Romans – Wayne Barber/Part 77
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2007|
|Dr. Barber points out more “unknown” saints, and explains how they can help us understand what is important in the Body of Christ.|
The Body of Christ, Part 3
We talk about freedom, but freedom is not the right to do as you please. Freedom is the power to do as you should. So often we misunderstand that. We think that because we’re free we can do whatever. But that’s not what the real meaning of freedom is. As a matter of fact, in Romans 8:2 it talks about what real freedom is. It says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” We’ve been set free from the law of sin and death that continues to reside in our flesh. We’re free from the penalty of sin. We’re free from the power of sin, and one day we’ll be free from the very presence of sin. True freedom is being about the things that our King and our Lord has for us to be about. When we’re in the will that God has for us, when we’re living Romans 12:1-2, surrendered, having offered our bodies as living sacrifices, we experience that freedom. We get to participate in that which God and God alone can do in us and through us.
The picture of this is what we’ve been looking at in Romans 16. We’ve been talking about the body of Christ. If anyone understood the body, the Apostle Paul understood it. You hear in chapter 16 how unselfish and how pure his heart is towards the body of Christ. Paul is a gifted teacher. He could be arrogant. He could be indignant. He was one of the most intelligent men in the New Testament, other than the Lord Jesus Himself. He studied under Gamaliel, the great teacher of the law who existed in those days. Peter made this statement about the Apostle Paul: “You know, there are some things that our brother, Paul, says that are difficult to understand.” A very wise, a very intelligent, a very schooled man.
He could have said to these other nobodies, people who weren’t gifted like he was gifted, “I don’t have time for you.” He could have lived as if they didn’t even exist. But the Apostle Paul understood what God was teaching through him. He understood the message. Not only did he understand it, but he lived it. In Romans 12:3 he says, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” Paul knew that he was the one out front. He knew he was the gifted teacher. But he also knew this was not his work. This was God’s work and God has many, many other people who many times we’ll never hear about, except in Romans 16. They were important to the work that God was doing.
Paul believed what he preached to the Corinthian church, that God gives the gift and the ministry and the effect. He clearly stated in Romans 15:18, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” He knew it was God’s work. He knew it was not his strategy and his planning. He knew it was God’s power and God’s presence and God’s leading. He understood that. Because he understood that, he saw the benefit and the worth of all the nobodies out there, as far as men are concerned, who don’t have the gift that puts them in front of people, the ones who are gifted to serve, and as we studied in chapter 16, to unselfishly be about the work that God has for them. He saw how much value they had. They were like embers of a fire that quickly and brilliantly shone and then suddenly they disappear off the pages of time.
We have seen a group of people who really didn’t have the notoriety Paul had. But the Apostle Paul knew they did as far as God was concerned. Back in chapter 12 God cut the pie and gave each of us a measure of faith. We said it doesn’t matter how big a size piece you got, just be thankful you got a piece of it. It’s God who sliced the pie. To some He gave much, to Paul and James and others, but to some He didn’t give as much. But He gave the same command to all of them, to walk presented unto God and to be about the things God has for you.
I want you to see in this passage why you are even living today. What purpose do you have in your life? Do you know that as a believer you’re never going to be satisfied until you come to the cross and come to that place of surrender and be about your Father’s business? It doesn’t matter what you do down here. These things are important. These things require integrity and much effort. But in the midst of it you’ve got to remember you have a pulpit wherever you are.
God has a will in your life. God has given you a function in the body and God has an assignment for you to carry out. It’s not you so much doing it for Him. It’s you doing it in cooperation with Him. It’s what He is doing in and through you. There is no satisfaction apart from that. So many people go from church to church, from denomination to denomination, griping and grumbling and never finding what they’re looking for. You’re not going to find it except at the foot of the cross, bowed and surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s when you discover God has a purpose in your life. That’s where your joy is going to be found. That’s where your patience and all the peace that you’re looking for is going to come from, not so much even from serving but from the One who is empowering the service. That’s where it all is.
Well, I want us to see this and I want you to be thinking as I go through this list. Sometimes you say, “I’m a nobody. Nobody even knows me. What could I possibly do? How could I be a significant part of God’s work?” Well, look at these people and remember they’re people just like you and me. Many of them will never be known except for the fact that Paul brought them to our attention, but God knows them and we’ll see them one day when we stand before Him. When you live Romans 12:1-2, when I live Romans 12:1-2, God’s going to use us as a part of His work that He’s seeking to accomplish on this earth.
