Scripture reading: Colossians 4:10-18
Sermon Title: Greetings from Paul’s Companions | Grace be with you
Sermon Text: Romans 16:20-24
Key verse: Romans 16:24
This manuscript is provided as a courtesy. It is not always followed word for word during the message. This document is not developed for publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Unfortunately, there is not always time to proof read. I choose to use my available time for studying, finding ways to explain the truths of Scripture while keeping a balance of time for visiting and discipling people in the church. Thanks for understanding.
We move from the topic of false teaching to the topic of greeting in Paul’s closing of the letter to the Romans. Paul sends the greetings of his companions to the church in Rome. It is likely these men are with Paul in Corinth, representing different churches, to deliver their church’s contribution to Paul so he may deliver it to the saints who are in need in Jerusalem.
Let’s look at our text.
Romans 16:20-24 The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. 22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. 24 [The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.]
This morning I would like to draw our attention to Quartus, the last person mentioned. I believe God has him included in this passage for a very important reason and that reason relates to our church today.
Quartus was born in the city of Athens, and was one of its wealthy and learned nobles. He believed in the Lord Christ and served him. Having received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, he preached the life giving Gospel in many countries. He entered the city of Magnis and preached there. The people of the city believed; he baptized them and taught them the life giving Commandments.
We all need to be like Quartus. We need to seek wealth so we may be able to preach in many countries. We need to give our money to the church, like Quartus gave to Paul. God would have us all be like Quartus. This morning, I want to share with you seven ways you can give as Quartus gives. I believe if you follow these seven ways, God will prosper you greatly and the gospel will go forth with power.
Before the elders come and pull me from the pulpit, let me explain what I just did. First of all, in case you are wondering, the information I just gave about Quartus is from Wikipedia and not the Bible. Everything we may know for certain about Quartus can be read in Romans 16:23, Quartus is a brother in the Lord.
I intentionally gave an example of false teaching as a follow up to last week’s message. Last week I shared ways we may protect ourselves from false teaching. I would like to add one more way to protect ourselves from false teaching and that is to fellowship with those who value the Scripture.
Six years ago, when I was applying to be on staff of this church, the absolute main reason I desired to be here was not because of the people (which you are very good people), but because this church values the Word of God. We are a group of believers who come together to worship Christ. Our worship is based upon the words found in the Bible. It is because we read the Bible we know and worship Jesus Christ.
One of the practices we hold dearly as a church is expositional preaching. We believe it is the best way we can avoid becoming false teachers. When we do expositional preaching, we seek to understand the main teaching of the text and share, “thus says the Lord God.” We desire to have God’s agenda and not our own. Nothing benefits God’s people more than reading and hearing God’s word.
We choose to value expositional preaching because the emphasis of the teaching comes from the Bible. We believe the Bible is sufficient. When the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy he said this:
2 Timothy 3:16 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Scripture is what we need to be equipped to do all which God requires. We need nothing more. Expository preaching seeks to “expose” and make known what God has said so God’s people may be fully equipped.
Correct exposition of God’s word requires exegesis of God’s word. Exegesis requires examining the historical and literary structure of God’s word. The opposite of exegesis is eisegesis. Whereas exegesis is squeezing information out of God’s word, eisegesis is squeezing information into God’s word.
Eisegesis is the process of interpreting the Bible to suit personal preference. False teachers do eisegesis. They bring their ideas and purpose to the Bible and try to find a passage that will meet their needs. They do not serve the Bible, the Bible serves them.
The goal this morning then is to approach the text together seeking to understand what does God want me to know and what does God want me to do. These two questions are the backbone of expository preaching which is the type of sermon we value here.
I ask you, as your shepherd, to hold me accountable to what the Bible says. I might use dumb jokes, I might stumble on my words, I will make grammatical errors, but what I may not do is stand in this pulpit and say, “thus says the Lord” when the Lord does not say thus. I encourage you to be like the Berean church. Luke says this of the Bereans in Acts 17:11, “for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”
Let’s start over and look at the passage the correct way.
As we approach this passage, we must ask ourselves, why did God “breath forth” this word? He breathed it forth for the church in Rome and God preserved His word for us today. We will ask three questions. What did God say? What does it mean? What shall we do?
Expository preaching first provides valid observations from the text. The goal is to explain what the Bible means by exposing first what it says.
Sometimes the Bible explains the Bible. In other words, the same topic or person may be discussed in other places in the Bible. For example, we may look at all of Paul’s letters and compare the closings in each to see what is different and what is the same. Often Paul explains a topic in another letter in more detail. I found it helpful to look at what Paul said in Galatians about the Law when we were in chapter 7 of Romans. We can compare two passages or two books so we may understand a topic better.
