Romans 16:5b-9 NLT - Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ. 6 Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. 7 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. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
Proverbs 13:20 ESV - Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Space in a brief devotion does not allow for the full list of people God inspired Paul to celebrate in Romans 16:5-20. We tend to read past it, but God included their names in Scripture for a reason. One obvious reason is that they all had a very deep love and respect for the Apostle Paul and the ministry God had given to him. Though Paul was their instructor and spiritual leader with apostolic authority over them, there was a mutual admiration and affection between the famous apostle and these lesser known Christians who simply served in the Church at Rome. Paul wrote and corrected them, taught them, warned them, and was supported by them, yet they never appeared to let his use of authority hinder dear friendship with Paul. Sadly, in many American churches such ability and maturity to enjoy dear and loyal friendship with one’s spiritual leaders is not something that occurs very often. The reasons may vary, but the reality is that we’ve never been able to fully or consistently recapture that level of apostolic maturity. Paul revealed how hard and grueling ministry could be emotionally (to say nothing of the pain he suffered while persecuted and tormented by physical infirmity). The fact that Paul had so many friends at the Church of Rome was a blessing that likely strengthened him through some of his darkest days and hardest trials. Paul relished these friendships - those who could always respect and submit to his spiritual authority while still being legitimate friends in a small group or social setting. Given how much rejection, abandonment, slander, criticism, false accusation, second-guessing, and overall emotional trauma was inflicted upon this man dedicated to ministry, it’s no wonder he wanted to make special mention of his friends! The Friends of Paul deserve special consideration. Rather than viewing Romans 16 as largely a long list of names, we should probably consider how truly small the list is compared to the thousands of people to whom Paul ministered in his life. Perhaps because Paul understood how rare a commodity loyalty and friendship truly is, he wanted to thank these friends publicly. These were the friends of Paul - a complex man with a very hard calling, and it’s no accident that they have been eternally honored by God in sacred Scripture. What kind of mature friend has God entrusted you to be?
Proverbs 17:17 ESV - A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.