Romans – Wayne Barber/Part 78
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2007|
|As believers, the Apostle Paul has taught us in Romans it is not what we necessarily do for God, it is what God does through us that matters. That’s what he said in Romans 15:18. He says, “I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.” Dr. Barber continues his look at the people Paul greeted in this last chapter of Romans.|
The Body of Christ, Part 4
As believers, the Apostle Paul has taught us in Romans it is not what we necessarily do for God, it is what God does through us that matters. That’s what he said in Romans 15:18. He says, “I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.”
Now, I want to illustrate this using a glove. Before you knew Christ there was nothing of God in you. That’s why religion does not help you at all. Religion is what man does for God. Our righteousness, Isaiah 64 says, is filthy rags in God’s eyes. You can’t dig your way out of the hole that Adam put us in. When you’re in Adam you can’t get out of Adam except to be delivered by what Christ has done for you. It’s Christ who takes us out of Adam and puts us into His kingdom. Well, that’s salvation. We are rescued. We are saved. We are delivered from ourselves and from sin and put into Christ. Something happens. If I said to this glove, “Glove, move around; move your fingers,” you know, this glove just hangs there because there’s not one single thing in this glove that can respond to what I want it to do. This glove doesn’t even want to do what I want it to do. It just hangs there lifeless. That’s the way a person is without Jesus Christ. But when he puts his faith into Jesus Christ, life comes into him. That life, now, affects us. I say to the glove, “Fingers move.” They can move. Wow! I can say, “Ball your fist up.” It balls its fist up. Whatever I tell it to do, it does. Not because of the glove. We’ve already seen what the glove can’t do, but it’s because of the life that is in the glove.
Now when Christ comes to live in us He wants to work through us. He has gifted us and called us. We have a function. We have a purpose until the day we see Him face to face. That’s why Paul says in Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I love the way he said it. There are a lot of people who can’t say “to die is gain” because they can’t say the first part, “to live is Christ.” The very essence of what made Paul tick was not a plan or program but a person who lived in him.
Not only did He live in Paul, but He lived in all the believers of that day and on this earth. He resides in the hearts and lives of believers. The fruit of what He does through us, the ultimate fruit, is the changed lives of people. That’s what he’s talking about in verse 18 of chapter 15. It says, “resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles.”
Some of us don’t get to see that ultimate end. Paul says, “Some sow and some water, but God gives the increase.” So all of us, in whatever we do allowing Jesus to work through us, are a part of that end which is the ultimate transformation of people’s lives, the ultimate leading of obedience to Christ in people’s hearts.
Many of us will never go overseas in missions but yet when God leads us to a prayer ministry to pray or to give or whatever, we are just as much a part of what goes on over there as the people who get to go. All of us play a role in what God is up to. The Apostle Paul has been given the ministry of reaching the Gentile world. We know that from the fifteenth chapter of Romans. Paul is the teacher. Paul is the gifted one in the sense that God has just given him an intellect, an ability, that very few have in the whole New Testament. He understands that. He has accepted that. He has fit himself into that role and all the way to the very end he continues to be about the things God has assigned to him and God empowers him to do. But the Apostle Paul is very conscious of the fact that he’s not the only one involved in this, that there are many others out there, the unsung heroes of the faith, who will never be known by anyone.
As you come to chapter 16, it’s like Paul begins to gather in all of those people who he knows have been instrumental in what God has assigned him to do. It’s not just him. He doesn’t think more highly of himself than he ought to think. The same Christ who works through him in such a magnificent way so that all the people are able to see also works through a little lady who we don’t even know where she’s from or her background but she simply has the gift of service and has the calling to serve and she wears herself out serving the saints. She’s just as important in God’s economy as the Apostle Paul because she has been faithful to do what God has assigned and empowered her to do. Paul was the one who was out front but he knew there were many more who were involved.
Well, we have seen women. We have seen men. We have seen couples. We have seen slaves. We have seen unknowns. The list continues to go on. If we miss this, folks, we have missed something that I think is very precious in the ending of the book of Romans. I think God is saying to us, “I want to use you beyond anything that you could possibly imagine.” But it’s going to take every one of us, each one individually coming to that place of saying, “God, I present my body a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1-2, and Lord, I just want to be a vessel through which You can do Your work until the day You decide to come for Your church.” Oh, how exciting that is! Missions is not just going overseas. Missions begins when you say “yes” to Christ. This is why we have the little sign over the doors of our church, “You are now entering the mission field.” It’s not just overseas. It’s wherever you are. It’s across the street. It’s around the world. When people get in touch with Christ by saying “yes” to Him, they become an invaluable part of what He’s doing, the whole picture of what He’s doing around the world. The key is, am I willing to surrender to Him?
