This is the last of my three farewell sermons in which I take
the 16th chapter of Paul to the Romans. This chapter consists of a long
list of personal greetings, along with some final instructions and a doxology.
I want to use Paul’s outline to share some closing thoughts.
1. 16:1- 16 Greetings to…
The bulk of this last chapter to the Christians in Rome contains
a long list of people who had been a rich source of blessing to Paul. To them
he sends his affectionate greetings. To begin with there was Phoebe (16:1-2). Her name means
“bright” or “radiant”. Phoebe is the first of thirty-five personal names, most
of who are mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. Phoebe was the one who
hand-delivered this letter to the church in Rome. She lived in Cenchreae, a
harbour town east of the city of Corinth, located on an isthmus, a narrow strip
of land sticking out into the Mediterranean sea. Paul had visited here on his
third missionary journey (Acts 18cf
18:18). Phoebe was a woman deeply
committed to the church. She was known best for her servant spirit. She seemed
to have been a woman of means, for she was a patron
to many and to Paul also. The history of
the church is resplendent with such women who were pillars in the church. The
18th century evangelist George
Whitefield speaks in such terms of Selina
Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon (1707-1791), a pivotal figure in the 18thC.
Evangelical Revival. She was a patron to many in the Calvinistic Methodistic
I think of my first experience of a Phoebe in terms of Winnie
Branquino, a servant of the Walvis Bay Baptist church in the 1980’s. Her home
and heart were always open. Her generosity was well known. I am also thinking
of Linda Gibb, wife of a previous elder, the late Colin Gibb, a remarkable man
in his own right. What a kind and generous soul she was to the church- deeply
interested in people. She was, like the mother of Rufus, a mother in the Lord to
Then there are Priscilla
and Aquila (16:3),
Paul’s fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who had "risked their necks" for Paul, and in whose home there
was a church meeting (1 Cor. 16:19).
This was a special ministry couple with whom Paul felt deeply connected. They
had first met in Corinth (Acts 18). They
were theologically astute, mature, faithful and hospitable believers. These are rare couples indeed, but we have
them at Eastside too! I pray that many more of you younger couples will become
such in the church.
And then there was Epaenetus,
Paul’s first convert in Asia. To my shame I cannot remember the first convert
at Eastside, but one of them is Mike Callesen whom the Lord saved and delivered
in a most remarkable and dramatic way
from the power of the devil. Then there
is “Mary who has worked hard for you” (16:6). The same is said of the “beloved Persis who has worked hard in the Lord” (16:12). Here I remember a whole bunch of people. I
begin with our church administrators – Carmen Steyn (neé Yates), Henriette de Koning, Cheryl Corringham- our longest
serving administrator to date, Liz Walters and her pastoral heart, Linda Rush
and her quiet, unassuming, hardworking efficiency, and now we have our happy
soul in the church office - Monica Simon.
Into this category I also place those who have worked hard in
establishing the church’s financial accountability through our Fincom, which began under the
leaderships of Etienne Fourie, Douglas Reissner and Le’ahm Lucas. We thank God
for many faithful givers over many years
- who responded gladly in generous and anonymous giving, because they
believed that the furtherance of the gospel needed that kind of support. We
have never needed to supplement the church funds with bazaar’s and the like.
God has always supplied our needs through free, un-coerced giving. Praise be to
God! We have always preached the gospel for free, at weddings and funerals. No
cent, no money was ever required of those that were glad or sad. On the
contrary, we steadfastly refused to take money for such occasions.
I also think of the Administrative
Steering Committee which was first conceptualised and implemented by Daniel
and Renee van den Bergh. I think of hands-on, diligent, practical hard working men
like Andre Walters. I think of our deacon, Douglas Reissner who has shepherded
so many people through practical challenges. I think of all the deaconally
minded and gifted people in the church that have reached out and helped so many
inside and outside the church community. Our good friends Niels and Bente
Bernstein are worthy of special mention. The diaconal spirit of Phoebe lives in
I now also think of my fellow workers in the pastoral
ministry (16:7,9,12). We appointed
our first youth pastor, Mark Nieuwoudt, a BI graduate in 1994. He left us in
1996 for a calling to St Helena island. We struggled to have biblical elders
for 12 years, because of much internal division and unhelpful influences from
the outside, but we did eventually find them and appointed them in 2003. Before
that happened God sent men like Erroll
Hulse from the UK, Martin Holdt, Brian
Stone and Erroll Wagner from
South Africa to help us, and to relieve me from time to time, when we had no
elders. I thank God for the many brothers in the ministry across Southern
Africa with whom I enjoyed cordial relationships and friendships. The men of
the Spurgeon fraternal which we started in 1998 were a life line to me. The
work of Reformation is not for the fainthearted. We started the SOLA 5 Association in 2005 – a
network of God centred Evangelicals in Southern Africa. We must not forget the men from Zambia – men like Ronald Kalifungwa and Conrad Mbewe who have helped us in the
greater work of the reformation of the Namibian church.
