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I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea an that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.

~Romans 15:30-32

Lesson54-image001Materials Needed: None.

Notes to the Leader: This study builds a picture of the Christian Church by looking at the Apostle Paul and his relationships with the early Christians in Rome. It is best done in a group where people attend church regularly or have strong feelings about church attendance. Group discussion could be guided to assist someone in finding the answer to the difficult question, “How do I know if this church is right for me and my family?”

Introduction

If you or any one in your study group have ever moved from one state to another, share the differences you found between the welcome that you received from your new neighbors and the new church you finally settled into.

The sharing of a common Savior should have left you with immediate acceptance from your new church members. They should have accepted you at your face value. While meeting neighbors is often pleasant and leads to close friendships over time, membership in Christ’s church should cut through any introductory period.

Read Mark 10:29-30 to your group.

What is the truth (the promise) that Jesus is making to each of us?

  • This promise tells followers of Jesus to expect to be part of a family. He teaches us to expect much more out of going to church that being with a crowd of strangers.

Who are the people that Christ has described as sisters, mothers, brothers, and children?

  • The women of the church are “sisters,” older women are “mothers,” men of the church are “brothers,” church children are our children to care for and influence.

Can a church survive with a homogeneous congregation? That is, all of the same age groups, same interests, same ideals, etc.?

  • If we use Christ’s model of the family, we would find the opposite of homogeneity within a healthy, growing church. According to Paul, homogeneity breeds death.

Section One: Expressing Christian Unity

Have someone in your group read Romans 15:22-23.

What is the difference with respect to relationships that can be found between two believers versus two non-believers?

To further the discussion, read 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Romans 12:5 to your group.

  • The believer becomes part of the body of Christ when he receives Jesus. From that moment, the believer shares a bond with others who have received the Lord.

Is this bond symbolic or real?

  • The bond is real. Believers share the same Spirit. Paul talked of longing to see them. If we truly comprehend God’s gift of fellowship, we should long to spend time with each other, to meet other Christians around our city, state, country and the world.

Have someone in your group read Romans 15:24.

What is the commitment Paul is making to the people of the Christian church in Rome?

  • Spend time together. Paul uses the Greek word sunegmenoi meaning to be brought, gathered, convened, or drawn together; with emphasis upon someone or something drawing them to the gathering.

What is God’s motive behind this togetherness?

  • To work together for Christ and to enjoy each other.
  • If someone who believes in Christ, who would also claim to be a Christian, remains reluctant to spend time in fellowship with other Christians, what could the problem be?
  • Deliberate, habitual separation from other believers is evidence of failure to grasp the essential unity of the body of Christ.

For follow-up to the previous question, read Hebrews 10:24-25 to your group.

Have someone in your group read Romans 15:25-27.

What is the reason you see in these verses for Christian fellowship?

  • So that we may see the hardships of our Christian friends and provide help.

Have someone in your group read Romans 15:30-33.

How did Paul feel about asking strangers to pray for him?

  • Paul had no reluctance. Paul had never met most of the Romans he was writing to.

What did Paul ask them to pray for?

  • For him to be rescued from unbelievers in Judea (he’d faced their opposition before, Acts 9:28-29). His protection is recorded in Acts 21:31.
  • His hope that the offering he collected would be accepted by the Jerusalem Christians (his gift was a Gentile gift). The answer is found in Acts 21:17-20.
  • His desire to arrive in Rome by God’s will (Acts 28).
  • When he arrived in Rome the believers would be spiritually refreshed (the answer in Acts 28:15, 30-31).

Section Two: Paul Travels to Spain

Paul wanted to visit Spain because:

  • It was viewed as the outer limits of civilization. Paul wanted to carry the Good News so far that it could go no farther; and
  • Spain held many great minds and people. Paul thought that if he could reach some of those great orators, Christianity would spread faster and farther.

Section Three: The Design For The Christian Church

Have someone in your group read Romans 16:1-15. Ask them to listen carefully to the greeting.

By this type of greeting, where did Paul place his emphasis in the Church?

