Monday, August 03, 2009

The one and the many

I was reading Romans 16 this morning. It's one of those chapters of the Bible we often just scurry past or ignore, like the appendix of a book or the P.S. of those fundraising letters we get in the mail.

But there are treasures in Romans 16. Like how about verse 20 - "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." That's one of the Bible's most heart-encouraging promises. Or this directive in verse 19 - "Be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil." What great practical advice that is!

What hit me most in my reading, though, was God's concern for both the one and the many.

In verses 1-16, Paul sends greetings to 25 different individuals by name, as well as to a handful of other unnamed persons, families, and house churches. Each of them gets some kind of pat on the back from the great apostle - and, we would say, from God...
  • Phoebe gets recognized for her service to the church.
  • Priscilla and Aquila get thanked for risking their lives for Paul.
  • Mary gets a shout-out for working hard, as do Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis.
  • Apelles gets the label "tested and approved."
  • Rufus's mother gets special notice as a woman who was a spiritual mom to Paul.
  • Andronicus and Junia get honored "as outstanding among [or in the opinion of] the apostles."
And on the list goes.

I'll bet many of the people listed in Romans 16 were just ordinary folk like you and me, living their daily lives to the glory of God. Scholars believe some of them were household slaves. Yet their names got recorded for posterity because God cares about individuals. He sees every act of service performed in his name, even the most menial, as eternally significant.

Yet as much as God cares for individuals, he also cares for nations. Verse 26 says that God revealed the gospel "so that all nations might believe and obey him." God's purpose is to bring men and women, boys and girls, from every tribe, language, people, and nation under heaven into his kingdom. God has the macro in view as well as the micro.

God, give me your heart for individuals as well as your passion for the nations.

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