Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Romans 16:7
In his next request for greeting, Paul singles out Andronicus and Junia. They are listed nowhere else in Scripture and so many things are uncertain about them. The name Junia is feminine, but some versions convert it to masculine Junias in order to avoid confusion; something which only leads to more confusion! The reason for the change is because of the use of the word “apostle” in the sentence. That will be evaluated in a moment. It is probable that these two were either married or siblings and so he notes them together as he did with Priscilla and Aquila.
First, Paul calls them “my countrymen.” This is the word syngeneis; it means “kinsmen” and it has one of two possible meanings concerning their relation to Paul. The first is that they are Jewish as he is, thus they are “kinsmen according to the flesh.” This would be comparable to what he says in Romans 9:3 when speaking of the Jews –
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh…” Romans 9:3
The second possibility is that they are actually his relatives. This is a strong possibility because in this long list of people he is greeting, there are other Jews mentioned and he doesn’t call all of them his “kinsmen.” He will again use the term in verses 11 and 21 though. In verse 21, he is certainly speaking of those listed as “Jews” and not as “relatives.” So this could go either way.
After noting this, he then calls them “my fellow prisoners.” Regardless of whether they are immediate family or only related as Jews, they had an intimate bond with Paul who was often imprisoned (see 2 Corinthians 6:5 or 2 Corinthians 11:23 concerning this). They were willing to be imprisoned for the name of Christ as Paul was and he wanted this to be known to those he was writing to.
Because of their life for Christ, they were “of note among the apostles.” Again however, this could have one of several meanings. The first is in the context of their service. They are “of note among the [other] apostles.” This would mean that they weren’t noted only by Paul, but by all of the apostles. The second possibility is that they were actually apostles and they were “apostles of note.” If this is the case, it would then have one of two possibilities.
The first is that they were actually designated “apostles” as were Peter, James, John, et al. The second is that the term “apostle” is used in a broader sense with its original meaning – “sent ones.” They were merely people sent to proclaim Christ, but not numbered among the actual witnesses of the work of Christ. Thus “apostle” here is a designation of service and not one of office.
The most likely option of these three is the first. They were noted “by” the apostles rather than being noted “as” apostles. The reason for this is that the title isn’t used in the sense of designation as it is used elsewhere by Paul, such as in his introductory comments of Romans and his other epistles.
The term “apostle” as a designation is incorrectly applied today. The apostolic age ended with the completion of the Bible and therefore, there are no actual “apostles” in the church. There are many who claim the title, but none who have earned it. It is reserved for those who directly bore witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Finally, as a note of their long service, he states that these two were “in Christ before me.” This means that they had received Christ before he had. It almost sounds as if he envied this. He had walked contrary to Christ and worked against Him. And not only that, he needed a special calling and a visible, tangible manifestation of the Lord before he was converted. These two had come to the Lord by faith. Paul notes this as exemplary and worthy of note.
Life application: When noting others, a good way to highlight their life or deeds is to do so in comparison to yourself when they excel you in one area or another. There is nothing which diminishes you when you exalt another. Instead, it shows a properly placed care for what they rightly deserve.
Lord, there are so many noble people who have gone before me and who are currently serving You now. They are faithful custodians of what You have entrusted to them. I thank You that I can see their lives in print or in person and learn from their examples of how to be a better servant of You. In the end, You are my first example, but You have placed them in my path to learn many additional aspects of how to be a strong and faithful follower. Thank You for this. Amen.