Well, we break in at Romans 16:9 where we left off last time. In verse 9 Paul mentions two more unknowns. The first man is by the name of Urbanus and the second one is Stachys. Now here again we know nothing about these two except what this verse tells us. It says, “Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.”
Now, the name Urbanus was a common Roman name at that time which gives us the idea he might have just been a Roman citizen. Paul says that he’s our fellow worker in Christ. That’s kind of hard to figure out what Paul is saying. When he says, our fellow worker, does he mean that he’s worked with Paul at some point in time or does he mean that he’s a servant that everybody recognizes and is there to help whomever is with him?
Look down at verse 21 of chapter 16 and I’ll tell you why I say that. He says “our fellow worker” in verse 9, but in verse 21 he says, “Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you.” So he says “my fellow worker” in verse 21 and “our fellow worker” in verse 9. So it leads to a little bit of confusion. We don’t know if he ever actually worked with Paul or not. I know one thing, if he ever worked with Paul it could not have been in Rome because Paul had never been in Rome. That’s all we know. We just have to stop right there with this man.
Stachys, on the other hand, was an uncommon Greek name. As a matter of fact, it means “ear of corn,” whatever that’s supposed to suggest. We know that he was closely associated with Paul. Paul calls him his beloved. That term was a term of endearment that was specifically geared to people who you knew well and had great respect for. So he calls him his beloved.
Here again, two unknown men. They appear, then they disappear. One day we’ll know them but on this earth man will have very little to say about them. Yet they’re significant in the Kingdom of God and the body of Christ.
Look at verse 10. In verse 10, Paul mentions a man by the name of Apelles. “Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ.” Now, here again we don’t know much about him. All we do know is that he was approved in Christ. (By the way, you’re never approved outside of Christ.) He was approved in Christ. What does that mean? What we know about him says volumes. Sometimes what the Bible doesn’t say speaks louder than what it says. The significant thing Paul says is the word “approved.” The word is dokimos, which means he had been put to the test. He’s been through the fires and he’s come out with integrity. He’s come out proven to be pure and proven to be genuine.
It was the word they would use to refine metal. They’d take gold, for instance, or silver and put it into a pot. They would heat it until it became a liquid and all the dross would begin to come to the top. Then they would take a ladle and scrape off all the dross. When the silversmith could look in it and see his reflection, then he would cool the fire. And that’s what it means to go through the fire. That’s what it means to be tested and to be approved and to be proven genuine in the midst of adversity. That’s what we know about this man. That’s all we know about him. The Apostle Paul says to greet this man, that this man is important to the Kingdom of God. He’s been through the test and he’s come forth and been proven as genuine.
And of course the fires that he’s been through, obviously in the context, would be the fires of persecution.
You know, you really only know somebody when the pressure’s been put on them. Paul says that is significant in the Kingdom of God. Here we have a little lady nobody knows that wears herself out serving the saints. Here we have a man who’s just simply come through the fire and been proven. All of this plays a role in what God is doing in accomplishing His work.
Well, in verse 10 also Paul mentions those of the household of Aristobulus:“Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.” Now, who in the world is Aristobulus? One of the things I keep wanting to remind you is so often when you get to the chapter 16 you tend to skip the first sixteen verses. It is all greetings and you tend to think that there’s nothing in that. Whoa! There’s a lot in here. Paul does not greet the man, Aristobulus, but he greets his household. That’s significant. That probably says that the man is either dead or he’s not a believer. I think he’s not a believer. Paul greets those who are of the household of Aristobulus.
I did a little bit of research and tried to find out who this guy was. J.B. Lightfoot says that there was a man by that name who was the brother of Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great. Now, we don’t know if this was the same one that Paul is talking about, but if he is then he would have been a close associate to Claudius, the evil ruler of Rome who drove all the Jews out. If that’s the case, when Aristobulus died, his whole household would become property of Rome, property of the emperor there in Rome. So what you have here possibly is a family of believers who are actually in the household of Caesar. Now think about what Paul said in Philippians 4:22. He says, “The brethren of Caesar’s household send you greetings.” God had people like this even in the higher ups of the government of Rome in that day. Wherever God wants somebody, God puts somebody. So therefore, Paul says to greet this family. They’re believers. They are tremendously significant in the kingdom of God. They are of the household of Caesar, if that theory is correct.