We pick up in verse 13 and find a man by the name of Rufus. It says, “Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.” Now there is a lot of speculation about the man by the name of Rufus. Very possibly he’s the son of the one who bore the cross of Christ up the hill of Golgotha. Turn over to Mark 15:21.
Oh, talk about a beautiful story here if this is that man. We don’t know for sure, but we have a lot of people who think that. I’m one of them. Verse 21 says, “And they pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.”
Now I want to tell you something about Rufus. Cyrene was on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. This man, if this is who we think he is, was a black man from Northern Africa who was the son of a black man who carried the cross of Jesus up Golgotha. There are a lot of people in the deep south who just sort of cringe when you say that, which shows you they either don’t know Jesus or if they do know Him, they’re living far outside of His will. God does not see color, folks. God sees hearts. It’s amazing to me. I think it’s got to be him, just knowing the heart of God and how He uses people. He doesn’t discriminate as men do. God takes anyone who says they will do whatever God tells them to do.
We sing the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in our sight. Of course in some cities they don’t sing that. It’s white and white and white and white, they are precious in his sight. They don’t want to add anything else to it. I’m treading on some toes here, because a lot of people don’t want you to talk about it. But you had better start talking about it. You start living Romans 12:1-2 and you’re going to see immediately the people God wants to use. You’re going to see the colors, the different colors, the different races. God loves all the people He has created. What we have done is an atrocity in His sight.
We could add to that red and yellow, black and white, man or woman, young or old. You could just take this list and make a big song out of it. Whoever’s willing to say “yes” to God, God will use in a very powerful way.
Well, if he is the Rufus, the son of Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross up, it could be that he came to know Christ as a result of watching Jesus hang on the cross to die for his sins. It’s interesting to me that Mark mentions Alexander his brother. Paul mentions his mother. We’ll talk about her in just a moment. Paul said Rufus is “a choice man in the Lord.” The word “choice” is the word eklektos. He doesn’t mean chosen. Everybody he talks about is chosen. We studied that back in chapter 9. He means, in the sense of the previous verse, that Rufus is beloved, dear, precious, to him. He’s a very precious man. Certainly, if he’s who we think he is, he would probably be one of the most respected people in all the Christian church of that day just because of his daddy and what happened in that family.
It says, “Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.” I thought about that. Do you mean that the mother of Rufus was the mother of Paul? No. What he’s saying is his mother was like a mother to me. She took care of me. Now we don’t know when and we don’t know where. Perhaps Simon of Cyrene did, as many Jews did at Pentecost in those times, he just chose to live there in Jerusalem. Maybe that was the contact that Paul had with the family. We just don’t know. You’ve had people in your life who have been like a mother to you. You might even endear yourself to them in that same sense of the word.
When I was in college there was another Wayne Barber. I’m Wayne A. Barber.
He’s Wayne K. Barber. You talk about confusion. He’s younger than I am. We worked at a camp together, and they used to get on the microphone and call us to the phone. We never could tell if they were saying Wayne A. or Wayne K. We’d both show up every time. When I was at college years and years ago, his mother became like a mother to me. She called me over to their house. We had meals together. We did things together. I can truthfully say to this day, even though she’s gone on to be with the Lord, that she was like a mother to me.
That’s what Paul is saying about Rufus’s mom. She had treated even the Apostle Paul like a son. It’s assumed that Alexander wasn’t in Rome or Paul would have greeted him too. Because Mark mentions him, most likely he is also a believer. So you see a whole family here that came to know Christ as a result of witnessing Jesus hang and die on a cross for each of them. He was a black man who bowed his heart to Jesus Christ when he witnessed the sacrifice that Jesus was making for him upon the cross.
You know, something has been bothering me a long time and whenever the scripture brings it up sometimes the Lord gives me a freedom to touch on it just for a second. It’s not an agenda that I have but it’s something I think we need to hear. In the South you don’t talk about blacks too many times. You know, we’re having a resurgence of something in our country. I hope you’ve noticed it, and I hope you’re just as disturbed about it as I am. It’s that anti-Semitic thing that people have against the Jews and the racism against blacks. It’s been there all along, but it’s coming back out now in a way that’s actually more frightening than what it used to be years ago.
