Romans Lesson 159 - A Gallery of Grace
In typical fashion, Paul wraps up his letter to the Romans by greeting and thanking diverse individuals who are worthy of affirmation. But before they get too big-headed, Paul reminds them that God is the One who really deserves the credit. The gallery of our faith is just a hall in the greater gallery of God's grace.
“A Gallery of Grace”
Several years ago my wife and I had the privilege, while visiting missionaries in Vienna, Austria, to visit their famous museum. We walked past the famous masterpieces of Raphael; Sir Anthony Van Dyck and Rembrandt.
Here in our own city of Raleigh, at the Museum of Art, the paintings of Monet are being displayed for several months.
These are beautiful masterpieces of color and charm.
How much is good art worth?
I read recently that one painting of Vincent Van Gogh was sold at auction for 82 million dollars.
Then even more recently, the most expensive work of art in history was sold. A painting by Picasso which sold for 104 million dollars. That’s an incredible return on investment, since the seller had purchased the painting before Picasso was all that famous. He purchased the painting in 1950 for 30,000 dollars. Imagine, 56 years later jumping in price by more than 100 million dollars.
Frankly, it is staggering to me to see what people consider priceless.
What I personally find more interesting is the lives of the artists themselves. Van Gogh, a former Methodist minister who struggled with rejection and guilt, eventually taking his life, said to his brother his final words, which were, “the sadness will last forever.”
Picasso’s final words were, “drink to me.”
Go to a large museum and you will see hanging on the walls of the some gallery the priceless works of artists who long ago made their mark; famous etchings and carvings and sculpted works of bronze and marble along with famous paintings that people clamor to own.
What I find fascinating is that God considers his greatest masterpiece to be made of flesh and blood. His greatest works are clothed in skin – you are His living, breathing work of art.
To the Ephesians, Paul wrote that we are God’s workmanship – from the word poema. We are literally the poetry of God – His work of art. (Ephesians 2:10)
If you want to visit the greatest gallery of master works – go to church and look around . . . take a good look at the masterpiece sitting near you . . . a masterpiece of God’s grace.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the most priceless works of art are the redeemed . . . men and women of all ages, created with the masterstrokes of grace; people who now belong the Master Artist, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Romans chapter 16 is nothing less than a gallery of grace, where we have been introduced to ordinary people who were a part of the church at Rome. Think of the church at Rome as the best art gallery around.
In Paul’s closing words, he has sent greetings to many of them.
But now, as Paul comes to a close in his greetings, he sends hellos – not from himself – but greetings from other Christians living in Corinth who are part of the Corinthian gallery of grace.
Notice verse 21. Paul writes, “Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you.”
Without a doubt, Timothy was closer to Paul than any other person on the planet . . . Paul poured hours and hours into the discipling this young man who would go on to lead several of the churches Paul helped plant, as well as the renowned church at Ephesus.
Timothy was the son of a racially mixed marriage. His father was an unbelieving Greek and his mother a Jewess.
In Paul’s 2 letters to Timothy, we’re never told when Timothy became a believer, but if you put some of the clues together, you’ll discover that Timothy’s mother and grandmother were evidently led to Christ during Paul’s first missionary journey to their hometown in Lystra.
Along with Timothy, Lois and Eunice were already faithful Jews, grounded in their loyalty to the hope of Israel in the Old Testament Scriptures – they believed the Messiah would come.
When they heard Paul deliver the news that Jesus had fulfilled the Messianic prophecies with precision and that He had risen from the dead, they gave their lives to following Jesus Christ as their Messiah.
They also saw the miracles of Paul – validating this new era of grace – with the healing of the crippled man. The Book of Acts records that Paul looked at this man, crippled from his birth, and said, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he leaped up and began to walk. (Acts 14:8, 9)
The citizens of Lystra assumed that the gods had come to earth and they began to worship Paul and Barnabas, until Paul was able to convince them that they were men empowered by the true and living God.
Timothy, Eunice and Lois may have witnessed the mad rush to worship Paul . . . perhaps they listened as Jews arrived from Antioch and won over the people so that same crowd picked up stones and attempted to kill Paul – dragging him out of the city, presumed to be dead.
