GOD'S BIG LITTLE PEOPLE - THE LORD'S THREE AMIGOS
Dear Christian friends,
There was a movie in the early nineties called the Three Amigos. It was a comedy. It had three stars – Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase. The premise of the movie was about three silent film stars who went to Mexico and were mistaken for heroes by small suffering Mexican village that needed help. It was a so-so movie. Not all that many people saw it. The three men we will spotlight today in our sermon are like the movie; not too many people remember them in the roles they played.
There are a number of times where three memorable persons are referred to in Scripture. The most significant would be God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They don’t get bigger than that. But there are other trios to who are worthy of study. There is Peter, James and John. They were the inner core of the disciples who were accorded special privileges when they were with Jesus. They went with Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane while the others were told to wait at the entry. They witnessed Jesus’ intense prayer in which he even sweat blood. They were also on the top of the mountain to see saw Jesus’ face shine like a bright light and his clothes became whiter than anything on this earth. They witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus.
There was another trio - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were real heroes of faith because they honored God more than their lives. They were thrown into the mega heated furnace to be burned alive but God saved them. Great was is God’s faithfulness. Great was theirs.
Today we continue our sermon series of Big Little People of the Bible. We are studying a trio that never gets mentioned and remembered - Gaius, Erastus and Quartus, The Lord’s Three Amigos.
We can determine the background of the letter to Romans by internal evidence found in the Bible. Paul wrote the letter to the Romans when he was in Corinth at the end of his third missionary journey. He was about to travel to Jerusalem to deliver a love offering that the European churches collected to give to their fellow Christians in Jerusalem. They were going through some troubling times. After hitting Jerusalem and delivering the gift, Paul’s plan was to go to Rome.
As Paul ends the letter to the Romans, he spends the last chapter greeting people whom he knew in Rome. He also includes a section naming people he was with in Corinth. Among them were these three amigos, “Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.
First is Gaius, “whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy.” We know a little about Gaius. His name appears three times in the Bible. Generally when Paul, Silas and Timothy visited a city to do mission work, Paul was the front person. He was the one in the people’s faces. He led the Bible study and reasoned with people. He took people into the Old Testament Scriptures. Timothy and Silas seemed to have a follow up role. Jesus once said he would make his disciples fishers of men. It appeared that Paul did the catching while Timothy and Silas did the cleaning. Silas and Timothy built on what Paul taught.
There is an interesting passage found in the book of Acts that says about their time in Corinth, “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. ”In another letter (I Corinthians) Paul said he baptized very few, not because he didn’t believe in baptism but that is what others (probably Paul and Silas) did. Perhaps they also gave instruction for receiving new converts’ first communion. The Bible does say, however, Gaius was one of the few that Paul baptized.
We hear something else in connection with Gaius. Paul began mission work in a new city by going to the synagogue first. That made sense, after all the Jews had the Old Testament. He went right to the Messianic prophecies and then explained that Jesus of Nazareth that he and many others saw fulfilled them. Messiah had come to seek and to save the lost.
What a great message, but it offended many in the synagogue in Corinth. They kicked Paul out and all who were followers or interested. So what did Paul do? The Bible says, “Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.” Titius Justus is Gaius. His whole name was probably Gaius Titius Justus. So when the Christians got kicked out of the synagogue, Gaius, a baptized believer, invited everyone to meet in his home. So his house received a new name - First Christian Church of Corinth. That explains why Paul said about Gaius “whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy.”
His home became everyone’s church. Why? He wanted others to know what God in his grace allowed him to know: Jesus cleansed him from his sin and promised a room in the Father’s house, much bigger and better than the one that Gaius could offer. Lending his house to the cause of Christ was the least he could do.
This causes Judy and me to reminisce. The beginning of my ministry began in Lawrenceville thirteen miles east of here where God used me and others to establish a congregation. About a year and a half later some people in Greenville, South Carolina wanted to start a church there. After church in Lawrenceville on Sunday, Judy and I traveled to Greenville to begin a ministry there. Where did we meet? In the homes of the Rall’s, the Henry’s and the Raffel’s. Some of you longer time members remember Matt Raffel who was a member but now in Salt Lake City. Martin and Phyllis his parents made their home available. That’s where we met Matt as a teen ager.
