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Encouragement

Encouragement


It seems a lot of my attention lately has been on the topic of encouragement. That has been reflected in at least parts of quite a few recent messages as several mentions have been made about the Bible teaching us the importance of encouragement. The gift spiritual encouragement is for us. A gift we can share with others. The goal being that each of us will, together, grow spiritually, including in the area of joy.


In this message, the focus is once again on encouragement as we will consider some of the people who encouraged the apostle Paul in his Christian faith and his Christian ministry. People he listed in the 16th chapter of the New Testament Book of Romans.


The list is quite lengthy. There are about three dozen names in Romans 16. I think I have it designed to not get tedious, and there are some breaks built in. More on that later. But let’s consider each of the people listed in Romans 16, not only for the historical value, but also so we might have examples of what can be done to encourage others. As we go through the list, may each of us think about how people have encouraged us in any or all these ways and about how we have encouraged or can encourage others in any or all these ways. The hope is that we will encourage one another even more than we already are encouraging one another.


In Romans 16, a list of people, the first several of them in the congregation in Rome. It was that congregation to whom Paul wrote this chapter. A list of people who encouraged the apostle Paul


The list begins with Phoebe, who is described a number of ways. She is identified as being from Cenchreae. That was kind of a suburb of the major city of Corinth. She is identified as a sister. That refers to her being a spiritual sister. She was a fellow Christian. Notice the word “our.” She is identified as our sister. That was Paul’s way of making sure she felt part of the Christian family. 


And she is identified as a deaconess of the church in Cenchreae. She was in Rome at the time of this letter, but she had been a deaconess in Cenchreae, which means she had been kind of an assistant to the leader of the church in her former town. An assistant who handled things like charity, such as maybe visiting the sick or perhaps distributing food to the poor or sometimes offering hospitality.


Paul added that Phoebe had been a helper, not just for others in her own congregation, but for him as well. Maybe he had also enjoyed her hospitality. Perhaps she had helped him with various ministerial duties, including maybe with baptisms or Communion services. At least she had apparently offered him spiritual fellowship.


Phoebe was a fellow Christian. She was a great help to Paul and to other Christians. In those ways she was an encourager of Paul. Paul appreciated her encouragement enough to mention her in Romans 16, and he returned the favor by asking the Christians in Rome to help her.


Next on the list are Prisca - also known as Priscilla - and Aquila


We know from the Bible and elsewhere that at one time they had lived in Rome. We know they had been forced to leave Rome when the Roman emperor issued a decree that all Christians had to leave the city. We know they moved to Corinth.


It was in Corinth they met Paul, who, at that time, had to work to support his ministry. Paul’s work was tent making. That was the work Priscilla and Aquila did. When they met Paul, they invited him to work with them. They also invited him to stay with them, which he did until he felt the call to move to Ephesus to minister there.


When Paul moved, so did Priscilla and Aquila move, which means they continued to be encouragers of Paul. Even when it was dangerous for anyone to be associated with Paul, they remained supporters of him.


All that is wrapped up in Paul’s description. Priscilla and Aquila are identified as his fellow workers in Christ Jesus, now back in Rome, as two who risked their necks for his life, and as having a ministry that was beneficial for many churches. A benefit that included them hosting worship services in their home, first in Corinth, then in Ephesus, and now in Rome.


We know from the Book of Acts of someone else who had been helped by Priscilla and Aquila. One time they met a scholar named Apollos. He had some basic knowledge of the Christian faith, but they taught him so he could have a deeper understanding and a deeper faith.


Priscilla and Aquila were kind, generous, and willing to teach their faith. In those ways they encouraged Paul. He returned the favor by sending a greeting to them. They were not with Paul at that time, but he wanted them to know he still cared for them.

Paul also passed along greetings to the next one on the list. He was Epaenetus, described as beloved. That shows the Christian closeness Paul had with him. He is also described as the first convert for Christ in Asia.


