We are required to listen to God’s messengers

The Apostle Paul was not a proud person. He was humble. He was aware that he had failed, and committed many sins. Yet God chose him to be an “apostle” that is a “sent one,” one of God’s original messengers tasked with preaching the truth of the gospel to others. Paul did not chose this role for himself, it is a role that God gave him. Paul was first a blasphemer of Jesus Christ and a murderer of Christians before God changed his heart, and sent him all over the Mediterranean coast lands preaching the good news. This is what Paul says about himself:

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (Galatians 1:1).

Paul’s role as preacher of the gospel was not something that he chose for himself. It is a role that Jesus Christ and God the Father gave him, the same God who raised Jesus from the dead. Therefore, since Paul himself was commissioned by God, his message was one that everyone is required to listen to. It was not a message he invented, rather it is one that was given to him by God (Galatians 1:11-12). So it is not for the hearer to decide based on his personally preference whether or not to obey this gospel: it is his responsibility to obey it.

God will judge all of us by the gospel once we hear it. God has sent many people since the days of the Apostle Paul to declare the truth of the gospel: that Jesus died for your sins and that you can be forgiven of them if you believe in Him and repent. But many people chose not to believe the gospel. They reject it because they just don’t like it, or because they have a personal grudge against the preacher they heard it from. But these are not legitimate reasons. Their is only one true gospel, vouched by the Word of God, and all hearers are responsible for obeying it.

 

The Gospel Message Reveals the Greatness of God

Let us close our study of Romans by briefly unpacking Paul’s benediction:

Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from[f] faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)

Paul begins his closing by giving praise to God, the only one who has the power to establish us in the gospel. We are not established as believers by our own intellect or natural goodness, but by the power of God working through the Holy Spirit which He puts inside of us. The gospel is a mystery about Jesus Christ that was kept hidden for long ages past. This mystery, is the mystery of how all sinners, including the especially immoral Gentiles, can be reconciled to God. This mystery has now been revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God. It has now been revealed to us that atonement is possible only through the blood of Jesus Christ. God promises to forgive the sins of those who repent and believe in Jesus alone for salvation. Now that this truth has been revealed, it is possible that all Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes through faith. Of course, we know that not all Gentiles individually will submit to and obey God, but there will be some from every nation and tribe of the Gentiles (Revelation 7:9, 21:26). So now even today there are at least tens of millions of Gentiles who are true believers in Jesus Christ. This fact causes us to give praise the only wise God to whom be glory forever through Jesus Christ. God must be honored for His wisdom, power, and great mercy to us sinners. We are greatly indebted to Him for sending His Son to die for our sins. AMEN!

The Will Be True Peace When God Crushes Satan

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:20 NIV)

Satan, the Devil, is a very powerful force in our world. He convinces people to sin against God and each other, which results in war, divorce, murder, and hatred. Even those of us who are true Christians have to fight constantly against the temptation to sin. Sometimes we lose these battles: Christians do sin. Nevertheless, our eventually victory is guaranteed. We serve a God of peace who is more powerful than Satan. This God, the creator of the universe, will one day destroy Satan so completely, that he will no longer be able to tempt us to sin. It will no longer take effort to do what is right, it will be automatic. Some day in the future those of us who are true believers in Jesus Christ will be resurrected from the dead to an eternal relationship with God in the new heavens and new Earth. There will be no sin or death there. We will no longer be plagued by selfish lusts: we will be able to serve God and fellowship with each other faithfully in perfect peace without hatred.

Obedient Christians Are Not Naive Christians

A Christian is someone who is obedient to God. We are different from others in contemporary culture, in that others relish their independence from God, whereas we relish our dependance on God. We reject the philosophy of Frank Sinatra’s famous song “I Did It My Way,” and instead strive to do things God’s way. We do what God tells us to do.

But at the same time we must not be naive and gullible. Just because we are gentle and patient does not mean that we should believe everything that preachers tell us. Just because someone invokes the name of God does not mean that he is a follower of God. The Bible warns us to avoid troublesome preachers who “cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned” who “by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18). Rather, we need to practice obedience without naivete as the Apostle Paul reminded the Roman church:

Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. (Romans 16:19 NIV).

Therefore, even though we are obedient to God we must be discerning. Our obedience must not be mindless: we must learn to tell the difference between the will of God and the will of man. We must study the Word of God to become experts of righteousness, becoming wise about what is good. But we must not be experts at sin, since this would require us to commit sin. We must be innocent about what is evil. We must know just enough about sin to know how to avoid it. Becoming wise in what is good will teach us enough to learn how to avoid evil.

Troublemakers In The Church Are Slaves To Their Own Selfish Desires

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own [i]appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. (Romans 16:17-18 NIV)

Be wary of those in the church who are always tearing people down and destroying friendships. These people are not servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, but on the contrary, are slaves of their own appetites. No matter what they may say, or how much Scripture they quote, they are not concerned with furthering the cause of the gospel: they only care about their own careers. By their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. Yes, they are capable of saying nice things about people, but only as part of their agenda to advance their own career. They will not tell you the hard truth about yourself when you need to hear it, but watch out, because they will turn on you in an instant and slander you behind your back! These people should not be tolerated. They are a danger to the church.

Keep A Watchful Eye On Trouble Makers In Your Church

As Christians we are supposed to be forgiving and loving to all people, especially towards other Christians. Nevertheless, we are not to be naive. Even though we love all people we need to be aware of the fact that some so-called Christians are simply trouble-makers, and they need to be kept in check. The Apostle Paul warns us not to let our guard down:

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. (Romans 16:17 NIV).

