Lesson 56


The Epistle to the Romans

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

16:1 I commend to you Phoebe, our sister, who is a servant of the assembly that is at Cenchreae, 16:2 that you receive her in the Lord, in a way worthy of the saints, and that you assist her in whatever matter she may need from you, for she herself also has been a helper of many, and of my own self. 16:3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 16:4 who for my life, laid down their own necks; to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the assemblies of the Gentiles. 16:5 Greet the assembly that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first fruits of Achaia to Christ. 16:6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us. 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives and my fellow prisoners, who are notable among the apostles, who also have been in Christ before me.


Today's Lesson 

Paul uses this final chapter of the epistle as a letter of introduction. It introduces Phoebe, the woman who delivers the epistle and in a sense it re-introduces Paul to friends and acquaintances. Paul greets a series of people in these passages and also what seems to be a series of churches that apparently met in different homes. One of the first remarkable things that one notices when we read the first seven verses is the prominence of women in the early church.

 

Four of the first seven names that Paul acknowledges are prominent women in these churches: Phoebe, Prisca, Mary and Junias. Phoebe is apparently the woman who delivered this epistle. Prisca (or Priscilla) was a woman whom Paul had met in Corinth, along with her husband Aquila. They had been forced to leave Italy when Caesar had expelled the Jews from Rome. We know nothing more about Mary than what is written in verse 6. Junias is also a very interesting woman who is mentioned.

 

The mention of Andronicus and Junias has led to much speculation because of two variant meanings that can be taken from their description. Paul writes that they are relatives and "fellow prisoners" … and that they had been in Christ before him. But, the most interesting thing is that he writes that they are "notable among the apostles." This phrase can be taken in two ways. First, it could mean that the apostles, or primarily the Twelve Apostles, know of Andronicus and Junias and think highly of them. Second, it could also mean that Paul is including Andronicus and Junias in the expanding group of people that were called "apostles."

 

In the Acts of the Apostles two verses in chapter 14 include not only Paul under the name of "apostle" but also Barnabas (verses 4 & 14). There is other evidence independent of the scriptures that more than the initial Twelve and Paul were considered "apostles" by the early church. While it is more likely that Paul's meaning is the first of these two, the second meaning cannot be ruled out by a reasonable reading of the evidence.

 

In whichever case one takes the reading of Junias, a reading of the first seven verses of this chapter demonstrate that women were a vital part of the early church. This should not be a surprise when even today the attendance of women in churches far surpasses those of men. Women have been a faithful part of the church's history and will be until Christ brings to a close this age of the world.

 

Tomorrow we'll examine another interesting question of this chapter, notably, to what group of people is this chapter addressed? For the moment, let us remember the important women of the history of the church. Many times they have been forgotten and many times they have not been given the respect they deserved. Let us follow the example of Paul and Jesus who encouraged everyone to serve God to the full extent of the faith that they had been given.

 

If you had to write about all the people that you had worshipped with, what women would you greet as Paul did? And what would they say if they were writing about you?

 

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