Hub Network – Romans

hub-network-romans-pngNo where is the real life drama and community of Christianity revealed like it is in the letter of Romans. Unfortunately, many people miss it. This New Testament book is so power packed full of memorable verses that it can be easy to find inspiration or challenge by just revisiting old favorites (eg. 1:16; 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 8:1; 8:35; 12:1; Etc.). So good is the theological argument that runs from chapter 1 through the middle of chapter 15 that the personal frivolities of the end of the letter almost seem out of place. Too many followers of Jesus over the generations have most certainly missed the treasure of the final greetings found at the end of Romans. And yet, it could be argued, the first 15 chapters are not as “real” without the 16th. It is precisely because this letter is lived out in the real lives of real people embedded in the reality of a real geography during a hinge-point period of history that the grand theological teachings of Romans can be embraced as real. Following Jesus, in other words, is a real movement. Take a simple note in the first chapter, for example:

I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. – Romans 1:7 NLT

Or this one in chapter 15, after a long discussion by Paul, the example of Christians in other regions partnering in ministry:

For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. – Romans 15:26 NLT

The first person Paul mentions by name is Phoebe, who was entrusted to deliver the letter to the Roman Christians. She has, herself, been involved in quite a wide variety of ministry, for which Paul is personally thankful:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me. – Romans 16:1-2 NLT

Next, Paul puts forward his peers in ministry, Priscilla and Aquila. As is evident here, and throughout the book of Acts and elsewhere, it could be argued that this power-couple was the most instrumental force behind the spread of Christianity:

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home. – Romans 16:3-5 NLT

And then, as Paul begins to greet the Christians in Rome, the the floodgates of networked ministry open:

Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ. Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit.  Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.Romans 16:6-9 NLT

And this is just the beginning. Paul goes on to mention a total of 38 people personally by name, plus the apostles, several house churches as well as Christians in other cities. (Jesus’ name is mentioned directly at least 10 times in chapter 16, by the way.) All of this interlocked network is accomplished across seas and lands without social media or mass transit. Something about the early church caused people like Paul to savor the partnership he found in others. For example:

Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus. – Romans 16:10 NLT

Or this inside-look:

Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me. – Romans 16:13 NLT

Or this one:

Gaius says hello to you. He is my host and also serves as host to the whole church. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings, and so does our brother Quartus. – Romans 16:23

Those who were with Paul wanted their names mentioned, at the threat of persecution, because they believed that partnership in ministry was eternally treasured. Again, even though we are tempted to lift up Paul as a super-apostle, Paul never practiced a lone-ranger or “hero” approach to ministry. He practiced an every-person, hub-networked, co-worker concept, of which he was just one component.

 

HUB NETWORK SERIES:

Romans

1 Corinthians

Philippians

Colossians

Philemon

Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

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