I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner that is worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business that she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.
Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. Greet Mary, who labored much for us. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, greet Stachys, my beloved. Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Greet Asyncritus and Phlegon and Hermas and Patrobas and Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, greet Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.
Father, thank You for Your grace to say those names correctly, or at least how I think they’re said. Lord we do thank You for Your word. We thank You that as we know every jot and tittle has purpose. And even when we come to a section of Scripture that is filled with names of people that we do not know and we would not know here, this side of heaven, people who are of little fame outside of Your word, that maybe no secular historian has ever even considered, Lord we thank You that You’ve taken the time to put them here for a reason. And we pray that You would help us to, in some part, unpack what that reason is, and God, that from it You would teach us. Lord, help us to make application from Your word today, now living some two thousand years after these individuals lived, Lord would You do a work in us by the mere fact that their names are listed here. So God teach us, give us insight and understanding and wisdom, and God, transform us by the work of Your Spirit and through Your word so that we would reflect Your glory in the world in which we live. This we ask in Jesus’ name, and all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
How does one become notable in the kingdom of God? How does someone become worthy of note in God’s economy? Of course we know what makes people famous, notable, celebrity in our world and in our day. Certainly there are those who because of their wealth, they are well-known. Maybe they are accomplished authors or actors or athletes; in our society that makes someone worthy of repute. Maybe they have political influence, and therefore they have power; they have a good business mind. And then, you know, in our day, strangely enough, although it is reality, there are those who have some of those things, but they are apparently not famous enough, and so they are seeking greater fame, they are seeking greater notoriety, and sometimes they choose the most strange ways to get it – through promiscuity. They get caught with a prostitute, they get caught with a very high-dollar escort, and now that’s what they’re known for, not because of their political influence or power. Maybe it’s a slip up, they send a Tweet they shouldn’t have, they post a picture on Instagram that maybe wasn’t meant to be. Or, you know, through some accident, some risqué video that they produced ends up on YouTube and lots of views, so now they’re very notable because of some video on YouTube. Or because of their loose morals, they’ve risen to some level of fame in our society. It’s a phenomenal thing that these are the things that people place notoriety upon individuals for, they say or they do all kinds of off-the-wall things and therefore they become well known.
So we know that there are ways in which people become well known in our culture. And the reality is, because of our fallen condition, we desire to be well known. You may think back to the book of Genesis. In Genesis chapter 11, there was, after the flood, as men began to multiply on the face of the earth once again, there was a man who rose to prominence, rose as a leader, his name was Nimrod, I know that’s an interesting one. And he called unto himself the men of his day and said, “Let’s stop here, even though the Lord has told us to go throughout the whole earth and fill it. Let’s stop here and let’s make a name for ourselves.” He wanted to build a tower up to the heavens to make a name for themselves. So this desire within fallen man, it’s there, it’s been there for thousands of years, the desire to be known, to make a name for oneself.
But never, in history, has there been the ability, such as there is today, to make a name for yourself from just your cell phone. Where, otherwise, you would not be known at all, and yet now people can be a blogger or they can be, you know, their primary source of being known is that they send a lot of Tweets on Twitter. It’s a phenomenal thing!! I was just reading an article the other day about this person who has risen to fame, and now she has a book deal in L.A. because she’s sent something like 15,000 Tweets and she happens to be kind of funny in 140 characters or less. And now, because of that, she’s got notoriety, although otherwise, she’d be a nobody. And I would say that in some ways this is why these things have such great success. Why does Facebook have the pull that it does? Why does Facebook have so many users? In fact, how many of you today will be honest enough to admit that you’re a Facebook user? Lift up your hands. Look at that!! Most of the people in this sanctuary, Facebook users. Why is it that Facebook is so attractive to people? Why is it that Twitter sucks people in to these sorts of things? Well, why is it that the American Psychiatry group, they now have a thing that they term “Facebook Depression?” When people put up a picture or they put up a post and they don’t get enough “Likes,” or they don’t get enough comments, and now they slip into a depression. These things cater to our narcissistic nature that desires to be known, and desires that people would “Like” us. [laughter] Don’t you wish sometimes that there was an “Unlike” button on Facebook? I mean, there’s more things I “Unlike” than “Like.”
But these are why these social media mediums are so successful, because we have a desire to be known; we have a desire to be great; we have a desire to be of note. You may get, in this world, fifteen minutes of fame. You may get your day in the limelight on stage for some of the craziest things. Perhaps you produce a crazy song and do a crazy dance, and now you’ve got Gangnam Style with 1.7 billions hits. Which means that most of the people in this room have probably seen it. And if it’s not that, then it’s “What Does The Fox Say?” Oh see, yeah, you were waitin’ for that, I know it. Some of you guys have no idea what that is. That’s probably just fine. Anybody under 30 probably knows What Does The Fox Say. So, you know, these are the things that make people of note. And they get their fifteen minutes of fame, even though they’re out somewhere in Sweden, and no one has a clue who they are.
But, the apostle John, in 1 John, he tells us that “all that is in this world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” and this is what all this is surrounded with – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life – all these things are passing away because the world is passing away.
So people may have fame, they may have notoriety in this world, but if they do, it’s temporary at best. So the question comes: How does one become eternally notable, if this world is passing away? And I would say that in some part Romans chapter 16, verses 1 through 15 answers that question: How does one become eternally notable?
Consider the qualities mentioned in connection with the names that are noted here in Romans chapter 16. We see things like servants, saints, sacrificers, succourers, the King James Version says, or comforters. So these are the things that made it so that these individuals, some 29 individuals who would be listed here – servants and saints and sacrificers and succourers. People who were serving the church; people who were serving the apostle Paul; people who were fellow workers in the faith. People like Priscilla and Aquila, there in verse 3, who, we’re told in verse 4, “risked their own necks for my life,” Paul says. They were willing to sacrifice, sacrifice for the good of the church. And that’s why “all,” verse 4 says at the end, “all the churches of the Gentiles” are thankful for these two people – Priscilla and Aquila. You can almost not imagine, if you’ve been a studier of the New Testament for any length of time, you can almost not imagine their names being separated. Any time you see the name Priscilla, you expect Aquila, and any time you see Aquila, you anticipate Priscilla. They have to be together, this husband and wife team, who, we’re told in the Scriptures, were Jewish believers who were living in Rome. Priscilla was actually a native of Rome, and in 49 A.D. they were expelled from the city when Claudius Caesar, the Emperor, said no Jew could live there in the city. And so Paul met them on his second missionary journey while he was in the city of Corinth. And they were instrumental in the church being planted and growing while Paul was there in that great city of Corinth.
