Who’s Got Your Back?

Who’s Got Your Back?

“Who’s Got Your Back?”

(Romans 16:1-24)

Series: Not Guilty!

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

First Baptist Henderson, KY

(12-27-09) (AM)


  • Take God’s Word and open to Romans, chapter 16.


We’re in the last chapter of Romans.  We started a series several months ago in the book of Romans.  We preach through books of the Bible here at First Baptist, expository preaching, verse-by-verse wherever possible.  And we have made it now to the final chapter.


Ray Stedman was an expository preacher in California who has gone on to be with the Lord.  He preached through books of the Bible and when his congregation finally arrived at Romans 16, Stedman said, “Some of you are old enough to remember when we started!”  Well, we haven’t been in Romans that long, but we have rounded third base and are getting ready to slide into home plate.  I plan to finish our study this evening, Lord willing, when we look at the last three verses of Romans, studying together the doxology at the very end of the chapter.


As we prepare to read Romans 16, we note that we are reading something of a P.S., a postscript to the book.  Paul has, for all intents and purposes, finished the letter proper at the conclusion of chapter 15 but, just like when we write letters, he has finished with the “business” of the letter and now pens a few words of personal greetings.  And so we’re going to read his greetings to a number of people.  Let’s get started and I’ll read the opening verses of the chapter.


  • Stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.


1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,

2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,

4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.


  • Pray.




I saw a movie this past week called, “The Blindside.”  I always want to be careful mentioning movies from the pulpit because so many contain language that’s not appropriate for all families and, unfortunately, even this movie as good as it was, disappoints in this regard.  So I cannot recommend the movie to everyone, but what I really liked was the true story upon which the movie is based.


I had read about the story some time back, back before I knew they were making a movie about it.  I remember reading about it somewhere in the news, the true story of the football player Michael Oher (pr., “OAR”) and the Tuohy (pr., “TOO-ee) family.  It’s the true story about a young, African-American youth who is virtually homeless in Memphis, Tennessee and a white Christian family named the Tuohys see Oher walking the streets of Memphis one cold, winter night.  The Tuohys take Oher into their home as one of their own and they inspire him and encourage him and Oher goes on to become a first round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens.


It’s just a wonderful story!  And a recurring theme throughout the movie is the idea of looking out for one another.  When Mrs. Tuohy is walking with Oher in a dangerous part of Memphis, the large and athletic Oher says to his much smaller soon to be adoptive mother, “Don’t worry: I’ve got your back.”  And this metaphor occurs frequently in the movie both on the field, applying to Oher’s position as offensive tackle on the football team, and off the field as a young man who looks out for his family, the idea of looking out for one another, protecting one another, “watching the back” of another.


As the Apostle Paul concludes his letter to the churches in Rome, he takes the space of 24 verses to mention 33 people by name.  An inescapable conclusion to the study of this text is that Christianity is about being a family, about looking out for one another, caring for one another, protecting one another, loving one another, “watching the back” of one another.


Christianity is not something that happens in isolation.  Christianity is inherently family.  This is a truth that really went without saying 2,000 years ago when Paul wrote this letter, but it is a truth we must take care to stress in our time today.  Too often, we think of Christianity as merely an individual matter.  We categorize it into the things that concern us as individuals.  “I have this and this and this.  These are mine.”    But Christianity is not to be lived out in isolation of other believers.  We are a family of faith.


Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”


Christianity is about family.  It’s about loving one another, caring for one another, protecting one another—watching the back of one another.  Let’s read through this text and note some benefits of being a loving Christian family, things we enjoy when we recognize that we are a loving family of faith.  First:


I.  We enjoy Community (1-16)


The Christian family is a diverse community of faith.  Again, Paul mentions 33 people by name here.  24 of them live in Rome and 8 of them are with him in Corinth as he writes this letter.  They are people from all walks of life and they are together a loving community.  The word “greet” occurs 19 times in our text.  17 of those times, Paul himself is greeting individuals.


1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister (Note that!  She is a “sister,” a family member), who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,

2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.


The first person Paul mentions is “Phoebe,” a woman Paul describes as “a servant,” a gracious servant and “helper of many.”  She had been a help to Paul and a helper to many others in the church in Cenchrea.  Paul says in verse 2 to “receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints.”  Here is a reminder that Christians are known as “saints.”  When the New Testament speaks of “saints” it is speaking of all Christians.  We sometimes speak of this person or that person as “a saint” and by that we mean that this is a fine person, a paragon of virtue.  But the Bible describes all Christians as saints.  No church group votes on who is a saint and who is not.  We are all saints.


3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,

4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.


