Admittedly, Romans 16:1-16 isn’t the most exciting portion of scripture we can find. At the same time, Paul’s laundry list of names isn’t with insight. Note with me how often Paul uses some variation of the phrase “in the Lord” or “in Christ” in this passage. The Romans should receive Phoebe in the Lord (v 2). Paul views Priscilla and Aquila as his coworkers in Christ (v 3). Andronicus and Junia were in Christ before Paul (v 7). Ampliatus is a friend in the Lord (v 8). Urbanus is another coworker in Christ (v 9). The household of Narcissus is in the Lord (v 11). Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis are women who work hard in the Lord (v 12). Rufus is chosen in the Lord (v 13). Are you noticing a theme yet?
As Paul uses this language of being in the Lord and in Christ, we find him speaking of an entire sphere of existence. To come to the faith isn’t just to believe in Christ. It is to be in Christ. Jesus becomes the defining point of our existence, both spiritually and tangibly. As we make ourselves at home in this new Jesus-space, we find others there with us who are also in the Lord. They become our friends and parents and siblings. More than these, they become our coworkers in Christ as we all work together in the Lord. To come to faith in Jesus is to be in Christ, and this changes everything.
Throughout his letters, Paul takes this in Christ language in various directions. Here, he focuses on the new community that he has found in the Lord. These are people Paul probably wouldn’t have known or rubbed shoulders with if it weren’t for Jesus. The faith is like that. Not only does it bring us into relationship with Jesus – it also brings into relationship with one another.
Have you thanked God for your Christian (or in-Christ) community lately? Have you received them and celebrated them and worked with them for the Lord?