But Paul mentions other people that their only listing in the Scriptures is here in this passage. Other than this we have no idea who they are. And many Bible teachers and historians have spent a lot of time studying and trying to figure out who are these people in these fifteen verses? A couple of them we believe are noted in other historical context, they’re noted by other historians in the ancient times. But for the most part this is their only mention this side of heaven, and yet God saw it fit to allow their names to be here in the Scriptures – those who are beloved of Christ, those who were fellow workers. We have one who is mentioned here who was the very first convert in Achaia, Paul says. This individual was the first person to come to faith in Corinth when Paul began preaching the Gospel there, and Paul says he’s worthy of note here in this passage, because when Paul wrote this letter, some five or seven years later, he’s still there, he’s still a part of the church at Corinth, he’s still a believer, and working hard. But now he’s not in Corinth, he’s serving God in Rome as a missionary. Awesome!! And so God saw it fit that their names would be here in this passage – servants and saints, sacrificers and succourers.
What are the qualities that make it so that one who would be of note, that one would be worthy of mention, an honorable mention by God? Well Jesus had something to say about this, in fact. You know Jesus, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, He knows that it is in our hearts the desire to be great. You know for three years, three and a half years as Jesus walked with His disciples, one of the most common topics of conversation among His disciples was this issue of greatness. Note they didn’t want Jesus to know that they were talking about it. In fact when He would ask them on a number of occasions, “What are you guys talking about?”
“Oh nothing. Oh nothing.” Caught in the act!! Discussing who would be the greatest.
You know two of Jesus’ disciples, they were brothers – James and John, the Gospels tell us that at one point in Jesus’ ministry they approached Jesus and said, “Lord, would You give us whatever it is that we ask?”
Now you know if someone butters you up in that way, you go, “Well, I don’t know.”
I’m always leery when people come up and say, “Would you do me a favor?”
And I go, “Well, it depends. I don’t know. What is the favor?”
And so here they, “Lord, would You do whatever it is that we ask?” There’s a real wonder there, who’s the lord in that scenario in their thinking?
And so He asks them, “Well, what is it that you desire?”
“Well we desire that we would be on Your right and on Your left when You come into Your kingdom.”
Well He discussed that with them, we’re told in the Scriptures that the disciples, the rest of them, the ten that were also there, apparently watching as James and John approach the Lord. I mean, what gall these guys had!!! “Can we be on Your right hand and left hand?” Essentially, “Can I be Your prime minister? Can I be Your defense minister?” Because, of course, these are the guys that said, “Lord, shall we call down fire from heaven upon that city over there?” So the disciples, the other ten, weren’t too excited about this question of James and John. But you know what, they didn’t stop there, because in another place in the Gospels they got their mom involved in it. They figured, “You can’t say no to dear old mom.”
And so they had mom come and talk to Jesus, and, “Lord, I have a request for You. Would You bid that my sons would sit on Your right and Your left hand when You come into Your kingdom?” Greatness, who is going to be great and of note in the kingdom?
You know one of the most phenomenal things to me about this discussion and about this whole topic in the Gospels, is that Jesus never rebuked His disciples for the desire to be great. You know we would imagine that He would say, “It’s wrong for you to think that way!! Die to yourself!! Take up your cross!!” Now He did say things like, “Die to yourself,” and “take up your cross.” But He never chastened or rebuked His disciples’ desire to be great. Instead He taught them how to become great. Would you turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew chapter 20 first; Matthew chapter 20, and look with me if you will at verse 26. Right about the middle of the verse, it says this: “whosoever desires to become” what? “…great among you.”
Now, you can imagine that Jesus, His disciples, were probably, “Well, what’s He gonna say?”
“Whosoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant.” Verse 27: “Whosoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.”
Well turn from there to chapter 23, just a couple pages to the right; Matthew chapter 23. Jesus, in Matthew chapter 23 is chastising the scribes and the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, for their hypocrisy. And then in verse 11 we read this: “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Verse 12: “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Well then from there, turn to the book of Mark, Mark chapter 9. This is that passage, Mark chapter 9, look at verse 35. It says, “And He sat down,” Jesus did, “and He called the twelve.” So now He bids His twelve disciples, He says, “Come here, I want to talk with you.” It’s an amazing thing, here is this Rabbi that’s being followed by multitudes of people there in Galilee, throughout Israel. And He’s fed the multitudes; He’s cast demons out of those who were possessed of them; He’s healed the sick; He’s raised the dead. Thousands of people are following Him, and there, if you were amidst those thousands of people, you’d want to be as close as you could to Him, and yet there were twelve guys who were His inner circle. Twelve guys that He had appointed to be with Him, the Scriptures say. And they were with Him at very private times; whether He was praying or as He was out on the Sea of Galilee. They were in the boats; they were the posse, they were the groups, they were the inner circle, the groupies. And I’m sure there were people that were envious of the twelve. And so here He is among the multitude, Jesus calls the twelve to Himself. You can imagine, at least I can, that they were probably, “Well, yeah, a-a-h-h, we’re the twelve.”
And they sit down, and He says to them there, after He calls the twelve to Himself, “If anyone desire to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
This is the teaching that we see from Jesus over and over again in the Gospels. Turn one more time to Luke chapter 14 – Matthew, Mark, now Luke chapter 14. In verse 7, Luke 14:7, there Jesus, teaching, as He often did, with a parable. We read there: “So He told a parable to those who were invited.” I guess they were at a feast of some sort. “When He noted how they chose the best places.” So they’re at some sort of feast, and people are choosing the best places to be seated there; they were seated according to their rank, according to their honor. And so He spoke to those who “chose the best places, saying to them: ‘When your are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him;’” the master of the ceremony, and when he is invited by him, he comes to you and says, “’”Give place to this man.”’” You’re in the wrong seat, “’and then you begin with the shame to take the lowest place. But instead when you’re invited, go sit in the lowest place, so that,’” there, as you’ve humbled yourself, the master of the feast comes and says, “No, no, you’re supposed to be seated up here.”
So He’s encouraging them to take the lower position. Who is great, as Jesus teaches it? Those who serve, those who humble themselves, those who, in Matthew chapter 5 we’re told, who not only teach God’s word, but also do it, those are the ones who are great in the kingdom of God.
So once again, it’s amazing to me that He doesn’t rebuke or chasten His disciples for their desire to be great. Instead He says, “This is the path to greatness in the kingdom of heaven.” But the phenomenal thing is that Jesus’ teaching on greatness is paradigm shifting, because it’s completely paradoxical to us, to our nature. This teaching from Jesus about greatness in the kingdom, not just fifteen minutes of fame, not just your day in the limelight here in this world that’s passing away. But to be worthy of note in eternity, to have an honorable mention, He says the path to this greatness, it’s counter-cultural to the world in which we live. It is unnatural to our sinful nature, therefore it is hard to live the way that Jesus says to live in this passage. But this is the path to greatness. Our culture is wholly given to self-preservation and self-promotion. And yet Jesus says, “The path to greatness in My kingdom is different.”
