Dear Tabernacle Family,
If I were to ask you to describe the Apostle Paul, what words would you use? You might respond with, serious, brilliant, logical, reverent, studious, thoughtful, dedicated, driven, committed, or determined, for certainly, each of these words fit the usual picture we have of the man from Tarsus. As you read his letters, Paul doesn’t seem to be the kind of man you would invite to your home for dinner. If you did, you’d probably brush up on your theology beforehand.
Speaking of theology, most of us think of Paul’s letter to the Romans to be his definitive thesis on the matter of salvation and the unfolding of other major doctrines. But surprisingly, the final chapter of Romans, Chapter 16, reveals a very different side of this great apostle. Here, we are given a personal glimpse into Paul’s heart and we discover he had an overwhelming love for people. Paul was a people-person! In fact, in 16 verses Paul mentions 27 different individuals and makes 19 references to greeting or commending these friends. He doesn’t write anything impressive or earthshattering, but it’s fully authentic, as Paul expresses his affection and admiration for others.
Furthermore, the terms Paul uses reflects the fundamental unity of the Church; words like, brother, sister, kinsman, beloved, and fellow-worker. He speaks of being “in Christ,” and “unto Christ,” and “in the Lord,” affirming that the basis of our relationship with one another is found in our union with God through the Messiah’s atoning work. In other words, our ability to properly relate to each other comes because of and through the life that we share in Jesus.
Taken as a whole, this Chapter displays the breadth of the Church. The church at Rome included men and women, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, slaves and freedmen, and those from every level of society. The body-life principles of the New Testament call for a unity that is discovered in the midst of great diversity; one that spans the human barriers of race, wealth, social class and ethnic background.
What we learn from Romans 16, even as Paul is helping us to understand the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, is that each of us matter to God and have an essential place in His Kingdom. Paul was a people-person, as we should be. Perhaps the reason Paul could readily call forth so many names was because he frequently mentioned them in his prayers. I hope that we will do the same for one another.
I have you in my heart,
Pastor Jim Ruddy