As a child I used to sit fascinated as older relatives tried to sort out the ‘whereabouts’ of other family members, endeavouring to unravel the mysteries of who had married whom, how many children they had and where they were presently living. I was reminded of those ‘long ago’ conversations when I began to do some research on two more of Paul’s lesser known friends — Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16 :7). Paul sums up their lives in just one sentence, but in doing so, leaves us with more questions than answers. Like my relatives of old, we need to ask some questions and do some detective work. Were they man and wife? Paul calls them “my countrymen”, but did he mean they were his relatives? They were now living in Rome, – had Paul met them in a Roman prison? Were they really apostles in the same way that Peter and Paul were apostles?
Let’s answer the first question, were they husband and wife? The simple answer is ‘No’ and for the following reasons. Scholars tell us that lunia’ is the feminine form of Junias, and the indications are that it is the masculine form that is used in the original. The whole tone of Paul’s description of them would indicate they were both men.
Probably sent out as missionaries or itinerant evangelists. The church was most likely following the example of the Lord Jesus when He sent the disciples out ‘two by two’ (Luke 10 v1). They were men dedicated to the winning of souls for Christ. Their commitment had cost them because Paul tells us that they were in prison with him, maybe even sharing the same cell. Where they were in prison together is a mystery. It wasn’t Philippi, there is no mention of them in Acts 16, and most certainly it wasn’t Rome because Paul hadn’t yet visited the Imperial City when this letter was written. However, there is one thing certain; these men were willing to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. Are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel?
Were these two men Paul’s relatives or simply, fellow Jews? Let’s look at how a few other translations phrase “my countrymen” — KJV —”my kinsmen”; NIV —”my relatives”, however the ANT seems to give the most correct interpretation, “my tribal kinsmen”. In other words, they were fellow Jews. He uses the same phrase to describe Herodion in verse eleven and Lucius, Jason and Sosipater in verse 21. As someone has pointed out, it is unlikely that Paul had three Christian relatives to greet in Rome (vs 7 and 11), and three others with him in Corinth from where he wrote this letter!
We have another mystery to solve. In continuing to paint a picture of these faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul describes them as those “who are of note among the apostles”. Ah, does that mean they were apostles in the same way Paul, Peter, and John were apostles. No, I don’t think so, Dr. Wiersbe suggests that they were probably messengers of the Lord Jesus, – as suggested earlier, itinerant evangelists. As you read through the New Testament, you will discover that the word ‘apostle’ has a narrow meaning and a broad meaning. A narrow meaning as it relates to Paul, Peter, and John etc. Men who had seen the risen Lord Jesus and had been personally commissioned by Him. In a broader sense, it is used in relation to Andronicus and Junias, as messengers and heralds of the Gospel. Whichever way you look at it they were men, men who were well thought of, “They are men held in high esteem among the apostles… “ANT. Oh to have a testimony like that among our brothers and sisters in Christ! And they were not new Christians, they had become Christians before the apostle, therefore they were experienced believers. Could it have been that they were converted through Peter’s mighty sermon on the day of Pentecost? Whatever their full story is it will be worth listening to when we meet them in Heaven.