This is the longest ending among all of Paul’s letters because he wanted to include so many different people. He didn’t just mention the powerful and important in worldly measures, but all kinds of people. Some of those to whom he sends greetings are Greeks, some Romans, some Jewish. Some of those he names were slaves—including many civil servants working for the Roman government—and some were free. Some were very wealthy and some were poor. He mentions Rufus, probably the same Rufus mentioned in Mark 15:21 because his father carried the cross of Jesus. Some of these Paul knew by reputation and some he knew personally. The cooperation of these Christians and their churches would lead new Christians in Spain to give thanks for them all. Paul didn’t write Romans to be a major treatise on theology, but to make it possible to bring the gospel to the ungodly barbarians of Spain. Listen in as Paul sends some final instructions and these many greetings to the Christians in Rome.
- Others may come to bring division, but the Spirit brings unity for the mission.
- Paul said that others may come to bring division to Rome, but that he was seeking their unity for the mission to Spain. Thus in the midst of this conclusion Paul warns the Christians in Rome to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the teachings of the apostles. This suggests that such troublemakers are not in Rome at the time, thankfully, but Paul seeks for the Christians in Rome to avoid them and by contrast welcome Phoebe and greet one another. Phoebe was the one who carried this letter to the churches in Rome. She was a deacon – a leader in a congregation near Corinth – and a woman of substantial means. She was wealthy enough to be the patron of Paul and many others. Thus welcoming Phoebe will not create a financial hardship for these house churches in Rome. Yet they are to welcome Phoebe in order to help her secure everything Paul was going to need for the mission to Spain including helping her find translators and government connections. Tertius, who wrote down this letter to the Christians in Rome, was a Christian scribe likely working for Phoebe who would have been skilled in reading the letter aloud in the churches. So the churches in Rome were not to uncritically receive all who came to them saying they are Christians, but definitely to welcome Phoebe and Tertius so that Paul will be able to be refreshed when he visits Rome before heading on to Spain. Moreover, the Christians in Rome – regardless of their personal opinions about a great many things indifferent – were to greet one another. They were to collaborate together to see that this mission be a success.
- Still today there are those to avoid who would bring division and seek to add something to Jesus to be saved, but we are to warmly greet one another. I’m not talking about the passing of the peace when you extend the right hand of fellowship to fellow forgiven brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m talking about greeting one another warmly before and after church, greeting one another during the week, and warmly greeting Christians who attend another church. Paul says to greet one another with a holy kiss – by which he means the custom of kissing off the cheek that is still done in many parts of the world today. Probably the best equivalent today in our cultural setting is hugging – though for some it is a handshake. That is, we are to greet one another in some way that is a step above saying hi. You may have different preferences about various things, you may not see eye to eye about certain opinions, but you greet one another just as you have been welcomed by Christ. I’m not telling you what to do, I’m just describing what God does through you. (After all, others may come to bring division, but the Spirit brings unity for the mission.)
- The mission is to take the gospel of righteousness by faith in Jesus to the nations.
- The gospel going to the nations to bring about the obedience of faith has always been the plan, but now they are to bring it about for Spain. Others may want to dismiss the message of Romans as Paul’s gospel, but Paul embraces it. It is his gospel – it is the same message as the preaching of Jesus Christ – it is the same message as found in the Old Testament Prophets. The one who is righteous-by-faith-in-Jesus will live. This message was veiled in the Old Testament – it was there but it was there like a mystery. Now this message was unveiled in the preaching of Jesus Christ – the mystery is revealed. Thus it has been said that Romans is the picture on the box so that you know how to put the Old Testament together right. Romans makes it clear for all to see that keeping the Law of Moses will not make you righteous, but that the righteousness of God is by faith in Jesus. This message has been made known to all nations – the people of Spain, Rome, Macedonia, Greece, Achaia, Syria and the rest of the nations. These ungodly peoples did not need to become Jews in order to be saved but rather salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. Faith or trust in Jesus was always the plan to save the world, but now these Christians in Rome had the opportunity to participate in a big way in bringing that about for the ungodly barbarians of Spain.
- Now we cannot help Paul to be the first missionary to plant churches in Spain, but our mission remains the same: to take the gospel of righteousness by faith in Jesus to the nations. You can only take what you have yourself received and faith comes by hearing so hear this: Jesus Christ came into the world to save you, an ungodly sinner – He forgives you your sins and God counts you as righteous for Jesus’ sake and now believing this good news you have something to share. Today we are commissioning those who will be leaving for the mission trip on Friday morning. You have supported us financially to be able to do so—but much more importantly to those who are going—your presence at those fundraisers has shown support for the people who will be taking this journey. They wanted to know that they have the whole church behind them and continue to hope that you will lift them up in your prayers. One reason for doing a commissioning is that those who are going are not doing so alone but all of you who are not going are supporting and encouraging them for this work of taking the gospel of righteousness by faith in Jesus to the nations. Indeed, they who have been called to go represent in this work you who stay. Therefore, may we together rejoice as God reveals the message that was concealed in the Prophets to people from many nations. For some it may be the first time they have ever heard of God’s amazing grace and for some others it may be the first time they really understand the good news. For us may it be a time when we are strengthened as we share Paul’s gospel and the preaching of Jesus. Glory be to the only wise God through Jesus Christ! Amen.