How’s this for an odd little verse? “I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord” (Romans 16:22). There may not seem to be much by way of theology here, but I happen to think verses like this one are often full of insight if we will only give them a chance to speak. So what is Romans 16:22 telling us?
For one thing, the spread of the gospel has always been a “team effort.” Paul may have displayed extraordinary zeal but there were always people like Tertius working behind the scenes, making sure that things got done. Look at the number of individuals mentioned in this passage alone: Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus all join Paul in sending their greetings. Paul was not alone in his efforts; Tertius had a role to play even if it was taking dictation from Paul.
Which brings us to a second point. The fact that Paul was dictating leads us to the possibility that the content of Romans drew heavily on what Paul would normally have said were he speaking directly to his audience. There has always been a place for oratory in the life of the church, for preaching and proclamation, which requires proximity. Paul was far more accustomed to evangelizing face to face than he was by letter, so much so that in his letters he frequently mentions his desire to be present with his readers. The Christian faith is based on relationships as much or more than it is on particular content, a fact the modern church would do well to remember.
Finally, even in this snippet of scripture, Jesus remains the point. Tertius offers his greeting “in the Lord” and not by the authority of Paul, or the church in Ephesus or Corinth, or even the Apostles in Jerusalem. Jesus is always the heart and soul of the message, even when one Christian says hello to another.
The faith is built upon community, connection, and the person of Jesus Christ, all of which are present in Romans 16:22.
Prayer: Lord, may we see your grace in even the smallest details or our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.