And it wasn’t just Jesus’ teaching, it was His example. Turn in your Bibles to the book of Philippians chapter 2. Jesus’ example is given to us there in Philippians chapter 2. In verse 5, Paul the apostle, the author of the book of Romans also wrote this book, the book to the Philippians, he says there in Philippians chapter 2, verse 5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” So, have the same mindset as Jesus. Well what was His mindset? Well it was seen in the way that He lived. “…who being in the form of God…” He is God, King of kings, Lord of lords, occupying a throne in heaven for eternity, from eternity past to eternity on into. Jesus occupies that throne. When Isaiah, some 700 years before Jesus came as a man, when Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, in Isaiah chapter 6, he saw Jesus, the apostle John tells us. So there is the King enthroned in heaven, “being in the form of God, He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” Another translation says, “He did not consider that something to be grasped,” to be held onto, that position. But instead, we’re told, “that He made Himself of no reputation.” Now, imagine if you will, there He is in a position, the greatest position ever – on the throne in heaven, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and He thought that not a position to be grasped. But He made Himself of no reputation. Can you imagine anyone in our realm doing a similar thing?
Now, arguably the most powerful position in our nation, and probably in the world, would be the President of the United States of America. But even that person who occupies that office, and there haven’t been many of them who’ve occupied that office, that person knows from the day they are sworn in with their hand up and one on the Bible, at that 12:00 on January 20th, the countdown begins. And if they’re lucky, they get eight years. But eight years later, on January 20th at 12:01 pm someone else takes their spot. And they, although they want that position, no doubt they want that position, there’s a part of them that probably says, “I don’t want to leave it.” Why? Because every time they walk into a room, people stand. Do you realize that the President of the United States, through his entire term in office, never has to wait at a red light? He’s in this beast of a car, with police in front of him, with lights on, and they just drive through every red light. How cool would that be!! [laughter] I hate red lights. [laughter] And not only that, not only does he drive around in this vehicle, but then they take him to a 747 that’s his own personal airplane. And when he gets on, they call him and he says, “Okay, it’s time for us to take off.” He gives the command to take off, and they don’t wait in line at JFK, and he doesn’t go through security, he doesn’t have to take his shoes off, and have the TSA pat him down. If he did, he’d probably make some changes to that whole thing. [laughter] But there is that position, and you can imagine that there’s a part that says, “I don’t want to let this go.” But he knows that day is coming – 12:01 pm on January 20, when gone is that position!! And then they say, “You get one last free ride on the plane, and then we’re taking it back. And you gotta wait at red lights again. Sorry, but that’s the reality.”
And then even after that, they don’t make themselves of no reputation, they still go about trying to make a reputation. But Jesus, “He made Himself of no reputation.” And He came to be a servant, a slave – bondservant means a slave by choice. “And coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself” even further than that lowest position, “became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Now maybe the clearest illustration of this, aside from the incarnation, that is God becoming a man, aside from that, the clearest illustration of this is in John chapter 13 when Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. He takes and puts a towel upon Him, does the lowest of the low, of the work of the lowest slave, washing His disciples’ feet. One of His disciples even chastises Him for doing it. Peter said, “You’re not supposed to do this.” He recognized that this wasn’t the position for their Lord and their Master. It wasn’t the position for their Lord and their Teacher to be doing this thing that He’s doing.
In fact after He does this, in verses 12 through 14 of John chapter 13, He says, “You call Me Rabbi and Lord.” So, “Here I am, washing your feet, and you call Me Rabbi and Lord. And I am, you say right. And if I have done this, then you ought to do likewise. I’m giving you an example that you should follow.” He’s not instituting a new sacrament that we should have foot washing ceremonies, He’s saying, “No, your Lord and your Master, if He’s going to take the lowest position, then you, by all means, ought to take the low position as well.”
You say, “But I don’t know that I want to do that. That’s counter-cultural, it’s unnatural.” Well notice this, you’re still in Philippians, look at verse 9. Look at the first word of Philippians chapter 2, verse 9, what is it? “Therefore…” Would you circle that, circle that word “Therefore.” Because of what Jesus did in verses 5 through 8, “Therefore,” because of that, “God,” the Father, “has highly exalted Him,” Jesus, “given Him a name which is above every name.” “Given Him a name that is above every name.” Jesus’ name is so powerful, so glorious that men who hate Him use His name as a curse word to express disgust. That shows us just how powerful His name is. You never hear people going around saying, “Oh, Miles DeBenedictis!!” [laughter] You just don’t; at least I haven’t. Maybe you do; I don’t know. [laughter] You never even hear people going around saying, “O-o-h-h, Muhammad.” Why? Because his name is not a name above every name.
But even those who use His name as a curse word to express disgust, notice what’s going to happen one day: “that at the name of Jesus,” one day, this is coming, this prophetic, verse 10, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” So this day is coming.
Now, why does He have the name above every name? Because He humbled Himself. So Jesus tells us, in His teaching, and exemplifies there in the Scriptures, that the path to greatness is the path of humility in this life, being a servant of all.
This is why the apostle Paul would say, in Ephesians chapter 5, verse 1, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. Walk in love.” How? “…as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us, as an offering and sacrifice to God as a sweet-smelling aroma.” So there Paul says, “If you want to know how to walk, then you walk as Jesus walked, sacrificially, as a servant.” That is what’s becoming of the saints, that’s why he says in that same passage, “Walk worthy of the calling wherewith you’ve been called.” What calling? He calls you His saints.
And so we have here in Romans chapter 16 a list of names, a list of names that outside of the Scripture may not be known. There are not big history books written about Tryphena and Tryphosa. When you hear their names, two women, it’s interesting, there’s ten ladies mentioned in this passage. Which is phenomenal when you remember the historic context that this was written in the 1st Century Jewish world and Roman world. In our world it probably wouldn’t be that big a deal; in our world maybe you’d see more women’s names. But to see ten women listed in this passage, phenomenal in the historical context. But you see, Tryphena and Tryphosa, and we imagine them probably to be sisters, maybe even twin sisters, and you’ll never find an earthly, secular, historical book written on Tryphena and Tryphosa. And yet their names are written here in the Scriptures. But let me tell you something else, their names are written in a much greater book, a book that is in eternity, the book called The Book of Life,
The Book of Life; we’re told about this book in the book of Revelation. There’s several books that are mentioned, that are in eternity. There are the books in which people’s names are listed with the works that they did. And they’re going to be judged by the works that they did one day, and they will be damned. But there’s another book – The Book of Life. I don’t know about you, but though I may never be known in this world, though I may never have, you know you put in Miles DeBenedictis and get two million hits on Google, though you may never have that here in this life, in this world, if your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, you are of honorable mention in eternity. You may never have fifteen minutes of fame in this world, but you’re of honorable mention in eternity. And far better to be of note in eternity than fifteen minutes of fame here. Amen?! [applause]
So the question is: How does that come to be? Well, it’s not, of course, by doing any magnificent work. Your name is not written in that book because you performed a miracle; your name is not written in that book because you rose the dead; your name is not written in that book because you preached to thousands or saw many people come to faith because of your work here on earth. It has nothing to do with your works. It has to do with the work that Jesus did on the cross, and your trust and faith in Him. Counter-cultural, unnatural. You put your faith, your trust in Him for salvation, and He writes your name in The Book of Life.