The start of an eldership at Eastside in 2003, following many
years of severe trials, produced men like Colin
Gibb who is now with the Lord, and also Pieter Slabber. The biblical,
1Timothy 3 driven eldership finally settled the church. We thank God at this
time especially for Pieter, converted under this ministry. He has served this
church for 20 years as an elder. In time Norman
van Zyl was added. He is now released for church planting work among
Afrikaans speakers. Nsenduluka Kapambwe,
a Zambian brother was ordained in April 2010 and led the church plant at Grace
Reformed Baptist Church under our oversight for 2 years. That church is doing
well by the grace of our Lord. Frans
Brits was first ordained as an elder in September 2014 and as a vocational
elder in January 2017. The latest
addition to our eldership is our faithful brother, Le’ahm Lucas. We also mention our first pastoral intern, Todd Hammerstrom (2007-2009) now in the
USA,and Uaundja Karamata (2019-2021) who is now our designated church planter in
I think of so many others that have served the church as
early youth leaders (e.g. Lameck Mwewa/ Andrew and Irmela Jamieson) the Sunday School,
for many years under our superintendent Bill Puckey, and the many Crèche teachers, small group leaders – not
forgetting those that do the work of the ministry right now. You know who you are.
I think of that precious little group of faithful Saturday
morning prayer warriors (Here I think specifically of dear Dr. Zimba) over the years. May the Lord increase their
tribe among us! I don’t think that I have ever missed a prayer meeting when I
was in town. The church advances by
prayer. Prayer is expressing confidence in God’s power. By prayer we have
sometimes seen mountains moved.
I think of our many church musicians over the years. I
believe that Ronelle Laue is our longest standing musician today. Please forgive me for being sparse in my mentioning
of many of you.
I think of the evangelistic and missionary efforts of the
church. In early years we did much street work and tract distribution in the
homes of our street, when you could still enter at a gate. Eastside has always
been active in promoting partnerships with other churches and church planting
endeavours, from the Zambezi (Caprivi) region down to Lüderitz. In the early
2000’s we undertook a mission trip into Angola (Menongue) and now, as we speak, we are privileged to minister to many Angolans.
There are so many people I now think of. Many of course are
no longer with us, having moved elsewhere in the world or having been promoted
to glory. Some have left for reasons best known to themselves, being
disaffected or disappointed that we could not be more to them. Had everyone
stayed we would have been well over a thousand members. We certainly have seen
many come and go over the years. Our persistent prayer for them has been, “Lord, may they leave in a better shape than
they have come. Make them fruitful wherever they go”.
As Paul concluded his letter to the Romans, he was filled
with such grateful, thankful memories concerning those that had co-laboured
with him in the work of the gospel. So it is right that we should spend the
bulk of this morning in such reflections. He not only greeted many of them by
name, but he also expressed his gratitude for what they had done. What an
example for all of us to follow! What
makes this list so amazing is the fact that Paul had never been to Rome! Most
of the people which he mentions are those whom he had met on his journeys elsewhere
and who had subsequently taken up residence in Rome. Think of the energy of
having to keep in touch with all these people! Imagine Paul keeping this list
of people alive in his mind, wondering, how
are Asyncritus and Patrobas doing? Where in the world is Hermes now? Is he still walking in the faith? How are Philologus
and Julia and Nereus and his sister (I forgot her name), and Olympas and all the many others doing? What
can I pray for?
We know from the testimony of other Scriptures that this is
the way Paul related to people (e.g. Phil.