This morning we are faced with a list of names and we ask ourselves, who are these people? Why are they here? To gain understanding we may connect these people with other mentions they may have in the Bible. It is always good to look and see what other books in the Bible teach us about that person or place. We will first look at the names that are mentioned in other books.
The first person mentioned is Timothy. Paul calls him his fellow worker. Other passages in the Bible tell us much about Timothy. He is from Lystra. His mother and grandmother taught him the Scriptures. We know Paul considers Timothy to be like minded, a dear friend, his son in the faith, and a trusted man to take on ministry assignments.
We have to be careful when looking at a particular text to not make too much out of what is not there. For example, here Paul tells the Romans that Timothy sends his greetings. It would be a stretch to make a complete sermon on the life of Timothy based on what we have here in Romans. It may be Biblically accurate, but it would not be true to the original intent of the letter. In other words, if Paul wanted the Romans to know more about Timothy, he would have said so in the letter.
We are unsure who Lucius is for certain. There are two possibilities. The first is that it is a variation of Lucas, or Luke, who is with Paul at the time. The spelling variation is what causes the uncertainty. The other possibility is that it is Lucius of Cyrene also a Gentile. When Paul first started out his ministry in Antioch in Acts 13, one of the five men who was leading the church at Antioch was Lucius of Cyrene
Paul refers to the next two, Jason and Sosipater, as his kinsmen, which doesn’t mean that they are relatives, but that they are fellow Jews according to the flesh. Paul uses the word kinsmen in his letters to refer to people as Israelites.
Jason is from the church in Thessalonica. We read about him in Acts 17. He hosted Paul during his initial visit to the city. When Paul was preaching Christ, the Jews got upset and formed a mob which attacked the house of Jason and dragged him through the streets. They went after Jason because he was hosting Paul in his house. They figured it was all his fault for bringing Paul to town. Jason ended up paying a fine to get the Jews to back off and leave him alone. Paul left Thessalonica, but a church was formed in Jason’s house.
Sosipater is the "Sopater of Berea" was one of the companions of Paul on his journey from Philippi after his 3rd missionary journey (Acts 20:4). This is all we know of Sosipater.
The next person mentioned who we find in other places in the Bible is Gaius, Paul’s host. When read Acts 18:7, it says that while Paul was in Corinth, he stayed in the home of Titius Justus, a man who lived next to the synagogue. It turns out, according to those who are experts in Roman names, Gaius is a first name for a Roman. It is most likely his full name is Gaius Titius Justus and he is the same person we read about in Acts 18. According to 1 Corinthians 1:14, Paul baptized Gaius.
It is possible some in Rome might know the next person, Erastus, because of politics. The verse says he is the city treasurer which is a very important position in an important city in the Roman Empire. Erastus is mentioned in 1 Timothy, but only a line communicating to Timothy that Erastus stayed in Corinth (1 Timothy 4:20).
There are only two names left. The first is Tertius who is Paul’s amanuensis, or a person who takes dictation and writes the letter. It is considered a servant level position. It is interesting how verse 22 speaks in first person from Tertius. “I, Tertius, who writes this letter” greets the Romans. In verse 21, Paul speaks in first person as he dictates, “Timothy my fellow worker and Jason and Sosipater my kinsmen” and again in verse 23 talks of Gaius being “host to me”.
Tertius would not have greeted the Romans unless Paul allowed. Notice how he says, “I greet you in the Lord.” Obviously, Paul’s secretary is a believer. This is all we know of Tertius as his name is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture.
Paul often used a secretary so the fact that he does so in Romans is not a significant detail. We see this in 1 Corinthians 16:21 and Galatians 6:11 when Paul emphasizes a point by saying he is writing the passage in his own hand. In Galatians he writes, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand”. The readers would recognize the handwriting change. Paul let them know the change is because he took over the duties to write.
The last name in our passage is Quartus, referred to as the brother. Most people believe the reference to being a brother is that he is a brother in the Lord and not a brother to Erastus.
What are some observations we may make from this list of people? First, we see God’s people are from all walks of life. We have the wealthy Gaius who hosts the church in his home and is a host to Paul and likely the other visitors with Paul. The text mentions Erastus the city treasurer who has political clout and Tertius who is a servant who take dictation. We find people who are former Jews now ministering alongside Gentiles, a people they once avoided. Jews and Gentiles are now in religious unity. We find people from different areas of the world. There is a Thessalonian and a Berean, Paul of Tarsus, Timothy from Lystra and Gaius from Derbe (modern day Turkey). We also know some believers, like Quartus, are mentioned, but their work is relatively unknown.
Second, we observe Paul definitely does not work alone, but with a ministry team. We might applaud him for his ministry work, but his work was successful because he was always helped by other people. People helped him in many different ways. He was given places to live and had someone help him write his letters. Paul definitely received financial support to accomplish his ministry work. Timothy was a tremendous help to Paul in leading and shepherding the churches.
