Most Christians are familiar with the list of heroes of the faith found in Hebrews 11. There they read about commendations of several Old Testament believers. Perhaps, as they read, they wonder if there is a similar list of New Testament followers and here we have one in Romans 16.
So far we have thought briefly about Phebe and Priscilla and Aquila from this list of names. In the next few readings I want to look at some of the comments that Paul makes about the other individuals he mentions. Most of them are unknown to us today. Yet the comments that he makes help us to see what kind of people they were.
Perhaps we wonder how Paul knew so many people in a location that he had not yet visited. One answer to that question is that he heard about them from Priscilla and Aquila because they lived in Rome at different times. A second answer is that he could have met them in other places where he preached the gospel and formed churches. Clearly he remembered their names and what they did for Jesus.
The first detail that we can note is that the members of the church in Rome were identified with certain houses. We have already seen that some of them met in the home of Priscilla and Aquila and in verses 14 and 15 we see that there are at least two other locations where some of the church met together. It may have been the case that these groups came from different parts of the city of Rome and members attended the one in their geographical location. We do not know how easy it would have been for all of them to meet together each Lord’s Day, so perhaps they had made this arrangement of being connected to a particular group.
I suppose it is worth asking why they made this arrangement. We are not told, but I do not think the question is difficult to answer. They would have met for fellowship. This was the case with regard to the church since Pentecost. In Acts 2:42, we have a description of the priorities of the church in Jerusalem, one of which was fellowship. The church there had its central meetings in the temple area, but they also had smaller meetings in their homes in which they shared together matters connected to God. Fellowship together is a sign of a healthy church.
There is no hint in the list that the presence of different groups presented any threats to the unity of the church in Rome. Instead, the fact that Paul greets some of them by their groups would indicate that he thought unity would increase the more they met together. It is sad when groups represent division rather than fellowship, but it is a matter for delight when groups represent a desire for fellowship.