October 24, 2021

Treasure Church


In June, 1708, a ship named San Jose sank on the way from Panama to Colombia (with a lot of gold). This ship has laid at the bottom of the Caribbean for over 300 years. It was already discovered… in 2015. And there was a lot of gold. So much, that this treasure is considered the greatest treasure ever found… by various estimates $1-22 billion. Many people like stories about treasures hidden all over the earth or in sunken ships. But those treasures that we are going to talk about today are more valuable! Most importantly, these treasures are hidden in the church; we find them in ch. 16. How are these treasures covered up? We unearth them in simple greeting. These are the three treasures that true church possesses which will help us love the church even more.

I. Christ

A. Why “in Christ”? (vv. 3, 5, 7-13, 16)

Perhaps you are a guest or simply don’t quit understand what is behind the phrase “in Christ.”

(3:21-28) – (vv. 22, 26) – faith in Jesus Christ! What does it mean? I place my hope for the salvation of my soul on Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for sinners. The death of Christ is important (v. 24) because of redemption and justification. He paid the penalty for us, and He justifies us in the heavenly court for all the sins the sinner has committed! This is very valuable! (v. 25) – a replacement sacrifice – God is love, and He loves person, but at the same time, He is deeply offended by the sin committed by the same person. Christ times upon himself the wrath of God for our sin, and lets us go free. How?

(4:4-5) – we tend to build our relationship with God based on our performance, but this text says that the only way is by believing (vv. 6-8).

(8:1-2) Believer, freed from the captivity of sin! Example: during an earthquake, some buildings collapse, and after a while, rescuers find some people alive, that have been trapped under the rubble. And when rescuers release them, everyone wants to hug them; we look at this and also what to hug someone. Paul speaks of this natural reaction here. The desire to hug a saved person, and more importantly – Savior Himself (He is the true hero in this story!).

Readers were able to put everything together – they knew what it means for believer to be in Christ. Do we understand? Do we look at Christ, each other through these lenses?

B. What do people have to do with it? (vv. 25-27)

There is a danger when attention in the church shifts from Christ to man; then we will not be inclined to glorify God, but rather admire the talents and abilities of man.

Paul mentions 28 people in the first 16 verse, and in the entire chapter, 36 people. But in the end, Paul wants to glorify God’s grace and God Himself (vv. 25-27).

When you talk about people, does it motive you to thank God and praise Him? Or do we begrudge God for such “gifts” in our lives?

C. A holy kiss? (v. 16) 

Context: 1) This is the normal way to greet (Luke 7:44-45)

2) A person who converted to Christianity, automatically lost relatives, friends… he was expelled, excommunicated from society.

For these two reasons, people who came to church through such greeting emphasized that by coming to Christ and His church, they have found a new family in Him!

This is a kiss of close, family-like, pure relationships – after all, it is a holy kiss! There are no sinful motives in this kiss!

Of course, we do not practice such a greeting, for several reasons: 1) Paul did not root this command in the Gospel or principles of creation, 2) this greeting was due to the culture of the time.

But, the idea that the holy kiss conveyed, must be appropriated by us. Perhaps even today, some people who came to the church, have lost the fellowship and support from relatives and friends, and in the church they must find that very support!

So, the first treasure is Christ! We are in Him – this is the Gospel! Speaking of people correctly, we will glorify God – Ex. Clapping after a musical number is a thanksgiving to God, not people! A greeting, like a handshake or a hug is a sign of being one family!

II. People

A. What are these names for?

By listing these people, Paul wants to reveal an important principle – everyone is important! We came across this idea in studying the book of Nehemiah – he gives a detailed list of everyone who built the wall! Why? Because, in listing everyone, Nehemiah is emphasizing that everyone is important!

In Matthew and Luke, we meet the genealogy of Christ. One of the reasons is to emphasize that all kinds of people are important to God!

When listing people, Paul tells us not to look at the church as a crowd, but as specific people with names! The ability to notice specific people makes a person more effective in ministry!

Question: How often do you notice specific people? If this does not happen in the church, there will be people who are lost or hidden in a crowd. No, we can’t let that happen.

B. Who are these people?

28 people are mentioned.

Of these, 9 are women. Moreover, Paul devotes one of the main roles to Phoebe, who may have delivered this letter. This is a third of his coworkers. Women were involved in the life and ministry of the church!

There are Hebrew, Greek and Roman names listed. Conclusion: there were different ethnicities and races in the church.

Some of the names that are used for free and for slaves (v. 8). There were people of a different social status in the church.

(vv. 7, 11) – for sure of the same nationality, but more likely, Paul’s relatives. 

(v. 13) – “the chose one” – al believers are called the chosen ones but God (God’s sovereignty), but for some reason only Rufus is described this way. Perhaps, Paul knew him as a worst sinner there is, and for Paul it was especially delightful to see him saved; definitely it was the work of God!

Different genders, nationalities, social status, kinship status… Paul says that in the church all these dividing lines between people are erased! This was the case in the first church, and it should be so today!

Q: Do you look at people in the church precisely through Christ, and not through social status, nationality, gender, family ties?

III. Ministry

A. Is there a close relationship?

Ministry is established only through close relationships! By close, we mean: love, trust and tender feelings.

(vv. 5, 8, 9, 12) – the people that Paul loved!

In addition to the fact that Paul says that he loves them – one of the most striking manifestations of his love is the fact that 16 times he requests that the recipients of the letter greet specific people. When we send greetings to each other through friends, this conveys attention, respect… this is love and we involved others in this process!

Trust (vv. 1-2) – Paul entrusted this woman the deliver of this letter (no copies were made…); she must have been very trustworthy! 

If there is no love for people, and there is no trust, there will be no close relationships, which means there will be no biblical ministry!

(v. 13) an ordinary sister in the church, but she was so dear to Paul, that he called her his mother!

How do we look at each other? Is there love? Jesus said (John 13:35) “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

Love, trust and tender affections are the foundation for ministry!

B. Is there a team?

This is a list of Paul’s coworkers. He realized that in order to do ministry, you need to have a team!

(vv. 1-2) – Phoebe, church servant and helper

(vv. 3-4) – Prisca and Aquila, are co-laborers!

(v. 9) – Urbanus is a fellow worker. In the same team!

Christianity is a team sport! This is not an individual race, but a relay race where everyone is needed!

C. What is the structure of the church?

(vv. 4, 10, 11, 14, 15) – 3, and possibly 5 house churches in Rome!

The structure is simple – people were organized into house churches. At that time, they were partly forced to do so, because not every house could hold the entire church, and therefore, there were so-called, house churches.

So, the church contains these 3 treasures: Christ, people and ministries… enough to love and live in the church in a new and loving way!

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