19th April 2023

Sometimes when writing a letter we add a ‘PS’ (Postscript) after our signature – something we forgot to say earlier, or a word of explanation to avoid a possible misunderstanding. These days of course if you type on computer or send emails you can edit as you go along, making a PS less necessary. Maybe, but I think it can still be a useful part of the art of letter-writing.

Paul evidently thought so. His letters to the churches at Rome, Corinth, Philippi or wherever typically conclude with ‘And by the way . . . ’ kind of remarks. Often they’re on very practical matters, or requests to greet particular people, Prisca and Aquila for example, ‘also the church in their house’; or ‘Mary who has worked very hard among you’; or urging two of the Philippian women, Syntyche and Euodia, to sort out their differences. This could of course be a clever ploy. Picture the congregation who’ve heard that the great Paul has written to them, and are eagerly waiting to hear the letter read out. They’re on tenterhooks: will they be mentioned by Paul, whether in commendation or admonition, or perhaps by a reassuring personal greeting? Paul ensures their attention throughout his lengthy passages on the work of Christ, by keeping them waiting and alert to the end!

But it’s more than a clever communication technique. Paul is stressing that all the great Gospel themes of Christ, grace and salvation bear on the details of how we actually live in church and in the world: ‘Keep on doing the things that you have learned . . . ’ (Phil. 4:9).

Keith Clements