At one time the U.S.S.R. army was about sixty percent Muslim. As a result of that, they looked with disdain upon Christians. When they sent the soldiers to Afghanistan, they personally hand picked, from my information, those who were believers in order to punish them. But what they didn’t understand was believers couldn’t get into Afghanistan. That was a country that was shut down to Christians of any kind of ministries. So when they sent the soldiers there who were believers, they brought the gospel right into Afghanistan. Now there are Christians all over the place as a result of what Russia did. But Russia really didn’t do that. God said, “I want some people over here, and He took these people and put them over there.”
You see, each person is significant in what God is doing. Paul said, “I have a calling to take the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world.” But there were many who were alongside him, and Paul understands that and gives proper credit and appreciation to those God chose to use.
Well, come on down to verse 11, and Paul mentions a man by the name of Herodion. The very name, Herodion, is interesting. He says, “My kinsman.” Some people ask, “Was that a personal relative? Was that like an uncle or cousin?” No.
He’s used the word “kinsman” before in Romans and has very well qualified what he’s talking about. Back in 9:3 he says, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” So the word seems to have more of a meaning that these were Israelites; and not only Israelites, but they were brothers in Christ because they had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. He says earlier of Andronicus and Junias, “my kinsmen.” He doesn’t mean that all of his kinfolks are in Rome. What he’s saying is that these are kinsmen according to the tribe of Israel, maybe even back to the tribe from which he came.
In Acts 23:16 we only know of two relatives of the Apostle Paul. “But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul.” So as far as his being a kinsman, all we know is that probably he was an Israelite and especially a brother in Christ. It says that his name is Herodion. There are many who think because of that name he could somehow be directly related to Herod and could have been at least in part associated with this family that we just mentioned of Aristobulus which were the household of faith. Again, we don’t know. You have to remember that we know only what the scriptures tell us. But we do know that God said through Paul to recognize this man. He’s part of what I’m doing in reaching the Gentile world with the gospel.
Look at verse 11. There’s another man very similar to Aristobulus: “Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord.” Now, notice Paul doesn’t say to greet Narcissus, probably because he was a pagan. He wasn’t a believer. But he greets his household just like he did with Aristobulus. There was a man by that name who was the secretary to Claudius. Many people think that’s who this is. It would make a lot of sense. The secretary to the emperor was very important in that day. If you wanted to get to the emperor for an audience or you wanted to correspond with the emperor, you had to go through his secretary. So the secretary could become very wealthy. That was a very pagan society. So he would say, “Hey, for a little bribe, I’ll get you in.” Therefore, this man could have been a very wealthy man and very influential. Again he’s not saved, but his household is and Paul greets them. They could be part of the saints Paul talks about in Caesar’s household.
The idea I want you to get in your mind is God puts you where he wants you and whatever your gift is it’s significantly important in what God is doing through us in the economy of His whole purpose. Look back with me in Matthew 13. I love this. If you have wondered, “Is God really using me? Can God ever use me?”, I want you to go back to Matthew 13. He has several parables here. The first one he talks about is the parable of the sower and the seed and the soil. You know that parable, and you know that there’s only one good soil, the soil that receives the seed, holds onto the seed, and bears fruit out of the seed. The other soils look like they took the seed. They did not. They were not believers and it has a significant place to play there.
In verse 24 he brings up another parable. You say, “What has this got to do with the people Paul’s mentioning in Romans 16?” I hope you’ll make the connection. In Verse 24 he says, “He presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” And he said to them, “An enemy has done this?” And the slaves said to him, “Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?” But he said, “No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’”’”
In the first parable the sower is whoever takes the seed of the Word out and scatters it. The soil is the hearts of men. But in the second parable, it is uniquely different. Jesus said in verse 37, “And He answered and said, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man [Jesus Christ], and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom [Christians]; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.”
I’m not going to go any further because that’s not what my point is. My point is this, if God sows you, He sows you where He wants you to be sown. So many of us wonder is God going to use us? We fight against the very thing that God has put into our life. I want to ask you a question. Did you move to your present location from someplace else? Have you said, “I wish I had never moved?” Perhaps you have spent months and months trying to find a job, trying to get someplace else but you keep running into an impasse. You just can’t seem to make that happen. Have you ever thought about the fact that the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, has sown you into where you are? Have you ever thought about the fact He has gifted you and called you and empowered you in His Holy Spirit to bloom where He has sown you, to bear fruit where He has sown you?
You go from church to church, trying to find a church where you can at least find a little fulfillment and you’re not finding any. Why? You won’t find it in a church. You only find it in Christ. You only find it when you die to your stinking flesh. And you only find it when you surrender to Him and when you do that, you begin to participate in what God now is doing in and through you. He’s planted you where you are. Now, be a part of the Father’s business until He comes for His church.
