Paul finishes listing the believers that he wishes to greet in Rome, and likely also his allies in contending against the competing Jewish “authorities” who have slandered Paul’s gospel of grace.
Rufus is called a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine, Paul considers Rufus’ mother as his own, likely due to the kindness and hospitality she had shown him in the past. We do not know much about Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, or Hermas. Presumably, since the names are listed together they have something in common, perhaps leaders of a church since Paul said, and the brethren with them.
It is interesting to note how many people Paul knows in the Roman church, although he had never been to Rome. Since Rome was the center of the world at that time in every way politically, economically, and culturally, it is not surprising that there may have been a mass immigration to Rome of people Paul had met in his travels.
Paul says to greet Philologus and Julia, who were likely either husband and wife or brother and sister. Paul names Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them, indicating that these people were likely connected to another church in Rome. Paul then instructs the believers to greet one another with a holy kiss. The “holy kiss” was a customary gesture of shared brotherhood in Christ. Paul closes his greetings by saying all the churches of Christ greet the believers in Rome.
Paul listed many Christians he knew personally and could attest to their virtue and devotion to God. There is a story of success in faith with each person he acknowledges. Epaenetus is noted as the first convert to Christianity in Asia, and a beloved friend to Paul. Mary is a believer who is described as a hard worker, as are Urbanus, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis. Paul expresses a deep love for Epaenetus, Ampliatus, Stachys, and Persis. Paul has a rich history with these saints, one made up of dedication, suffering, and love for one another. Andronicus and Junias were imprisoned with Paul at some point. They are called kinsmen, most likely fellow Israelites, and they are revered by the apostles for their ministry. Herodion too is apparently a kinsman of Paul, a fellow Jew.
All of these people are brethren and saints, as are all who believe in Jesus Christ. Paul views this as a team effort. He described the church as a body in Chapter 12 to show what righteous living looks like. Jesus is the head of the body. All these saints are examples of the body of Christ functioning. All of these people helped Paul; his ministry was supported by the believers he acknowledged. Paul taught throughout this letter that Christians should live harmoniously together and care for one another with love.
It is likely that Paul mentions all these people to further combat the slander waged against him by competing Jewish “authorities” in Rome (Romans 3:8). Paul’s gospel and position as an apostle had been called into question by this slander; Paul had not visited the Roman church at the writing of the letter (Romans 1:10) and not every believer in Rome knew Paul personally. So, Paul closes his letter by referencing all the people he knows who are there in Rome, who can validate his apostleship. These are people with a great reputation right there in the Roman community, and they can vouch for Paul.
It would not be surprising to find that this group of saints in Rome were the ones that alerted Paul of the slander taking place against the gospel of grace. It could be that they requested Paul’s help contending against the competing Jewish “authorities” and that Paul wrote this letter to arm them in contending for the faith. If so, by listing them and giving them special commendation, Paul is bestowing his apostolic authority upon them, thus providing them with additional credibility in contending for the gospel of grace.
Paul has done ministry with these people in other parts of the world. Through them, the Roman believers can have better insight into Paul’s authority and ministry, since Paul’s teaching had been slandered and misrepresented.
Paul is also pointing to people whom he trusts, admires, and loves. These people are sources of faith and leadership. Paul’s words are encouraging, edifying, and point to what the body of Christ looks like when it lives in harmony, affecting the world through its unity in obeying God by faith.
13 Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
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