Romans 15–16: Paul’s Closing Comments to the Romans
Paul closes his letter to the Romans emphasizing once again the importance of unity and harmony among followers of Christ so that God may be glorified. He also conveys confidence that the Romans are well equipped to carry out that mission.
The numerous individuals mentioned in the farewells of chapter 16 are often glossed over or overlooked, but I find them fascinating. We can learn a lot about the early church from greetings and farewells if we read them carefully and thoughtfully consider them in context for what they say about relationships and inclusion.
Paul had not yet visited Rome at the time of this letter, and he knew many of the individuals mentioned in chapter 16 because they were with him on his prior journeys. He obviously knew those whom he identifies as relatives or dear friends; however, he speaks of many others with warmth and love, and even with some details relating to their roles in the early church in Rome. These must have been people he either met elsewhere on his journeys or had knowledge of through mutual acquaintances.
But what strikes me the most is the mention of a large number of women in chapter 16, some of whom (like Phoebe) are mentioned as servants of the church. I count no fewer than eight women mentioned in chapter 16. I find this remarkable, especially because many centuries later, churches have seriously questioned or restricted the roles of women as clergy, and in some cases even as lay leaders. Paul’s message is relevant today.
A Moment to Reflect:
Make a list of the 10 people who have influenced you the most on your spiritual journey, either as a role model or as someone who has taught, guided or encouraged you in a significant way. They can be members of the clergy, lay leaders, relatives, friends or even strangers. I have done this, and more than half of them are women. I suspect that is true for you as well. I think this is one of those nonessential matters that Paul refers to in Romans 14.