What’s wrong with us? Perhaps you say, “I can take the first two. I believe God’s put me in these two places, but I don’t like my job.” You spend most of your time in the want ads of the paper trying to find another job. Now, I am not saying God doesn’t change people from job to job and can’t better you and that kind of thing. That’s not what I’m saying. But you run into an impasse and you just can’t make it happen. You’ve tried everything that you know and you’re still stuck in that same old job. Why don’t you like it? Well, the pay. Well, it’s more than that. Probably because of the pagans that you work around, the people who are there. You don’t find any joy in them.
Have you ever thought about the fact that God has sown you into that place and He has you there as the good wheat? He has you there as a person filled with the gospel of Jesus Christ, a person filled with the Spirit of God, a person who can lead people to the door that could take them into the Kingdom of God which is Christ Jesus Himself. Have you ever thought about that? No. We spend most of our time trying to kick against the very thing, the very soil, that God has sown us into.
Perhaps you don’t like your neighborhood. You’ve tried to sell your house. You’ve done everything that you know. Have you ever thought about the fact that there may be a sovereign God in control and that sovereign God is trying to say, “You’re trying to get out of soil I have sown you into. Bloom where you are. Function out of the gift that I have given to you. Let my Spirit empower you. Be about my eternal work. I have put you where I want you. You don’t deserve to be put anywhere”? It’s only by grace that we’re even in the Kingdom of God. Let God use you where you are.
What is wrong with us? We look around and we say, “Hey! Nobody knows me. How can I ever be used?” It’s like God says, “Get off that pride kick and get about the things that I have for you.” That’s the only place you’re going to find your joy. That’s the only place you’re going to find what you’re looking for. Be surrendered to Christ. Be like these people we’re talking about here. Be like the household of Aristobulus. Be like the household of Narcissus. These are people who were in Caesar’s household. They were functional in the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps, you don’t like some of the relationships God has given to you. “I don’t have any friends. Nobody calls me. Nobody writes me. I just don’t have a friend.” Stop it! You have a Friend living in you who the scripture says sticks closer than a brother. Who do you want? He says, “I’ll never leave you, and I’ll never forsake you. You don’t need the friends I’ve put around you as much as they need you.” Bloom where you are. Learn to let God use you where you are. “Well, nobody will never know me.” Not down here, but who cares?
Friend, you’re not home yet. God knows exactly who you are. Nobody down here may ever put your name in the paper. Nobody here may ever recognize you as a great teacher. I’ll tell you what, those of us who have a little bit more of a spotlight need to be very, very careful. It’s only by the grace of God that anybody has a clue who we are. And the very moment we start taking pride in it, God’s going to take that away from us and then we will be known but not for what it was before.
You see, Paul understood that. Paul knew that there were no big I’s and little you’s in the kingdom of God. I’m sorry I’m just sharing a lot of my heart, but this thing has so spoken to me as I was studying it. You’re catching the overflow of it so you’re just going to have to bear with it. You know, part of the problems that I’ve had are people who come across like they are Apostle Paul. They won’t give you the time of day, folks. Some of the greatest disappointments in my life have been people I thought were something that they ended up not to be. We’ve got to understand it’s only by grace we’re even in the kingdom of God. Who are we to say, “God you didn’t give me the gifts I wanted. You haven’t given me the notoriety I’m looking for.” God says, “Wherever I have planted you and sown you, I want you to bear fruit. You are important to Me. You may never be remembered except as a faithful convert who just always remained faithful. You may never be remembered except as a woman who wore herself out serving the saints. But you were a part of My work that I was doing through My body on this earth.”
One of the things I’ve had trouble with over the years is listening to my wife. I need to listen to her more. Every time she says something to me, it’s right if I just pay attention. But, being hard-headed, it takes me a while. I was in a very difficult place one time. I guarantee you, I tried my best to get out of it, but God wouldn’t let me out of it. God was trying to show me, “Son, I’ve sown you here and until I move you and uproot you and put you someplace else, then you dig roots and you bloom where you are. You be a part of my work.”
