Greetings, Part 2
Romans 1:1 introduces Paul as the author. It says:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, (Romans 1:1 ESV)
In brief, as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, Paul has influenced the Church throughout the centuries. We owe a lot to his work and his faith. He worked harder than all the other apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9-10), and he was used by God to clarify much of New Testament doctrine. However, Paul did not work alone. Many people supported, encouraged and upheld him both physically and spiritually.
In chapter 16, as he closes his letter, Paul introduces us to some of these people. Many more remain anonymous, but from the few named here, we can gain insight into the love, devotion and passion shared by these early believers.
First, in verses 3 through 5 of Romans 16, we meet Priscilla and Aquila. Paul calls them Prisca and Aquila. Priscilla is a less formal, warmer version of the name.
This little difference in naming people shows up between Luke and Paul. When Luke names people, he tends to favor a less formal form of their name where Paul tends to stick to the more formal names. For example, in Acts, Luke names Silas as a companion of Paul. In his letters, Paul calls him Sylvanus. My grandfather’s name was Timothy, but people called him Tim. My name is Joseph, but people call me Joe. The same kind of thing is going on in the differences in names used by Luke in his history and Paul in his letters.
Paul speaks warmly of Prisca and Aquila, and he had spent some time with them. Paul was warm and emotional. For example, in Acts 20, Luke tells us Paul hugged and kissed the elders of Ephesus, and Paul often speaks of interceding for churches with tears. Therefore, I do not think it is from over formality or stiffness that Paul uses a more formal form of peoples’ names. I think it was from humility and respect. Even when Paul wrote to correct and rebuke, such as in his Corinthian letters, we see that Paul did not want to put himself above another or to pull his “Apostle card” (To use his position as an Apostle to try and force compliance to his wishes). He preferred to appeal to them as brothers. It is this kind of humility that is reflected in his tendency to speak of and address others with respect.
Of Prisca and Aquila, Paul says that they are his fellow workers. This means that as lay people and tentmakers they worked together with Paul in and for the cause of Christ. We also note that they had a church in their house wherever they went. And, they went.
We meet Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18.
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. (Acts 18:1-3 ESV)
This is where we learn that Priscilla and Aquila and Paul are all tentmakers by trade. We also see that Priscilla and Aquila were originally from Rome, but were cast out of Rome by Emperor Claudius. So, we meet them in Corinth when Paul first went there. Perhaps it was in the persecution against Paul and the Church that started there when Priscilla and Aquila risked their lives for Paul.
We next find Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he wrote from Ephesus, and in that letter chapter 16, verse 18 he says:
The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 16:19 ESV)
Of course, having been part of the starting of the church in Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila were well known to the body there. Notice also that the church in their house sends greetings as well. So, we can see that not only have Priscilla and Aquila moved, but they have started a church in their house.
At the time Paul wrote Romans, Priscilla and Aquila are back in Rome, and again they have a church in their house. I don’t know if you notice a pattern here, so I will point it out. Wherever they went, they had a church in their house.
When Paul was at the end of his life and writing to his beloved Timothy, who was in Ephesus, he says:
Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. (2 Timothy 4:19 ESV)
This brought tears to my eyes. Paul is writing at what he knows is the end. He has said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith...” (2 Timothy 4:7, NASB) And, almost his final words, “Greet Prisca and Aquila.” How dear! How precious they must have been to him. Notice, though, the significance of their location. They have moved from Rome back to Ephesus. They started out in Rome, moved to Corinth, moved to Ephesus, moved back to Rome and then moved back to Ephesus. Most of their moves, we assume, were due to persecution. These people who risked their lives for Paul also risked their lives for the gospel.
Next, Paul greets Epaenetus, who is notable for being the first convert to Christ in Asia. This Asia is not modern Asia. This Asia is the province of Rome where Ephesus was located and located in what is now called Turkey. Epaenetus was the first of many people who came to Christ in that area and was, therefore, cause for much joy and rejoicing both in heaven and in Paul’s heart.
We do not know much about Mary other than that she was a hard worker. She reminds me of Jesus’ friend Martha, always working. We all know dear souls like Mary, ladies who work tirelessly for the benefit of others.
In verse 7 of Romans 16, Paul greets Andronicus and Junia. Now, some translations have Junia, and some have Junias, Junia being a feminine name and Junias being masculine. To be fair, there is no way to determine which is right. However, I prefer to think of them as a missionary couple. The ESV text says, “They are well known to the apostles.” The NASB is a more literal translation when it says, “who are outstanding among the apostles.”
Apostle is the Greek word for messenger. The twelve were the messengers specially chosen by Jesus. The Church also has messengers. We call them missionaries, but the early church called them apostles without confusing them with the 12. Andronicus and Junia were outstanding among the apostles, not the 12, but among those missionaries sent out by the Church. Paul and Barnabas were not the only ones sent out. They were just the first ones sent out. Andronicus and Junia obviously were zealous workers because they, like Paul, spent time in prison for the cause of Christ.
It is also interesting to note that Paul says they were in Christ before him. We all know that Paul was a violent persecutor of the Church before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Notice, Paul calls them his kinsmen. The normal meaning of this word would mean that they were his relations: cousins, aunts, uncles - that kind of relation. The word could mean countrymen, but that would not be the first meaning one would go to. The main objection to them being relatives I ran across in my reading is that some authors did not find it likely that Paul would have that many relatives in Rome. But, this is an arbitrary argument to think that we would know how many relatives he may or may not have had in Rome. On the contrary, I find it consistent with the way the Lord works that relatives that Paul would have once persecuted are now greeted as being “outstanding among the apostles” and “in Christ before me.”
In verse 8 of Romans 16, Paul says:
“Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.”
Paul had called Epaenetus beloved, now he is calling Ampliatus beloved. Paul did not have any problem telling people he loved them. Ampliatus is interesting for another reason. Ampliatus was a slave name. Slave names were not used by free men. There may be no connection, but John MacArthur in his message on this passage says:
And there is a cemetery at Domatia, the earliest of the Christian catacombs. One of the most fascinating things I've ever done is to wander through the catacombs of Rome. They were the burial place of Christians in the first century. And the oldest of those, the earliest of the catacombs is at Domatia. And in that early catacomb there is a very decorated tomb and on that decorated tomb is this large name Ampliatus, which is quite interesting, because single names were unique. A Roman nobleman or a Roman free man would have three names, but a slave would only have one name. And Ampliatus was a slave. The fact that at his burial, if it be the same Ampliatus, he is given a large and rather decorated tomb and his name is placed there for all to see, indicates in comparison with the other burial places in the catacomb that he was set apart as high ranking in the church, which is a wonderful insight because what it tells us is that while the world may have ranked people according to their economic status, the church didn't do that. And a slave could rise in the church of Jesus Christ to a place of recognized prominence to be given unique honor in his burial. It may well have been that in the church in many cases and in many places slaves were actually the elders teaching their own owners the Word of God.
All these people that Paul names were special to him, and had a part in spreading the gospel.
As part of the opening of his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul says:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. (Romans 1:8 ESV)
Please notice that Paul says he gives thanks for “ALL OF YOU.”
The warmth and closeness, as well as the shared work and impact of their lives, show the character of the early Church. The Church is a body and the ties that these Christians shared with each other reflect that reality. Paul did not do what he did alone. He deeply loved and had strong emotional ties to these people. We are their spiritual descendants and owe them a debt of gratitude for their sacrifice and service for our Lord Jesus Christ.
We too will leave a legacy, a heritage for our spiritual children.
What will our legacy look like?
These words of the Apostle Paul come to mind:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)