Think how that encouraged Paul. The encouragement that his ministry was leading others to faith in Christ. That is an encouragement for any minister.


Greet Mary. She is next on the list. Paul was encouraged as he thought about how hard she worked among other believers. It is not recorded what work she did, but she did work hard. She apparently did her work well. That pleased Paul, not so much for whatever help he might have received, but to know there were others willing to also do the work of the Lord.


Andronicus and Junias are on the list. Paul wanted to greet them, too.


Listen to how they are described. Kinsman. The commentaries suggest maybe they were cousins of Paul. If that was the case, think how pleased Paul was that some of his blood relatives had joined him in the Christian faith. In fact, they are identified as being in Christ before Paul. That suggests they had become  believers in Jesus before Paul had been converted to the Christian faith. And fellow prisoners. They, like Paul was over and over again, had been confined because of their faith. That means they were able to understand Paul’s suffering more fully than others were able to understand. And this. They were men of note among the apostles.


Apostle was a very high title, usually reserved for those who had actually been with Jesus during the Lord’s ministry. Most certainly Andronicus and Junias had not been followers of the Lord during Jesus’ ministry, but now they were, and they had been sent out to tell the story of Jesus wherever they could go, as in not necessarily one particular congregation, but traveling from place to place. In that way, too, they had a good understanding of Paul’s suffering as he traveled so often.


Let’s pause for a moment to think about Phoebe, Priscilla and Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, and Andronicus and Junias. How they encouraged Paul by being fellow believers or companions or fellow workers or fellow sufferers. Who has encouraged you in any or all those ways? How can you encourage others in any or all those ways. For just a moment, think about spiritual encouragement you have received or that you can give.


THINK


Then come many more names of those Paul wanted to greet. There is just a little information about some of them. There is some conjecture about who some others were. Some will just be named because there is nothing recorded about what they did and I could not find any information about then.


Ampliatus. There is conjecture he might have been a slave. If that is so, consider what it teaches about equality in the early church. The idea a slave could be an important person. So important he is described as beloved by Paul.


Beloved in the Lord. How good it was that Ampliatus accepted Jesus as his Savior. How good that everyone else accepted him.


Urbanus and Stachys. Very little is known about them, except Urbanus is described as a fellow worker in Christ. Like others on the list, he was known and appreciated for his work for the cause of Jesus. Having such an avid fellow worker was an encouragement for Paul.


Stachys is described as another person who was beloved by Paul.


Apelles. Paul greeted him because he was approved in Christ. Approved refers to Apelles being known for his Christian knowledge and judgment, and that he had proved to be a good Christian friend, and that he had shown himself to have courage and constancy. He was someone who could be trusted.


The family of Aristobulus. Isn’t that interesting? Not Aristobulus himself, but his family - his household, which at that time included servants and slaves.


The family - the household - even the servants and slaves - of Aristobulus were greeted.


So, too, was “my kinsman” Herodion. Herodion might refer to being of the household of Herod. Kinsman means this may have been another extended family member of Paul.  


The family of Narcissus. It is thought Narcissus might have been the secretary of Emperor Claudius, which was a very important position because no message got to Claudius unless it went through Narcissus.


Unfortunately, Narcissus took unethical advantage of that position. He demanded bribes to get messages through.


Narcissus became very rich. However, when Claudius was murdered, Nero took over. Nero dealt with Narcissus in a very strong way. Soon Narcissus committed suicide. All his fortune and household, including his slaves, went to Nero, but apparently they were Christians. Apparently they were part of the church in Rome. Paul also greeted them.


Two more workers in the Lord are next on the list. Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Here again the meaning is that they worked hard, to the point of exhaustion. 


And get this. Tryphaena means dainty. Tryphosa means delicate. That did not hold them back. They worked very hard for the Lord’s cause.


Yet another one who worked hard was Persis. That was another one described as beloved by Paul.


Greet Rufus, eminent in the Lord. 


This is conjecture, but remember when Jesus was on his way to His crucifixion, He had trouble carrying His cross. Remember? Someone in the crowd was drafted to help Jesus. 


