Something must have been missing. Everything seemed to be in place. The letter flowed so well. It appeared so orderly. At least until Paul got to near the end of it. Paul’s letter to the Roman church was more of a well thought through treatise on the order of human salvation by God’s grace than a simple friendly, apostolic greeting.
Beginning with the scourge of sin upon the human race and how it has infected, indeed, all of mankind, Paul proceeds in logical, biblical theological order through how men are salved and sanctified; how the Sovereignty of God is over the whole process. Then, in conclusion, the very applicable section of the letter on service and serving in God’s Kingdom appears directed toward a finish.
In chapter 15, Paul commences to bring his epistle to an end. But, each time he does, it seems as if he cannot do so. Perhaps he had a nagging sense that he had forgotten to say something. Perhaps a “feeling”, even from God the Holy Spirit, that something was missing. What could it be?
The answer is blessing. Spiritual blessing. Paul gives a clue as to his heart’s desire for the Roman Christians in chapter 1 and verse 11: “ ...I long to visit you so I can share a spiritual blessing with you that will help you grow strong in the Lord.” Because the Apostle was a man of action and not just words, he must realize in the course of authoring the letter, and through the ministrations of the Spirit, that he need not wait to visit the Romans to bless them. He can do it now through the mighty power of God with he himself as the channel of blessing!
So he extends his first blessing to them in chapter 15, verse 5. It is a blessing of unity. He prays in essence that the Lord would extend patience and encouragement to these brothers and sisters so that they might “...live in complete harmony with each other...”. And of course in writing these words, his pastor’s heart is stirred to remind them to be faithful.
Then Paul comes to yet another opportunity to finish and he extends a blessing of hope in
15. 13. His prayer is that they may “...overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” This barocha (blessing) provokes added thoughts and exhortations in his mind, so he continues the letter.
It appears that Paul has said all he desires and gives yet blessing # 3, which is a blessing of peace. But then, he realizes that with all the people he knows in Rome, he has not extended any personal greetings. All has been general and didactic to this point in the letter. So as a result, we have chapter 16, which consists of very personal salutations to various known individuals at Rome.
Then finally, there are the opening words of the fourth and final blessing of the letter to the Romans. It is a blessing of grace. It is perhaps the most familiar of all of Paul’s benedictions. Grace which saves and grace that keeps. But then, Paul realizes that there are those with him who would like the chance to greet these dear brothers and sisters. So the letter continues yet a few more lines.
There are no more blessings in this letter. However, Paul finally closes his thoughts with personal words of encouraging affirmation to these he has never met but feels a special kinship in Christ. “God is able to make you strong, just as the Good News says” (16.25). Encouragement. Reminders. Affirmation. How we need to hear these things constantly.
The power of our words should never be underestimated. Paul did not put off verbally blessing the Romans though initially he had written that blessing would flow from a visit. But with an omnipresent Lord, we do not need to be present to offer His benefits and to be a channel of His goodness to others.
I simply need to be available to say those God-centered words that others need to hear. I must develop the mindset to remember that as a priest of Christ Jesus the Lord, I can offer His Grace and Peace to everyone I meet. I need to remember that I con-du-it as Paul did and be the conduit of blessing that the Lord wants me to be!