Daily Devotional: Romans 16:1-16

It is Paul’s habit to name a few people in the city he desires to greet before closing his letters. In closing Romans, he commends Phoebe to them—who may be carrying this letter from Paul. He also mentions the house church stewarded by Prisca and Aquilla in Rome. That is the local church Paul desires his audience to connect with in order to incorporate and begin gathering. Paul lists a few other individuals as well.

Paul’s greetings always strike me. He hasn’t been to Rome on mission yet. Still, he knows of quite a few believers there by name and greets them personally in his letter. He praises them, elevates them, and edifies the people of God. He dedicates very little space to criticism and much to encouragement in this letter. Though the believers are mostly unincorporated, Paul is gratuitous as he addresses them—which means much, I think, for the way we address one another, the way pastors address congregations, the way we interact on social media, and the way we talk about local churches and denominations. Someone who is always critical is muted like background noise or the boy who cries wolf. Someone who edifies is heard during a moment of necessary criticism.

Not only can I see this in the Scriptures, I know it from experience. I was the critical ‘Christian.’ From my college years into my late twenties, I focused more on what I saw as wrong, and rather than seeking to edify the church of Christ I criticized her—and I used the Bible to do it. That’s not the example we receive from biblical authors. Yet, we tend to focus on the few chapters that are critical and ourselves become a critical people. Paul is here interested in edification rather than critical analysis of church structure, polity, ministries, programs, eschatology, and so on. Those things are important, but not more important than the people we love and serve. The gathering is about exulting in God and edifying people. Edification is the idea at the forefront of Paul’s mind as he closes His letter to the unbelieving and unincorporated in Rome. Believe the gospel. Connect with a local church. Greet the saints. Fulfill your ministry to edify your forever family.


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