Smoke in Wind (Reading Romans 16)

The Book of Romans ends in the most unexpected way, with a list of names. The Bible is famous for this, compiling mountainous, monotonous lists of names. We read through them as if they are a bore. But are they meaningful?

If we were to eliminate the list of names we would emasculate the Scriptures of one of its greatest truths; that God has chosen to reveal Himself in human theaters. Paul could have shared with us thirty more profound truths about justification, or he could do as he has, share with us thirty people who have made the journey from Romans 1, people who participate in the wrath of God, to Romans 16, people who participate in the glory of God. God could have revealed Himself to us in code, or theological treatise, or religious formula. But He has not. God has revealed Himself to us in a list of names, in a monotonous mountain of humanity. If we were to erase Romans 16 we should also erase the names of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Esther, Jeremiah, Daniel, Luke, Matthew, Timothy, Peter, John. . . God uses people to manifest His glory.

The interaction of an invisible God with humanity is like the dance of smoke in wind. The smoke is at the mercy of the wind but it is the smoke that makes the wind visible. So it is with God and man. God has chosen to use humanity to make the abstract concepts like forgiveness, love, mercy, and grace tangible truths with textures, tastes, smells, and colors. No man would have ever known God is love unless God had chosen a man with a name to receive it; smoke in wind.

If we are to experience God we cannot separate ourselves from community. God has revealed Himself to people with names. If you want to see God, you must be around people. In Romans 16 Paul reminds us that being around people can be as ideal (vv. 1-16) as it is dangerous (vv. 17-20). People with names can bless you. People with names can hurt you. As odd as it seems the Almighty has chosen to make Himself known to people with names. It is smoke in wind, the invisible God and His sovereignty intertwined and visible in a multitude of people with names.


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