You remember reading about Priscilla and Aquila in the book of Acts.  We don’t know exactly to what Paul is referring here in verse 4 when he writes that Priscilla and Aquila “risked their own necks for his life,” but you could definitely say that Priscilla and Aquila “had Paul’s back.”  They had his back!  They loved him.  They cared for him.  They protected him.  One day we’ll find out.  We’ll sit down in heaven with this stellar husband and wife duo, Priscilla and Aquila, and we’ll ask them, “What was that ‘risking your neck’ business about?  Tell me the story,” and then we’ll know.


5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia [NU, Asia] to Christ. (one of the first converts in Asia Minor).

6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.

7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.


That’s an interesting word there.  Paul says in verse 7 to greet Andronicus and Junia, his countrymen, which means they were probably Jews, and then he describes them as his “fellow prisoners,” fellow prisoners who were “of note among the apostles.”  These two folks, Andronicus and Junia, did time with Paul.  They were fellow prisoners.


Here is a reminder that the Christian life is not a call to a life of ease, leisure, and pleasure.  The Christian life often means persecution.  In some cases and cultures Christianity means being arrested and spending time in prison simply for believing in Jesus Christ.  For our culture, persecution can take other forms—losing friends, family, job offers, being ridiculed at school—these are the normal consequences of living in a world hostile to the Christian faith.  We must know that and be prepared for it so as to not come apart when it happens.  These two persons, Andronicus and Junia, did not “come apart” when they faced trials and tribulations.  Apparently, they did not complain.  They are described there as being “of note among the apostles.”  The idea seems to be that they were strong, steadfast followers of Jesus Christ.


I read this story the other day in the news.  Get this headline:


“Michigan Man Walks Into Diner With 5-Inch Knife in Chest, Orders Coffee”


Well, I was hooked.  I just had to read this story.  Let me share it with you.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009, Associated Press, WARREN, Michigan:


A man who walked into a Michigan diner with a 5-inch knife stuck in his chest ordered a coffee and complained only about the cold weather.  The 52-year-old man, who has not been identified, called a 911 operator in Warren on Sunday night to ask that an ambulance be sent to Bray’s, an eatery in neighboring Hazel Park.  He said he had been stabbed during an attempted robbery half a mile away, then walked to the restaurant and called 911 from a pay phone.


On a recording of the call, the man gives a vague description of his attacker before saying, “I’m gonna sit down at Bray’s ’cause they got a chair and it’s cold out here.”  Restaurant employee George Mirdita tells The Detroit News the man calmly ordered coffee.  Police said Tuesday that the man is recovering.


I read that story and I turned to Michele and I said, “Now that’s the kind of a guy I’d like as a church member!  Here’s a guy with a knife stuck in his chest and he calmly orders a cup of coffee and sits down in a diner and the only complaint he has is, “It’s a little cold outside, isn’t it?!”  I mean, really, isn’t this the kind of guy you’d like to get to know a little better?!  A bit like Andronicus and Junia, I am sure.


8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.

9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved.


Note that: twice Paul refers to a couple of individuals as “my beloved.”  We love all in the Christian family, but there are certain Christians to whom we are drawn especially close, loving brothers and sisters.


10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ (what a great thing to say, “tested and approved” in Christ). Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord (the community of faith includes Gentiles as well as Jews)

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis (another Christian to whom Paul was especially close), who labored much in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.


That’s a neat little gem there.  Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother “and mine.”  Whoever Rufus was—and there is a lot of speculation here—what is known is that his mother was like a mother to Paul.  Family!


14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, (and these names will need to be spelled correctly on the quiz!) and the brethren who are with them.

15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ [NU, All the churches] greet you.


That phrase in verse 16, “Greet one another with a holy kiss” is culturally-dependent, okay?!  You know what I’m saying?!  I mean, even today in Eastern cultures a way to warmly receive another person—male or female—is to kiss them on the face.  That does not fly here in the West!  If you’re a guy and you’re going to come up to me and “greet me with a holy kiss,” you better watch your back, okay?!  I’m just sayin’.


The phrase is context-dependent, culture-dependent.  It is not normative for all contexts.  What is normative is the intent behind the expression and the intent behind the expression is, “Greet and receive one another warmly.”  In our culture, a friendly hug or handshake conveys the same thing.


But don’t miss the point: warmly receive one another.  There are some churches you can visit and you get the sense that the visitors and non-Christians are warmer than the Christians.  If that is so, something is desperately wrong.


One more thing: note in verse 16, “The churches of Christ” or, “All the churches” greet you.  From Jerusalem, to Corinth, to Rome; from the community to the continents, we are one global community of believers.  We are to be concerned for all the brothers and sisters in all the churches.  We are a global community of faith and God is redeeming for Himself one people from every tribe, nation, and tongue.


Christianity is inherently family.  We enjoy community.  There is no doubt the Apostle Paul loved his brothers and sisters in the faith.  He knew them by name and called them by name.  Think of it!  Paul didn’t have a Palm Pilot into which he recorded all these names.  He took time to get to know the names of others and to record them into his memory bank.


