When I was a pastor, our church hosted Vacation Bible School every summer. Planning began months before the event with the same announcement every year: “Many hands make light work.” Paul would have liked this announcement because he was not a lone ranger in his ministry. One reason for his effectiveness was that he relied on the help of many hands.
Paul ends this significant letter with the introduction of Phoebe (vv. 1–2), a host of personal greetings, and a closing benediction. One striking feature of this chapter is the number of people that Paul knew in a church he had not yet visited. One reason was the church’s location. Rome was the most important city in Paul’s day. It is not surprising that it would attract many believers. But the number of people in Paul’s list also shows how important relationships were to the success of his ministry.
The apostle does more than simply list the names of those he greets. In the majority of instances, he adds a personal note. He describes the worthy attributes of Phoebe who has been a significant help and support (v. 2). Priscilla and Aquila had risked their lives for Paul (v. 3). Epenetus was Paul’s first convert in Asia (v. 5). Mary worked “very hard” for the believers in Rome (v. 6). Andronicus and Junia are praised as “outstanding” (v. 7). Ampliatus was Paul’s “dear friend” (v. 8). Urbanus was his co-worker and Stachys, his dear friend (v. 9). He praises Apelles for his fidelity to Christ (v. 10). He greets so many more, it reads like a reunion! He finishes with a beautiful doxology—words of praise to God whose strong hand works through the many hands that make Paul’s ministry possible (vv. 25–27).
>> As we conclude Paul’s letter to the Romans, consider who you would thank for contributing to your Christian life. Make a brief list of individuals who have played a significant role in your journey. Use that list to pray for them and perhaps, one by one, you can send them a note of thanks.