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 NKJV]
In Romans 16, Paul sends greetings to a long list of believers, nearly thirty of whom he mentions by name, among all the saints who are with them. It may seem odd that he reserves his greetings until the end of the letter, but Romans 16 is really Paul’s personal statement to those he knows in Rome and of lesser significance than the great pronouncement on Christian faith, which is chapters 1 to 15.
Among those named are Andronicus and Junia who were in Christ before me. These he names as my fellow prisoners and of note among the apostles. Verse 7 has engendered much debate as to Paul’s meaning; principally regarding his fellow prisoner, Junia and her status. Is she a ‘he’ (as the name could refer to either male or female); and are they both apostles, or merely considered highly by the apostles? We cannot know, and really this is only of academic interest. The point, surely, is that Paul considers Andronicus and Junia worthy of special mention among the saints.
Placing them together in one verse tends to suggest that they were a husband and wife team and that Paul knew them well enough to recognise their faithful walk with The Lord; and as such they were fellow prisoners, or ‘co-captives’ with him in Christ. They may genuinely have a shared experience of imprisonment for their faith, but we have no record of that for Andronicus and Junia.
Such a great testimony and a wonderful encouragement for them; but also for us. When we, as fellow captives, encourage one another in faith; lifting one another in prayer, and opening our hearts to one another in phileo love, we are keeping our eyes on Jesus Christ. We find ourselves casting off selfish concerns, worries and anxieties. We feel the Father’s love envelope us as part of the body of Christ. Paul adds these words to his greetings:
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all.
Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.
And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
[Romans 16:17-20 NKJV]
We can all rejoice at having been prisoners, set free by Jesus to make our calling and election sure.
So fellow prisoners, remember
That we may know captivity
There's a purpose in the calling
For it is the Lord who sets the prisoners free
from the song 'Fellow Prisoners' by Michael Card
Fellow Prisoners — Michael Card