We are God’s co-workers
Romans 16:1-23 (Pastor Heo)
16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 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. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 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. 6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 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. 8 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12 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. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. 17 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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. 22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 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.
There were three workers, doing the same thing at the same time, in the same place. But there was a big difference in their attitude / interpretation of what they were doing. Like this : What is YOUR approaching attitude / interpretation of what you’re doing today? What is your interpretation of your job?
Remember: Your own interpretation of your job can make it more meaningful and exciting, or more boring and meaningless to you.
We all have jobs, but what is important = what your own interpretation of your job.
Today is almost the last part of Romans.
Yes, we know Rome was the capital of the empire at that time, just like Jerusalem was the religious center, Rome was the political and economic center of the world. Therefore, it was filled with many internationals – and had potential for great things, or great conflict.
Here, Paul has greeted 26 people by name – and 2 unnamed people. He greeted churches and closed his greetings with the names of 9 people who were with him in Corinth.
These people were varied in their background – male / female, educated / uneducated, rich / poor. So, what is the similarity? They were all Paul’s friends – he was a soul-winner as well as a friend-maker. They were all important to his ministry. Let’s look at a few of them today.
#1 Phoebe (fee – bee)
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 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.”
She was a member and deaconess in Cenchrea. According to Acts 18:18, Cenchrea was the place where Paul had his hair cut off as part of a vow he had taken. She delivered this letter to the saints in Rome.
Yes, we know at that time, the Bible was not published in one single volume as we have today. At that time, they were collected in scrolls. This book Romans was probably a very large scroll. So, we must thank Phoebe for her help and prayer and financial support. That’s why her name is first.
#2 Priscilla and Aquila
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.”
Maybe we are familiar with these names. They were a married couple (maybe the lady’s name is first here). Their names appear in the Bible 7 times:
- Acts 4x
- Romans 1x
- 1 Corinthians 1x
- 1 Timothy 1x
All the time, their names appear together. Even today, this couple are used sometimes (many times) as a good model of a good Christian couple. They were a business couple – tent-makers like Paul. We can guess they were rich.
At first, they were living in Rome (the center of the world at that time). But because of the order of Emperor Claudius, they were expelled from Rome, so they moved to Corinth. There, they met Paul while he was on his second missionary journey. They invited Paul to live with them for a long time, and they became very faithful co-workers with Paul for a long time.
They moved several times after that: Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, etc
Wherever they went, their home became a center of Christian fellowship and service. They opened their home and hearts as a mission base.
Yes, we know in this world there are many institutes – but you know, there are only 2 institutes that GOD himself established.
God’s ideal plan for these is:
- Home = small church
- Church = big home
Do you believe your home is a church? (Big encouragement).
Home should be like church. Church should be like a home.
- Church is the place where Jesus dwells as Savior, Lord, Master, King, and God.
Here is a list of 5 questions to determine the state of your home (is it a church?):
- Is your home a place where Jesus Christ is recognized, confessed, and proclaimed as Head, Savior, Lord, King, and God?
- Are all members of your home Christians? (At least the couple – husband and wife)
- Is there regular worship, prayer, Bible reading and study together in your home?
- Is your home full of partnership, fellowship, friendship and sharing in / by / for Christ?
- Is your home open to others – even the lost – for sharing, offering, providing, evangelizing?
If your answer is “YES” to these questions, then God bless your home as a church. And, if not, God bless your home to BECOME a church.
Let’s see 2 lessons from this greeting story of Paul.
Lesson #1 We must be IN Christ Jesus
“I must be in Christ Jesus.”
“I am in Christ Jesus.”
In this text, there are 11x repeated “in Christ” or “in the Lord.”
- v. 2 “…receive her in the Lord…”
- v. 3 “…in Christ Jesus.”
- v. 7 “…they were in Christ before I was.”
- v. 8 “… whom I love in the Lord”
- v. 9 “…our fellow worker in Christ”
- v. 10 “… approved in Christ”
- v. 11 ” who are in the Lord”
- v. 12 ” who work hard in the Lord” (x 2)
- v. 13 “…chosen in the Lord…”
- v. 22 “…greet you in the Lord.”
“In the Lord” is the HEART of Paul’s theology.
- What is NOT in Christ?
- What IS in Christ?
- there is no condemnation, no obligation, no fear, no judgment, no penalty, no punishment, no wrath of God
- there is forgiveness of sins, redemption, deliverance, salvation, freedom, peace, joy, justification, righteousness, holiness, victory, glorification, glory
(2 Cor 5:7 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new Creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”)
“In Christ, everything is NEW.”
New position, standing, faith, life.
Practically, what does “in Christ” mean?
- Meeting Jesus Christ personally, individually, accepting him as Savior and Lord, being united with him in his death and resurrection “Jesus death is mine, his resurrection is mine.” (Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ…”)
- Dwelling, staying, remaining IN him and having continual relationship and fellowship with him through prayer, commitment, and full obedience to him (is there this in your life?)
- Knowing Jesus more and making him known by testifying and witnessing to others (is there this in your life?)
- Becoming more and more continually like Christ in our character, attitudes, purpose, mindset, lifestyle (“Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” – 2 Cor 13:5 “Examine yourselves to see whether you are IN Christ Jesus…”)
Students are very familiar with examinations. EXAMINE yourself – test yourself. “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you, unless you fail the test?”
Lesson #2: If we are IN Christ, we should be God’s workers
We should do God’s work.
Yes, we work and do something all the time. The question is, are you doing your work or God’s work?
Several times we can see “work” or “workers” repeated:
- v. 3 “my fellow workers”
- v. 6 “worked”
- v. 9 “fellow worker”
- v. 12 “work hard, work very hard”
- v. 21 “Timothy, my fellow worker”
- v. 23 “public works”
If we are in Christ, we should do God’s work. We must be God’s workers (co-workers with each other). God is doing his work through his workers – through all ages. In OT, NT time, and until now, God is doing his work through his workers.
Matt 9 “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord of the Harvest to send workers out into his harvest field.”
Since the beginning of the world, in redemptive history, God did his work through his workers.
- The ark – Noah
- Feeding the world – Joseph
- Delivering people from Egypt – Moses
- Felling down the enemy, Goliath – David
- Speaking his word – Prophets
- Saving the lost – you (and other evangelists)
Yes, Paul was a great man of faith – but he wasn’t a “super man” who did everything himself. He needed co-workers – to provide prayer, financial, emotional support.
He was a friend-maker in the Lord, and partner-maker in the Lord.
Also repeated is “greet” 18x (nearly every verse) and “greeting” 4x.
Church is the body of God, community of believers. It is not simply an organization of people – but it is an organism – with many cells in one body. We need partnership, friendship, loving, support for each other.
- I need your prayer support, friendship.
- We all need support from each other.
I’m sure there is SOMETHING you can do – you can make some kind of contribution to make the church the house of God – for maturity and growth and fellowship.
Christian greeting is much more than “hi” and shaking hands. It is welcoming, sharing, and blessing. Especially BLESSING – and feeling and sharing others’ problems and sadness and failure and success, as my own. (Empathy)
Greeting is BLESSING.
Bless as many as possible, as long as you live in this world – greet and bless as many as possible.
Let us take individual time to pray.
Examine yourselves whether you are in Christ or not.