날짜: 2018년 6월 24일
올리브연합감리교회 김배선 목사
20180624 Sunday Worship Sermon
Romans 16:1-16 “Working Together”
Thanks to your prayers, I’ve safely returned after attending the annual conference.
Today, we read chapter 16 of the Book of Romans.
Romans chapter 16 is the final message from Paul as he concludes the Book of Romans.
It is possible you may have felt that today’s scripture reading was a little long and difficult.
Some of you may have wondered why we had to read all the unfamiliar and difficult names to pronounce.
Yes, today’s scripture mentions many names.
I would invite all of you to contemplate what God wants us to realize through today’s scripture.
Above all, the most important message in today's text is that God's work is never done alone.
Today’s text is telling us the story of cooperation; the beauty of cooperation and how precious it is to bear the work of God together.
The important aspect of God's work is that we cannot do it alone.
It may seem that God chooses a special person to complete His work, but God does not only use this one special person.
God will send someone to team up and assist to achieve God’s mission.
God’s work cannot be completed alone; it must be done together.
If you buy a heavy and large household appliance, there is a warning label affixed on the box.
You will usually see a written or picture warning that alerts you that the box must be carried by multiple people.
You will see a warning statement like “Do not lift or move without assistance.”
Accomplishing God’s work is the same.
Imagine God’s mission, which is nicely packaged up in a box.
On this package, you will see a warning statement that says you will need to work with others as this mission cannot be carried out by one person.
This is God’s guidance to all of us, which should not be ignored.
Why do you think Jesus picked 12 disciples?
Did Jesus really need their assistance to carry out God’s mission on earth?
Jesus could have done everything without anyone’s assistance as He is all so powerful and His ability knows no limits.
However, Jesus selected 12 people to work with Him.
Did Jesus require their assistance?
Did Jesus look for their cooperation because He was lacking?
Did Jesus accept their help because He couldn’t do it alone?
Of course not!
Jesus wanted to demonstrate to us that God’s work is not to be carried out alone.
He wants us to realize that we must cooperate when carrying out our Godly tasks.
This is a valuable lesson for all of us.
Paul wanted to remind us of this very important lesson.
What image pops up in your head when you try to visualize the Apostle Paul?
You may have an image of very strong, perfect, and uncompromising soldier of God.
Paul appears to be a hero who travels throughout Asia and Europe spreading the gospel and erecting churches.
He appears to be someone with a special ability who can accomplish things that ordinary people cannot.
Yes, Paul with his immense knowledge, passion, courage, and ability was definitely the person who could easily complete any undertaking by himself.
But today’s text completely shatters such image of Paul.
Today’s text tells us that Paul was able to accomplish so much not because he worked alone, but he was assisted by many partners in faith.
Paul wrote many letters to different churches.
In every letter, he listed everyone that assisted him.
As he listed the names of those who supported him, he would not just stop at mentioning their names.
He would often outline their accomplishments and sometimes ask the church members to treat them well.
And he would often conclude his letters by stating, “I am truly thankful to have the associates who can cooperate with me.”
There are numerous names of Paul’s associates in today’s text.
In chapter 16, there are 37 names.
Paul mentions everyone, who helped him with devotion, thanking one by one.
I would like to take a look at these people individually.
First, in verse 1, Paul mentions a woman named, “Phoebe.”
We can assume that she was a church member in the church located in Corinth.
Paul mentioned that this woman not only assisted him, but also helped other believers.
At the time, Christianity was not an accepted religion.
In this situation, Paul, who was spreading the gospel, needed someone to help him, and that person was Phoebe.
Also, during this time period, it couldn’t have been easy for a woman to assist Paul.
Supporting Paul posed a great danger and risk.
Nonetheless, she helped and worked with Paul.
“…she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.”
The work of the early church was made possible by this kind of people who helped God's work despite risks and dangers associated with it.
This is the same for our church.
I am convinced that our church was established and arrived at this point because of someone’s effort, sacrifice, help, and cooperation.
Who else assisted Paul?
Let’s take a look at verses 3 and 4:
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”
Prisca and Aquila were a married couple.
In Act chapter 18, they are being described as people who fled from Rome and joined up with Paul due to persecution.
Prisca and Aquila contributed to Paul’s three mission trips and helped in the establishment of many churches, which bore countless fruits.
If you read the Book of Act, you will see the names of Prisca and Aquila being mentioned throughout the book.
They left with Paul when he was expelled.
When Paul decided to travel to a location, they would travel before him to make necessary preparations for his arrival.
Because they cooperated and worked with Paul, Paul was able to carry out God’s mission.
Even in our church, we see that certain parts of our ministry are more active than others, and often, this is so because of someone with devotion willing to make sacrifices.
There are people who come to the church earlier than others and leave the church later than others.
There are people who pray with tears for others.
There are people who continue to work hard with unwavering dedication despite obstacles.
No one asked these people to devote so much; they just sacrifice themselves as they love the church and Jesus so much.