Acts records that the disciples stood around Paul and then witnessed what many believe to be his return to life – he literally stood up and re-entered the city.
Some time later, Acts 16 records that Paul returned to Lystra and was introduced to Timothy who began to accompany him on his journeys.
Many believe that Timothy was around 21 years of age when he left to travel with Paul.
Which means that somewhere, 21 years earlier, his mother, who had violated the law of God by marrying an unbelieving Gentile, must have offered her prayer and hope for her newborn son as she named him “Timothy” which means, “honoring God.”
Almost as if to say, “I didn’t honor God when I married my husband . . . I didn’t honor God when I put my heart before the word of God . . . the word of God was not a lamp to her feet or a light to her path . . . but now, with the birth of this child, she said, “I will honor and follow God.”
She and her mother poured their lives into young Timothy so that later Paul would write to him and challenge him to “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15)
Let me say something about this masterpiece of grace – a son born to a believing mother and unbelieving father.
The absence of a godly father does not erase the power of God the Father.
The work of God’s grace in your life is not genetic. It is supernatural.
It can be fostered and nurtured by a godly parent, as Timothy testifies, but it is not dependent on a godly heritage.
If you have a godly heritage, don’t take it for granted. Benefit from it . . . learn from it . . . go further because of it.
If you do not have a godly heritage, don’t be discouraged. God’s plan for you life is not shortchanged because you weren’t raised in the truth.
Now that you have come to faith in Christ, begin the heritage. Start with your home – your children – your life.
Years later, it will be Timothy that Paul sends to Thessalonica to build up the saints and settle the issues. It will be Timothy whom Paul sends to the Corinthians to “put them in remembrance of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:17)
It was Timothy who was sent to the Philippian believers with a commendation from Paul that read, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20)
Surely that kind of insight and passion and faithfulness is the result of 3 and 4 generations of faithful Christianity.
That’s how you get into the gallery of grace, right?!
Ladies and Gentlemen, godly parents do not guarantee godly progress. Nor do unbelieving parents guarantee unbelief in children.
Let me say it another way; a way which was true in the life of this faithful man of God, Timothy; the lack of spiritual influence in youth does not forfeit spiritual insight in the future.
“Timothy, my fellow worker greets you in Rome!” Paul writes in Romans 16:21.
Paul goes on to write in Romans 16:21b, “and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater.”
Lucius shows up again in the book of Acts where the leaders of the church in Antioch are mentioned. Most believe this was the same Lucius from Cyrene who was close friend of Simeon, the man who carried the cross beam of Christ up the hill.
This Lucius was one of the faithful teachers of the early church in Antioch. A church that was led by 5 men. A Jew from Cyprus named Barnabas, a Gentile, an aristocrat named Manaen who was raised in the same household of Herod Antipas, an African man named Lucius, and a converted rabbi named Saul or Paul.
Gentile, Jew, black man, white man, poor man, rich man.
The church at Antioch became an example of unity in the face of diversity. In fact, the church in Antioch proved at the very outset that the problem of prejudice is not a problem of class or color, but a problem of character. You convert the character to Christ and you solve the problem of class and color.
Another interesting thing about the ministry of Lucius, is that he served in a culture of great animosity toward Christianity.
In fact, Acts chapter 11 tells us that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (v. 26).
There have been a lot of names in the New Testament for believers such as:
child of God,
sons of God
Bride of Christ and more.
Yet, from history, we learn the fact that the name “Christian” was a name the unbelievers came up with, not the Christians.
In fact, the name Christian is only used two other times in the New Testament.
It seems to have been originally used as a derogatory name – “little-Christs” – Christians.
Perhaps that’s why Peter associated the name with persecution when he wrote, “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (1 Peter 4:16)
What does the name “Christian” mean to you?
- Is it merely a synonym for “American” . . . “Of course I’m a Christian, I was born in America.”
- Is it an adjective for nice people – “That man is such a nice Christian man.”
- Is it a nametag you put on your Sunday dress – it’s good for 24 hours and then it’s coming off; a Christian on Sunday and a Babylonian, Monday through Saturday.
It means, “Little Christ” . . . “one who imitates and adheres to the way of Christ.”
Paul wrote, “To live is Christ.”
A Christian is one whose life and living is all about Christ; one who lives in Christ.
