer.
How do you follow that? Paul begins to greet those in the fellowship in Rome.
At first sight this looks just like a list of names - and yet it is part of The Word of God - and no part of The Word of God is insignificant - every part is important.
Some have asked over the years - “Why did God allow these apparently superficial verses to be among the theology - and these very practical instructions which are so essential for our spiritual well-being and maturity?”
These verses actually have something very important to say to us. In The Creed we say - “I believe in the Communion of saints”. The Christian Church is people - known and unknown. This is not just a lot of names - this is a roll-call of Christian friends in the fellowship.
It is an expression of the command - to love one another. If you had lived in Rome - and had been a member of the Roman Fellowship - would your name have been recorded among these faithful saints?
Paul is dealing with 4things here -
1 – Someone who is travelling to Rome.
2 – People who are already in Rome and whom he wants to be greeted on his behalf.
3 – But - don’t welcome everyone - sometimes our Christian welcome can be too wide - and too tolerant.
4 – And – Paul issues a stern warning.
It is not simply a list of names with greetings. Christian letters always have a greeting - they are different from other letters - just as we are different from other people.
The person carrying this letter of Paul’s to Rome was a woman. The Christian Faith lifts womanhood to her rightful place - “I commend” - and what a precious parchment Phoebe is carrying.
Confucianism teaches that women are only just to be tolerated. They are only necessary for the prolongation of the human race. To continue mankind.
Buddhism teaches that woman has no soul - unless she happens to be born into the next life as a man. Brahmins regard women as degraded creatures - and will stop reading the Hindu writings when a woman passes by.
Moslem - If a woman gets to heaven it will be because she has married and has become a man’s servant - and will squeeze into heaven as his servant.
Now - read Paul in the light of all this. Paul gives a woman a high place.
From the very beginning - the Christian Faith has given the highest of places to women - only the Christian Church has done this.
Of course - women have different function - but they each have various roles to play - but in Christ there is an equality of honour and place and status.
Phoebe - she has a Greek and a Gentile name - this is the name of the moon goddess worshipped in Greece. Now - she is a deaconess.
Cenchrea was from the dock area of Corinth - this was where all the immorality was - had she been saved from all that? Or had she done rescue work there? She is a sister in Christ - she is related to you by faith. Greet her as a sister in the Lord.
Phoebe was a wealthy woman - and had a social standing - she was a patroness - a helper - a succourer - someone who will care for another when no-one else will. She was the sort of woman who helped and ministered in all sorts of ways - hospitality - care in times of sickness - refuge in danger - financial support. She ministered to many - and also to me. Personal testimony is important.
Paul knew - Paul took note - Paul is able to commend. Paul paid attention to all the little details which so mattered. Paul noticed and comments upon those qualities.
Do you see how this is beginning to be an expression of love?
Phoebe had done a lot - now you do a lot for her. Receive her - welcome her. What a loss it would have been if she had not faithfully carried and delivered this letter to these disciples!
“Almighty Father – not only do we take time to worship and praise You – but we take time and make time to pray for others – for friends and neighbours – for our family members – for those who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ – for those who are serving in the front line of the Kingdom of God where it might be more difficult and dangerous and challenging – and we pray for our own lives and witness wherever we work and serve – in Jesus Name. Amen.”
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Alexander 'Sandy' Shaw is pastor of Nairn Christian Fellowship in Nairn, Scotland. Nairn is 17 miles east of Inverness - on the Moray Firth Coast - not far from the Loch Ness Monster!
Gifted as a Biblical teacher, Sandy is firmly committed to making sure that his teachings are firmly grounded in the Word.
Sandy has a weekly radio talk which can be heard via the Internet on Saturday at 11:40am, New Orleans time, at wsho.com.
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