Oh to be of note in heaven!!
Might I encourage you to live in such a way that you are of note in heaven. We have the teaching of Jesus, we have the example of Jesus, who Jesus, in John chapter 13, after He washed His disciples’ feet, after He told them that He was giving this to them as an example, He says in verse 34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.” You live in this way to be of note.
Would you stand with me and let’s pray.
Father, thank You for Your word. Thank You that You saw it fit to have these names be written here in Scripture, I believe for a purpose. And Lord, I thank You that I’m absolutely certain because the work that You did, Jesus, that my name is written in heaven, in that Book of Life. Lord, I pray that you’d help me to live in such a way that on that day when I enter into Your kingdom, I hear You say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Servant. Lord, although we’re sinners, we’ve been made saints; help us to be servants, those willing to sacrifice as You sacrificed, those willing to reach out and be Your hands comforting others who are in need of it. Lord, work in us to be like You. We thank You, Jesus.Parting Exhortation
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
Father, we pray that as we look into these words here in Romans, the last words of this book, that You would give us insight and understanding, Lord; help us to grasp fully what it is that You would want to impart to us to us today, Lord, that we’d be able to make application. Lord, we know that Your word is living and powerful and it’s sharper than any two-edged sword, and You use Your word to transform us, but Lord You also use Your word to guide and inform us on how we are to live. And so I pray God that we would be able to glean from this passage today some of those important truths for how we are to represent You in a lost world. So God work by Your word and by Your Spirit in our hearts and in our minds now, that we would be those who are being transformed more and more into Your image, that we would be reflecting You and Your grace, Your love and Your peace in this world, for we ask this in Jesus’ name, and all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
Paul the apostle, this great church planter, prolific writer – thirteen letters in the New Testament written by him to churches and individuals that now, more than twenty centuries later, the church is still being challenged and encouraged in the study of those things that were written. As we come now to these last words of Romans; Paul’s already covered much doctrine – not just things we are to believe, but also the way we are to live, in the first nine chapters of the book. The first eight chapters of the book, actually, dealing with what we are to believe, and then chapters 11, 12, and so forth, 13, 14, and 15 dealing with how we are to live. And it would seem, as we came to chapter 15 a couple of weeks ago, that that would be the logical ending there in Romans chapter 15, verse 33, where he says, “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” You would expect that with that “Amen” the book is done, but then Paul had another several verses, sixteen verses of greetings to those who were there in the church at Rome. Even though he’d never visited the church, there’s a whole bunch of names listed of people that he knew very well, people that were raised up through his ministry, people who came to faith through his preaching and were discipled by him, people that were sent by him to the city of Rome to establish a church. And they were the ultimate leaders of that church, those who came through his ministry. And then at the end of verse 16, as we saw last week, as he says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.” Well, you’d anticipate, you’d think that that would be the ending. But you’d be wrong. Paul’s a good Cross Connection pastor, he’s got four endings.
And so as we come to verse 17, we see another grouping of exhortations, four verses of exhortations that Paul gives: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you’ve learned, and avoid them.” So Paul picks up with another series of exhortations; things that were on his heart that apparently were fresh in his mind as he considered the church at Rome and the things that were happening there in that city. By this time, by the time we come to verse 17 of Romans chapter 16, there are nearly 10,000 words that have been written. I don’t know too many people that have written 10,000-word letters. This is the longest of Paul’s letters, that’s why it’s the first of the epistles, the first of the letters in the New Testament. All the letters of the New Testament are in the places that they are because of the length of those letters. So it goes from longest to shortest; they’re not in there because of chronological order, it’s just that Romans is the first one because it’s the longest, and 1 Corinthians is the next one because it’s the next longest, and 2 Corinthians, and on down the line.
And so we’ve been studying through the epistles chronologically here at the church as we’ve been going through the book of Acts, and we’ve already seen how Paul has traveled throughout the known world of that day. About fourteen years after Paul came to faith and became a follower of Jesus, he and a guy by the name of Barnabas, they left from their home church in the city of Antioch in the country of Syria, and they went to the island of Cyprus, and then they went north from there into modern-day Turkey, the region that at that time was called Galatia. And they saw churches planted in cities like Lystra and Iconium and Derbe. And then after Paul had seen those churches planted, they went back to their home church in Antioch. And then they made a visit down to the city of Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15.
And while Paul was there in the city of Jerusalem, we know that there was a group of individuals that followed Paul’s ministry, throughout his ministry, that went into those churches that were newly planted in the region of Galatia. And they began to sway the believers there away from the simplicity that is in Christ. When Paul writes here in Romans chapter 16, verse 17, to “note those who cause divisions and offenses,” Paul is writing these things because he knew this classification of person, he knew this kind of individual very, very well, because these were the type of people who followed Paul’s ministry seeking to disrupt it, divide it, and destroy it. We know that the enemy, we do have an adversary, the devil, he is constantly seeking to destroy the work of God, constantly seeking to come and disrupt, oftentimes by division, the church of God. And God used the apostle Paul to plant churches in Lystra, Iconium, and Derbe, and immediately after he left there the disrupters came in to try and divide. And so Paul would have to write his letter to the church of Galatia – we have it in our Bibles called Galatians. He wrote that letter to encourage the believers there to turn back to the simplicity that is in Christ because of these who came and caused division.
And then in Acts chapter 16, Paul and Silas went out to plant more churches. They went and visited the churches of Galatia, but then from there they ended up in modern-day Europe, in Macedonia and in Greece. And they planted churches in Philippi and Thessolanica and Berea and Corinth. And again, after Paul left those churches, there were people who came in to try to divide and disrupt and destroy the work. And we see that very clearly, they started to get a foothold, like in the city of Corinth, where there was much division in the church. And Paul wrote his two letters, 1 and 2 Corinthians, to encourage and challenge the church to walk in the simplicity that is in Christ. So Paul understood, it was very fresh in his mind, the reality that there were people who were seeking to come in and destroy the work that God was doing in these churches.
And so this is like a preventative cure, if you will, this is preemptive, when we come to chapter 16, verse 17. And many Bible teachers believe that this actually may be penned by the very hand of Paul in the original manuscript. Now we may have in our minds a picture of the apostle Paul sitting in a dark room with a little oil lamp and a pen and a long manuscript, and himself writing this entire letter. But that’s not the reality of what took place. There was a scribe who Paul dictated to, and this person would write these things down. His name is actually given in verse 22 of this same chapter. Romans chapter 16, verse 22 says, Tertius is the scribe. And so the picture of the authoring of the book of Romans is more like Paul, in a room with a group of people, and some of those people are listed there – Timothy and Luke and Jason and Sosipater in verses 21 and 22 – and he’s speaking the words of this book, and Tertius is writing these things down. We know historically when these events took place because it was at the end of the year 57 that Paul came to the city of Corinth, and that’s where he wrote this letter to the church at Rome. And between the years 57 and 58, as he came into the Fall and Winter of 57 and the early Spring of 58, Paul was there in the city of Corinth, and he’s writing this letter. And he would get together for a series of days probably, and he would have Timothy and Luke and Jason and Sosipater and Tertius there, and he would speak, and Tertius would write these things down. And then when the letter was done, he gave it, we believe, to this lady who’s mentioned there in chapter 16, verse 1, to Phoebe. And she’s probably the one who carried it to the church at Rome.