I was doing a meeting down in the South, and another church called me and said, “Wayne, this is a wonderful church. They just love Jesus and love to hear the Word taught. Will you come down? We’ll have a wonderful meeting together.” So I went down on a Sunday afternoon. This was years ago, but what I saw then is still happening even to this day. When I got down there I made a statement. You know, sometimes when I preach I sound arrogant. I don’t know why. I do. My mom told me that before she died. She said, “Son, you sound like a smart-aleck.” I don’t mean to. There’s nothing inside of me that really means that. It just comes out that way sometimes. But just remember God is not finished with me yet.
I made a statement that night in a text. I don’t know what I was preaching on. But I said, “What would God have to do in this church to show you what He thinks of you and what you think of you?” You know there’s a difference. There’s a difference in what man thinks of man and what God thinks of him. It says in one of the seven letters in Revelation, “Men say that you’re alive. I say that you’re dead.” There’s a big difference here. What does God have to do to wake us up and show us what He thinks as opposed to what we think? That’s all I said. I didn’t really mean to be smart about it.
The next night I found out how prophetic that statement really was. I was sitting in the pastor’s office. A woman came to the door and began to beat on the door. I opened the door and she said, “Where’s the preacher? Where’s the preacher?” I said, “Well, he’s around here somewhere. “Can I help you?” She said, “Something awful is going on inside the auditorium.” I said, “What? Is somebody sick?” She said, “It’s worse than that.” I said, “Has somebody had a heart attack?” She said, “It’s worse than that.” I said, “Has somebody died?” She said, “It’s worse than that.” Now wait a minute. Time out. What is worse than somebody having a heart attack and dying in the auditorium? I said, “Well, what’s going on?” She said, “There are two black people out there.” I said, “Well, praise God.” Now, I shouldn’t have said that. I want to tell you I have never in my life watched anything like what I saw that week. I preached to more people than probably any meeting I’ve ever done, but the crowd that night boycotted the services and spread the rumor that I started it. I’d loved to have gotten us a van load of the precious black people that are in our church and all of us had gone down there for that meeting. I didn’t. That would’ve been wrong. But I thought about it after they blamed me for it that week.
You see, the blacks were there from a college not too far away. They had seen a sign inside the First National Bank there that said, “If you love Jesus and want to see revival, come to First Baptist Church.” Well, they loved Jesus, wanted to see Revival so they came to First Baptist Church. They just didn’t read the fine print. “If you’re white, upper class, and contribute to the offering.” They didn’t quite understand that. Well, that night it was like preaching in a snowstorm. It was the coldest place I’ve ever been in my life. I enjoyed it, personally, because of the fact that the freedom God was giving me. The fellow who asked me was enjoying it. The two black folks who came were having a ball. I want to tell you something, folks. They’re the only ones who are going to enjoy Heaven when they get there for the first thousand years. The rest of us are going to be walking around trying to reorganize the place or something. We don’t enjoy it now. Why do we think we’re going to enjoy it that much more then? They’re going to enjoy it. They’re flat going to enjoy it.
What I loved about these precious black brothers is they’d finish your sentences. I loved it. I would get in the middle of a sentence, take a breath, and they’d finish it for me. I thought, “This is great. I can preach for twice as long while we’re here.” I got over on David and Bathsheba. I remember I was sort of mealy-mouthing around. I didn’t want to say some of the things that were in that text. One of them said, “Uhoh!” out loud and the other one said, “Come on Preacher, say it. We need to hear it.” You don’t have to tell me but one time. I’m going to say it.
Well, that night they came down and one of them said, “Brother Wayne, we have enjoyed the messages but, boy, we don’t feel welcome here.” I said, “I want to tell you something. As far as I’m concerned and God’s concerned, you are welcome here.” About that time the preacher walked down and took them back into his office. I knew exactly what was going on. Some of the influential people in the church had objected, and he felt threatened. He decided to go with that rather than his conscious. He took them back into his office and told them they couldn’t come back. But on Friday night I witnessed something that I’ve never seen anywhere else in my life and it’s still true to this day. I watched God take His candlestick right out of that church. You can find more light in a funeral parlor now than you can with those people in that place.
You see, folks, we need to wake up and understand something. Our flesh is wicked, deceitful, and it will discriminate and fill with prejudice the moment you’ll allow it. But, see, the whole picture of Romans is you live dead to the sick flesh that all of us have, come alive in His Spirit and allow His Spirit to give you spiritual eyes and then you don’t see color. You see people. You see need. You see hearts. You see, that’s what it’s all about. My hope is when I get to Heaven I’m going to find out this really was that same Rufus. Because in the list of slaves, of couples, of women, of nobodies, he puts in there a precious black man whose daddy actually carried the cross of Jesus up Golgotha.
