Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.…
We often see in old religious pictures a small portrait of the artist on his knees in a corner. This is such a picture of the man who had the humble task of writing this Epistle from Paul's burning lips. We never hear of him before or after; just one little gleam of a light falls upon him, as sometimes you may see a star peep out for a moment, with a great bank of blackness on either side of it — but one gleam of light and one word makes this man immortal. "I Tertius, who wrote this Epistle," will last as long as the Bible, and longer too. Note here: —
I. A VERY REMARKABLE, BECAUSE UNCONSCIOUS EXAMPLE OF THE STRANGE UNITING POWER OF COMMON FAITH. The Church in Rome knew nothing about Tertius; so it was needful to introduce himself.
1. Here, then, is an utter stranger to a body of people in Rome, possibly separated from them by race, nationality, education, and all the deep clefts which split humanity up into so many uncommunicating or hostile forces. And he stretches out his hand across all this, and says, "Here is a brother's hand. God has made us of one family." And look how beautifully he pushes himself in: "I salute you in the Lord. If you want to know why I speak to you, I point to Christ's name. You and I are one in Him, and so we can salute each other." The world was all broken up by great deep clefts frowning against each other, and Christianity threw across what seemed to be mere gossamer threads, but what has drawn the frowning precipices together, and of the twain has made one.
2. These early Christians loved each other all the more because the world hated them. The pressure of antagonism forced them together, as loosely compacted substances are squeezed together by the hydraulic press. Christianity is a great deal more loosely compacted than when the world sat upon it; but take this lesson — do not put your experience within any little ring fence. You are tall enough to look over it, however high it is; and though you may talk about "our Church," do not fancy that that is the same as Christ's Church, and that you are to keep all your sympathy for your own Church. Put your hand out, be sure that your brother there will grasp it; and make the effort after the pattern of this voice from Corinth, that shouted across the water to the people in the mother-city. Do not let our faith have less of a uniting power than the infantile faith of those early Christians.
II. THE DIGNITY OF SUBORDINATE WORK.
1. The man was very little more than a machine; he sat there to put down whatever Paul told him. Yes! But he is evidently proud of his work, with the kind of pride that a true man may have, not that it has been done well, but that God has given it to him to do at all. "I have not done much in the world, but I have done that, at any rate. If it had not been for me you Roman Christians would not have had this in your hand."
2. And Tertius was quite as necessary as Paul, before the letter could get finished. All the hits of a machine are equally important, because if the smallest screw drops out, the whole thing stops. However minute a link of a chain may be, if it drops out, the whole thing is at an end. And so in God's work there is no such thing as "great" and "small." Besides, nobody can tell what is big and what is little. If it had not been for Tertius you would not have had your New Testament, as you have it. He did not know what he was doing, and none of us know what we are doing when we are working for the Master. "The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee." The wise and seeing people in the Church, the clever, and educated people, cannot say to the people with no views or insight to speak of, but can do the work that they are directed to do — "I have no need of thee." Every note in the great score is needed for the total effect, and the Master foresaw its power. Every instrument in the orchestra is needed.
III. WHAT IS THE BEST THING TO BE REMEMBERED BY? Very beautiful to see how in this good man's mind there was evidently present the desire to live in the affections of those to whom he had been the means of bringing God's truth. And there is no such sacred tie as that. And it is right that he who has helped you in any way to feel Christ nearer or more precious to you, should seek to have and to keep a place in your hearts. Only, let us remember that it was "in the Lord" that Tertius wanted the Roman Christians to love him. And it is not mere admiratory esteem, affection of an earthly sort that a true minister seeks from his flock.
IV. "I wrote this Epistle." That is all his life that we know anything about. All the rest of it has shrunk away and been forgotten. INTO HOW LITTLE A SPACE THE IMPORTANT FACTS OF A LIFE CAN BE CONDENSED. It takes acres of roses to make a phial of essence of roses. And it takes days and years to be, and do, that which can he spoken in a line. Well! Tertius did not care what of his life was known or unknown by other people; but he did want that other people should know that he had written this Epistle. Will it be an epitaph of that sort, in five or six words, that will do for us? This is my ambition, that this at least may be engraven on my tomb: "A servant of Christ, who helped some people to know His will, and to do it for His love's sake"? If so, all the rest may well go. If so, it matters very little what may become of our names or reputation. He has said, "Surely I will never forget any of their works."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.