Late yesterday I began feeling a tickle in my throat. By bed time, it was a cough and painful throat. A bit of night-time medicine did not work its miracle cure and this morning I was in full misery. No church this morning for me – no sharing this little bug with kind people coming to worship our Lord.
So I did a bit of Bible reading, choosing Romans 16. I was struck by the number of people Paul commended in the first verses of this chapter. Some leap out at me as being mentioned in other verses. Rufus, for example.
And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. (Mark 15:21 KJV)
Simon bore Christ’s cross, a burden that he bore for us, too. It is possible his family was affected by his selection. We know that this Rufus in Romans became a Christian, his mother treating Paul as a son. So much information held in two verses, if they are the same Rufus.
One verse causes a bit of contention still today.
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: (Romans 16:1 KJV)
The word translated ‘servant’, diakonos, in Strong’s is G1249 “specifically a Christian teacher and pastor – deacon, minister, servant” which is found in 28 verses and translated as servant. Deacon in 1 Timothy 3:10 and 13 is G1247, found in 32 verses and translated many times as ministering to others. Oh, how I wish I knew Greek sufficiently to understand the differences. Yet we cannot, with this one word in only one verse, discredit the doctrine held in I Timothy 3:11 defining the character for the wives of deacons.
Among all the salutations and greetings given in this last chapter of Romans, there are also admonitions.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18 KJV)
How true this is today. Amidst the list of greetings, something called Paul’s attention to them which cause divisions and offences. Their names are not given, which is well and good. Were they to be named, we might not believe we should be aware of such today. We could think this was a one-time event. It is not.
Paul gives us, in these final verses, a strong warning concerning false teachers. They sound good. Their speeches, their sermons, are appealing. They gather people around themselves. They look upon those who us the Bible for doctrine as being divisive. They wish to have all follow them.
In other verses we are told these false teachers are accursed (Galations 1:7-9). We are told to turn away (2 Timothy 3:5), to reject (Titus 3:10) and receive not (2 John 10).
Where is the gospel to be found? In God’s word. I commend it to you.