Women Paul wrote to in Rome
Paul's letter to the believers in Rome is considered the great theological treatise of the New Testament. It's a long letter, and I wonder if Paul knew, even as he was dictating it, that it would end up being his lifework, his "book.," if you will.
The whole letter is addressed to "all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people," (Romans 1:7), so men and women alike, Greek and Jew, slave and free. Everyone God loves and called to be His holy people.
It isn't until the last chapter of Romans that Paul addressed individual people, both men and women. Some theologians feel this last chapter was really part of a letter originally sent to the believers in Ephesus. Paul had lived and worked in Ephesus for three years, and had not yet been to Rome, when he wrote his letter to the believers there. These commentators note that it is unusual Paul should write so many personal greetings to people he'd never actually met, in a place he'd not ever visited.
Among those greetings are his shout out to "Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia." Prisca and Aquilla, who were living in Ephasus shortly before Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, and Rufus' mother, who, Paul wrote, had been like a mother to him as well, suggesting Paul had spent much time with her (and remember, Paul, had not yet been to Rome).
Though chapter 16 is in all the earliest manuscripts found, of Paul's letter to the believers in Rome, it is possible it was first discovered from one of Paul's parchment notebooks coming after the letter to Rome, and possibly beginning a letter to the Ephesians. (thoughts taken from "The Source, by Dr. A Nyland)
Be that as it may, Paul gave several notable commendations to women in this last chapter:
Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2)
Mary of Rome (Romans 16:6)
Junia (Romans 16:7)
Persis (Romans 16:12)
Tryphena and Tryphosa (Romans 16:12)
Rufus’ mother (Romans 16:13)
Julia (Romans 16:15)
Nereus’ sister (Romans 16:15)
Olympas (Romans 16:15)
Before I get too deep into talking about the women Paul send his warm greeting and commendation to, I'd like to talk a little bit about why studying Paul's letter to the believers in Rome is so worth our while.
The first reason to study Romans—besides it being scripture and all—has to do with impact.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is said to be his greatest, one of the most powerful documents ever written. Of all the New Testament letters, Romans is the broadest in scope and deepest in insight. No other document has affected and transformed more human lives. Here are just a few stories of lives changed through the reading of this document, and the supernatural power of God's Spirit:
Saint Augustine of Hippo was a great church leader of the fourth century. But, as a young man before he became a Christian, he struggled with God and with the temptation to sin— he had lived with a number of women, and even now had a lover; he was known as a drinker and a partier. He tried to live a morally upright life in his own strength, but he would always fail.
In his autobiography he wrote that on one occasion he felt so much guilt, shame, and condemnation for his sins that he threw himself down under a fig tree and began to weep, he was so discouraged. "God, why can’t I live a righteous life?” he prayed. "I want to stop sinning, but I can’t!” Right then, he heard a little kid chanting in this sing‑song voice, "Take up and read, take up and read!” Augustine interpreted those words as a message from God.
But what did the message mean‑‑take up and read”? Read what? Then Augustine remembered the scroll he had left with his close friend, Alypius—a scroll of Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome. Augustine jumped up, went to his friend, and found the scroll. He decided to read the first passage his eyes fell upon:
Here’s what he read from Romans, chapter 13, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:13‑14)
Instantly, a sense of peace came over him. His struggle with God was over. Though he couldn’t resist temptation in his own power, he could "clothe [himself] with the Lord Jesus Christ” and allow the Lord live through him. At that moment, Augustine was a changed man. His transformation had begun with two sentences from the book of Romans.
Eleven centuries after St. Augustine, a German theologian named Martin Luther was meditating on this great phrase from Romans 1:17: "The righteous will live by faith.” As he contemplated those words, Luther realized that he had completely missed the point of the Christian gospel! True Christianity is not a matter of rites and rituals and ceremonies. The essence of Christianity is faith, not works! Those words from the book of Romans lit a fire in Luther’s soul, a fire that became the great Protestant Reformation.
The seventeenth‑century Puritan preacher John Bunyan spent twelve years in jail in Bedford, England. His crime was leaving the Church of England and seeking to worship God according to his own conscience. One day, as he was sitting in his jail cell, studying Romans, God put a burning inspiration in John Bunyan to write a novel based on the themes of Romans. He called it “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” a widely read classic to this very day.
Just a hundred years later in 1735 a young Anglican minister, John Wesley, went to America, where he served a brief stint as pastor to British colonists in Savannah, Georgia. But while he was there, the woman he loved broke off their relationship and his congregation rejected him. He came back to England three years later bitter, dejected, and feeling like a complete failure.
For the next few weeks, Wesley tried to live a righteous life, but he continually battled temptation. He described it this way: "I was indeed fighting continually, but not conquering. I fell and rose, and fell again.” During this time, he often doubted God and his own faith.
One night, totally not feeling like it, going against his will, really, Wesley went to a religious meeting in London. When he got there a man was reading to the congregation from Martin Luther’s preface to the book of Romans. Wesley wrote in his journal that as he listened, "I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation.”As a result of his encounter with the book of Romans, John Wesley’s life was transformed. He became one of the leaders of the Great Evangelical Awakening that brought thousands of people to faith in Jesus Christ.
The second reason study Romans: This is the most comprehensive explanation of the gospel given in the Bible
Paul’s letter to the Romans explains everything a person needs to know about Christianity. God has revealed Himself in nature and given us consciences so we can know Him. But you and I and everybody start out in life under God’s wrath and Romans tells us why. Paul explained everything having to do with what happened in the Garden of Eden, that famous story involving Adam and Eve opening the Pandora’s Box of sin, corruption, and death, which brought on the corruption of the whole human race. Paul pointed out the true and right use of the law, and why God gave it to the Israelites. Paul showed how all the temporal advantages that God gave the Jews were of no value in saving them, any more than anyone else, from their sin.
Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome talked about the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, about justification, sanctification, free will and grace; about the great themes of salvation and condemnation, about the elect, the perseverance and assurance of salvation of believers, even in their severest and hardest temptations, the necessity of suffering and hardship, and God’s compassion.
Paul went into the calling of the Gentiles, the rejection of the Jews and their final salvation and restoration, and laid down the principles of Christian morality, how we’re to treat God, ourselves, our neighbor, our country, and those in our faith community. Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome basically tells you and me what we need to know as Christians.
All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.