In this last chapter of Romans Paul instructs the church to greet various of the disciples in the churches on his behalf. It is clear that these greetings are not a simple formal acknowledgement of those people but rather are a warm, friendly and heartfelt joy the Paul feels for each of these different people.
Paul in his humility recognizes the service that these different disciples have afforded both himself and the church. He speaks of sacrifices made and works done by those ones on his behalf and the behalf of many others. Some of these are people we recognize from other writings while others are mentioned only here.
It is evident also that some of these people are well recognized in the early church even though we do not know today who they were or what they did. Consider for instance two of those mentioned,
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. – (Romans 16:7)
These two were converts before Paul's Damascus Road experience when he came to Christ and these two people were also well known to the apostles in Jerusalem. But what they did and who they were is something of a mystery to us today. And in truth knowing them is not particularly important.
Importance of Greeting the Brethren
What is important in these greetings of Paul to all of these people is the greetings themselves. And it is important to recognize and greet the brethren.
A greeting of this type does several things. First it shows respect and humility for the other person. It recognizes they are someone of importance to the person greeting them. It shows they hold a place in the heart and mind of the greeter so that they are built up and made comfortable.
Secondly, the greeting shows other people that the greeter recognizes and respects that person and provides a subtle recommendation to others of the character of the person. It is inclusive for the greeting includes the person as being one of the brethren.
How To Greet the Brethren
What we see at the end of this section is the instruction that says,
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. – (Romans 16:16)
The instruction is to greet one another with a holy kiss. I'll be honest, I have no idea what a holy kiss is, nor what is the difference between a holy kiss and any other kind of kiss.
So to try and get a feeling for what this form of greeting is, we need to look back at the Greek words from which the English words are translated.
The Greek word for “greet” is poorly translated. It would be better translated as “embrace.” Personally I would use the word “hug” because when I think of a hug I tend to think of friends coming together to warmly greet each other. And this is what I believe Paul was conveying by the original Greek word “aspasasthe” which is translated as “greet.”
The word “holy” is translated from the Greek word “hagioi” which is correctly translated as “holy” and also means something pure and morally blameless. Thus this kiss of greeting is one that conveys warmth, purity and morality. There are no sexual or other overtones to it.
Finally the last word “kiss” is translated from the Greek word “philemati.” The root of this word is “phile” which indicates brotherly affection and love of the brethren. It is the love between friends or the friendship of two or more individuals.
So putting all of this together the picture that comes to mind when I read these words is that of friends embracing or hugging each other in the warmth of mutual affection with a kiss on the cheek. By this the individuals show they have a care for the others, respecting them and showing how much their friendship means and is valued by them.
This is just my opinion though and I would appreciate any thoughts you may have or wish to add to this picture.
Not Greeting Brethren
Now there is another side to this that is worth speaking of too. When the apostle John wrote his epistles he spoke of a man who was clearly showing the signs of being an antichrist within the early church. This man was serving his own lust, passions and desires rather than serving Christ. We see these words in 3 John 1:9-10.
9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. – (3 John 1:9-10)
In my last post I spoke briefly about the conditions of antichrist and this man Diotrephes was clearly showing those attitudes. He was putting himself first. That is, he was puffing himself up as if he was someone of importance and if he put himself first then he has deposed Christ from being at the head or first in the church. This is the spirit of antichrist in action.
But what we also see is that the antichrist structures do not greet the brethren or welcome them. Instead they turn them away and try to prevent the people in the church giving greeting to the brethren.
What these antichrists do is try to keep control over the church to do their own will rather than the will of God. They teach false doctrines and lead the people into bondage rather than the true freedom in Jesus Christ. They are interested only in what brings them gain and not what promotes the truth of the gospel.
So it is important to greet the brethren and to be aware of those who do or do not greet the brethren. There are many churches today that are exclusive and do not greet others. Do not be like them. Listen to the words of God and greet all who are seeking God regardless of where they are at in their faith. You never know, you may be able to learn from them or they from you, but if you do not greet them how will this be possible?
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com taken by Mike Johnson)
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