by Michael E. Brooks
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Romans 16:3,4).
I read Romans 16 with much greater appreciation now than I did several years ago. I must confess that at one time I considered it merely a rather tedious collection of personal notes from Paul that had little relevance or meaning to Christians today. I suspect that others have shared those views. After all, what difference does it make to us whether the Romans said hello to Rufus and his mother (verse 13) or to the household of Aristobulus (verse 10). Who were these people anyway? Why should we care? What application or doctrine can be derived from such details?
I no longer feel that way, however. For the past twenty years God has given me the privilege of traveling to a number of different countries where I have met and worked with many Christians. I know what it is to have coworkers who put their own lives at risk for the Gospel’s sake, and sometimes even for my sake. I have witnessed and sometimes assisted those who have responded with faith to the Gospel and who have obeyed the commands of Christ, in spite of opposition and persecution. I now better understand Paul’s love for Mary “who labored much for us” (verse 6), and for Epaenetus, “the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ” (verse 5).
The church in Rome had a remarkable collection of workers, gathered apparently from many different parts of the Empire. Paul, who had helped to convert at least some of them and worked with others, sends his love and regard for them in such a way that not only would the church there know of them and their work, but also so that Christians of every age and in every place would respect and admire them. Jesus said of the woman who anointed him with perfume, “Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:9). So the labors of Phoebe, Urbanus, and many others in Rome are still being told today.
It is important for us to recognize that there are still many faithful Christians laboring in the Gospel throughout the world today. Faithful workers have not vanished. Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Brazil, Nigeria, Guyana, and the United States, to name but a few, contain dedicated servants of Christ, as do most other nations of the world. According to brethren in Florence, Alabama, only eight countries lack at least one Church of Christ today. Wherever the Church exists, it is because someone worked to preach the Gospel and produce obedient faith. It is also because work continues to build up and increase those churches.
Let us give honor to the many little-known co-workers of Christ who labor throughout the world. In New Testament times it was the apostles who received most of the attention. Today it may be missionaries and preachers. But God knows and loves all those who serve him. We are thankful for every one of them, and pray God’s blessings upon them.
by Michael E. Brooks