But after Paul says, “Amen,” in chapter 15, verse 33, and then he’s reminded, well let’s greet those who were there in the city of Rome, who are serving the Lord there. And then when that was done, I imagine, although we may be wrong, but it seems that it might be the case that Paul, after he lists those names, and after he says, “The churches of Christ greet you,” he says to Tertius, “You know I have one more thing I want to say. One more thing that’s fresh on my mind.” Because Paul, throughout the many years of ministry that he has experienced to this point, has been battling with people who have been trying to disrupt by dividing the church of God. And so he says here, “Give me that pen, give me that quill.” And, “Now I urge you brethren,” I beg you, is literally what it says. “I beg you brethren. I’m speaking to those who I’ve just listed, the leadership of the church there in Rome.” Romans chapter 16, verses 1 through 15, all of those names of people there – Priscilla and Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary – all these people, Urbanus, Paul is saying, “Listen, I urge you brethren, you who are leading the church, you who are overseers of the flock of God there in Rome, that you would note those, take careful note of those who cause divisions and offenses.” The word “note” there means to set a mark upon them, identify them, know who they are.
Now the most difficult part about these kind of people, who cause divisions and offenses, those that we would call seditious, that come in and breed sedition within the Body of Christ, the most difficult part about that group of people is that they don’t identify themselves when they come in. They don’t show up to church and say, “Hey, I’m here to disrupt. I’m here to divide. I’m here to spread false doctrine.” They don’t do that.
Not only do they not identify themselves when they come, but many times they are so self-deceived that they don’t even recognize that they’re causing disruption and division. A great example of this is the author of this letter, the book of Romans. We know that this letter was authored by the apostle Paul, but before he was an apostle, before he was going by the name Paul, he was a Pharisee, a Jewish Pharisee by the name of Saul of Tarsus. And his entire aim was to destroy the work of God through the church of Jesus. He was going about seeking to tear this thing apart, to divide it and disrupt it. In Acts chapter 8, verse 1 we read that there was great persecution that came against the early church at the hands of Saul of Tarsus. So this guy, he believed that God was calling him to do this. He was so self-deceived that he thought he was doing the work of God as he would go to places and seek to disrupt and divide and destroy the church, those following Jesus. Until that day in Acts chapter 9 on the road to Damascus, that he saw a great light, was knocked down to the ground, and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me? Isn’t it hard for you to kick against the goads?”
And he said, “Lord, who are You?”
And He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” And in that moment Saul of Tarsus had a wonderful conversion where he realized that he was actually the one who was fighting against God, not fight for Him. He thought he was fighting for God, and three days later scales fell from his eyes. He did not realize that he was divisive, disruptive, that he was seditious.
And so those who come into the Body of Christ who disrupt and divide, they don’t identify themselves when they come, and they don’t often recognize and know that they are the ones who are disruptive or destructive. Therefore, in noting those who cause divisions and offenses, those who are leaders within the church – sometimes the Bible refers to them as shepherds or undershepherds – those who are leaders within the church need to be watchful. All the while receiving those who are weak in the faith, as Romans chapter 14, verse 1 said, that we’re to be open and receptive to those who are younger or weaker in their faith and their understanding. So we are to be gentle to the flock of God, as Peter speaks of – shepherd the flock of God in a gentle fashion and way. So we do receive those who are weak, we are gentle, but we also need to be watchful. We need to have our eyes open, to walk circumspectly. And when it becomes clear that an individual within the church is there to cause disruption, to cause division, then Paul says you are to note those people.
But the question is, how do we identify who the dangerously destructive ones are that come into the church? If we are to receive those who are weak in the faith, if we’re to receive those who maybe don’t understand fully the things of God or the Scriptures, and maybe their life and practice mirror their lack of understanding, how are we to note those who are disruptive, those who cause divisions and offenses?
Well I think Jesus gives us a good answer to that question in the gospel of Matthew, in chapter 7. In Matthew chapter 7, verse 15 Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets.” Beware of false prophets. Now the first thing we note in Jesus’ warning there in Matthew chapter 7, verse 15, is that there are false prophets. You see sometimes people are deceived, sometimes people are led away because they don’t recognize that there are people who are coming in and speaking false things. So we need to, at the very least, recognize that there will be people who come in that speak a false doctrine that sometimes even appears to be close to reality, close to the truth. And so Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets.”
The next thing He says is that those false prophets, they “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” The second thing we see about these false prophets is that they come in looking like everyone else. They come in in a way that you might expect that they also are a Christian. They speak Christian sort of things. They may talk about Jesus; they may talk about resurrection; they may talk about eternity and heaven; they may talk about the Holy Spirit; they may talk about God the Father; but they may not believe the same as you believe. So although their words may be very, very close, they may be ravenous wolves.
Well how do we know these ones that are false prophets that look like everyone else within the Body of Christ? Well Jesus tells us, Matthew chapter 7, verse 16 – you may want to write it down in your notes – “You will know them by their fruits.” You will know them by what is produced from their life. You will be able to identify them as you watch carefully how they live. Beware of false prophets. They do come into the church as wolves in sheep’s clothing; you will know them by their fruits.
Well how will we identify their fruits? What will we see? Well, Paul, in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, he gives us some more information, some more things that we need to take note of. 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, verse 14, it says, “And if anyone does not obey the word of this epistle, note that person,” the exact same word that Paul used in Romans chapter 16, mark them out, those who do not obey what the Scriptures say, note them, mark that person, “and,” Paul says, “do not keep company with them.” If someone saying that they are a brother or sister in Christ, calling themselves a Christian, but they do not obey what the Scriptures say, Paul says, “Note them,” mark them out “and do not keep company with them.” Why? Well, because as the Proverbs say: Bad company corrupts what? Good morals, good character. Bad company corrupts good character. Do not keep company with them, that they may be ashamed.” Now the whole point of that shaming them there in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, verse 14 is that they would repent. The whole desire is that that false teacher would turn from their false ways, their pernicious ways.
So Paul says in verse 15 of 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, “Yet do not count them as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” Admonish them, challenge them, encourage them, instruct them, that they would walk in those things that the Scripture says.