Too often we think of Paul as some guy who was sort of by himself, a rugged individualist.  He was nothing of the sort.  He was a social animal.  He knew these people by name.  I’m not suggesting he would be on Facebook or Twitter today, but he would definitely know people by name.


This is the natural way of Christian living.  We have an outward focus, rather than an inward focus.  The inwardly-focused person is concerned only for himself or herself.  This is the person who misses Sunday school or worship and complains because no one ever called or checked up on him.  The outwardly-focused person doesn’t wait for someone to call him, he calls others and wants to know what he missed.  He tells other people what’s going on in his life and how others can pray for him.


We are a community of faith, drawing closer to one another.  You know, the primary purpose of our Prayer Revival beginning next week is to draw us closer to God, but it will also serve to draw us closer to one another, to deepen our sense of community.


Christianity is family.  We enjoy community.  Secondly:


II.  We enjoy Unity (17-19)


17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.


Here is the protective side of the Apostle Paul.  He says, “I’ve got your back.  I’m looking out for those who cause disunity in the church and you need to watch out, too.”  He says, “Note those who cause divisions.”  The word “Note” there is skopos, from which we get “Scope.”  Keep a sharp eye on the troublemakers who rise up in the church and cause disunity.


The word “offenses” refers to the idea of “putting obstacles in the way” of progress.  Worldly people in some churches feel it is their right and calling to “put obstacles” in the way of progress.  Paul says, “keep a sharp eye on them” and what?  “Avoid them.”  Paul has in mind especially those who cause disunity over false teaching.  He says to be on the lookout for those who cause divisions because their teaching is, “contrary to the doctrine which you learned.”  Don’t listen to people who teach things contrary to that which you have learned.


18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.


These false teachers are concerned only for themselves, “their own belly,” as Paul puts it, using “smooth words and flattering speech,” deceiving the hearts of the simple.


As I studied this text this week I thought of a front-page CNN news story on Christmas day.  There was a story on the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.”  There are some wealthy, false teachers of the prosperity Gospel who would have you to believe that Jesus was actually materially wealthy and that He came from rich parents, and so forth.  One of these prosperity preachers was quoted as saying, “Mary and Joseph took a Cadillac to get to Bethlehem because the finest transportation of their day was a donkey.”  That kind of stuff.  I’m not going to waste our time rebutting all of that silly false teaching.  You all are sensible people, but you see this matter of false teaching is as much a concern today as it was in Paul’s day.  Watch out for those who do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.


19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.


Paul says, “You Christians in Rome are not deceived by false teaching.  You have believed the true Gospel.  Your obedience has become known to all.”  So he says, “I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.”  That is, “Be wise enough to see that there are false teachers out there.  Just avoid them.  You don’t need to know every point they teach.  Be simple concerning evil.  Don’t be hoodwinked by them.”


Some Christians think we need to know every single doctrinal point of a false system of teaching, whether it is the religion of Islam, or Mormonism, or the cults.  Of course, it is obviously helpful to know something of these systems and we should, but it is far more important that we know the truth.  “Be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.”


Christianity is family.  As a family we enjoy community and as a family we enjoy unity.  Thirdly, as a family:


III.  We enjoy Victory (20-24)


20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.


Paul says that we Christians enjoy victory.  The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.  That’s a statement full of hope and victory.  Then, it’s like the people with Paul say, “Hey, mention me!”  So Paul writes:


21 Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.


Tertius was Paul’s amanuensis.  That’s the word for the person who writes down what Paul dictated.  That must have felt pretty cool for Tertius to write that!  He’s like, “Hang on, Paul.  I’m going to put in my own name here.”  Then Paul picks up in verse 23:


23 Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.


Most translations do not have verse 24, because it does not appear in the oldest Greek Manuscripts.  My translation has it:


24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen [NU omits verse 24].


It really matters little whether it is included here as Paul has said it previously back in verse 20, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”


Aside from the concluding personal greetings, then, the last doctrinal word of Romans is a word of victory.  Verse 20 again, “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly,” so, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, amen.”


Presently, this fallen world system is under the power of Satan.  Because of this, we face trials, tribulation, pain, and suffering.  But Satan is a defeated foe.  He has been defeated at Calvary and while God in the mystery of His providence, allows Satan to rule as a defeated enemy, the announcement of Satan’s final doom will come when Christ returns.  Then, “The God of peace will crush Satan under your foot.”  God includes Christians in this final defeat of Satan.


Because Christians are “in Christ,” the God of peace will crush Satan under “our feet!”  This means, we live in victory.  We know that this world is not all there is.  We know that we have the power of God to jump every hurdle of this world and we look forward to Christ’s return and His righting of all of the wrongs.  We enjoy community.  We enjoy unity.  We enjoy victory.

Stand for Prayer.

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