“Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life.” (Romans 16:3,4)
Do you remember what it was like before telephones? Probably not because if you are reading this, you more than likely have never experienced life without a phone. Do you remember what it was like before email or texting? If you are like me, I lived during the era before both were used but can barely remember it. Life with email and texting is now so common.
In biblical times there were, of course, neither email nor texting. If you had lived in what is now considered to be the Middle East and you wanted to communicate with someone in Rome, it would not be easy. Yet, the self-described “slave of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1) made it a high priority to communicate by letter to those he had influenced spiritually in Rome. This is what we call the book of Romans in the New Testament written by Paul.
Paul writes over 750 words in this letter to the Romans and concludes his letter by greeting at least 28 followers of Jesus Christ in Rome. Let’s take a look at some of these Paul mentions in Romans 16:
– Prisca & Aquila were a wife & husband team who risked their lives for Paul.
– Andronicus and Junia are “noteworthy”; Apelles is “approved in Christ”; Tryphaena and Tryphosa have “worked hard in the Lord.”
– Epaenetus, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Persis, Rufus, Phlegon, and Julia were most likely all slaves who Paul takes the time to greet.
Epaenetus was noted by Paul as “the first convert to Christ from Asia”; Rufus’ mother is mentioned and Paul even makes a reference that makes it seem as though this slave’s mother is also his mother –not biological but an older lady who deeply cared for Paul like a mother.
– “Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus” (vs. 10) and “Greet those who belong to the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.” (vs. 11)
“Belong” indicates that these Paul is greeting were also slaves of Aristobulus and Narcissus who were probably converted under Paul’s ministry.
Let us not miss the significance of Paul’s greeting to slaves in Rome. Slaves were not completely like slaves we are used to thinking about. Many, especially household slaves were treated much better than slaves we read about in America’s past but they were still lower class citizens.
Paul wrote to the church in Galatia: “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Paul has been criticized for not speaking out against slavery of his era. However, his emphasis was on the importance of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and unity among the believers no matter your external, earthly station in life.
How can we apply these principles to our lives? Paul knew that his master, Jesus, invited any nationality (Jew or Greek), status (slave or free), or gender (male or female) to His table for salvation. We can and must do the same. Our multi-cultural broken world needs to know the love and open arms of Jesus. The next time you see someone who looks different than you, look past their outward appearance and see an individual God wants to love through you.
William “Carey” Northington of One Master Ministries in Xenia may be contacted at www.OneMaster.org.