Not just 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, but also Philippians chapter 3. Philippians 3, verse 17, Paul says there: “Brethren,” speaking to the church, “join in following my example, and note,” same exact word used in 2 Thessalonians 3 and in Romans chapter 16, note them, mark them out. But this time he’s not saying mark those who are false, he says, “note those who so walk, as you have us for an” example. So Paul says look at those in the Body of Christ who are walking in obedience to the Scriptures and mark them out and follow their pattern.
So not only do we note those who are walking against the Scripture, walking in disobedience to what the Scriptures say, and we’re to not keep company with them. But we’re to identify and note those within the Body of Christ who not only speak the things of the word of God, but they actually live those things. And Paul says follow their example. He goes on, Philippians 3, verse 18: “For many walk,” there are many who walk, “of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ.” Note those who walk in a way that is in obedience to the Scriptures because we know there are those who do not.
Well how do we identify them? Philippians 3:19 says, “whose end is destruction.” Listen, one of the reasons you don’t want to keep company with them is their end is destruction. If you know that an individual’s end is destruction, you don’t want to spend too much time with them. If you had foresight to know that there in 1912 the Titanic would sink, it would have been rather foolish to buy a ticket and get on board. And so their end is destruction, because their god is their belly, they’re self-focused, “and whose glory is in their shame – they set their mind on earthly things.” And so Paul says note them, mark them, it’s the Greek word skopeō, where we get our English word scope. And the idea is to observe and look and to mark those people who do not walk in a fashion that is in obedience to the Scriptures, and don’t keep company with them. Admonish them, challenge them, call them back to walking in rightness, in obedience to the Scriptures. And then identify those who do walk in obedience to the Scriptures and follow their example. Set a mark upon those who cause divisions, Paul said, those who bring sedition and dissention.
That word division, it’s used there in Romans chapter 16, verse 17, that very same word is connected to the works of the flesh in Galatians chapter 5. When Paul says there in verse 19, “the works of the flesh are evident.” And one of the works of the flesh is divisions. That same word is used in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, and it’s connected to carnality. And so those who cause divisions are fleshly, they are carnal.
Not just divisions, but offenses; note those who cause offenses. The word offenses could also be translated stumbling block or set a snare or a trap. Identify and mark those people that set a snare and a trap, a trap that ensnares people or leads them away from the simplicity that is in Christ. Like those who came to Galatia after Paul left and said, “We know that you believe in Jesus, but there’s something more you need to know. You can’t only put your faith in Jesus, you also need to observe the Sabbath, you need to observe the feast days, you need to observe the dietary restrictions from the books of the law, you need to observe circumcision and then you’ll really be right before God. We know you believe that Jesus stuff, but you also need to be baptized in this church or in this way. You also need to go through this confirmation.” Whatever it may be. Anything added to the Scriptures, anything added to the Gospel might ensnare people and lead them away.
Now of course the Gospel itself is an offense. It is a stumbling block to those who are perishing. But that’s because it is tripping them up on their way to hell. It’s a good thing to trip someone up if they’re headed towards destruction. But if someone is walking in obedience to the Scriptures, and someone lays a snare or a trap that leads them into something that binds them, then Paul says, “Note those who are like that.” Mark them out, “and avoid them.” Avoid them – those who cause divisions, cause offenses, those who walk contrary to the doctrine that you’ve learned, Paul says here in Romans chapter 16, verse 17. Note those individuals and avoid them.
Now again, Romans chapter 14, verse 1 says we’re to receive people; we’re to be open and receptive to those who are weak in the faith, who maybe don’t have all the information or understanding. Receive them into the body. However there are certain people that we are to reject and avoid. And some people say, “Well that doesn’t sound very loving, pastor.” But there are people that we will reject and avoid. Who? Who should be rejected? Who should be avoided? Well let me give you a short list of people that we find in the Scriptures that should be avoided. Matthew chapter 18, verse 17 tells us that we are to avoid and reject the unrepentant sinner, the unrepentant sinner. That is a person who is walking in open sin and open rebellion against God, and Jesus, in Matthew 18 there, He says you’re to go and tell that person, one-on-one, “Hey, you need to repent.” And if they don’t hear you, then go with another individual and call them to repentance. And if they still don’t hear you, then bring the elders of the church. And if they still don’t hear you at that point in time, then He says reject them, avoid the unrepentant sinner.
Not only the unrepentant sinner, but 1 Corinthians chapter 5 says avoid and reject the person who calls themself a brother or sister in Christ, but is sexually immoral, those who are sexually immoral. 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 says that we’re to avoid and reject those that are disorderly, that walk contrary to doctrine, they walk outside of right doctrine; 2 Thessalonians 3, verses 6 and 14. 1 Timothy chapter 6 tells us in verses 3 through 5 that we’re to reject those who teach false doctrine. Not only walk contrary to false doctrine, but those who teach others to do the same.
Not only 1 Timothy chapter 6, but 2 Timothy chapter 3, 2 Timothy 3, verse 5 says that we are to reject those who have a vain external religion only. They have what the Scriptures call the appearance of godliness. They may look on the outside like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they may look on the outside to be followers of God, and yet inwardly they’re full of dead men’s bones, as Jesus would say, they’re full of corruption and wickedness. Number 6, Titus chapter 3 says we are to reject those that are divisive, reject those who are divisive. So, those that are unrepentant sinners, the sexually immoral, those who walk contrary to doctrine, those who teach false doctrine, those who have only an appearance of godliness but deny the real power of it, and those that are divisive. We’re to reject them.
Why? Well, look at Romans chapter 16, verse 18, this is why. Romans 16, verse 18: “For those who are such do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ.” Those who are living that way, even though they say that they’re followers of Jesus, even though they may use the same lingo as a Christian, if they’re walking in rebellion to God’s word, if they’re unrepentant in sin, if they’re sexually immoral, if they walk contrary to doctrine, teach false doctrine, are divisive, or if they just have an external show of religion, and yet they are not fully walking in it, we’re to reject them because they do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well who then do they serve? Well they don’t serve the Lord Jesus Christ, “but their own belly.” They are self-serving, self-seeking, self-willed. Paul says not only do they serve themselves, but “by smooth words and flattering speech [they] deceive the hearts of the simple.” They deceive the hearts of those who may not have a firm grasp on what is true and what is right. Those that maybe don’t fully comprehend or understand the fullness of the Scriptures yet; they’re still learning, they’re still immature in their faith and their handling of the things of God, and so Paul says there are these false ones, these false teachers, and they deceive the hearts, the minds of the simple. Because what they’re saying may seem to be so close to the real. I remember a number of years ago, you may remember as well, that we used to have a coffee shop that we ran here in the middle of town called His Place. And from time to time I would work down there, and at the time our manager there was a guy by the name of Jason Moody. And I remember one night, we were closing everything up and he was counting all the money from the day, and as he’s going through the money, he stopped and he goes, “This one…” He went back through them again, and “There’s one of them that feels funny.” And he count really fast; but he went through again, and he pulled one out and he goes, “This one’s not right, this one’s counterfeit.” Just by feeling it.
And I said, “How do you know?”