You know about kudzu. It has very deep roots. It’ll spring up a mile away, engulf houses, cars, whatever’s in the way. Well, it was a rainy day. I was discouraged and mad because God wouldn’t move me someplace else, mad because nobody knew who I. I was upset so Diana suggested that we get out and ride amongst the dead kudzu in the rain. We rode and I tell you it just got worse and worse. Finally Diana reached over and touched my arm and said, “Pull over. I want to show you something.” We pulled over onto the side of the road. I’ll never forget this as long as I live. Out in the middle of all that old dead kudzu was a dogwood tree. It was the edge of spring and that dogwood had blossomed and bloomed. In the midst of all that dead ugly kudzu was a beautiful dogwood that had bloomed. Diana said to me, “Wayne, you’re fighting against the very thing that God has put before you. We need to bloom where we are and be life in the midst of deadness.”
That’s how God uses us, folks. Do you think it’s going to be through the revival? Listen, if having revivals would get this world saved we’d be playing golf waiting on Jesus to come back. It’s not having church meetings. It’s not having teaching on evangelism and revival. It’s having people who live in light of revival. It’s having people who live surrendered lives, people who are free to be what God wants them to be. You may never be known, but somehow it’s counting for eternity. He says in Galatians, “If you sow of the Spirit you will reap of the Spirit and it will be in due season if you don’t grow weary in doing the good things.”
What’s wrong with us, folks? We’re almost through Romans, and I’m going to get it off my chest. There’s a world in your neighborhood. There’s a world where you work. And if we’re going to sit around and put other things as our priority we’re not going to understand what Paul is doing here. He’s picking out people who caught on that the only thing worthwhile in life is to live the Romans 12:1-2 lifestyle, be surrendered to Christ. Don’t retire just refire.
You know, the mentality of America is, “Well, I’m going to get to sixty-five one of these days. I’m going to buy me a motor home and I’m going to see America. I’ve been saving up my money.” You know what folks? That’s so sad. Yes, God will take you out of a job because you’ll physically not be able to do it. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is your eternal purpose never stops until the day God stops your heart and takes you into His presence.
Sometimes we don’t know what’s out here. Sometimes not only do other people not know it we don’t even know it until we get to Heaven one day. But these people finally came to terms with the fact the only joy in life is to be a usable vessel for Jesus Christ. However small or however large, I just want to be about what God wants in my heart.
Well, Paul goes on in verse 12 and mentions three women. “Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord.” Now there are two significant things here. Most people think that these first two are twins and I’ll tell you why. The name Tryphaena means delicate, and the name Tryphosa means dainty. They possibly could have been twins. The word for “workers in the Lord” is the word kopiao. We saw that earlier concerning Mary back in verse 6. It means they have worked to the point of fatigue. Evidently they had been those kind of servants for the Lord. The word “workers” is in the present tense. That tells you something. They’re still busy working for the Lord. They’re able to do what God has assigned them to do.
There’s another lady there, Persis. Persis can find its roots only in the word Persia. Perhaps that identifies the land she came from. We don’t know. We know nothing about her except that the phrase “worked hard in the Lord” is in the aorist indicative. Now think with me. One’s in the present and one is in the aorist indicative. This could tell you that Persis is an older person who is not able to do all that she used to do. She’s still a worker in the Lord but not as significantly perhaps as the younger ones who could do a lot more.
Who are these three ladies? We don’t know. They are just workers in the Lord. Are they important? They’re important to all the work that God is doing throughout His kingdom. What a picture for older saints. Now think back with me. We’ve got women, children and men who nobody knows about. We’ve got older folks. We have Gentiles. We have Jews. Anybody who is willing to say, “Yes,” to the Lord Jesus, God is able to use in what He’s doing in the Kingdom.
My question keeps coming back. When are we going to understand that? When am I going to understand that my only joy is in loving Him and dying to myself? I can be part of what He’s up to, that which He can accomplish through me to the degree I’m willing to surrender unto Him with my gifts, calling, with whatever He’s given me. You are the same way. As we join hands together it’s incredible the world that we could touch for the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of us will be known better than others. When we get to Heaven we’re going to be surprised at who’s in front of the line. God sees it a totally different way. He looks at a man’s heart. So if you’re miserable, defeated, discouraged, and you’re a believer, then I want you to do me a favor. Walk in your bathroom, shut the door, lock it, walk over to your mirror, and say hello to your problem. Because when you’re willing to die to that stinking flesh and surrender to Christ that’s when you’re going to discover how God can use you for all of eternity. You’re going to know it one day when you get to Heaven.
What’s God wanting to do in your life? All you’ve got to do is say yes to Him and strap your seatbelt on because that’s when you’re going to discover the joy you’ve been looking for.