Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 4 May 2022:
Numbers 5:3 – “You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.”
God is in the midst of His people and does not distinguish between race, gender, or ethnicity.
Numbers 5:4 – And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the LORD said to Moses, so the people of Israel did.
God expects immediate obedience to the work He gives His people.
Numbers 5:6, 7 — “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.”
Sin is against God, and God takes it very seriously, even if you didn’t realize you were sinning when you were doing it. God commands His people to not only confess their sins to those who they have offended, but he also expects them to make restitution as much as possible. Jesus reiterated this responsibility: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23, 24).” Unresolved sin between you and others affects your worship. Some have suggested that restitution is not required because sins are ultimately committed against God, and we are under grace; however, this is not Jesus’ teaching. In fact, Jesus says that we are to confess and make restitution immediately, urgently. In Luke 19, Zacchaeus offers a great example of immediate confession and restitution regardless the personal cost. The problem with confessing sins to others is that they are generally not as forgiving as God (Psalm 25 speaks eloquently to the grace and mercy God offers the repentant sinner). However, we are to trust God to work on the heart of the offended. Trust God with the consequences. Delay is disobedience. Today is the day to settle matters “as far as it depends on you.”
Romans 16:3-16 — These verses are often overlooked, but they reveal how important relationships were to Paul. Paul’s heart was for his brothers and sisters in Christ. How many people in your church do you consider to be the closest, most trusted people in your life?
Romans 16:12-13 – Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.
“Paul’s letter to the Romans is Scripture for us even though we are not the original audience of this epistle. It can be hard to remember this as we make our way through the many personal greetings that the Apostle appends to the book of Romans, as reading a list of names can get tedious when they are people who are unknown to us. Taking the time to go through these names, however, gives us great insight into the earliest history of the church, insight that allows us to draw important theological and practical conclusions for our situation today.
In today’s passage, Paul extends greetings to Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, and Rufus (Rom. 16:12-13). As is the case with many of the other individuals named in Romans 16, we do not know much—if anything—about most of these people. But we do get clues from their names. Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis were all female names in ancient Roman culture, and they were often given to slaves. Thus, all three of them were likely slaves or former slaves. Tryphaena and Tryphosa may have been sisters, as families in the ancient world often gave their children names that were based on the same root, in this case Tryph-. The name Persis comes from the word translated as “Persia,” and that may mean that Persis was a female slave who was taken from Persia. In any case, the Apostle singles them all out for working “in the Lord” (v. 12). Persis is spoken of as having done this in the past tense, which may indicate that she was elderly at the time Paul wrote the epistle and no longer physically able to serve to the extent that she once did.
We get a bit more information about Rufus, who was “chosen in the Lord” (v. 13). Paul likely does not mean “chosen unto salvation” here, as that designation would presumably apply to everyone he greets and would not set Rufus apart. Instead, the Apostle likely means that Rufus was a “choice servant” of Christ, one who had proven to be particularly valuable in service to the Lord. We do not know what prompted Paul to say this about Rufus, but there is a possible connection between Rufus and Simon of Cyrene, the man who carried Jesus’ cross on the way to Golgotha. We read in Mark 15:21 that Simon had a son named Rufus. Could this one, who carried the cross of our Lord, have been Rufus’ father? It is possible, and if so, there is little doubt that the firsthand story of Simon would have played a great part in shaping Rufus’ faith.
In today’s passage, Paul also commends Rufus’ mother, who was a “mother” to him as well. She evidently showed great care and concern for him at some point during his ministry. As believers in Christ, we should be eager to serve other Christians in such ways, acting as spiritual fathers or spiritual mothers to those who need us. Such work is praiseworthy in God’s sight, and it brings Him great glory.” (Ligonier Ministries)
Romans 16:17 — “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles.”
Paul considered divisive people to be a threat to the church and to the mission of reconciliation.
Romans 16:18 — “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.”
Divisive people are self-serving, self-absorbed, selfish, and ungodly, though they often vocalize Christian intent in their self-righteousness.
Romans 16:19 — “For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.”
Are you known by everyone for your obedience to the Lord? Are you wise to what is good and innocent to what is evil? What a great way to live life.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 May 22: Today, make a list of your closest Christian friendships, and take definitive steps to cultivate those relationships. Invest in your family members and in your church relationships to build up your Christian family. Romans 12:10 – “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 16:3-16; see also Proverbs 27:10)