Select Wisdom Brand

Click the image to watch the video.
Scroll down for more options.



Masterpieces of Grace

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 16:21–23

The gospel was given to real people who believed and served and loved and often suffered for the name of Jesus. The people we read of in this passage are people we will meet someday, and they remind us that no one is too insignificant to be part of God’s gallery of grace.


Some time ago my wife and I had the privilege of ministering in Vienna, Austria. While there, we visited a museum that held famous masterpieces by artists such as Raphael and Rembrandt. If they went up for auction, their price tag would be incredibly high.

I have read that a painting by Vincent Van Gogh sold for $82 million; a painting by Picasso sold for $104 million. It is shocking to me to see what people consider priceless today. It makes me stop and think about the priceless work of God.

The most priceless works of art in the gallery of creation are God’s own masterpieces—His redeemed family. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10, that we are His “workmanship”—His work of art.

The paint is not dry yet, so to speak. We are still a work in progress, still looking forward to the day when the master Artist puts His finishing touches on our lives, when we see Him face to face.

I like to think of Romans 16 as a gallery of grace—masterpieces of people who encouraged the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. Paul is sending greetings to some thirty people here as he wraps up this final chapter. Now, as we sail back into this chapter, the apostle begins to send greetings from Christians who are with him in Corinth, where he is writing this letter.

Paul mentions first, a young man named Timothy. He writes at the beginning of verse 21, “Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you.”

Timothy is closer to Paul than anyone else. Paul has poured his life into discipling this young man, who will go on to pastor several churches, including the one at Ephesus.

Timothy was the son of a mixed marriage. His father was an unbelieving Greek, and his mother was a faithful Jewish woman. We are never told exactly when Timothy became a believer, but from some clues given in the book of Acts, we can piece together that Timothy—along with his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois—was led to Christ during Paul’s first missionary journey in Timothy’s hometown of Lystra (Acts 14:21-23; 16:1).

Eunice and Lois were already faithful Jews, who had grounded Timothy in the Old Testament Scriptures (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15). And when Paul delivered the news that Jesus had fulfilled the messianic prophecies, they all believed in Jesus as their Messiah.

Beloved, the absence of a godly father in the home cannot limit God’s work in a child’s heart. We tend to forget that the work of God’s grace is not determined by genetics; spirituality is not inherited. Yes, children should be nurtured by godly parents, but God is not dependent on somebody’s heritage.

Now, if you have a godly heritage, do not take it for granted. Benefit from it, learn from it, and go farther because of it. But if you lack a godly heritage, do not be discouraged. God is not handicapped by your family history. Timothy was born to a believing mother and an unbelieving father, yet he became a masterpiece of God’s grace.

Paul writes here in verse 21, “Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.”

Lucius shows up in the book of Acts when the leaders of the church in Antioch are mentioned (Acts 13:1). He had become one of the faithful teachers of the early church in Antioch. That church was led, evidently, by an elder team of five men: a Jew from Cyprus named Barnabas, an African named Simeon, an aristocrat named Manaen, a converted rabbi named Saul (whom we know as Paul), and Lucius, mentioned here.

This church was led by a Gentile, a Jew, a black man, a white man, and men both poor and rich. How is that for unity in the face of cultural diversity? They proved that prejudice is not a problem of class, or culture, or skin color. Prejudice is a problem of character; and when our character is reformed by Jesus, prejudice has nowhere to live in our hearts.

Next in this list of three men is Jason. He appears in a dramatic event back in Acts 17 when a mob rioted in Thessalonica and came to Jason’s house, looking for Paul. Jason was dragged before the authorities and accused of harboring criminals. He was finally released after essentially posting bail. All that to say, Jason put his life on the line for the gospel, and now Paul is sending him greetings.

The last man mentioned in this list is Sosipater. In Acts 20:4, his name is shortened to Sopater, and he is identified as a Berean. He was one of the Bereans in Acts 17 who listened to Paul preach, compared what Paul preached to the Scriptures, and came to faith in Christ.

Now with that, we arrive at verse 22, where we’re a little surprised to read this: “I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.” We typically say Paul wrote the book of Romans, but Paul was not physically doing the writing. He dictated this letter, and Tertius wrote it down. Some Bible scholars believe Paul was afflicted with an eye disease that affected his vision; so, he needed a secretary of sorts.

But what a privilege for Tertius! Paul let him add his own personal greeting here to the church in Rome.

It is interesting to note that the name “Tertius” is not really a proper name. It is a number; it means “third.” In Roman households, servants were typically known by a number indicating their rank in the household. The head servant would be “Primus” (Number One), the next in line “Secundus,” or “Second,” and so on. So, Paul has been dictating this letter to the third-ranking servant in a household, a man who has become a believer in Christ.

In verse 23 Paul writes, “Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you.” Gaius was a wealthy man—wealthy enough that his house could host not only Paul and his friends but also the entire church assembly. It is wonderful to see a wealthy individual use his wealth to honor the Lord and bless the local church.

Next, we read of “Erastus, the city treasurer.” Erastus also appears back in Acts 19:22, where he is described as one of Paul’s helpers. In today’s culture, Erastus would have had the title of Director of Public Works for the city of Corinth. He was in charge of the roads and the public buildings. Excavations uncovered an inscription in Corinth, dating back to the first century, which reads, “Erastus, in return for his position as magistrate, laid the pavement here at his own expense.”[1]

So, this man was a blessing to Paul and the church, and he was a blessing to his community. What a great example for the Christian businessman or public servant today.

One final person is mentioned in verse 23, as Paul writes, “Our brother Quartus, greets you.” If Tertius was number three in the household, Quartus was the number-four man in the household ranking. “Quartus” simply means “fourth.”

But Quartus was not just a number to Paul. No matter the ranking among servants, Quartus was a spiritual equal with all other believers in the church. In fact, Paul specifically calls him, “Our brother Quartus.” And since Paul combines this with his greeting to the city leader Erastus, he is effectively communicating that these men are equally brothers in Christ, deserving of equal mention in this inspired letter.

So, we complete our tour of God’s gallery of grace, where servants and masters, city leaders, and ordinary citizens are all considered family members. They are all—like you and me today—masterpieces of the grace of God.

[1] Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson, Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity (Hendrickson, 2017), 1552.

Add a Comment

We hope this resource blessed you. Our ministry is EMPOWERED by your prayer and ENABLED by your financial support.