As a result, God’s work comes to life.
I hope that this blessing will come to you as well.
I hope you can be those who can cooperate in carrying out God’s work.
Let’s continue to verse 5.
“Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ.”
Epaenetus was Paul’s first fruit of his ministry.
He represents someone who lives as Paul’s first convert, serving and working hard to become a model for others.
As we work together on God’s work, it is critical to live our lives setting good examples for others to emulate.
If we cannot, it will be impossible to continue to cooperate with others in the accomplishment of God’s mission and it will surely become an obstacle on the path prepared by God.
Let’s continue to verse 6.
“Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you.”
Mary was a common name, and as such, it is difficult to discern who this woman is.
However, one thing can be certain.
Although she had a common name, there was nothing common about her.
It is clear that everyone in the early church knew her very well.
Everyone knew that she served others with dedication.
That is why Paul describes her as someone who worked very hard.
There are people like Mary around us.
We know who these people are.
These are the people who eagerly serve others and constantly pray for everyone.
I pray that such people are sitting here today.
Moving onto verse 7.
“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.”
Two names, Andronicus and Junia, appear in this verse.
They helped Paul in numerous occasions.
They were related to Paul, but that is not why they were mentioned in the Book of Romans.
They were imprisoned with Paul, they were tortured with Paul, and they were humiliated with Paul.
The things that they have done represent the true cooperation.
Today, churches are not capable because we do not cooperate.
We do not share pain and suffering.
If we just come to the church to worship, what power can we have and what changes can we expect?
How can we transform the world with such passive faith that does not allow Jesus to intimately enter into our lives?
We can only realize the beautiful work of God only when we are willing to pray together and share our pain and agony with others.
That is the image of true cooperation.
Let’s continue to verse 8.
“Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.”
Ampliatus is known as a slave who became a Christian.
Although he was a slave, he became a church member and he worked with others; that is truly amazing.
Anyone can become a God’s fellow worker; widows, couples, Greeks, Romans, and slaves can become God’s fellow workers.
When these people come together, this group becomes a church.
And this church will carry out God’s work.
Let’s take a look at verses 9 and 10.
“Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus.”
The name Urbanus is a slave name.
Also, Apelles was a Jew and it appears he had a lot of trials and hardships in his life.
Because he was able to overcome these trials and hardships, he was accepted by the community.
Aristobulus was a member of the Herod family.
It is amazing that someone from the family well known for King Herod’s brutality and wickedness became a believer of Jesus.
Let’s look at verse 11.
“Greet my relative Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus.”
Herodion is associated with the family of Herod and Narcissus was a famous slave who was freed by Emperor Gladius.
Yes, these people also assisted and worked with Paul.
Now, verse 12.
“Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.”
It is most likely that Tryphaena and Tryphosa were sisters.
These sisters dedicated their lives to God’s work.
Persis also cooperated with Paul.
Let’s take a look at verse 13.
“Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother—a mother to me also.”
This Rufus is an interesting person.
In the gospel of Mark chapter 15, it is said,
“it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.”
It was Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry the cross that Jesus was carrying.
Rufus is the son of Simon who became a good worker in the early church.
Now, verse 14.
“Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them.”
Except for Phlegon, all these names are slave names.
It appears that this group was comprised of former slaves.
Despite their origin, they worked hard toward God’s work as God’s fellow workers and saved people.
A church is not where only educated and well-to-do people congregate.
A church is where anyone who is willing to share the burden of God’s work come together.
Lastly, let’s take a look at verse 15.
“Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.”
It seems like this group is similar to a small group of believers or a home church.
These people also cooperated with Paul.
Now, we just went over the names of the people who were mentioned in chapter 16.
Were you bored?
I was not at all!
I was not bored because I heard all your names among the people that were mentioned in today’s scripture.
As I stated in the beginning, God’s work cannot be completed alone.
It is only possible when God’s fellow workers come and work together.
God wants us to work together.
In doing God’s work, nothing can be used as excuses; whether you are older or younger, whether you are a man or a woman, whether you study well or not, whether you have a lot of money, whether you are healthy or weak, whether alone or in groups, whether you have a happy or a sad past.
All these reasons should not be a stumbling block to becoming a God’s fellow worker.
As long as you do your part, you can become a God’s fellow worker; you can join and work in Jesus Christ.
In addition, we need to recognize that in doing God’s work, you will need to labor and you will need to put in your efforts.
Sometimes you may be criticized by others.
Sometime you may be required to endure sufferings.
But enduring all of these… that represents the true cooperation.
Paul’s partners in faith endured all.
Because of that, the early church saw the revival and saw the fruits of the gospel.
And Paul is now thanking his fellow workers in faith.
By cooperating with each other, I hope our church can handle God’s work wholly.
Brothers and sisters, we cannot carry out God’s work by ourselves.
I pray we can all become God’s fellow workers.
I pray in the name of the Lord that Olive church will become the most beautiful church in the eyes of God as we all cooperate with each other to accomplish God’s work. Amen.