And he goes, “Well I do this every single day.” And you could put these two twenty dollar bills side-by-side, and you’d look at one that was real, and you’d look at the one that was fake, and by the eye, they looked really, really close. But sure enough, as you felt it, it didn’t feel right. And so we took it to the bank, and of course they said, “Yep, that’s a counterfeit.” And they turned it in to the Treasury. But the way that he knew that it was a counterfeit, was because he was so well versed in what the genuine felt like. He knew exactly what the real one was, so that when he came across a fake, he would know that this one just doesn’t fit. Now if you were to go out and try to find all the fakes, and study all the fakes, there are so many of them, you’d never be able to identify them all. And so it’s so much better to get to know the real, get to know the genuine, so that when the fake one comes across, you say, “No, that one’s not right.”
Jesus said there, in Matthew chapter 7, there are false prophets, there are people coming who profess a gospel that might sound very similar to the things that we know from the Scriptures, and yet it’s off. There are people in our day who, they come and knock on your door and mine, and they speak with very Christian words, they talk about Jesus, they talk about the end of the world, they talk about Satan, they talk about the Holy Spirit, they talk about all these sort of things. And yet their belief is outside of doctrine, it’s outside of orthodoxy. And sometimes people spend an awful lot of time studying their beliefs, studying the other cults, studying all the other world religions, and looking into those things. There are many of them, many abhorrent teachings that are out there. Might I encourage you to spend more time studying what the Scriptures say, spend more time in what God’s word says. So that when those with smooth words and flattering speech come, you’re not deceived, because you know the genuine, you know the real.
Well Paul was confident about the church in Rome. He says there in verse 19, he expresses his confidence, look at it, Romans chapter 16, verse 19: “For your obedience has become known to all.” Your obedience has become known to all. The Romans were well known, as we saw back in Romans chapter 1, for their faith. Paul says, “Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Not only were they known for their faith, but now he says, “ Your obedience has become known to all.” Their faith and their obedience were a testimony unto them. And what a great testimony to have. How awesome to be a part of a church where your faith and your obedience are known to all. Now when we read about their faith there in Romans chapter 1 being well known, we can’t just think that that’s just a mere mental recognition of the things of God, as if they casually say, “Yeah, we believe that Jesus lived. We believe that Jesus died.” It wasn’t just a casual recognition, a mental assent. But their faith had become faithfulness, as we see that their obedience was known to all. And that’s the reality, our faith in Christ needs to become faithfulness to Christ. And the church at Rome, they were faithful to Jesus Christ.
“Your obedience has become known to all. Therefore,” Paul says, “I am glad on your behalf.” Your obedience is known and I’m filled with joy. The apostle John, in 3 John, verse 4, he says, “I have no greater joy but to hear that my children walk in the truth.” And the church at Rome was not only believing the things of doctrine, but they were walking in the doctrine. And Paul says, “My heart is filled with joy,” just like the apostle John. “I have no greater joy but then to hear that my children walk in the truth.”
But Paul had a desire for this church. Even though he knew that they were faith-filled and faithful, his desire for the church is expressed here in verse 19. Look at Romans chapter 16, verse 19, after he says, “For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you,” here is his desire, “I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Be wise in what is good, but simple concerning evil. Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” That word “harmless” is the same word as “simple” here in Romans chapter 16, verse 19. Be wise as serpents, but as simple as doves, as harmless as doves. And Paul’s exhortation is the same here, “I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Of course the very simple meaning of this verse is that we’re to know and do those things that are good, and those things that are evil should not even be named among us. But in context with what has been said previous about those that cause divisions and offenses, about those that are false teachers and come in and lead people astray, I think it brings us back to that same illustration about Jason Moody counting the money there at His Place a number of years ago. That we need to be wise about what is genuine. We need to know what the Scriptures say. We don’t need to spend all of our time getting to know all the evil ways of this world; we don’t need to be spending all of our time getting to know all the terrible things that are happening in this world so that we’re able to identify those that are false, “we gotta know what they are.” No. I encourage you, be wise in what is good, know the Scriptures. Be simple in all those other cultic practices of the world, and when those come across your table, you’ll know, you’ll be able to say, “No, that doesn’t fit.” Even if you don’t exactly know the verse reference to support why you know it, you know the Scriptures say, “No, what you’re telling me is out of order.” So be wise in what is good – all Scripture is good, is given for our exhortation, for our building up, that we would know how we are to walk, as Paul says in 2 Timothy chapter 3 and 4. Be wise in what is good, be simple in what is evil.
Now look at this great promise, verse 20, Romans chapter 16, verse 20: “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. Now, I don’t know if you notice, there’s kind of an odd paradox here. The God of peace will crush. They don’t seem to go together real well. The God of peace will crush. And you go, “I just don’t know how that quite fits.” Well here’s how it fits: If there is anything standing against the peace of God, if there’s anything standing against the righteousness of God, sometimes the only way to remove that obstacle is to crush it. And so the God of peace will remove forcibly that obstacle, Satan.
But the interesting thing is the method or the instrument by which we’re told here that God is going to crush the adversary. The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly, speaking to the church. Now that’s a strange concept, that the God of peace will crush Satan using you and I as His instrument to do so, the church, His body, to do so. But you know there’s a prophecy about this in the Old Testament. In the very first book of the Bible, the very first prophecy of the Bible speaks about Satan, the serpent, being crushed under the foot of Someone. Do you remember that prophesy? Genesis chapter 3, verse 15; Genesis 3, verse 15, there God is speaking to the serpent that has just deceived Adam and Eve, and carried them into sin. And God says this to the serpent in Genesis 3, verse 15: “’And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; and He,’” the Seed of the woman, “’He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.’” The implication being that it’s going to be under His feet.
Now of course we always look to the fulfillment of this being Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection on the cross; that Jesus there on the cross, when He said, “It is finished!” that Satan was crushed. And really, Jesus did deliver a deathblow to Satan. But here we are two thousand years from that time when Jesus said, “It is finished!” And looking around the world, it looks as though Satan still has some sort of power and jurisdiction here, doesn’t it? And so here, Paul, inspired of God by the Holy Spirit, says, “The God of peace is going to crush Satan.” Apparently the fulfillment of Genesis chapter 3, verse 15 is not complete. It’s not complete yet. But God, by the power of Jesus Christ, through His church, through His body, there is a prophecy given here that one day, and he says, “shortly,” and this was written twenty centuries ago, so we’re a lot closer to this than we were two thousand years ago. Shortly, God, through His church is going to bring a massive deathblow to Satan. That’s good news. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about that. I mean the picture that comes in my mind when I think about God crushing Satan under the feet of the church, is the idea, how many of you have seen that picture of someone smashing grapes there, and stepping on the grapes, and they’re there splattered? It’s a beautiful picture. That’s what God’s going to do to Satan one day – destroy him. God will crush him. And He has chosen to use His church, somehow, in some way, we don’t have all the word to this and understand completely. Satan used humanity to strike at God, and ultimately God is going to use His church, filled with humanity, to bring the deathblow to Satan. Remember the words that Jesus spoke in Matthew chapter 16 after Peter said “’You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God?’”
