A. History has recorded many ideas about the final evaluation and final state of humans beyond death.
B. I had a recent discussion with a cousin concerning ghosts.
1. We were discussing various events that would appear to conclude ghosts exist.
2. I have my opinion. There are angels and demons which we might classify as ghosts.
3. I don’t believe the spirits of the dead remain behind to comfort loved ones or haunt enemies.
4. Jesus told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus and in it described a great gulf which prevented Abraham from returning to earth to warn those who needed to repent.
5. Paul also taught that to be absent from the body was to be at home with the Lord, and Jesus told one of the thieves he would be with him in Paradise that very day.
6. My cousin questioned the bright light those who have legally died but have been brought back to life almost always seem to see.
7. He asked; “What if the person doesn’t want to go toward the light?”
8. I don’t think we have a choice.
C. Probably the most well accepted conclusion is that our hereafter is determined by whether our good works outweigh the bad.
D. Then there are those who believe death is it and there is nothing thereafter. Some attach annihilation to this theory.
E. Paul now reaches the end of this magnificent letter to the saints in Rome, and as in most letter endings, greets his friends and gives final instructions.
I. The Final Evaluation Will Include Commendations (vv. 1-16)
A. Jesus tells several parables dealing with how faithfulness to God will result in hearing; “Well done good and faithful servant.”
1. Paul looked forward to receiving a crown of righteousness for his faithful service to Christ.
2. Reward for faithfulness is a scarlet thread weaving itself throughout the pages of the Bible.
B. Phoebe receives the first commendation.
1. For denominations or individuals who have issues with women deacons, Phoebe presents a challenge.
2. Older translations will call her a servant while more modern ones will refer to her as a deacon or deaconess.
3. The Greek word is actually diakonos (dee’ ah ka nas) and is the word we get deacon from. It refers to one who executes the commands of another, such as their master or the king. A servant or waiter.
4. Due to the separation of the sexes in the early church, it was probably necessary to have women appointed to such an office to care for their needs.
5. Phoebe was coming to the church in Rome, and Paul instructed them to receiver her as one worthy of high honor because she had helped many people with their needs.
6. Regardless of what we conclude about the position or office of a woman deacon, the more important issue is what Paul commends her for.
7. She carried out the role of what the word deacon implies. She ministered to the needs of others. She was a servant.
8. She was probably a wealthy woman who helped support Paul’s ministry and may have even delivered this letter from Corinth to Rome.
9. Women had important roles in the early church just as they did in Jesus’ ministry.
10. We would no doubt all agree that most churches today could not function if not for the support of women. Surveys continue to show more women involved in church than men.
11. Phoebe’s commendation for faithful service is worthy of our emulation.
12. Remember the important words of Jesus that as we minister to others we are actually ministering to him.
13. As a servant of Christ, we must be a servant of his church and of others.
C. Priscilla and Aquilla are commended for faithfulness.
1. They were a married couple and close friends of Paul’s.
2. Like many other Jews, they had been expelled from Rome by the emperor Claudius in A. D. 52 and had moved to Corinth.
3. They met Paul at Corinth and invited him to live with them.
4. They were no doubt able to tell Paul a great deal about the church in Rome and were missionaries like him.
5. They had risked their life for Paul and others.
6. At some point, they returned to Rome and now have a church in their house.
7. Several important lessons come from their example: we should be hospitable, we should remember believers are fellow laborers not competitors, and we should be willing to sacrifice for others.
D. Epenetus is commended for his courage to be the first to believe.
1. Imagine his fear in living among a pagan society yet being willing to launch out in faith.
2. Think of the consequences he may have faced for his belief-consequences from family, friends and work associates.
E. Mary was a hard worker.
F. Andronicus and Junia were fellow prisoners with Paul and were respected among the apostles. They were not jailed for crimes, unless it was Christianity. They were willing to suffer for their faith.
G. Through verse 16, Paul mentions many others from the Faith Hall of Fame.
II. The Final Evaluation Is Preceded By Instructions (vv. 17-20)
A. While the final evaluation for the believer will be based on faith alone, our works and the obedience factor are involved.
1. Faith determines our entrance into heaven.
2. Obedience and works carried out with proper motives determine the nature of our rewards.
B. Paul cautions the Christians in Rome to avoid those who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to God’s Word. (vv. 17-18)
1. People such as this are not serving Christ but their own personal interests.
2. They deceive by their smooth talk. Women are familiar with this phrase as it is applied to a man-“smooth talker.” Others may be familiar with a business person who is characterized by the same words.
3. While reading Christians books and listening to God’s Word taught is important, it is more essential for us to familiarize ourselves with God’s teachings so we won’t be led astray by false teachings.
4. There are so many examples of those who have been. Some have led to mass suicides.
5. Never blindly and automatically take the Word of one who claims to speak the truth or even to speak for God. Investigate what they say by God’s Word.
6. The church in Rome was a strong church but even a church like this can let their guard down and let those in who would divide it and ruin its testimony.
C. Paul’s confidence in the believers at Rome (vv. 19-20)
1. He is made happy by their obedience.
2. Like a good spiritual father, he wants them to understand clearly the right and stay innocent of any wrong.
3. He is confident that evil will soon be destroyed.
4. Again, regular study of God’s Word keeps what is right buried in our hearts and minds.
5. We have the assurance God will conquer Satan and his hordes.
6. Paul reiterates a promise that God made way back in Genesis 3:15 in the Protoevangelium (the gospel before the gospel).
7. So we live with confidence knowing the outcome.
III. The Final Evaluation Is Preceded By Final Words (vv. 21-27)
A. People who are about to die often want to say final words especially to their family. They at least want to see them. I have experienced this with a dad and grandparents.
B. Paul wasn’t about to die, but he was about to conclude an important letter.
1. In addition to Paul, there were others who sent their good wishes to the church in Rome-among them Timothy.
2. Timothy had traveled with Paul on his second missionary journey and was very instrumental in the growth of the early church. He came from a godly family.
3. Paul even wrote two letters to him.
4. Paul’s amanuensis, Tertius, also sends his greetings.
5. Gaius, Erastus and Quartus are also mentioned as sending greetings.
C. Paul’s closing words of encouragement (vv. 25-27)
1. God will strengthen them and us. He will grow our faith as we participate in those spiritual disciplines that promote spiritual growth.
2. God will strengthen us to face whatever comes our way in life-storms, opposition or disappointment.
3. Paul was excited about living and ministering in a time when the gospel was going out to the Gentiles-God’s original plan that was now being made known.
4. We should as well. Technology has availed us of amazing ways to get the gospel out to millions of people and to do so quickly and effectively.