My team – Jason and Sosipater teach us the cost of accompaniment.

These 2 were also in Corinth and send their greetings through Paul.

“Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.” (Romans 16 v 21)

Sosipater which was abbreviated to Sopater in Acts 20:4 was part of the magnificent seven who accompanied Paul heading back to Jerusalem. That’s all we know about him. But that’s not to be ignored. Think of the people who have accompanied you through life. You will be able to name them. They stayed by your side when others had left. They encouraged you to keep going when you doubted. They didn’t want the limelight they just wanted to accompany you. Importantly they have paid a price for this journey on many occasions.

Where Sosipater would teach us the importance of accompanying someone, Jason would give us examples of the price that needs to be paid at times.

Paul experienced a move of God in Thessalonica. All we know of Jason is that since converting to Christ he faced trouble. Jason had shown hospitality to the Apostle in his house and because of this he was accused of hiding Paul from the authorities.  His house were searched, he was manhandled and dragged before the authorities. Did he sign up for this when he gave his life to Christ? Yes most definitely. This was the price of being part of Paul’s team.

My friend and CEO of Release International, Paul Robinson, posted this week a powerful quote from a missions co-ordinator serving the work of God in northern Nigeria where so many killings and abductions of Christians are taking place right now.

‘To preach the gospel for us is to die, to be safe is to stop preaching the gospel … The gospel in Nigeria cannot be preached without casualties.” Such a powerful quote!

Accompanying the Apostle to Jerusalem, the church planting in Thessalonica, the preaching of the gospel in The Sahel, accompanying your own life or you journeying with someone else, there is a price to pay. Jason and Sosipater teach us that paying that price is worth it.

My team – Luke teaches 7 important truths to the Church,

So here’s where I’m at – if the Apostle is now sending ‘hello’ messages from his team that are with him in Corinth then I think it is a good chance that Lucius is the abbreviated form of Luke the evangelist, the recorder of Acts of the Apostles, because in Acts 20:5 he reveals he is there with Paul’s team. It would be indeed strange if Paul never mentioned Luke in his greeting messages. I am comfortable in comparing the translations that Jason and Sosipater are the Jewish members of his team. If some translations are correct then they are not ‘fellow Jews’ anyway but kinsmen, cousins, relatives. If Luke was put together in the category of a fellow Jew then that theory would go against the traditional view that he was Gentile and could mean he was a relative of Paul. Herein lies the end of the debate! Back to the devotional blog!

“Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.” (Romans 16 v 21)

So as I sit here thinking about Luke and looking through the Bible I draw a list (though not exhaustive by any means) that might encourage someone today:

Luke 1: 1-2 “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

Acts 1:1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

  1. Hide your name so that Jesus is seen.

The Gospel is more important than the communicator.Luke’s name never appears in his writings but because of who it is written to and the strong connections in Acts it is accepted as being Luke.

  • Prove yourself trustworthy.

Luke was a credible person. He had experienced life as a doctor. He became a team member on Paul’s 2nd missionary journey and who continued to stay alongside him even when he was under house arrest.

  • Get friends.

Luke wrote to someone specific, Theophilus. The name means a lover of God. But Luke calls him ‘most excellent Theophilus’ which is the title Paul gives to the Governor Felix in Acts. This indicates that Luke’s friend is a person of prominence, at least a Roman soldier but maybe higher.

  • Pursue Christ.

Luke personally investigated the life of Jesus from the beginning, not just relying on other people’s experiences or what they had written, he dug further.

  • Details can be unnecessary.

Luke doesn’t record everything. For example, the really important collection campaign of Paul’s is recorded but we don’t know of any results of that (see Acts 21:17; 24:17)

  • Data is not unnecessary.

In Acts 27 Luke records there were 276 on board the ship within the storm. He counted them. Peter caught 153 fish in John 21. Someone counted them. We count because we care. We count because it shows where we are.

  • There’s always more.

Luke has written his gospel (his former book) and is now writing further (Acts).
There is more. Your experience of Jesus in the past, no matter how amazing, is just a part of what can be fully experienced. There is more. Write again. God hasn’t finished with you yet. Notice how Luke ends the account of Acts 28:31 “He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” He doesn’t tell us what happens to Paul. He doesn’t tell us how Paul was feeling, if he was struggling being kept under house arrest chained to a guard. Instead he focuses on what Paul does, the work of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ is Luke’s focus not Paul. It is the same today. We are people within the story of God. What is His story? It is the good news of Jesus. Luke says that no man was able to stop Paul sharing this good news.
No man can stop you either. Paul may die but his gospel will never die. Whatever happens to you, your gospel will never die.

My team – Timothy teaches 7 important truths for the Church.

The Apostle has sent greetings to 26 people in Rome. Then he passes on greetings from 8 members of his team there in Corinth where he is writing this letter.

I’ve been sat here reflecting on some of the things I see in Timothy. This is no way a definitive list (others are better at that) but hopefully it will encourage you this morning as it does me:

“Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you” (Romans 16 v 21),

  1. Discipleship starts in the home. (“from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim 3:15)
  2. A new season may demand a new pain. (“Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” Acts 16:3)
  3. We should open doors for others. (“ I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you … I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare … you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Philippians 2: 19-22)
  4. Ministry involves conflict management. (When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace …” 1 Corinthians 16: 10-11) And sometimes it isn’t successful as the story of Paul and Corinth tells us.
  5. God-given gifts can lay dormant. (“Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” 1 Timothy 4:14)
  6. Confrontation has to be done at times. (“stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer.” 1 Timothy 1:3)
  7. Whatever age you are your task is to carry the baton to the next generation. (“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2)

Living in victory today

You are not here to be beaten up, pushed down or held back.