And there Jesus said, “’Peter, flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And you are Peter,’” you are Petros, you’re a little pebble, but this rock, “’I will build My church upon this rock, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against My church.’” You see God’s church, us, we are going to be involved in the bringing about of this crushing of the enemy. We still wait with hope-filled anticipation for the fulfillment of this prophecy, but it is a prophecy that will one day be fulfilled.
And so Paul says to the church there in Rome, “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you [all].” What’s that last word? “Amen.” Well you’d think it would be over, and you would be wrong. Like I said, Paul’s a good Cross Connection pastor – going overtime. After he gives a second “Amen,” the first given there in verse 33 of chapter 15, now the second here in chapter 16, at the end of verse 20.
He goes on in verse 21, and he expresses a greeting from those who were with him in the city of Corinth at the time that he wrote this letter to the church at Rome. He says, “Timothy, my fellow worker, and Luke, and Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, [they] greet you.” So the picture is clear – Paul is there in the city of Corinth authoring this letter, and as he is, he has these guys with him – Timothy and Luke and Jason and Sosipater, there with him as he’s writing this.
And then verse 22, this is a great verse: “I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.” Apparently Tertius didn’t think he was going to get his name in here, and he wanted just to remind, “Hey Paul, I’m here too.” So he says, “I, Tertius, who wrote this, am here too.” He just wrote himself into Scripture for eternity. It’s great. I like this guy. I can’t wait to meet him.
Timothy and Luke and Jason and Sosipater, Tertius, now, verse 23, “Gaius, my host.” Apparently Paul was staying in the home of a man by the name of Gaius, there in the city of Corinth. He appears to be someone of power, someone of influence, someone of wealth. “Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, [he] greets you.” And then Erastus, “Erastus, the treasurer of the city.” Yes, a politician in the city of Corinth. The treasurer of the city, he “greets you, and Quartus, a brother. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Third ending, but he’s not done yet.
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations,” Paul the king of the run-on sentence, “according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” The fourth “Amen.”
Paul says, “Now to Him who is able to establish you…” After nearly 10,000 words of exhortation, of instruction, practical counsel; after nearly 10,000 words of revelation, things that people have spent many, many years teaching through and studying through. This is our 53rd week in the book of Romans. And really, we could spend more time. We’re not going to; we could spend more time in the book of Romans. You know one of the great preachers of the 20th Century, Martin Lloyd-Jones, he wrote fourteen volumes on the book of Romans, and he didn’t actually even finish the book of Romans, because he died before he was done. Fourteen volumes on the book of Romans – this great treasure trove of Scripture that has been studied and continues to be studied after now 2,000 years since it was authored. And any other book, if you spent that much time on it, people would say, “Haven’t you exhausted what is there yet?” But the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. Not just the book of Romans, but the Scriptures as a whole. No one, no human being will ever be able to completely unearth all the treasure that is found in the Scriptures. It would be a daunting task if that was what we had to do. If someone would come to Christ, we’d say, “Well what you need to do is really understand everything that’s in these 66 books. Once you understand this, once you master this, once you have a PhD in the Scriptures and you understand, then you’ll be ready.” I think every single one of us would be disqualified for that.
But that’s not the requirement, that’s not what’s called by God for us. Instead we read here that, “Now to Him,” God,” who is able to establish” us. We’re not established based on the amount of Scripture that we know or don’t know. We’re established by the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the One who authored this, who has given us His indwelling Holy Spirit. The same One who inspired the Scriptures is with us to direct us through the Scriptures, and direct us in our lives with Him. Now unto “Him who is able to establish” us. I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that God is able to establish us, that we’d be rooted and grounded in Him and in love. He is able to establish us.
How does He do it? He “is able to establish you according to” the “gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” There have been many critics against the church for the last twenty centuries, there will be more critics, there are many today who say, “Why does the church gather together in this fashion, in this format, and preach the word, and listen to the word? Why is the preaching of the word continuing? We’re so beyond that.” Modern psychology tells us that monologue preaching is dead, and we need to dialogue. And those things are good, and those are helpful, and we look for opportunities to have that. But why is it that God is still using the “foolishness” of preaching? Because He is able to establish us according to the gospel and by the preaching of Jesus Christ. The preaching of Jesus Christ is important for us being established.
But the preaching of Jesus Christ, how does it happen? “…according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.” We are preaching what was a mystery before Jesus came. But Jesus has brought to light what that mystery was. He has opened the package, if you will. A biblical mystery is like a Christmas package that’s wrapped up, it’s intended to be known and opened. And so He has shown us what the mystery is, as Timothy is told by Paul that Jesus brings to light life and immortality by the Gospel. So Jesus unearths and shows the mystery to us – “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
God establishes us by the preaching of the Gospel, by “the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of [this] mystery…but now made manifest by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations.” Would you circle in your Bible “all nations?” You see this mystery is not just for one small group of people, the descendants of Abraham, this is for all nations, and it’s revealed in the Scriptures.
Why do we preach the Gospel? Why do we preach Jesus Christ? Because the mystery is revealed in the Scriptures, “made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God.” So God has given a decree, He’s given a command that the Gospel would go into all the world. He commissioned and commanded His church, His disciples, to go and preach the Gospel to all peoples, because He establishes us by the preaching of the Gospel, by the preaching of Jesus Christ. And we preach the Gospel “according to the commandment of the everlasting God,” so that people will obey the faith, “for obedience to the faith,” to bring people into a place where they’re walking in obedience to the faith.
And Paul ends with this: “…to God, alone [who is] wise, be glory.” Why has God chosen to do it this way in this fashion? Well He alone is wise, and He has a perfect plan. To Him be the glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen. No better way to end than that.
Would you stand with me and close in prayer.
Father, to You be the glory, may it be in my life that You are glorified. Lord help me to live and walk in a fashion that brings praise to Your name, that people who are around me, who see my life, rejoice in You because of what You’ve done. Lord may that be the reality for each of us standing here in this place today. God it’s my desire that You would get the glory from my life, in every possible way. We thank You, God, that You are able to establish us, to have us be fixed, rooted, grounded in You, Your word abiding in us, us abiding in Your word. God work out in us Your glory today, as we prepare to go from this place. We pray, God, that You would stir our hearts; that we would not be able to remain silent in our neighborhood, on our school campus, wherever we go, our corporate office, wherever it is that we find ourselves throughout the week, God, don’t allow us to remain silent about who You are and how great You are. Lord help us to live in such a way that loudly proclaims Your glory and Your grace, not just by our words, but by our actions. As the church in Rome, 2,000 years ago was filled with faith and faithful, even in the midst of a wicked and dark city, God, in our day, help us to be filled with faith and faithful to You in all that we do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.