Meditations on Christian Ministry

Romans 12:5  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
'' He that ruleth, with diligence." Those who are called to exercise the gift of ruler or leader in the assembly of God, are required to do so with the closest attention and zeal. Much sorrow, alienation of feeling, coldness, irregularity in attendance, might be prevented by the watchful and faithful discharge of the ruler's duties. Prevention is better than cure; and in nothing more so than in a community of free, intelligent, but sensitive minds and encompassed with many infirmities. He needs a skilful eye to watch the countenance, to mark the movements, and to notice the first change in conduct. One may be observed hurrying off rather quickly at the close of a meeting, so as to avoid speaking, or being spoken to. Why is this? It was not so lately. On inquiry, it is found that offense has been taken from supposed neglect, or the heart has been wounded by the apparent partiality of the ruler himself. Misunderstanding prevails.
Such a state of things calls for immediate, faithful, wise, and tender dealing. There may be faults on both sides; grace must reign; still, that which is right must not be overlooked. But carelessness, indolence, on the part of the ruler at such a moment, might be ruinous to the peace and the prosperity of the assembly. The strong must bear with the weak, and everything like partiality, especially on the part of those who have influence in a meeting, must be carefully avoided. Though we cannot love all alike, we must not manifest our love to some to the grief and wounding of others, Vigilance and fidelity must be the watchword of the ruler, but he must not forget to cherish and manifest the love of Him who died for the flock, and rose again to fold in His everlasting embrace His blood-bought sheep and lambs.
" He that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness." This is a fine gift, and one much to be coveted by all who visit the poor and the afflicted. We are not only to spew mercy, but to skew it with such a cheerful spirit, as to manifest that, if it be a consolation to them, it is a pleasure to us. The value of any service of love rendered to the children of sorrow, mainly depends on the spirit in which it is done. It should be our watchful study to spare the feelings of the poor in our acts of benevolence, to soothe the sorrows of the sick, to shed a bright radiance in the chamber of suffering or death, and always to leave behind us the sweet fragrance of the name of Jesus.
Before passing on to verse 9, may I ask, When, and by what means, we actually become members of the body of Christ? This vital and important truth which has been frequently referred to in the foregoing papers, still lingers in my thoughts, and I should like to master it more fully. Most surely, O my soul, it is well for thee to linger over it, to meditate on that which is not only of present, but of eternal, importance. It is living union with Christ—the expression of thy closest relationship to Him, and to all Christians. Let us begin at the beginning.
The evangelist is first in the field; pastors and teachers follow. His gift is the expression of divine love to the lost. He is to arrest, to awaken, to move souls powerfully by the word preached. He thinks of their state as lost sinners; of their misery, of their danger and distance from God, and his love rises to a burning passion. Their salvation is his one object as a workman. He pleads, he appeals, he warns, he entreats, as if all depended on the words that burn in his heart and on his lips; yet in faith he looks to God alone for blessing. There is a perfect understanding between his heart and the Lord. He walks with Him. The passionless preacher may find fault with his more zealous brother, and suggest that there is too much of the human element, and fears that it will end in the mere excitement of nature. But though this may look wise and prudent, it hicks the true element of success -the love that sends words that burn into the heart of the sinner.
The truth, through grace, is believed. The love of Christ has prevailed; the value of the blood is seen, the sinner bows at Jesus' feet in the meltings of godly sorrow for sin, yet confides in the thrice holy One. " Jesus loved me as I am, and died for me just as I am," is now his confession. This is faith. The blessed work is done; God is glorified as in nothing else here below; and angels sweep their harps with an ecstasy peculiar to the joys of salvation. " There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.. Which things the angels desire to look into." Luke 15:1010Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (Luke 15:10) Pet. 1:12.
Individual blessings are the first that follow faith; corporate blessings come afterward. A man becomes a child of God by faith; he is justified by faith. '' Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Rom v. 1, 2.) These may be called the great individual blessings of faith; wherever there is faith in Christ, these must follow. They are the four, grand, immediate consequences of faith—being justified, having peace, standing in grace, waiting for glory. But these are not all. In Eph. 1 the long list of individual blessings, as the children's portion, is given before the church is referred to. The believer's first position, is to be brought to the Father in all the acceptancy of Christ; his second, is to be united to the glorified Man in heaven, and share the blessings and the responsibilities of the membership of the " One body."
When the truth of God is thus believed, and the soul resting on the finished work of Christ, the believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit, and thus made a member of the body of Christ. He is brought into union with Christ in heaven, and with all believers throughout the world, in virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, as a divine Person, making all one. He who dwells in Christ dwells in us and thereby makes us " One spirit with the Lord;" and one with all that are the Lord's. He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." They are joined together by the one Spirit. Many speak and pray about the Holy Spirit as if He were only an "influence." This is very common, but very suggestive. Wherever this state of mind exists, there can be no proper thoughts of the church as the body of Christ, and very confused thoughts of Christ for He is the formative and sustaining power of the body, and dwells in the Christian. The existence and personality of the Holy Ghost, we know, is not denied; but the all-important truth of His presence in the church, as a divine Person, and as the bond of its unity, is not apprehended. This is the serious mistake, if not error, of nearly all Christendom, and the source of its darkness and confusion. The present period may be called the disposition of the Spirit, and to speak about Him as an "influence" in place of a divine Person, is to misunderstand His mission and His work. '' He shall glorify me," says the blessed Lord, " for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." John 16:1414He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:14).
But know thou, O my soul, and know in all the verities of faith, that the Holy Ghost does two things -first, He works in the saints of God individually; second, He works in the assembly. Whether it be our individual or our corporate blessing, both are made good to us by the presence of the Holy Ghost. As individuals, He gives us to taste the sweetness of joy and peace in. believing, of happy liberty and power in service; and also, of living union with the exalted Head, and with all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity and in truth. He never took a body like the Lord Jesus, therefore the world knows Him not; He being therefore equally in all the assemblies of God throughout the world, necessarily unites them all into one body. In this way, thou wilt see, that all who believe on the Lord Jesus, of every clinic and every color, are baptized by the Holy Spirit, and made to belong to the " one body."
It need scarcely be added, that the truth of the Holy Ghost's presence in the assembly is of much deeper importance than the presence of gifts—of talented servants. Their presence or absence touches not the great truth that the Holy Ghost is there, and that He is still sovereign, and acting as He will to the glory of the Lord Jesus. Surely this should lead us to have greater faith in Him as a divine Person, and less in the presence of gifts great or small. '' For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20).
We will now very briefly glance at the remainder of our most instructive chapter.