In this final chapter of Romans, Paul takes this time to mention certain people who helped him with his ministry in Rome. This reminds us that Paul was a real man writing to real people about the truth of the Gospel. We may not know extensively about these individuals mentioned but one thing is clear: people matter to God. People mattered to Paul because they matter to God, and by way of implication that means they should matter to us. This powerfully stands out in these verses.
Paul provides 3 Directives when it comes to people:
- Greet them!
- Avoid them!
- Connect them!
Greet (Romans 16:1-16)
From verses 3 to 16, almost every verse begins with the word “greet.” Paul even ends this section with the instruction to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” (16) The manner with which we greet each other matters. We communicate value to others when we are happy to see them. Culturally appropriate acts of affection are encouraged among believers. We want to love people well by letting them know that they are seen and loved.
Avoid (Romans 16:17-20)
Paul seems to be contradicting himself here. After all, he spent the previous four chapters talking about loving others and getting along with people you disagree with. But now there’s this clear warning to avoid certain people. Paul is addressing a specific concern about the dangers of divisiveness and deception. According to Paul, truth and unity are essential to God’s purpose for the church. So Paul urges us to avoid anything that contradicts the true message of the Gospel and causes unnecessary division with other Christians.
Paul doesn’t want us to get distracted by camps or perspectives on a particular topic. Instead, he wants us to remain centered on the Gospel. He mentions how “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (20) Satan is the leader of all evil and represents all the corruption in the world that will one day be destroyed by God. The fulfillment of this ancient prophecy is occurring now as we build up another and look past disagreements for the sake of the Gospel.
Connect (Romans 16:21-23)
After his greetings and his warning to keep the community connected in the gospel, Paul now connects those working with him to those to whom he is writing. This goes back to Paul’s original point about the importance of people. Paul is appreciative of the relationships he has formed during his ministry. They matter so much to him that he wants to continue building a network of believers that will encourage and equip one another. As we continue to grow in connectedness by the grace of God, let us remain centered on the Gospel that unites people to God and one another.