Believers need to be loving and unified. Unfortunately, though, there are some so-called Christians that will undermine Christian unity and brotherly love every chance they get. They may seem persuasive and friendly, but they cause dissensions and hindrances. These people should not be tolerated in the church, because this kind of disunifieing behavior is contrary to the teaching of the gospel. True Christians who display the fruit of the spirit are gentle, forgiving, patient, faithful, and joyful (Galatians 5:22-23). But those who display hatred, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, jealousy,and dissensions, are living contrary to the working of the Holy Spirit: they are manifesting the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). These troublemakers should not be tolerated in the church, no matter their credentials or how orthodox their doctrine might seem. We need to turn away from them until they repent. We should not tolerate them after they have already caused damage and viciously attack other believers. By giving them the right hand of fellowship we would only be giving them another chance to do more damage to God’s church. These people need to be rebuked and avoided.

Those Who Serve The Cause Of The Gospel Faithfully should be respected and honored by other Christians

Many American Christians are constantly complaining about things that happen in church. Rather than supporting and praying for those who work hard to serve them, they are constantly complaining about and exaggerating every single mistake the pastor, the deacons, the elders, or the missionaries make. But rather than constantly criticizing, we should respect and honor those who work hard for us and serve the cause of the gospel faithfully. In the book of Romans Paul lists some of those by names whom he considers worthy of honor, both men and women:

Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among[d] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.

Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.

Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew.

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 other brothers and sisters with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them. (Romans 16:6-15)

Sometimes Christians need to risk their lives for each other–literally

The Book of Romans records that one time the Apostle Paul’s life was apparently saved by his friends Priscilla and Aquila who risked their lives for him:

Greet Priscilla[c] and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Greet also the church that meets at their house (Romans 16:4-5)

This selfless act by these two devout Christians gives us a practical measure of how much concern and care we should have for other believers. Sometimes it is appropriate for us to literally risk our lives for each other. I know believers who have felt called, for instance, to go and disciple churches in areas where it is illegal to be a Christian, where they might get killed by angry Muslim neighbors. Such actual killings happen all the time in the middle east and north Africa and other places. Sometimes believers need to be willing to reflect the love of Christ by literally dying for each other.

I do not claim to have enough love to do this, but I should. I pray that Christ will fill me up with what ever love I am lacking.

Phoebe was a female servant of the church, worthy of financial assistance

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. (Romans 16:1-2 NIV).

In this letter we learn of a woman named Phoebe, who was a friend of the Apostle Paul, apparently traveling with the party that brought his letter to the church at Rome. Paul calls her our sister because she is a fellow believer in Jesus Christ. She was a deacon from the church in Cenchreae. The word “deacon” means helper. I do not know if she was a formal “deacon” in her local church (there is some debate about whether or not women can be deacons according to Scripture) or if she was a “helper” in a more generic, unofficial capacity. Whatever her assistance was, it was significant enough for Paul to publicly praise her for it. He reminded the Roman church to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people. Furthermore, they were encouraged to give her any help she may need from you because she has been the benefactor of many people including the Apostle Paul Himself. The implication here is that she is worthy even of financial assistance, should she have the need of it. Perhaps Paul was writing this letter know that she was having trouble affording the expense of the trip, or she had some physical ailments that required her to seek assistance from others.

I think the point that we need to take away from this passage is that God’s faithful servants are worthy of all kinds of assistance, including financial assistance, regardless of their official post in the church. As a woman she was barred from holding the highest offices in the church and from being a public speaker in a church service. But that does not mean that her ministry was any less important than that of the men, nor was she less deserving of financial assistance. Today we need to remember to be helpful to all servants of the church, even the ones without official titles. Sometimes it is appropriate and necessary to give money to some who are not on the official church staff.

God Answered Paul’s Prayer In His Own Way

As Christians, we are constantly conscious of the fact that God has the final say over whether or not the plans we have for our own lives will pan out or not. The Apostle Paul realized this, which is why he asked the Roman Christians to pray for his travel plans. He personally wanted to visit Rome after first accompanying a relief expedition to Judea:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there,32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen. (Romans 15:30-33 NIV)

Paul asked for assistance in prayer from the Roman Christians that they join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. As Christians we need to care not only about our own plans, but the plans of others, and pray for each other. Particularly Paul asked that they pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there. Paul was concerned about two things happening in Jerusalem: 1, that the unbelievers would kill him so that he would never get a chance to visit Rome, and 2, that trouble makers among the Jewish Christians would try to have him rejected by the Jerusalem church. We find from the book of Acts that later when Paul visited Judea he did indeed face trouble from both unbelievers and certain Jewish believers in the church. The first group indeed tried to kill him, (Acts 21:31, 23:12), and the second group tried to discredit him (Acts 21:21).

God did indeed answer the prayers of Paul and the Roman Christians by keeping Paul safe from both groups of people. But God did it in His own way, using great trials and difficult circumstances to accomplish his will. Paul was not killed, but he was imprisoned unjustly for several years, which inevitably helped to improve his standing against the critics in the Jerusalem church. It became obvious to all the believers there that Paul’s faith was genuine. As for Paul’s desire to go to Rome, God granted this too, but he used Paul’s imprisonment to accomplish this. Paul came to Rome as a prisoner, to stand trial. This proved that Paul’s desire to go to Rome was also God’s plan for him, since he was brought there by circumstances that were clearly out of his control. What we can learn from this passage is that God is a great God who can and does give us the things we pray for (if He chooses to), but he does not always do it in the way that we imagine. The ways of God are not the ways of men.

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