Well, in verse 14 he mentions five men together. Paul says, “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them.” We don’t know anything about these men except that they’re in the list. Although Paul does not identify them, it says the brethren with them. Now, you’ve got to think with me. What does he mean the brethren with them? Evidently these were five men who were distinguished somehow within a particular congregation that probably met in a house. Remember earlier we saw that Priscilla and Aquila had a church that met in their home. There were groups of these people all over, evidently, the city of Rome. He’s greeting a group of men who possibly represent one of those house churches by putting the term “the brethren” with them.
Now again, we don’t know much from them but, we can look at a few things here. There’s an inscription of a slave freed by Augustus by the name of Asyncritus. We don’t know if it’s the same one. About Phlegon we know nothing. Hermes was a very common slave name. Patrobas was a slave name. History records a man by that name who was freed by Nero. Hermas was also a common slave name. So, regardless of which one you mention, we don’t know a whole lot about them. But by studying history and the times and the names and what they were associated with, it appears that you’ve got five men who had been slaves at that time and had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. They certainly weren’t in the upper class. They were in the slave category, but Paul distinguishes them, lifts them up, and says, “Greet these five men in that church.”
Paul pays tribute to them. Nobody else would have paid tribute to them except God Himself. God is doing that through Paul. You’ll never see them again, except when you get to Heaven one day. They’re just like that ember that we talked about in the fire. It just suddenly, brilliantly flashes up and then disappears. That’s the way it is. But they were important in the economy of God, just as important as the Apostle Paul. They were not as recognized as he was but they were just as faithful as he was, and he recognizes them in that verse.
In verse 15 he mentions another group of five. It could, again, mean another little house church that’s there. He distinguishes five people out of that church. He says, “Greet Philologus.” You know, that’s an interesting name. The Greek there means “lover of the word.” I don’t know anything else about him, but I love his name. “Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.”
It’s a very similar situation of what he just did. It’s probably a church. Paul mentions the brethren with the other five and the saints with these five. Evidently, it was a small house church. We know that Philologus was a common slave name. Julia was the most common name of female slaves in the imperial household. She had a name that would be associated with slavery. Some people say, by the way, that they’re husband and wife. We don’t know that.
The name, Nereus, is found in an inscription of the imperial household. We don’t know anything of his sister. We don’t know anything about Olympas. But Paul says, “all the saints who are with them.” So evidently, these were five nobodies who had somehow been distinguished by their faithfulness to God in a little house church there in Rome. The Apostle Paul was led to bring them into his list of greetings there that he has in chapter 16.
The body of Christ, to me, is such an enigma of how God chooses the gifts and how God chooses to use people differently. It just blows me away. I remember in my own life in some of the good things that have happened to me. I don’t have any understanding of this. Sometimes, you know, you get caught up in this kind of stuff. “Wow! Man, I’m on video! I’m on radio!” Hey, folks, back down real fast and say, “Oh, God, let me not think more highly of myself than I ought to think. You use who You choose to use and everyone fits into Your master plan and everyone is just as significant to You as anyone else.” That’s the beautiful economy of God. So, if you didn’t get the greater piece of the pie and you’re not as well-known as somebody else, hey, look who he’s mentioning here. You’re going to be just as recognized one day when you stand before the Lord Jesus Christ in the gift you have, in the calling you have, in the burden that God has place upon you. When you say “yes” to God, it’s amazing how He’ll fit you into what He’s doing.
We took a course called “Experiencing God.” When you say “yes” to God, you get to get in on what God is up to. God will use you in ways that at times you’ll just have to bow down on your face before Him and say, “God, I just don’t understand at all how you even begin to use me.” The world has no way of understanding the depth of fellowship and partnership experienced by those in the body of Christ. The only reason the believer does not sense this is because they’re not living Romans 12:1- 2. Prominent women, slave women, men, couples, blacks, Jews, Gentiles, God takes anyone who will say “yes” to Him.
Well, in conclusion to his greetings Paul says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” You’ve got to understand their culture and what was going on at that time. The key here is not the kiss. The key here is the word “holy.” Let’s look at this. Romans 16:16 says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.” In other words, you greet one another.
Let’s go back and find out where this practice came from? The best I can discover is the practice of embracing and kissing friends on the forehead and on the cheek was popular way back in Old Testament times. It was first common among relatives and friends especially when they would see one another after a long period of being separated. To kiss a person of high position was to show great respect for that individual. Well, that carried over into the New Testament church. And the New Testament church, primarily made of up Jews in its earliest form, kept up the practice especially with relatives and friends and those in the body of Christ. Many of the Jews, when they became believers, were outcasts to their own families. You’ve got to remember this. When they were baptized, friends, they were cut off. Funerals were given. They were dead. Their families disowned them and still do to this day. They had no family. So their family became the body of Christ. To be greeted that way with a holy kiss, to be affectionately loved in the power of the Holy Spirit of God, was special. It was not something sensual, erotic or sexual. But it was something very truly deep and heartfelt of being able to greet one another. It must have ministered to them in a very powerful way.
