Week of June 4, 2018
(This material is based on the Sunday message at Grace Church Bethlehem and is intended for use with a small group or for personal reflection and study)
Fair Warning: the study guide this week will demand some patience and determination from you. The scripture text below from Romans 16 is easily skimmed or skipped entirely - just one odd name after another. We don't know who those people were, and the New Testament doesn't make mention of most of them other than this one passage. Surely we were never meant to actually study Romans 16:1-16, right? Not so fast. There is something for us in these 16 verses. If nothing else, you are invited this week to ponder this remarkable fact: Paul concludes his most tightly reasoned and thoroughly thought-out theological masterpiece with a list of names. Paul spends fifteen chapters unpacking the doctrines of the faith, and then he ends by naming his friends. This week we're giving our attention to the connection between the beliefs we hold and the community to which we belong. Living the faith, remaining faithful, requires friends.
Scripture texts: Romans 1:11-12; Romans 16:1-16
11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong- 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. (Romans 1:11-12 NIV)
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon[a][b] of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. 3 Greet Priscilla[c] and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among[d] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.
Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord's people who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. (Romans 16:1-16 NIV)
For group discussion / personal reflection:
1. As you read Romans 16, note the phrases Paul uses to comment upon or identify the persons he names. What are some of the specific things that endeared these people to Paul? How had their lives impacted his?
2. In Romans 1 Paul speaks of desire to visit the church at Rome so that they might be "mutually encouraged by each other's faith."
- What do you think this phrase means?
- Have you ever experienced this?
- And if so, how?
3. Our culture offers opportunities for people to gather in various kinds of communities, everything from Rotary Club to Supper Clubs. What is it about a gathering of Christians that is distinctive?
4. We were never meant to live the faith in solitude - but often we find that belonging to a community can be both a blessing and a challenge. How have you experienced the "upside" of Christian community? How have you experienced the "downside" of the same?
5. Pastor Andy Stanley speaks often of the difference between gathering with other Christians in rows (Sunday worship) and gathering in circles (a home group). We need both. Gathering in rows is important but gathering in circles is where life change usually happens. How do you most often gather with other believers? What has kept you from finding your way from a row to a circle?
Gracious God, we give you thanks today for the friends you bring into our lives to walk with us and encourage us in the way of Jesus. Forgive our tendency to try and live our faith as a solo act. We give you thanks for the ways we encounter you in the presence of a faithful friend. Help us to befriend others who need community and make us open and willing to embrace community for ourselves, we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Mark H. Crumpler
Pastor for Worship and Formation