Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the Blessing
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Jessyka Dooley
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Purpose: Vanessa Rivera
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 16:17-27 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: How you end is just as important as how you begin. Some consider the ending to be even more important than the beginning. You have probably noticed that in good speeches or sermons, the ending is crucial. The metaphor “landing the plane” is sometimes used to describe a successful wrapping up of a talk. And it’s very obvious when a speaker is unable to land their plane. I once attended a convocation with a novice speaker. He did not even offer the classic hint, “my final point is,” and then proceed to mention three more things. That would have been far easier on those in attendance that morning. This speaker could not land the plane at all. The runway was in sight, the lights were on, the tower gave full clearance—but each time the opportunity came to land, he suddenly decided to circle one more time. Perhaps even fly to another city and back. This circling continued for about 90 minutes past the logical point of conclusion. It was amazing. Four sermons wrapped up in one.
We could say the same about Paul, if we did know any better. Surely these last verses were just a quick add-on. Were they the result of an editorial rush? An afterthought? Those of us who “know” Paul in the sense that we have journeyed these last few months through his letter to the Romans know that while he often repeats himself, everything he writes is intentional. It is all part of larger narrative that ties back into the ultimate story about how the world is broken, and that God’s solution for this brokenness was to send Jesus, the Messiah. These final words are written with one single runway in sight. There is no other airport. There is no circling around. There is not hesitation. There is no unfortunate weather pattern that will deter Paul from bringing this plane home. It is in fact a legendary landing, much like these stories of famous airplane landings.
Paul is going against all odds and battling all foes. He is bringing a counter-cultural message. He is delivering the Gospel about the true Caesar (LORD) who brings love and joy to all the world. No one thinks it is possible for Paul to land this message. This may be why he follows Jesus’ example and chooses a brilliant woman, Phoebe, to be the first person to share his story (Romans 16:1). She will not only share it but also answer the very first clarifying questions brought by the listening audience.
There is nothing left to coincidence in this last flurry of words from Paul. His final appeal is serious business. I believe he felt confident that he ended it well.
Recalibrate: As we come to the end of this chapter what emotions do you experience about Romans as a whole?
Respond: Pray for the revelation of Jesus in your life today.
Research: Read Psalm 121.
Remember: “To the only wise God, through Jesus the Messiah, to whom be glory to the coming ages! Amen” (Romans 16:27, KNT).
Japhet is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and was co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
Paul tells us to look out for the people who mess things up by going against what Jesus has told us. Play a game of follow the leader around the house or park with your child today. Take turns being the leader. After you have finished playing, remind your child that the leader we should always be following is Jesus! He is so much fun to follow and He takes us to good places.
Have you ever been playing a game and someone broke the rules? Maybe you broke the rules once. What was that like? It makes it really hard for everyone to have a good time if people aren’t playing well together, huh? In Romans 16:17, Paul tells us to look out for the people who don’t play by the rules Jesus gave us to live by. What do you think some of those rules are? The most important rule Jesus gave us is to love each other. Think of some stories that show someone following that rule and some stories that show them breaking that rule. What is one way you can love someone today?
Thirty-one pages. If you copy the entire book of Romans in a Word document, format it to Times New Roman 12-point, and double-space it, the text will be thirty-one pages long. You may not have written a paper this long yet. My final writing assignment in graduate school was about 25 pages long and it took me over a month to get it just right. Mind you, I was not a prophet and I was not writing a letter inspired by God to a nation, but you know, I put a lot of effort into it. If any of you have paid attention to the instructions in any writing class, you will remember that the conclusion part of a paper is important. Read through the passage. What are Paul’s final words? What is he trying to make sure we remember? What’s our challenge? We will continue to explore his final words to the Romans throughout this week.