Meditations on Christian Ministry

Romans 12:7  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Verse 7. " Or ministry, let us wait on our ministry; or he that teacheth, on teaching." The terms minister and ministry are sometimes employed in reference to the apostles, to teachers, and to all who servo in the gospel; and sometimes in a more restricted sense, as to the office of deacon and the deaconship. The latter seems to be the appropriate application of the word " ministry" here. Tile deacons were a class of officers who were to attend to the poor and the sick, and the external affairs of the church generally. (See Acts 6:1-31And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. (Acts 6:1‑3); Phil. 1:11Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: (Philippians 1:1); 1 Tim. 3:8-138Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:8‑13).) And if a man's gift lay in ministering thus to the saints, he was to attend to it. '' Or ministry, let us wait on our ministry." This is a real service of love, and one most acceptable to the Lori Jesus Christ and to His poor saints, and he who is thus privileged, will show his wisdom by occupying himself in his own gift, and not be attempting that which he is neither called to nor qualified for. Great wisdom and spiritual discernment are required, in order to " use the office of a deacon well;" and distribute wisely that which may be called one's own money, or money entrusted to us by others. We must look at " the poor of the flock" from the Master's point of view, and love them through His affection.
" Or he that teacheth, on teaching." The teacher is one who not only knows and enjoys the truth himself, but has the gift of so unfolding it as to lead others to see it, enjoy it, own its weight and importance; at the same time, the teacher must not be confounded with the prophet, nor teaching with prophesying. The apostle is particularly energetic in keeping everyone to his own work in the unity of the body, and from engaging in a service for which he has no divinely given fitness. The first thing, to be ascertained is the character of our gift, and secondly its measure. And he who serves diligently according to its nature and measure, will be recognized and esteemed by his brethren, and owned of God for help and blessing in His assembly: but on the other hand, if a brother is vain of his gift, mistakes its nature, or pushes it beyond its measure, he is not led of the Spirit, he is acting in the flesh, and when this is felt, his ministry must be unacceptable. And what follows? He complains that his gift is not appreciated—for lie has a real gift—whereas, it was the forwardness of nature that was rejected, not the godly exercise of his gift, " according to the proportion of faith." This is one of the bitter roots which sometimes spring up and trouble the assembly of God. The Lord give us all to watch against this with a godly jealousy, so that there may be no ungracious criticisms, unworthy partialities, hard judging, on the one hand, or vain assumption on the other. Lord, give us to be only too happy to serve Thee however small our gift, if it be only to hand a hymnbook to a stranger, or conduct him to a seat. The thought, oh! the wondrous thought—Jesus died for we! is enough to gird thee for the humblest work. Never forget this, my soul, and it will always keep thee humble, and always girded to serve.
Teachers, though in some respects resembling the prophets, are expressly distinguished from them. "And God Bath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." The apostles were the inspired communicators of God's mind to man, and invested with power to govern in the name of the Lord. The prophets were not only occasionally connected with the revelation of truth before unknown, but used of God in the important work of so expounding and applying scripture, as to set the soul in the light of His presence. Teachers are distinguished from apostles and prophets, inasmuch as they were not necessarily inspired, and are classed with the regular and permanent gifts of Christ to His church. The word of God is the standard by which all teachers must be tried, however great their gift or acceptance. And He gave some, " evangelists, pastors, and teachers." These we have still with us, thank the Lord, and many of them working for Him, notwithstanding the general confusion and outward broken state of the church. Fitness to teach is a gift of the ascended Lord, and which all ought to possess who take the place of teachers. No mere human appointment or education can make a man a minister of Christ. How truly happy to be able to say with the apostle, " Our sufficiency is of God, who bath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." 2 Cor. 3:5, 65Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; 6Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Corinthians 3:5‑6).
Verse 8. " Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let hint do it with simplicity. The teacher has chiefly to do with the understanding, the exhorter with the conscience. It requires great grace to be an exhorter, and equally great grace to receive the word of exhortation. The gift is now, are in the church of God. Few have grace to bring the keen edge of the word down upon the conscience, and at the same time make the person feel that love rules, and that his good is the only object in view. Exhortation includes admonition, consolation; urging to practical duties, dissuading from the neglect of duty, pointing out shortcomings, applying the promises or the threatenings of scripture as the case may be. But we need not dwell on the difficulties of the exhorter, and the still greater difficulty of submitting to the exhortation. They must be apparent to all. Personal feelings are apt to arise and false motives to be imputed; still, the apostle presses the exercise of the gift as needed and wholesome for the members of the body of Christ. The Lord grant that in this day of high-mindedness, of in-subjection to the word of God, our lives may be a constant testimony to the will of Christ, and our diligent attention to the things of the Lord both publicly and privately, a constant exhortation to our fellow-Christians. Then it will be not only, Do as I say, but do as I do.
" He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity." The apostle is here speaking of gifts, not of office; and of the manner in which the various duties of Christians, as members of one body, ought to be performed. He whose gift is riches, and who giveth of his substance for the wants of the poor, or the work of the Lord, is to do it with simplicity. Hero pause a moment, my soul; allow thyself to be arrested by this weighty caution. Nothing is more difficult than to distribute money according to this word of the Lord. " Simplicity" here means " singleness of heart, fearing God;" and again, In singleness of your heart, as unto Christ." (Col. 3:2424Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:24); Eph. 6:55Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; (Ephesians 6:5); 2 Cor. 1:1212For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. (2 Corinthians 1:12).) now searching is the word of God! it guards against ostentation, love of praise, wrong motives, improper objects; and on the other hand, it warns us against all evasive pretexts such as, not convenient, I have so many calls, I am not able to give." At the same time, the Christian is but a steward, whether he distributes what may be called his own, or the bounty of the church, and lie is entitled to look for " simplicity and godly sincerity" in the applicant as well as in himself. There are many plausible appeals made for money, which, when carefully examined, are found to be neither simple nor sincere. Tie must also watch against the artful pleader putting his soul in bondage, and making him unhappy. There is only one remedy for all the difficulties connected with giving, as for all other things. The giver must walk before the Lord with purity of motive, free from all improper designs, and waiting to do His will with an honest impartial simplicity. When the eye is single, the whole body is full of light; perplexity with darkness flees away, the mind of God is discerned, and the clear light of heaven shines on the steward's way.