What does tertiary mean anyway?

After nine months of study and filling no less than six hand written journals, today I have completed a spiritual journey.

 

Long ago, I decided to study the book of Romans with more depth than I ever studied a single book. It’s been a blessed, frustrated, beautiful, agonizing endeavor (and, no, I am not being dramatic).

 

But, here, even on the last day as I pour through Paul’s concluding remarks, I am smacked in the face by a lesson I can’t wait to preach. So, let’s blog it!

 

In his 27 verse long conclusion (he sounds like some preachers, I know, I know, yuk yuk), Paul sends his greetings to 26 individuals, two families and three house churches. But, one greeting stands out in an amazing way!

 

Romans 16:22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

 

Tertius was a scribe (a secretary if you will) who wrote down the letter as Paul dictated it. For this one brief verse he breaks form and speaks in the first person, to say “Hi” to all the believers in Rome.

 

This is so amazing because Romans is so amazingly important! Take a look:

 

Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

 

 

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

 

 

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

 

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

 

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

 

Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

In case you hadn’t noticed, I only pulled some of Romans Greatest Hits from eight of its 16 chapters! This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg… it’s a snowflake, lightly landing on the highest peak of a drifting mountain of glacial magnificence (okay, now I’m being dramatic).

 

The book of Romans has changed lives, shaped the Church of Jesus Christ and moved the world!

 

We all know the words belong to the Apostle Paul, and we are thankful for his ministry. But, Tertius is the guy who wrote it down and he is the reason we have it today!

 

According to Douglas Moo, author of the NIV Application Commentary on the book of Romans, “Tertius (v. 22) identifies himself as the amanuensis of this letter, that is, the trained scribe who ‘wrote down’ what Paul dictated. He is otherwise unknown to us.”

 

Talk about a background guy; he looks like some One-Hit Wonder of the New Testament.

 

In fact, his name roughly translates to “third.” We still use it today to say that something was of tertiary importance. Not of first importance, or even second. Somewhere down the line, in the back, out of sight, this thing might be important… maybe.

 

Seriously!?!

 

Could you imagine what we would have missed if Paul just spoke these words to the church at Rome and were lost after his voice stopped echoing off the walls of some ancient house church?

 

But, that didn’t happen because Tertius was there, working in the background, supporting someone on the bigger stage and humbly serving in a way that has blessed billions of people for the last 2,000 years.

 

Amazing.

 

Here’s what this one little verse teaches me:

 

  1. 1) There is no small task in the Kingdom of God. If you look closely at this, dictating a letter may change the course of humanity if God’s in the letter! We have to be willing to serve where God has us and not just where we want to be. God has a better (er, best) perspective on the impact that He will make through us, even if it doesn’t look like a top tier position.
  2. 2) Being faithful puts you in the position you need to be. I am confident that Paul did not hire Tertius from the First Corinth Temp Agency. I am sure Tertius had been faithful, serving, present, helpful, good attitude, eager, in it for the Lord; then one day Paul said, “Hey T-man… come in here for a minute and bring a blank scroll.” This is the way humble servants of God seem to grow in their influence. They remember that wherever they are, they should be there. Always looking for the next, or better, position, or opportunity, not only distracts you from what you have in front of you, it’s coveting.
  3. 3) We (not just those of us with a larger platform) should remember and greet (thank) those who minister all around us. It’s not only the right thing to do, it sends a message to everyone that serving the Lord is important, no matter what your current calling is. Just like Paul concluded Romans with a long list of thanks and remembrances, we should learn to embrace that practice from time to time.

 

So, here we go…

 

I want to thank my wife for nearly two decades of support, love, encouragement and chronic forgiveness for interruptions, sacrifices and “maybe laters.” The two have been made one and this is our ministry.

 

I want to remember my beloved Noah and Nathan for the experience of unconditional love both given and received. Without your smiles, giggles, tears and fears I would not be the man I am today.

 

I want to thank and say I love you to all my family: in-laws, outlaws and hereditary. Iron truly does sharpen iron, and even when things aren’t lovey-dovey I know you are mine and I am yours.

 

I want to thank Matt, Jon and Reif who serve the Lord so far away, but could never know how close they are to me everyday in my prayers, thoughts and hopes to see and work with you again… soon.

To the entirety of the CrossPoint staff, I wish I could convey my sense of urgency to protect, advance and partner with you. I know I am blessed each and everyday to call you co-laborers in the work of Christ. Most of you have rescued a program, saved the day and stood in the gap. You are a treasure. There are even those I may say saved my life (or at least career) in the tough times… you know who you are. Your work as individuals is fantastic, our work as a team is eternal. One may fall, but two can stand. A strand of three is not easily broken.

 

A huge debt from my heart is owed to the leaders and volunteers of CrossPoint. Pouring coffee, parking cars, changing diapers, handing out bulletins, passing buckets, teaching children, cleaning, fixing, praying and promoting… you are the church. There are not enough moments to pat each back, shake each hand and look in each eye, but believe me, you deserve it. When we get to heaven, let’s make up for lost time and have a CrossPoint reunion… just call Lisa in the office and we’ll see if we can’t schedule that… just kidding.

 

To my mentors Glenn and Chuck: the love, the direction, the inspiration and the butt kickings are exactly what I needed and continue to need. You regularly preach and lead through me in ways you are very unaware.

 

Regarding all the saints who have gone before and left a legacy of teaching, I am indebted. Their numbers are too great to list, but know this, I regularly imagine their faces in that great cloud of witnesses that spur us on.

 

There are so many others that deserve and should be named, but I will reserve that for the right moments. And, I apologize to anyone who feels they should have been on this list and weren’t… you should have been (I wonder if Paul thought about including a paragraph like this one).

 

My prayer for me (and for you) is that I would live my life in such a way that someday I would find myself in the concluding remarks of someone else’s list. Platform Marquees and Internet searches are decent places to have influence, but when it all boils down, it’s about this: did God use you to reach people.

 

Thank you Jesus for all those you used to reach me.

 

Thank you Jesus for all those you use along with me to reach others.

 

May we all humbly serve with the heart of Tertius.

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