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Bible read me 1The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

I have included verse 24 from some — not all versions (including the ESV) — below.

Romans 16:21-23(24)

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.[a]

24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.


Last week’s reading concerned Paul’s warning to the obedient Romans about false teachers and their earthly (carnal) appetites.

Previous entries were about Paul’s commendations of his church family who were in Rome at that time. This was the final one; there were more prior to that.

In Paul’s closing, we discover who sends greetings to the church in Rome.

Paul begins by mentioning young Timothy, his ‘fellow worker’. He also mentions Lucius, Jason and Sosipater (verse 21).

In the King James Version, Timothy is called Timotheus:

21 Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the name Timothy was a diminutive in that era, yet Paul had an immense amount of respect for his protégé (emphases mine below):

Timotheus my work-fellow. Paul sometimes calls Timothy his son, as an inferior; but here he styles him his work-fellow, as one equal with him, such a respect does he put upon him

Paul says that Lucius, Jason and Sopater — Sosipater — were his relatives (verse 20).

We saw Paul mention others earlier in Romans 16, to whom he referred as his ‘kinsmen’.

Henry has more, surmising that if they were not relatives of Paul’s, they were close enough so to be:

Lucius, probably Lucius of Cyrene, a noted man in the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1), as Jason was at Thessalonica, where he suffered for entertaining Paul (Acts 17:5,6): and Sosipater, supposed to be the same with Sopater of Berea, mentioned Acts 20:4. These Paul calls his kinsmen; not only more largely, as they were Jews, but as they were in blood or affinity nearly allied to him.

The Luke of the eponymous Gospel was of Troas, in Asia Minor. Cyrene was in what is now modern day Libya. Therefore, that Lucius — Luke — was unlikely to have been the same as the one mentioned in Acts.

When Luke, the physician from Troas and the author of the Book of Acts, first appeared in Acts 16, and for a few chapters afterwards, he wrote in the first person. In Acts 16, he narrated the divine instruction to Paul to cross the sea from Asia Minor to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). Note how the narrative changes from third person to first:

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul[a] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

With Luke’s sporadic first person narration, Acts 20:6 says:

but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

John MacArthur surmises that if Lucius were from Cyrene, he would have been a Gentile. MacArthur then posits that Jason and Sosipater — Sopater — were fellow Jews:

if Lucius is a Gentile then these two would be Jews because he says “Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen, greet you.” Now we don’t know who these men are specifically, other than just brief reference. In Acts 17 verses 5 to 9 Jason was Paul’s host on his first visit to Thessalonica. He was a man who gave hospitality to him and he was saved at that time. So no doubt because he was a convert of Paul there was a love bond there, and here was Jason with Paul, companion in his travel and ministry. Sosipater, also called Sopater, just shortening his name a bit, was from the town of Berea and was probably one of those noble Old Testament students who studied the Scripture. He was in Paul’s group at this time as well and is mentioned in Acts chapter 20 verse 4.

These are the verses about Jason in Acts 17:5-9 in Thessalonica. He must have gone through a hard time, protecting Paul and his friends. Jason and the others had to post bail:

5 But the Jews[a] were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

As for Sopater, I wrote about Acts 20:1-6 in 2018. Note that we also see a mention of Timothy:

Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus.

The Bereans studied Scripture diligently. Acts 17:10-15 tell us so. Those verses also mention Silas and Timothy:

10 The brothers[b] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

MacArthur sums these men up as follows:

Now the ministry of Timothy is clear He served Paul in a wonderful way The ministry of Jason was one of support, providing a home for him The ministry of Sosipater, we don’t know anything about But they were his friends and they were part of his life and they demonstrate again that loving relationship he had with people.

Then we come to Tertius — Latin for ‘third’ — in verse 22. Paul dictated the letter to the Romans to Tertius to transcribe. Tertius was Paul’s secretary, taking dictation. That role was traditionally known as ‘amanuensis’.

Henry posits that Tertius could have been — although we do not know for certain — Silas:

Paul made use of a scribe, not out of state nor idleness, but because he wrote a bad hand, which was not very legible, which he excuses, when he writes to the Galatians with his own hand (Galatians 6:11): pelikois grammasi–with what kind of letters. Perhaps this Tertius was the same with Silas; for Silas (as some think) signifies the third in Hebrew, as Tertius in Latin. Tertius either wrote as Paul dictated, or transcribed it fairly over out of Paul’s foul copy. The least piece of service done to the church, and the ministers of the church, shall not pass without a remembrance and a recompence. It was an honour to Tertius that he had a hand, though but as a scribe, in writing this epistle.