The one drafted was Simon of Cyrene, who was in Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover celebration. He had with him his two sons, one of whom was named Rufus. Could it be that Rufus and this Rufus are one in the same? If that is the case, it would prove that though the crucifixion was horrible, it convinced a boy that Jesus deserved to be followed.


Greet Rufus and also his mother and mine. Apparently Rufus’ mother had given great service to both her son and to Paul.


Then a whole lot of people are listed about whom there is little if any information I can find. Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brethren who are with them, and Philologus, Julia, Nereus, his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.


Let’s pause for a moment to think about all the people on the second list we have considered. How they encouraged Paul by being fellow believers or fellow workers. Willing to be those things despite whatever different classes or backgrounds they had. Even if they were, as in the case of the women, small of stature. Has anyone different from you ever encouraged you spiritually? How can you spiritually encourage despite any issues you have. For just a moment, think about spiritual encouragement you have received or can give.


THINK


There is a third section of names to be highlighted in this message, but first, let’s consider what is recorded between the second and third sections. It is the teaching that not all the people Paul knew were commended. In fact, some were condemned.


Who did Paul condemn? Those who created dissensions and difficulties in the Roman or any other church. Those who opposed true Christian doctrine.


In a recent message the point was made that this congregation is so good because we have so much peace. There are of course different opinions about various things. That is normal in any group of people. But very rarely have those differences ever devolved into arguing and dissension.


That is a good thing because Paul warned against people who create dissensions and difficulties. The warning includes the teaching to avoid such people, whose only purpose is to flatter and otherwise deceive the hearts of those who are unaware of what they are doing.


Do not associate with trouble makers. However, be close to those who are fellow believers or companions or fellow workers or fellow sufferers. 


Including Timothy, who for a long time was Paul’s right hand man.


By the way, this list is of people who were not in Rome, but who asked Paul to send their greetings to the Christians in Rome. Each one was important to Paul.


Timothy, “my fellow worker,” greets you. So did Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, also described as kinsmen, so perhaps more extended family members of Paul. Lucius was one of the leaders who sent Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys. Jason gave Paul hospitality in Thessalonica. He suffered for it at the hands of a mob, but he was glad to have served. Sosipater traveled with Paul with one part of the collection that had been taken for the Christians in Jerusalem.


Tertius is listed. He was the one who did the writing of this letter. He wrote what Paul dictated to him.


Gaius, described as one who offered hospitality to Paul and to others in the church.


Erastus, identified as a city treasurer. Remember the point earlier that a slave was accepted as a member and a worker in the early Christian church? Here is the opposite of the social scale. Erastus had an important position in a city. It was a trusted position. In the early church, both slaves and important officials of cities worshiped and served. What a wonderfully effective way of accepting everyone.


And finally, our brother Quartus greets you.


One more time let’s pause for a moment, this time to think about the people on the third list. How they encouraged Paul by being fellow believers or fellow workers, willing to be those things even if they were of a high position in society. What fellow believers or fellow workers of either high or low position or in between have encouraged you spiritually? How have you or can you spiritually encourage someone else? For a moment think about encouragement in the ways just listed.


THINK


One more request. Find someone with whom you can share something encouraging. Something spiritually encouraging. Maybe that you are praying for them or tell them what you see in them that makes you know he or she is a fellow believer or fellow worker. Share with someone something that is spiritually encouraging. Let that someone share some encouragement with you.


Today’s closing song is the hymn Blest Be the Tie That Binds. We will sing verses 1 through 3.


Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like to that above.


Before our Father’s throne

We pour our ardent prayers;

Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,

Our comforts and our cares.


We share each other’s woes,

Each other’s burdens bear;

And often for each other flows

The sympathizing tear.


Today’s benediction is verse 4. Let’s read it together.


From sorrow, toil, pain, and sins 

We shall one day be free.

Perfect love and joy shall reign

Through all eternity.


Amen.