  • People — Paul could care less about the temples. He cared for the people.

What else do you notice about the list of people?

  • Women played an important role in the early church. Paul mentions 9 by name and two referenced but without names.

Notes: (vv. 1-2) Phoebe was a Christian “sister” a fellow member of God’s family. She was a servant of the church in Cenchrea. Paul uses the Greek word diakonon, a word without gender used for deacon. The word also translates to minister.

Re-read Romans 16:5 & 8 to your group.

What can you tell about the depth of Paul’s friendships?

  • Paul was not a roll-in, convert them, and hit the road evangelist. He developed deep relationships with the people he converted. Amphilatus was a slave that became a pastor in a Roman church.

Re-read Romans 16:5, & 11 to your group.

What were the characteristics of the “household” churches of early Christian history?

  • The head of the family, household, was probably the spiritual leader and a male.
  • The household included all of the family members.
  • The household also included the servants/slaves/laborers associated with running the household.

How is this model different in today’s average household?

  • We have lost the “head of the household” concept in our families today. The male has also relinquished his role as the head. Today, it is rare to find the average family interested in the spiritual well-being of the entire family (i.e., children) and even rarer to find a household interested in the people that flow through it each day in support of its operation (i.e., baby sitters, lawn care, painters, maids, etc.).

Section Four: Early Church History

Notes: This is some additional information you may want to share with your class:

  • Pastoral and other leadership rose out of the churches themselves. The Lord gave pastoral, teaching, prophetic, evangelistic, and other gifts needed for spiritual care and growth (see Ephesians 4:11). Meetings were marked by mutual sharing (see 1 Corinthians 14:24-33)

Read Romans 16:10-11 to your group.

  • The family of Aristobulus (v. 10) was from the grandson of King Herod the Great. Herodion may have been a leader and was also thought to be related to Herod. Narcissus became Emperor Claudius’s personal secretary. While it is not known whether the actual heads of the households were Christians, Paul’s writings indicate that part of their households were.

Read Romans 15:13 to your group.

  • Also referencing Mark 15:21, Rufus can be traced to being one of the sons of Simon, the man forced to carry Christ’s cross. This experience for Simon was so great that he raised his two sons (Alexander and Rufus to be Christians and to Simon’s own wife, the mother of Rufus. Paul wrote, “has been a mother to me, too.”

Section Five: The Christian Greeting

Read Romans 16:16 to your group.

What is so special about using a kiss to greet someone?

  • A kiss is very personal. It is reserved for those we hold dearest to us. It is personal, intimate, demonstrates caring and love.

If you were to be a fly on the wall of your home or church entrance, how would you rate your upholding of Paul’s calling in verse 16? [Pick only one]

  • Lot’s of hugs and kisses. Loving home or church. Knew what Paul meant by this verse.
  • Fifty – fifty hugs and handshakes. Some people care for each other but everyone is cordial.
  • Once saw a hug and a holy kiss but, then, they had not seen each other for a year.
  • Are you kidding? You could get anthrax or something by doing this kind of thing.

Have someone in your group read Romans 16:21-23.

Was Paul’s attitudes about fellowship unique?

  • Hardly. Those with him, Timothy and Tertius, both shared the attitude of love and fellowship for the Romans even though they had never met.

Section Six: Summary

Have someone in your group read Romans 16:25-27.

Paul really writes his summary for Romans in his doxology. What do you see/hear in his closing statements?

  • It was written to make people able to establish relationship with God (v. 25).
  • It is where Paul preached and Jesus Christ offers (v. 25).
  • It is a trend toward which history has been moving for “long ages past” (v. 25).
  • It delivers results which bring about a spiritual family — a body of believing, obedient people of “all nations” (v. 26).
  • It is a message through which God receives glory (v. 27).

Bible Truth Being Taught

The body of Christ, the Church, defined as a longing to be with fellow members, praying for one another, serving one another’s needs, and maintaining personally connected to one another.

Our Response

That each of us are to deliberately act to strengthen our relationships with the other members of the body of Christ.

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