Every one of you who moved here from New York, or California or Michigan are now North Carolinians, whether you drink sweet tea or not. Some of you aren’t sure it’s safe to drink. It is!
You became a North Carolinian – how? Because you moved into and now live in North Carolina.
You are a Christian – because you have moved into and now live in Christ Jesus.
Lucius sends greetings . . . one of the faithful ones who endured persecution for living up to . . . for wearing the Name of Christ!
Jason is mentioned next by Paul in verse 21. He also appears in a dramatic event, recorded in Acts chapter 17 where Paul and Silas are preaching the gospel in Thessalonica. Luke records, “The Jews formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. (Evidently Paul and Silas had hidden out in Jason’s home and then slipped away) And when [the mob] did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities shouting, “These men who have upset the whole world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them.” Can you imagine this scene . . . and this testimony? Luke goes on to record in verse 7; “and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another King, Jesus.” And they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge – literally “bail” from Jason and the others they released them.
The courage of Jason doesn’t need much commentary.
And he evidently lived to tell the story and, no doubt, gained great respect to the early church.
He was the man who put his life on the line for the Apostle Paul and the gospel of Christ. He became known as the man who was associated with others who were upsetting the whole world.
What an interesting description of these early believers – they were “upsetting the whole world.”
And what of Christianity today? We live in an era where we don’t want to upset anybody with the gospel, do we? Let’s make Christianity a pleasant thing; let’s advertise Christianity as an easy thing to switch to for people who want to try out. It’s all positive and wonderful and blessing filled.
We advertise Christianity the same way the real-estate group send me advertisements to buy land and move to the lakeside. “this is the life.” Anybody who’s anybody lives here . . . find your life of peace and quiet here . . . get away from the pressure and trouble of life.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, when I invited Jesus Christ into my life, I invited trouble. Suddenly, I can’t go with the flow – I’m no longer floating downstream with all the other dead fish – now I’m swimming upstream – and that’s hard.
Has it ever occurred to you that wherever Paul went a riot broke out – how’s that for progress? Can you imagine this in Sunday school? You want to join the church? Great – here’s your riot gear! Here’s how to post bail! “Just down the hall they’ll teach you how to bandage open wounds.” “We’re teaching a new series tonight entitled, “Persecution and How to Persevere”.
No . . . wherever the church in America goes, it expects appreciation – and deference.
Is our gospel so diluted that it no longer gives the unbelieving world heart-burn? Have we so watered down the truth of Jesus Christ that during election season politicians claim to be among us because it helps their approval ratings.
Ask Jason what it was like . . . to deny himself and pick up his cross and follow Christ. Jason is one of the masterpieces in the Gallery of Grace.
Sosipater is next . . . the shortened name is Sopater. (pronounced – Sewpeter).
He was one of the Bereans who came to faith in Christ in Acts 17. He was among those who listened to Paul preach and then went and searched the scriptures to see if Paul had told the truth.
He was evidently one of the many who believed it was true, validated by Old Testament truth and entered the living church of Jesus Christ.
Now verse 22. I Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
Interesting – Paul wasn’t doing the writing, just the dictating. Tertius, a man in the household of Gaius was writing down whatever Paul said to the Romans.
Many believe that Paul was afflicted with the oriental eye disease, ophthalmia, contracted in the lowlands of Pamphilia on his first missionary journey. A disease that brought on near blindness.
John Phillips, Exploring Romans (Moody Press, 1969), p. 280
To the Corinthians he wrote, “this greeting is in my own hand;” (1 Corinthians 16:21) which meant that he wrote these last greetings of 1 Corinthians with his own hand and that somebody else had written the rest of the letter as he dictated it to them.
Near the end of the letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.” (Galatians 6:11)
Because of apparent physical difficulty, perhaps with his eyesight, Paul dictated the Epistle of Romans to Tertius.
What a privilege for Tertius. And Paul evidently allowed Tertius to pen his own greeting.
“I Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.”
What’s even more significant is that Tertius isn’t really a name – it’s a number.
The Roman masters followed the oriental tradition of identifying their leading servants by numbers.
