“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ
and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me
in your prayers to God on my behalf,”
Many of us enjoy a good movie, and some of you may even hang around to read the closing credits to learn the names of the supporting cast. We may look for familiar names of people and places that helped make the movie great. In Romans Chapter 16, the Apostle Paul brings a final greeting that names those who partnered with him in laboring in the gospel. No doubt the book of Romans is a favorite to many of us and those named here played a part in bringing us such a great book. Doctrines such as justification by faith (1:16-4:25; 9:30-10:21), God’s sovereignty in salvation (9:1-11:36), and the gospel of grace that calls us to personal holiness (12:1-13:14) are vital themes in Romans. So in this closing chapter, why does Paul take the time to recognize those mentioned here in chapter 16?
When I was was in high school, my dad advised me to surround myself with good people. He said you would be associated with the people you hung around with, whether good or bad. Granted, Jesus was known for going into the houses of sinners, but this was in keeping with his calling to bring sinners to repentance. I’m so glad he did because by grace alone I’m called into fellowship with Christ as a sinner now saved by grace. Paul’s purpose here is recognizing his “gospel coalition” of men and women who labored hard with him in the gospel. Not only does Paul mention them by name; but he also exhorts them in how they supported him in ministry. He does this in such a way that I can’t help believe these people were very close to him and probably recognized by the church in Rome as well.
Paul recognized the importance of working with a team. In his pastoral epistles to Timothy (1 Tim. 3) and Titus (Titus 1), he instructs them to set in a team of leaders (in this case elders) to shepherd the church. The importance of leading with a team has several benefits. First, it sets up accountability within the team (Titus 1:10). Second, it allows the team to benefit from different gifting and experiences (1 Cor. 12:4-11), and thirdly it allows the team to encourage one another and build one another up in the faith (1 Thes. 5:11-15). Serving within a team structure brings out the best in us. We see this in all areas of service whether it is a team of doctors, military, police or emergency workers. In short, serious work is best supported by a team!
In Romans 16:17, Paul warns the church to watch out for those who cause divisions, serving their own “appetites” (people who tear down the unity the gospel provides for the interest of serving themselves). Paul said to avoid such people for they do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 16:18).
Hats off to this team of gospel laborers that ministered and supported Paul. God used this united team to help Paul bring us this incredible epistle.