By Larry Ray Hafley
Romans 16 is an intriguing chapter. it is full of names. In a sense, they are nameless names. For the most part, those faithful men and women are unknown, except for their kind commendation by the great apostle. Volumes of spiritual service and sacrifice lie hidden in the brief references which are scattered like so many rose petals in the pathway of truth.
We know of Aquila and Priscilla, of course, but what of 4tray well beloved Epaenetus” and “Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles” and “Urbane, our helper in Christ” and “Apelles approved in Christ” and “Peris, which labored much in the Lord” and “Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.” The list goes on and on. Who were these unselfish, striving servants? What thrilling and encouraging lives of faith did they live? Oh, how our hearts might be cheered and our spirits edified by knowledge of their “works of faith and labors of love.”
But, alas, all such dreams await the fulfillment of the Judgment, “the day of Christ” (Phil. 2:16). These fleeting glances and glimpses of first century saints reveal several important things to us:
(1) They tell us of Paul’s gratitude. Paul did not seek all the glory or praise for his efforts. He was quick to applaud others; he appreciated their efforts. Truly great men are always conscious of the help and support they receive which allows them to achieve and accomplish their goals.
(2) They tell us that all are needed in the work of the Lord. Well known, faithful preachers often deserve their notoriety among brethren, and we acknowledge their good name. However, apparently unknown men and women are essential to the growth of the Lord’s kingdom. “From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16, NASB). If you know such a person, one who struggles almost anonymously, let him know of your love for his works’ sake.
(3) They tell us how important it is to have our names written in the right places. Hymanaeus, Philetus, Alexander, Demas and Diotrephes are all mentioned in the New Testament, but like Judas it is in shame. Do you long for your name to be placed in Hollywood’s walk of fame? Do you want your name in a sports hall of fame? Certainly, you do not want your name in the FBI’s list! It is an honor for these brethren of long ago to be cited in Romans 16, but they all knew and rejoiced in a list that is far greater – “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:20). Is your name written there? It does not matter where your name appears, nor how often it is mentioned if it is not in the Lamb’s book of life, for “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).
Do you have a gracious, thankful appreciative heart for the work of others? Do you recognize that “those members of the body which are more feeble, are necessary” (1 Cor. 12:22)? Is your name written in the only place where it really matters? The unknown brethren in Romans 16 can still teach us a great deal.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 16, pp. 490-491
August 20, 1992