In no way was it something to be sensual or whatever. That’s probably why we stopped doing it over the years. Somewhere along the way it got perverted and therefore it got stopped. We don’t really know when it stopped in tradition. As a matter of fact, you can see this with Paul and the church of Ephesus. You know, they loved him and he loved them. Over in Acts 20:36 it says, “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they should see his face no more. And they were accompanying him to the ship.” Paul said, “I probably will never get back to you.” He’s spent three years of his life teaching them. He called the elders down there to Miletus to meet with him. As he was going to the boat they just couldn’t stand it. They just fell on him and kissed and hugged and embraced him. It wasn’t anything sensual. It was something of a deep heartfelt emotion that they had produced by the Holy Spirit of God, that affection that ought to be in the family of God.
I want to say a word about that. I don’t know what’s going on in our church, but I feel a fresh wind blowing. Just by being together there’s that affection that can only be produced by the Holy Spirit of God that I’m sensing personally and a freedom that I haven’t sensed in a long, long time. I think this is exactly what this is all about. When you’re in love with Christ and He produces a holy love in you for one another and you see one another, you just come alive because you found another believer and a friend and a brother or a sister in Christ. That’s what it was all about. Paul admonished the church to greet one another that way.
In 1 Corinthians 16:20 Paul says, “All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” 2 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” 1 Thessalonians 5:26 reads, “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.” Peter had the same idea. 1 Peter 5:14 says, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ.”
When I was over in Romania some of that has carried into the church. Some of it has become very ritualistic. It’s almost a formality when they walk up and kiss you on the cheek on both sides. You can tell the difference.
It’s like a hug. You know, I was born and raised a hugger. Now some of you aren’t and it just drives you nuts to be around somebody like me. My mother was somebody that hugged people. And I’ve got my mother in me like you would not believe. My mother never met a stranger. Somehow that was born inside of me. I’ve been in situations and go up and try to hug somebody and it’s like, “Oooooh, what are you doing?” Then it makes me think, “Golly, what am I doing? I don’t think I really thought about it. I was just glad to see you.”
There’s a difference in a hug and a hug. There’s a difference in a kiss and a kiss. That’s what he’s talking about. If you’re walking in the power of the Holy Spirit of God you don’t really worry about that kind of thing. He gives you integrity. He gives you discernment of times when to and times when not to. But that’s something of the body of Christ somehow affectionately being drawn to one another. Both Paul and Peter said to affectionately greet one another. Peter calls it a kiss of love. I think what he’s saying is that love just emanates between brother and sister in Christ. That’s what he’s talking about.
Go back to Romans 12:1-2. That’s where it all flows out of. You cannot divorce anything from 12:3 on from 12:1-2. You cannot do it. If you’re living dead to yourself and your flesh has been put down by saying “yes” to God, then God in you produces through you the lifestyle that has great integrity but is governed by deep compassion and affection for one another in the body of Christ. You can’t help it. You just can’t help it.
So Paul says, “You greet one another with a holy kiss.” In the 21st century you love one another. Greet one another. Let people know that you love them. That’s part of it, folks. When we walk on your church property, if you’re walking in the spiral of the Holy Spirit of God, how can you walk by anybody and not put a hand out and shake their hand? How can you do that? I don’t understand that. That’s just part of coming together, the privilege of the family of God.
You say, “I want to be included in God’s list.” It’s real easy. If God’s life has come into you, all you’ve got to do is respond to His life that’s in you with a word. That word is an attitude, and that attitude is saying “Yes, Lord. My hand is open. Lord do in and through me whatever it is You want to do.” You may not be known down here, but buddy, you’re known up there. One day when we stand before Him, we’ll understand who it was that said “yes” to Him. That’s what it’s all about. The body of Christ requires all of us to be surrendered to Him, and then only He can get the glory for what He does through you and me.
I love you. This has ministered to me. It never gets out of me like it gets in me. But boy what a joy I have had going through just searching these people, these nobodies who God said were somebodies. That’s the whole key. Moses spent forty years becoming a somebody. Then God had to give him forty more years to learn to be a nobody before God could ever use him. When you don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, you’re a somebody to God but a nobody down here as far as people are concerned. That’s the way you live. No reputation to yourself. All of the praise goes to Him.