The Apostle asks them to have discernment over good and evil and he now reminds them of the end result: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16 v 20)

Whatever you are facing today (and it may not be the false teachers that the Apostle is alluding to) be reminded of this powerful verse for your life.

There is a demonic plan working behind the battle you are in.

You can be confident that it will not be you that is trampled upon.

Many wake today needing peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7).

God is your peace.

Paul tells them that this battle will soon be over. How can he be so sure? It is because Satan has been totally defeated. God has placed all things under the feet of Christ (Ephesians 1:22) and so He will place these satanic attacks under your feet too.

You have the opportunity to trample on all the work the enemy seeks to do in your life and you also have the ability. So do it. How?

His grace over your life. When the enemy reminds you of what you cannot do because of your past or even your present; when he tries to destabilise you because of your inadequacy or lack of whatever then remind him of God’s grace over your life.

You can live in victory today.

Sunday small thought – 3 questions to keep the Church healthy

Using only these verses and see the emboldened words:

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” (Romans 16 v 17-19)

Is it in alignment with the Bible?

Is it in alignment with the Lordship of Christ?

Is it in alignment with goodness?

Careful who you walk with.

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” (Romans 16 v 17-19)

Four simple words emboldened there. Remember the Apostle has told them to greet one another with a holy kiss but now it is the direct opposite to that. Avoid, give a wide berth, walk away; don’t go near these Church destroyers.

  1. Don’t be hospitable to everyone. There are some you should not fellowship with. Wisdom is knowing who to leave behind.
  2. Don’t walk with people who are only in it for themselves otherwise you will end up not only walking with them but also serving their selfish agendas.
  3. Don’t be taken in by the praise of man which is a drug to lull you into false security.

Church destroyers – 5 things to watch out for.

After a long list of lovely greetings the Apostle feels compelled as he comes to the end of his letter to warn about what he sees as dangerous to the Church: false teachers or leaders or maybe simply those who influence negatively and end up causing decline and so destroying what God has built.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16 v 17-20)

So using the emboldened words only, here are 5 things to watch out for:

  1. Division is caused by being in the middle of things. These negative influencers are not the enemy outside the Church but are from within. They are known and so find it easier to deceive.
  2. Obstacles are created to change the journey and to cause a person to veer away from the direction they were taking. They demand an obedience and an abandonment from the foundational truths that had first been followed.
  3. Gain is the key for those who are false. Ask yourself, ‘what are they getting out of this?’ If you can see they are benefitting, whether that by position, power or material gain then the next question becomes even more important, “Is this really serving the Lord Jesus Christ?” There are glory-seekers in every generation.
  4. Deception works because it sounds beautiful and full of truth.
  5. Naivety is a dangerous position to be in; watch for those ‘who don’t know any better’ (CEV); the ‘unsuspecting’ (NASB); the ‘innocent’ (NLT).

The Apostle wants the Church to watch out, to be vigilant and not to be taken for a fool. We can stop the Church from declining and being destroyed. Open our eyes.

Who does it belong to?

Tread carefully; you are not there for yourself.

Speak well of it; never write it off for it always has the ability to bounce back.

Contribute towards it; play your part, it is where you will be the best version of you.

Don’t try to control it with your own agenda of what it should be.

Don’t manipulate it so that you can be seen more prominently.

“All the churches of Christ send greetings.” (Romans 16 v 16)

Who is he referring to?

Maybe it’s those representatives of churches who have gathered in Corinth to help him take the offering to Jerusalem. You can read about that in Acts 20. Maybe they sent their greetings.

Whoever these churches were they were ‘of Christ’.

It’s not a bad thing to remind ourselves who the church belongs to.

It’s not the Pastor, the trustees, the denomination or the people. It is Christ!

“I think, they think, we think” is not half as interesting as ‘what does Christ think?”

The Church belongs to Christ.

The Church bears all the hallmarks of God. The Church has His Word, His Provision and we are the Chosen appointed people of God. We are the presence of God, the Holy Spirit is manifested through us, the church.

Pucker up

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (Romans 16:16)

So wherever you are reading this from in the world you might have a different way to greet one another.

A Tibetan? You might be sticking your tongue out!

An Indian? You might be kneeling and touching the feet of the other.

From South East Asia? You could be touching noses.

A European? Depending on the country you will be doing some air-kisses from one, two or even three times!

The Apostle has a European flavour but it has to be a holy one!

Why?

It seems Paul is wanting them to physically connect. To know the power of touch.

He wanted them to have something tangible happen in their greeting.

“Give each other a big hug” or if you’re a more conservative Christian, “Give each other a hearty hand-shake”.

A cursory look online at the traumatic sad stories of feral children raised with little or zero human contact and you realise the power of touch.

Greet one another not only with words but make sure you all know the feeling of being loved, appreciated and wanted. The power of touch heals, restores and connects us into a wholesomeness of our well-being. Perhaps Paul was on to something which we now know is vital for our lives. So go hug someone today or pucker up so long as it’s holy. If you’re nervous, sanitise your hands for a really good handshake.

We are with you.

“We are with you.” That’s what I wrote a couple of days ago to someone going through a terrible season. It means we will be in communication with you regularly; it means someone has already offered to cook meals; it means visits to pray with them; it means mobilising intercessors to pray; and it means raising finances that are needed to see them through. 

“Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympasand all the Lord’s people who are with them.” (Romans 16 v 15)

Here’s another of the house churches that Paul sends greetings to. 

See past the names to those beautiful words, ‘all the Lord’s people who are with them’. 

How do people get through life without the support of these smaller church gatherings?

Those who have tried to be a disciple without the Church soon realise they are on their own when trouble strikes.

Today maybe you can send a message to someone, ‘we are with you’, with all that this entails for you, it will certainly be a source of encouragement to them to keep going.