Work, work, work. The Gospel of God is all about resting in Christ, about salvation by grace through faith, and the letter to the Romans is the ultimate explanation of this gospel. But interestingly, in the closing chapter of Romans, chapter 16, there sure is a lot of work going on.
Paul starts with Phoebe, who is a “servant of the church”, a “patron to many”, including Paul himself. Then there is Prisca and Aquila, a husband-wife team, who are “fellow workers” (a favorite expression for Paul’s friends in the gospel). Say hello to Mary, he instructs, “…who has worked hard for you.” Andronicus and Junia are Paul’s fellow prisoners. I’ll bet they did some work for God to land in jail.
Urbanas is another “fellow worker” who needs to be greeted, and likewise, “Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa; and of course there is the “beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.” I’m skipping a lot of folks whose work can be seen only as you read between the lines, for instance, Rufus’s mother, who was a mother to Paul as well. I defy anyone who has known a good mom to tell me that wasn’t work.
So you see, from this last chapter in this powerful letter, not to mention many other texts, we infer quite strongly that the gospel inspires work! In fact, consider the life of Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon was a mega-church pastor before there were mega-churches, and he is sometimes called the prince of preachers. For four decades he ministered to thousands in London, and if ever there was a gospel-centered preacher, it was this man. He famously asserted, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.”
And Spurgeon is famous, first, for his preaching and second, for his workload, which was incredible: preaching, pastoring, administrating a pastor’s college, answering correspondence, entertaining in his home. I don’t want to give you any more details because you’ll write me letters and tell me to get busy. (And mind you, he did suffer from depression and die a relatively early death.) But my point is that he worked – because that’s what the gospel does to us – it leads us to labor for Jesus. It leads us to work hard for him.
And this is surely why after Paul wrote a long essay about the truth of the resurrection to the church in Corinth, he closed his thoughts with these inspiring words:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)
On Monday, April 13th, it’s back to the gospels: Mark 1