Third, we observe it is the habit of the early church to greet one another. We find this in other letters, such as the passage we read in Colossians during out time of Scripture reading.
We have only looked at the names. Now, let’s look at a very important phrase in which Paul extends grace to the readers in Rome. In verse 20, and in verse 24, Paul says “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” And, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
First notice that your translation may indicate in some way verse 24 as separated from the rest of the passage. In the NASB the verse is in parenthesis. The reason the translators did this is because it is not found in the NU (stands for Netsle-Aland Greek New Testament /United Bible Society) copies of the Greek manuscripts. The NU text are the oldest, but not the most numerous ancient manuscripts. It is in the Majority Text which is collection of manuscripts many translations also use.
Every one of Paul’s letters begin with Grace to you. He extends grace to them. He ends with, “the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Grace to you; grace be with you.
After we make observations and get as much information as we can from a passage, we move to the next step and ask ourselves, what does this information mean?
It would be easy to get lost in the greetings and the analysis of the names of those listed in these verses. There is interesting detail and historical information. But, as the letter is being written, as Paul is getting ready to make his closing sentence, what do we think he would want his readers to remember the most?
Of course the greetings are important and we can learn from them. But, as we think about the complete letter and Paul’s ministry, we can easily agree our focus should not necessarily be on people saying hello in the correspondence, but our focus needs to be on Paul’s salutation of grace.
Grace is the basis for the Gospel. There is nothing we have done to earn our salvation. We are saved only because of the generous, undeserved, grace God has shown towards us. Because God is merciful and compassionate, we receive His grace and we are saved in Christ.
Paul’s letters are letters about grace. This is why he begins and ends his letters with a salutation of grace. From the beginning to the end of the letter to the church in Rome, Paul expresses how we do not deserve salvation because we are sinful creatures, but God has shown grace to us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins. By faith we believe God’s grace is ours to receive. In heaven, as we dwell eternally in the household of God, being lavished upon by God’s goodness, will we forever be thankful for and praise the grace of God.
It is the work of grace in their lives that unites the believers in Rome with those doing the greeting in Corinth. It is God’s work of grace that produces the expressions of genuine affection for one another. The grace of God unites believers regardless of economic position, title, geography, or wealth. Grace moves people who were once selfish to be generous. It is the work of grace that makes us thankful and appreciative of one another.
It is the work of grace in our lives which brings us together this morning. We are from all walks of life and united by grace. We worship together because we need a Savior.
Paul’s salutation, “the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” serves as a beautiful closing bookend of what the letter of Romans is all about; the grace of God.
Expository preaching seeks to apply the text to our lives. We need to seek the universal truths which were applied to the readers of the original letter and may be applied to us.
Here are some suggested applications
We need to apply Paul’s statement, “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” to our lives. This means we need to live through the grace of God. The grace of Christ should be with us. When we are with grace, we are aware of the presence of grace; grace is manifest in our lives.
To live by the grace of God is to put God’s grace at the beginning, middle, and the end of our thinking. The letter begins by telling us about grace. Grace to you, I am going to tell you about grace. The letter ends by saying, I just told you about grace and now grace is with you. Wake up thinking about grace, let grace permeate our day, close our eyes being thankful for God’s grace. Renew our thinking to think about God’s grace.
Having grace with us means we have read this word of grace, this letter which explicitly details in glorious truth the gospel of our Lord. The words are more than just words on a page but they affect our thinking, they change the way we live. Grace gives us hope and helps us persevere in difficult times. When we speak with people they hear words of grace. Our decisions and life choices are influence because we are with grace. When we live with grace we are different from the world because grace motivates us and saturates all that we say and all that we do.
We need to purposefully greet others through grace. For example, take time to communicate with our missionaries. Help them remember we are united with them because of the grace of God. Send them an email, send them your greetings. Remind them of God’s goodness. Close your letter by saying “the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Maybe you have some old friends from a former church where you used to live, take a moment to drop them a line and let them know you are still living by the grace of God. Tell them how God has kept you in His grace.
When grace is with us, we are reminded we are a people who are in great need. Grace helps us to see our right posture before God because we are truly beggars. We are poor and grace makes us rich. We need God and we need God’s people. As people in need of grace, we look for help not as a people who are entitled, but as a people who know we are undeserving. Grace reminds us we need a Savior and we need one another.
Grace unites people. When we live through grace and with grace we never let our differences interfere with our relationships. Whether we are a scribe like Tertius or a city treasurer like Erastus, we may be a Thessalonian or a Berean, but in the eyes of God, we are all the same. We are all in need of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace unites us.
Grace changes us into the image of Christ. When we live though grace we are compassionate, loving, merciful, forgiving people. Let us be a people who others may look at and may say, grace is with them all the time. They are a people of grace!