Although he says nothing about Tertius being Silas (Acts 16), MacArthur agrees that we do not know anything more about Tertius, only that he was Paul’s transcriber of this magnificent doctrinal letter to the Christians in Rome.

Finally, Paul mentions Gaius, Erastus and Quartus, the last meaning ‘the fourth’ (verse 23).

We know nothing about Quartus, but he must have had some meaningful role to play in Paul’s ministry if the Holy Spirit inspired those who compiled the scriptural canon to include his name. He will be forever remembered in the New Testament.

As for Gaius, Luke mentioned a man by that name in Acts 20:4, along with Timothy and Sopater:

Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus.

However, Henry was unsure whether that Gaius was the same person, as there were others of the same name:

… Gaius my host. It is uncertain whether this was Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4), or Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), or rather Gaius of Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14), and whether any of these was he to whom John wrote his 3 John 1:1. However, Paul commends him for his great hospitality; not only my host, but of the whole church–one that entertained them all as there was occasion, opened his doors to their church-meetings, and eased the rest of the church by his readiness to treat all Christian stranger that came to them.

MacArthur has a different take on Gaius:

Verse 23 wraps up the greeting, “Gaius, my host.” In Acts 7…Acts 18:7 he is called Titus Justus, and was a noble free man, first seen in Corinth. It was said of him then that he worshiped God, he was a true seeker after the true God and, get this, he lived next door to the synagogue. And you remember, of course, that Paul reached him, he responded to Paul’s preaching as a Gentile, he was baptized by the apostle. In 1 Corinthians 1:14, he says I baptized Gaius, and so he was dear to him. He had led him to Christ. This man had provided again for Paul’s ministry and now is with Paul supporting him. He is not only Paul’s host — would you notice this — he’s the host of the whole church. What do you think that means? The church met where? Probably in his house, and he sends his love, too. This is a wonderful group, isn’t it?

Then we come to Erastus, a man who held a high position in Corinth.

MacArthur says:

“Erastus, the treasurer of the city,” now that’s a coup, to have the treasurer of the city. And here was a man of prominence, the treasurer of the city. His name was a common one so we don’t know what Erastus he was, probably not the same one mentioned in Acts 19:22 or 2 Timothy 4:20, but a city treasurer, a somewhat noble person who had come to Christ. There aren’t many noble and there aren’t many mighty, 1 Corinthians says, but here was one of some nobility. And we find some interesting things. By the way, the American School of Classical Studies in Athens discovered in 1929 on the site of Corinth a marble paving block, and this is what it said on the block, “Erastus, commissioner for public works, laid this pavement at his own expense.” Now the commissioner for public works is called Erastus and here the city treasurer or chamberlain is called Erastus. It may not be the same Erastus or it might be that he got a promotion or a demotion. I don’t know which was the higher job. But it is a possibility, though perhaps remote. We really don’t know who he is.

Henry has this:

Erastus, the chamberlain of the city is another; he means the city of Corinth, whence this epistle was dated. It seems he was a person of honour and account, one in public place, steward or treasurer. Not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but some are. His estate, and honour, and employment, did not take him off from attending on Paul and laying out himself for the good of the church, it should seem, in the work of the ministry; for he is joined with Timothy (Acts 19:22), and is mentioned 2 Timothy 4:20. It was no disparagement to the chamberlain of the city to be a preacher of the gospel of Christ.

Afterwards, we reach verse 24, wherein Paul — as he did in Romans 16:20 — wish that the grace of Jesus Christ be with everyone in the church at Rome (verse 24). Paul cannot send that prayerful wish enough, as MacArthur says:

His heart is so filled with love. People, I believe this is just coming out of his emotion. He said it just two verses…four verses back in verse 20, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” He just has a heart of compassion for these people. What a loving, loving man he was.

Recall that those were people he had never met. Yet he had the burning desire to travel to Rome and meet them.

The final verses of Romans 16 are in the Lectionary used in public worship:


25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

A doxology is a praise of God, often added to the end of a canticle, psalm or hymn. In traditional churches with a liturgy, a doxology follows the sermon. In Protestant churches, this may take the form of Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, which, in Catholic churches is sung at the end of Mass as appropriate.

In any event, this was Paul’s final message to the Romans, which Henry aptly describes as follows:

Here the apostle solemnly closes his epistle with a magnificent ascription of glory to the blessed God, as one that terminated all in the praise and glory of God, and studied to return all to him, seeing all is of him and from him. He does, as it were, breathe out his soul to these Romans in the praise of God, choosing to make that the end of his epistle which he made the end of his life.

Next week, I will start on 1 Corinthians. Stay tuned.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 2:13-16

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