Judy and I treasure those days. Just like Gaius they offered their homes and hospitality so spiritually hungry and thirsty people, could be fed. They usually had coffee and sandwiches and cake too. There was love and warmth there from these people of God.
One of my favorite and most memorable services I have ever conducted occurred on Easter Sunday of 1979 in the living room of Naomi and Dr. Doug Rall. The living room overflowed with 26 people. Two children were baptized. I got to preach the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The sacrament was administered. After reporting all that happened that day, our church body pursued funding a pastor of their own. Thanks to the kindness of some big little people who wanted God’s kingdom to grow just like Gaius did 2000 years before.
Let me say something else we learn from Gaius’ example. Ten years ago, our son graduated from the Seminary and began the Gospel ministry. He had a daunting call to restart a church that, up until that time, floundered. He and I had a conversation about the faithful preaching of God’s Word and administration of the Sacrament would allow him to see people and bring blessing to them. He would see his own Gaius’s as I have seen mine. You are such people, special people to me, to each other and most of all to God.
Remember that Gaius is not a fictitious person. You are going to meet him one day. The people to whom he opened up his house, you will meet them one day because God used Gaius and his home. You too will be surprised how God has used you. Remember Gaius, number one amigo of the LORD!
The Lord’s second amigo – Erastus. Paul sends greeting to Rome from Erastus, “who is the city’s director of public works.” One member of the church in Corinth rubbed elbows with people from city of hall. He represented city hall in Rome, Erastus. Archeologists in Corinth have unearthed a stone on which it says, “Erastus, commissioner of public works, bore the expense of this pavement.” Are they one and the same? Maybe! Either way, the Erastus mentioned by Paul was a mover and shaker in the city. But no matter how highly regarded he might have been, no matter how respected he might have been, by the Holy Spirit’s power he recognized that he was a wretched sinner like everyone else and needed Jesus. We have an expression. We say we all put our pants on one leg at a time. It means we are all equal. We are. The commandments count sins against us one at a time, but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all of our sins all the time. Whether banker or baker or candlestick maker.
Dear God, give us all a proper perspective of our lives. Keep us humble, Lord, so that through Christ and Christ alone we can be exalted. A lesson learned from Erastus, the Lord’s second amigo.
The third of the Lord’s amigos – Quartus. Not much is said about Quartus in Scripture. It is all said here: “Our brother Quartus send(s) you (his) greetings.” He is simply called “our brother.” Yet, that’s an expression that is understood by members of God’s church. We are family. It’s not about DNA; it’s not about matching blood…or maybe it is. Not our own but the blood of Jesus that stained the cross on which he bore our sins to purify us. Because of that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have him in common.
Because we do we pull together and work together for the one who makes us one together with our Heavenly Father. Members of the family of God don’t look like each other. In fact, there is different skin color, different genders, different gifts, different languages and tongues. Yet we are one because we believe in the one and only Savior, a Savior we want to make known to the world.
I saw a story about a man by the name of Jack Lipton. Jack Lipton is a member of the American Psychological Association and psychologist at Union College. R. Scott Builione, a graduate student at Columbia University, and he did a study of eleven major symphony orchestras in the America. They asked questions of the different sections of each orchestra to voice their opinions about the other sections and how they viewed them. The survey indicated that the members who played:
1) Percussion instruments were perceived by the other groups to be insensitive, unintelligent, hard-of-hearing, yet fun-loving. Sorry Johnny C. Baehman! At least you are fun-loving.
2) People who played string instruments were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and non-athletic. Maybe that’s why they trip to their seats.
3) Brass players were described mainly with one adjective – loud."
4) Woodwind players seemed to be held in the highest esteem. They were described as quiet and meticulous, though a bit egotistical.
Interesting findings, to say the least! There was a perception of very different personalities, but together they play beautiful music.
That’s the church! Brothers and sisters to each other as it says about Quartus. One common faith but working together for the LORD. Just like the three amigos Gaius, Erastus and Quartus different from each other but one in Christ and one to serve!