Profiles of Grace.

We can learn a lot from Paul's list of greetings in Romans 16. In this longest list of names in Paul's letters, he repeats the phrases "in Christ" or "in the Lord." All 26 people named had been redeemed and transformed by Jesus Christ.

How do we know the Gospel is real? It evokes more than an emotional response. It changes the whole person. Many know the facts of the Gospel and are emotionally moved, but they still feel empty. They can't break their bad habits, because they are still governed by their old selves. Jesus gave His life to redeem us. The appropriate response is to give all of ourselves to be completely His.

The church in Rome was healthy. They grew deep in their knowledge of the Gospel which resulted in a wider influence in their community. This also kept them from in-fighting. Paul had never visited Rome or met some of the people he names in this chapter. Yet he knew of their transformed character through his ministry network.


The first person Paul greets a woman named Phoebe. Her name means "radiant light," and her testimony matched its meaning. Though "Phoebe" was originally a nickname for Apollo the god of light, Christ so transformed her life that her name now represented the spiritual light of the Gospel.

It's not uncommon for God's grace to highlight the ministry of women. They are equal to men in their spiritual essence, purpose, and abilities, and God intends to use them as significantly in Gospel progress. Scripture gives distinct roles for women to exercise their spiritual influence.

Paul uses the unique word "sister" to describe Phoebe as a servant of the church in Cenchrea. She had a consistent leadership influence in that church. She likely carried Paul's letter to Rome along with a letter of reference verifying Paul's reputation. She was a "helper" to Paul himself, offering care, aid, and helping to direct the ministry affairs of himself and many other ministers of the Gospel.

Phoebe probably was a woman of material wealth, yet she carried herself with a humble disposition. Cultural and historical research indicates she likely owned a business. She used all her resources for Gospel advancement.

God is impartial when He saves, and He uses those He saves impartially for His eternal purpose. He intends for everyone He saves to be an agent of the Gospel, not merely to develop their spiritual gifts inside the church. Are you living intentionally in the way that Phoebe did?

Application Points

  • Giving all of yourself to the Lord includes your mind, emotions, and will. Do you understand the Gospel? Has it moved you emotionally? Are you living it? Do you enjoy a joyful, consistent walk with the Lord?
  • We share the Acts 1:8 ministry model with Paul. He worked to identify, strengthen, partner, and plant with other like-minded churches. We continue to do the same today!
  • As we learn about the 26 people in this passage, ask yourself: Does my life correspond to any of these people? What is your role in Gospel advancement?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Mark 10:45, 1 John 2:1-2, John 3:16 – Jesus Christ is much more than a historic religious figure.
  • John 4:35 – A harvest of souls is ready.
A Hymn to Encourage: "We Have Heard the Joyful Sound"

We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Waft it on the rolling tide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Tell to sinners far and wide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing, you islands of the sea; echo back, you ocean caves;
Earth shall keep her jubilee: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing above the battle strife: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout it brightly through the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!