by Gordon Franz (continued)
Greetings to Epaenetus – 16:5b
The next person to be greeted is Epaenetus. Paul described him as “beloved” and the “first fruit of Achaia.” The city of Corinth was the capital of Achaia so we can assume that he was the first person Paul led to the Lord upon his arrival in Corinth during his second missionary journey in AD 52. Apparently he was a servant in the household of Stephanas, which Paul describes as the “first fruits of Achaia” (I Cor. 16:15). The Apostle Paul followed the pattern that he followed elsewhere by seeking out the Jewish community in Corinth first (Acts 18: 2, 4; Rom. 1:16). The household of Stephanas was most likely Jewish.
This was the only household that Paul baptized (I Cor. 1:16). It is interesting to note that the Apostle Paul baptized only Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue who came to faith in Yeshua (Acts 18:8); Gaius, later to be Paul’s host and a patron of the church at Corinth (Rom. 16:23); and the household of Stephanus (I Cor. 1:14-16). Once the local church was established in Corinth, he moved out of the way and let the local leadership take over the ordinance of baptism, a function of the elders in the local church.
For the next eighteen months, Paul and Silas committed the Word of God to Ephaenetus as a “faithful man” so that he could teach others the Scriptures (II Tim. 2:2). Six years later we see Epaenetus in Rome. How did he get there? One possible conjecture as to how he got to Rome is that when Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome from Ephesus, they went via Corinth and invited Ephaenetus to join them in Rome. He had been a servant in the household of Stephanus, but apparently was freed by his master and went to Rome as a freedman and ministered in the assembly that met in the house of Aquila and Priscilla on the Aventine Hill.
It is very telling that, six years later, Paul was still in contact with his convert and disciple.
Greetings to Mary – 16:6
Paul instructs the church to greet Mary, or as she was known by her Semitic name Miriam (Mariam). Most likely she was of Jewish heritage and named after Aaron’s sister (Ex. 15:20, 21; Micah 6:4). Nineteen Jewish inscriptions have been found in Rome bearing the name of the famous Old Testament person (Lampe 1992e: 4: 582).
Peter Lampe, on the other hand, suggests that “Mary was a freedwoman of the gens Maria or a descendant of a freed slave of this gens. Either way, she probably had Roman citizenship: slave masters with famous gens names like ‘Marius/is’ possessed Roman citizenship and in most cases passed it on to their slaves on the occasion of their emancipation; the freed slave then bequeathed the citizenship and the gens name to their freeborn children. Mary was probably a Gentile Christian” (1992e: 4: 583). Personally, I would disagree with Lampe. I think she was of Jewish heritage.
Paul describes her as one who has “labored much for us.” The word “labored” (ekopiasen) means to work hard and is used of four people in this chapter, all women (Miriam, 16: 6; Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis, 16:12). Paul uses the word “labor” to describe his activities as well. He was a workaholic and worked on the philosophy, “I would rather burn out than rust out.”
“Golden Mouth” Chrysostom, writing in the second half of the 4th century AD says: “The women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the Apostles their labors for the Gospel’s sake. In this way, they were traveling with them and also performed all other ministries”.
A number of years ago, when we had a college and career group at Valley Bible Chapel called “Eklampo” (it means “to shine forth” from Matt. 13:43), we had a young lady named Ruth Hsu from the Brighton Ave. assembly in Orange, NJ attend our meetings. One afternoon the issue of the role of women in the assembly came up. Ruth said, “All my life I have been told what I can not do. Can somebody tell me what I can do?!” She was thankful when I gave her a copy of a chapter from the book, Life in His Body, by Gary Inrig. Even though Paul says a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man (I Tim. 2:12), there are plenty of other things women can do in the meeting and Inrig gave a very positive presentation of what women can do in the assembly. Women play a key roll in the Sunday School ministry, Vacation Bible School, Awana, and women’s outreach. I dare say that if women stopped doing what they are doing, most assemblies would have to close their doors! Like Mary in Rome, women have a vital function in the local assembly.
Greetings to Andronicus and Junia – 16:7
This is a problematic greeting because we do not know if the name Junia is masculine or feminine. The name is in the accusative case which means it is the same for the male and female. If the name is masculine, then he would be named Junias, which is the shortened form of the name Junianus. If that is the case, then the two were probably brothers. If it is feminine, then the name would be Junia as in the KJV and NKJV. That being the case, then Andronicus and Junia were probably husband and wife. The early church fathers took it as female, and I will follow their lead.
Paul identifies them as “my countrymen.” This could mean one of two things. First, is that they were of Jewish heritage. Paul uses the word in the same way earlier in this epistle (Rom. 9:3, 4). “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.”
The word could also be used of close relative. Notice in this list that Paul does not call Aquila a “countryman” (16:10), even though he was of Jewish heritage. Apellas and Rufus were also Jewish (16:13), but they are not called “countrymen.” The context suggests that Paul is using the word for close relatives. If that is the case, we see the fruit of Paul’s labors while he was in Tarsus for 8-12 years reaching family and friends with the gospel (16:8-12).
Jerome, a prolific commentator in the 4th century AD, records that Paul was born in Gush Halav in Upper Galilee. His family later moved to Tarsus. As a teen-ager, he goes to Jerusalem to study under Rabbi Gamaliel. There is a hint in the book of Acts that Paul had relatives in Jerusalem. It was Paul’s sister’s son that alerted him to a conspiracy to kill him (Acts 23:16). The question arises, did the family live there or were they up in Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festival of Succoth? Be that as it may, we see that Paul was reaching his family and friends with the gospel and then discipling them.
Paul also identified this couple as “fellow prisoners.” When this occurred, we are not told. The Apostle Paul was, by his own admission, a jailbird with a rap sheet a mile long! He proclaims that he was beaten a number of times and frequently in prison (II Cor. 11:23). Paul points out to the believers in Rome that this couple had been in prison for the cause of Christ. He wanted them to know that they had paid the price for following the Lord Jesus.
Paul goes on to say that they were of “note among the apostles.” Two different interpretations have been given for this phrase. First, they were noted “in the eyes of the apostles.” Second, they were noted “among the apostles.” (Witherington 2004: 390). The early church Fathers favor the second, indicating that they were apostles and noteworthy among the apostles. The word apostle means one sent forth with a message (cf. Phil. 2:25; II Cor. 8:23), but it could also mean, those who had seen the Risen Lord Jesus and been sent forth by Him with the gospel. Paul gives a list of those who had seen the Risen Lord Jesus in I Cor. 15. The list included “the twelve” (vs. 5), which is distinct from “James [most likely Jesus’ half-brother], then by all the apostles” (vs. 7). What Andronicus and Junia did to deserve this commendation, we are not told. Their life and work for the Lord was such that it caught the attention of the other apostles in Jerusalem.
Paul goes on to say that they were “in Christ” before he was. The phrase “in Christ” is used of people who have put their trust in the Lord Jesus as Savior and have been places in the Body of Christ. In the case of Andronicus and Junia, this happened (chronologically) before Paul trusted the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. Most likely they were part of the Hellenist faction of the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1). Their names are not Hebrew names, but rather, Greek and Latin names.
The fact that Paul has to tell the believers in Rome that this couple was related to him, spent time in prison for the cause of Christ, did noted things, seen the Risen Lord Jesus, and had been saved longer than himself, speaks volumes about their humility. It could be suggested that they were a humble couple that did not want to draw attention to their own lives and accomplishments. The focus of their ministry was to uplift and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by the manner in which they lived.