1:3-5), and here they are – their names are mentioned in the Holy
Scriptures. How wonderful to know that the names of all the redeemed are
written in God's book in heaven (Lk.
10:20; Phil. 4:3) but just as a token of this fact, we also find the names
of some of these saints written in the
Bible - God's book on earth.
2. 16:17-20 Watch out for…Hold on to
Watch out: How wonderful to reflect positively
upon all the good that God has given. Unfortunately life in a fallen world is
not tidy. The church is not exempt. Here
in closing (as in most of his letters) Paul has a word of warning, in
particular concerning those who cause
divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been
taught. Concerning these Paul says, “Avoid
and then he gives an insightful comment, “for
such persons do not serve or Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by
smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.” I remind
you that churches have a strange attraction for people with strange motives,
whose problem can be simply described as, “…they
serve their own appetites“. Avoid
them! Paul has a list of them too! I remind you that even Jesus had his
Judas. So be aware that there will
always be such in the life of the church. Train yourself 
then with a biblical mind-set to discern what is good and in accordance with Christian character and what is evil, and contrary to the spirit
of Jesus. Do not disregard character
traits, works of the flesh such as are
described in Galatians 5:19-21. Such
things if unconfessed and not repented of, and not dealt with in the church
will bring a bitter harvest.
Hold on: See what follows in 16:19-20. The church at Rome, like the
Thessalonian church was known for her obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is a wonderful
thing to say about a church, and I trust that the Head of this church, the Lord
Jesus Christ will say that about you – this generation. Eastside in her first
generation was not that church. Take note this piece of pastoral advice, “I want
you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” Learn
to be discerning by focussing on what is good. “Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it” (Jer. 6:16). Watch out for what you feed
upon, for what you feed upon determines how you act and react. Eastside needs
people who feed on what is good. God’s Word is good. We need to be good – biblically good people
to this broken world. That is the counter culture which we so desperately need for
life in this broken world. As for the rest, know that God will soon bring all
evil to an end. “The God of peace will
soon crush Satan under your feet! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with
May God preserve this local church for a long time. For this
reason you must make sure that you appoint church leaders of proven character.
You must also make sure that only people with a credible testimony of
conversion and a commitment to Christ and to the church become members. Insist
on biblical obedience. Insist on an active membership. Don’t keep people on
your church register who do not attend. Christ prunes the dead branches from
the living vine. (John 15)
3. 16:16, 21-23 Greetings
Again we see how connected Paul is in his life and thoughts.
Greetings to (16:1-16) and now greetings from
(16:16, 21-23) …Remember always that
you are connected to others: “All the
churches of Christ greet you (16:16).
Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius the writer of this letter, Gaius
Paul’s host, and the whole church at Corinth, and even Erastus the city
treasurer and Quartus send greetings. Continue to be prayerfully aware of our
sister churches in Namibia and in Southern Africa. Our church bulletin will
keep you updated. Be connected to the bigger
body of Christ, in as far as those churches hold to the teachings of God’s
Word. Don’t waste your time with churches that have no room for the Word of
Jesus, unless you are sent to do the work of reformation in them. In that case
you better be spiritually strong.
I will be brief here. See what it is that strengthens you: the gospel- the preaching of Jesus Christ. The
heart of his gospel was the revelation of a Person, Jesus Himself. He is the
heart of the gospel. Insist that your preachers show you the Lord Jesus Christ
from the Bible. I have aimed to do that for 34 years – to tie your hearts to
Jesus. I must now lay down this charge which I have received from God and you,
back in January 1990. I was charged to proclaim the gospel of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ, to instruct you from the Word of God, to admonish, to
comfort, to reprove you. I was charged to faithfully administer the ordinances
and to pray for you. I was charged to disciple you into the obedience of Christ.
In becoming members of this church (as per your church membership application) you promised in turn to receive the Word of Truth and to live by its truths, as also outlines in our 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. You promised to submit to the pastoral care provided. You promised to pray for me and my family with encouragement and financial care.
I thank you, my sisters and brothers, for the love, kindness, and support shown me and my family these past 34 years, and especially in latter years. I am grateful for the ministry we have shared together. With joy I recall what we accomplished with God’s help, and with sadness those dreams not fulfilled. Finally I ask your forgiveness for mistakes made and expectations not met. I fall on the kind arms of the Lord Jesus Christ.