11 Jan 2019
A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 16:21-24. 2). Paul’s messages.
Having sent his own personal greetings to twenty-six individuals in Rome (3-16), Paul now passes on messages from eight named people, who are with him in Corinth. He begins with one extremely well-known name, followed by three apparently unknown ones. *Timothy, my fellow-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives* (21). If anybody deserved to be called Paul’s ‘fellow-worker’, that person was Timothy. For the last eight years Timothy had been Paul’s constant travelling companion and had undertaken several special missions at Paul’s request. The apostle evidently had a warm affection for his young assistant. Having led him to Christ, he regarded him as his son in the faith (E.g. 1 Cor.4:17). He was now in Corinth, about to set sail for Jerusalem with the offering from the Greek churches (Acts 20:4).
From his fellow-worker Paul turns to three of his fellow countrymen, as his ‘relatives’ should probably be understood. We cannot for certain identify any of them, although many guesses have been made, some more plausible than others. For example, although there is nothing to link Lucius with the ‘Lucius of Cyrene’ who was in Antioch with Paul ten years previously (Acts 13:1), it is tempting to identify him as Luke the evangelist, since we know from one of his tell-tale ‘we’ passages that he was in Corinth at the time (Acts 20:5f.). The only difficulty is that Luke was a Gentile. But then ‘fellow-countrymen’ could refer only to Jason and Sosipater. This Jason could quite easily be the Jason who had been Paul’s landlord in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5ff.), and Sosipater could be the Berean church’s delegate to Jerusalem, whose name was abbreviated to Sopater (Acts 20:4), for he too was in Corinth at the time.
At this point Paul allows his scribe, to whom he has been dictating this letter, to write his own greeting. *I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord* (22).
Next comes a message from Paul’s host in Corinth. *Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings* (23a). Several men called Gaius appear in the New Testament, for it was a common name. It would be natural, however, to identify this one with the Corinthian whom Paul had baptized (1 Cor.1:14). Some scholars have further suggested that his full Roman name was Gaius Titius Justus, in which case he had a large house next to the synagogue, into which he had welcomed Paul after the Jews had rejected his gospel (Acts 18:7). It is then understandable that Paul would again be his house guest, and that the church would also meet in his home.
Two further people complete the series of messages from Corinth. *Erastus, who is the city’s director of Public works (RSV ‘the city treasurer’), and our brother Quartus send you their greetings* (23b). Of Quartus nothing is known, although F.F.Bruce asks if it would be ‘excessively far-fetched’ to think of him as Tertius’ younger brother, since *tertius* means ‘third’ and *quartus* ‘forth’. In response C.E.B.Cranfield dubs Bruce’s guess ‘an exercise of free fancy’. Erastus, on the other hand, however we should translate ‘the *oikonomos* of the city’, seems to have been a responsible local government official. Perhaps he was the *aedile*, the magistrate in charge of public works, whose name is still clearly legible in a first-century Latin inscription on a marble pavement close to the ruins of old Corinth. It is difficult to see, however, how he could at the same time have been one of Paul’s itinerant helpers who on one occasion was sent ‘to Macedonia’ (Acts 19:22), although on another he ‘stayed in Corinth’ (2 Tim.4:20).
Tomorrow: Romans 16:25-27 3). Paul’s doxology.