My wife and daughter visited Monticello recently. Our guide informed us that the servants were not allowed to eat in the big house. They were to put the food on the plates and deliver them to the house, but the leading servant took the plates and put them on the table for Jefferson and Madison and any other guests that might have been there.
We were told that it was the requirement that the slaves who were to bring the plates up to the house were to whistle. They were not to stop whistling until they delivered the plates – because by whistling they were proving they weren’t eating any of the food.
The leading, supervising servant was the only one in the dining room, serving the guests. He was referred to as “Mister” . . . a title that dignified him somewhat from the others.
In the Roman culture, the name Primus was the title of distinction – it meant “first man” – literally, the first servant above the others. It was his job to run absolutely everything in connection with the master’s household.
This, by the way, was the position granted to Joseph in Potiphar’s house. The number one man hired the other servants, supervised the marketing and the grounds of the estate. He was in charge.
He would have simply been referred to as Primus – or, Number One.
After him there were other servants who also had responsibilities of descending importance.
After Primus was Secundus – the second man, secundus simply meaning Second.
After him was Tertius – the third man, Tertius simply meant Third.
Paul is dictating the letter of Romans to the third man – the third servant in charge
Most believe that he was one of the servants of Gaius, this wealthy man mentioned next in verse 23, who’s estate was large enough to host not only Paul and these friends, but the assembly.
If you skip ahead to the last name in verse 23, you find another of Gaius’ servants named – Quartus, the brother.
He’s number four man – quartus simply means fourth. He’s the fourth man.
But in case you think that servants occupied a lesser status in the church, Paul added the descriptive phrase, “Quartus, the brother.”
Imagine – in the gallery of grace there is the wealthy master and land owner and two servants, third and fourth in line, both welcomed by the Apostle Paul and more importantly, both honored as members of the family of God.
Paul mentions one other man – in verse 23, “Erastus, the city treasurer greets you.”
What a blessing to see and hear of a political leader who genuinely aligned himself with the church of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 19:22 he is described as one “who ministered unto Paul.” The present tense indicates an habitual service . . . one who served Paul any way he possibly could – and in so serving Paul he served the cause of Jesus Christ.
D. Edmond Hiebert, Personalities Around Paul (Moody press, 1973), p. 161
In 1929, archeologists working at Corinth uncovered a Latin inscription on a paving block, dating from the 1st century which read, “Erastus, commissioner for public works, laid this pavement at his own expense.”
Most believe this was the same Erastus – the steward or manager of Corinth’s business affairs – A.T. Robertson called him, “the city manager.”
There isn’t any evidence that Erastus resigned his post when Paul wrote Romans. The context rather indicates that he held the office at the time of writing and served both Christ and the city of Corinth.
Ibid, p. 162
He remains today an example of every businessman or woman, political leader of all kinds who not only laid the pavement for the city of Corinth, but helped lay the foundation for the church of Jesus Christ in that city.
It is possible – even then – and even now, to do both!
Can you imagine the church meeting in the home of distinguished Gaius. He servants have prepared the home – setting out the chairs and fixing the meal. The assembly is gathered and, as was their custom, a loaf of bread and cup of wine was shared among them, in honor of the body and blood of their Savior given for them. There’s Gaius, taking a piece of bread and then handing it to the servant who had earlier baked it – but now also breaks off and eats. Erastus sips from the cup and passes it to servant number four who bravely sips from the same cup.
Something astonishing is happening on that estate – something amazing had to have happened to allow for the erasure of status and the equality of mankind.
This is the gallery of grace; where servants and masters, statesman and simple men are turned into brothers.
This is the masterpiece of God – where men and women are redeemed by Christ and drawn together by grace.
No color . . . no class . . . no personal agenda . . . no turf to protect . . . just grace . . . and a love for Jesus Christ.
This is the great gallery of grace – the church then and now – where the pictures are ordinary but clear and distinctive . . . different.
And whenever the world stops and takes a look they see something more priceless than a painting you can hang on a wall . . . it is the treasure of a transformed life . . . it is the demonstration of love between classes and races and ages . . . it is the unmistakable work of a Master Artist in this collection of masterpieces called the church that He is still in the process of painting . . . and displaying.
This is the gallery of true masterpieces – displayed to the world and to the hosts of heaven . . . we are the gallery of grace.
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