Great in the Kingdom of God

Romans 16:1-16

16 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.

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.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

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.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the churches of Christ send greetings.



This is the longest list of names not in a genealogy in the Bible. 27 names and other groups attached to churches. Paul is wanting to have people connected! Anyway, we don’t know who most of these people were. Most of them are only mentioned here. We don’t know them, but Paul does. And Paul does because he is involved in ministry and they are involved in ministry.


When we think of great people in the NT other than Jesus we might think of the Apostles or James. But Paul rarely mentions them. These are the folks who are working with Paul. They are like Mary and Martha or the other women who served Jesus. And they are performing great service in the Kingdom of God. As such they serve as a model for us in our striving to serve Christ and others.


  1. Greatness in God’s Kingdom is Found in Humble Service


  1. Humble service

Matthew 23 spoken in rebuke to the Pharisees.

        11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.



We talked last week about the character qualities of goodness, knowledge and humility being foundational in our being folks who help others follow Jesus.


And we talked about how Paul invites people to participate in ministry with him through their prayers. In our passage today, I would say the most common refrain is that the people “worked hard.” So, we serve through prayer and hard work!


That’s not always the way things are in ministry!

Jesus’ Disciples argue about which of them will be the greatest. James and John’s mom ask Jesus to let one of their kids sit on His right and one on the left in heaven.


  1. A simple approach to service




Jesus’ approach is much simpler. There are many places of greatness in the Kingdom of heaven, not just at His right and left hand. And each of us can fit into a place of greatness.

Just do it!

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Like a child in what way? Silliness? Foolishness?

  1. Happy to be here and be a part of this. Not an expert!
  2. Accepting others openly. Not prejudiced or condemning.
  3. Cooperation in play. Considerate of the needs of others.

Phil 2:3-4



  1. Character vs. Production


When we see what these folks did, there is no comparison to what Paul has done. But, each of them is important to Paul and their contribution to Paul’s ministry creates a ministry.


Tryphena and Tryphosa are probably slave names according to the commentaries. They work hard in the Lord.


We are losing sight of this in our culture, especially in public service. If folks serve for selfishly then there are many more opportunities for conflict and jealousy. But if we just serve from the heart because we are called to serve, then there is no need for recognition. That comes from God. There is no need to have one’s way. We can be simple in our service!



  1. What did These People Do?

        Phoebe: Benefactor of many people. She is a deaconess at the   church at Cenchreae. She is the one who delivers the letter to    the Romans

Benefactor: Prostatis is the Greek word which can mean: to care for, give aid to, and or direct and preside over. (Patron or         Benefactor)

Priscilla and Aquila: Co-workers with Paul. They are the most   famous on the list. Apostles, disciple makers, they have a church     in their home. They taught Apollos to balance his teaching. Truly       early church pioneers and leaders.

Epenetus: the very first convert to Christ in Asia! (Not an area    of service.)

Mary: She worked very hard for you.

Andronicus and Junia: Believers before Paul was. They are       apostles too. Outstanding among the apostles. Been in prison   with Paul. Junia is most likely a woman’s name. And if it is, it is       probable that they are a married couple.

Ampliatus: A dear friend of Paul.

Urbanus: Co-worker

Stachys: Dear friend

Apelles: Faithful to Christ in suffering

Aristobulus: Household greeting

Herodion: A fellow Jew (I can see Paul mentioning fellow Jew to support the Jews who are not going to want to do some normal        Gentile things. Or maybe so the people will recognize their     emphasis on love and acceptance in their submission.

Narcissus: Household greeting.

Tryphena and Tryphosa: Work hard in the Lord (probably         slaves)

Persis: a dear friend who is a woman who works hard

Rufus: a fellow believer, possibly the son of Simon of Cyrene!

Rufus’ mom: a woman who was a mother to Paul.

Ten more mentioned by name, and others alluded to. No work    or service mentioned.


  1. They did hard work: Women mentioned under this heading. Perhaps hard work was all that they had to give. If you        give it, then it is meaningful service!


  1. Co-workers with Paul: Priscilla and Aquila, Andronicus and Junia, Urbanus and Phoebe (Benefactor, deaconess and the   mailman)


  1. People who give fellowship! Dear friends of Paul:   Ampliatus, Stachys, Persis, Rufus and Rufus’ mom who mothered Paul.

Special mention: The first convert in Asia: Epenetus

No work mentioned at all, just greet them: This is the longest list. Ten names and two households.



III. A Word about Women in Ministry

Of the 27 people greeted or commended, 10 are women. And at least four are slaves, probably many more. And at least three are       wealthy as well as household church families.


  1. Jesus breaks down barriers of access

Cultural, religious and educational. But not barriers of sex.           Men and women are different genetically and hormonally. For    that matter, within the sexes women are different from women      and men from men. Serena Williams, the most powerful and talented women’s tennis player of all time was asked about      competing against college men’s tennis players. She said she         would lose handily. This does not diminish her greatness.

Galatians 3: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Think of the temple: Gentile Court, women’s court, Jewish men’s court, Holy Place and Most holy place. The Holy Spirit now fills the temple of the individual.


  1. The Holy Spirit is the real power

Women are gifted as men are. Women are educated as men are now. Women have different life experiences that are valuable to   share. Women are filled by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:17-18. 17 “‘In the last days, God says,  I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy,   your young men will see visions,   your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,  I will pour out my Spirit in those days,   and they will prophesy.


I think there will always be a need for women to teach women     and for men to teach men about some issues. Our experiences,       hormones and perspectives are different on some things.   (Women and men are much more alike than they are different.)     But women and men are still very different.) Pregnancy,        childbirth, nursing and raising kids is different for men and         women. Men are physically stronger than women. We probably    ought to take advantage of that.


  1. Serving as Elders in the church?

I Tim 2: 11-15, Husband of one wife.

Family roles move over into the church.

Gifts and roles are not the same thing.