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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 86

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life as One of Exemplification in Ministry

The Ministry of Paul

Paul says, "I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another." He is very courteous. "I know you are full of knowledge; I know that you are able to exhort one another." But he says, "As putting you in mind." Why? "Because of the grace that is given to me of God." What was that grace? "That I should be a minister of Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles"; and the Roman church was mostly a Gentile church.

A good many of us think of ministry as something hard and unpleasant. Paul says it comes by grace. Shipwrecked, stoned, beaten with rods, in prison, hungry, weary, and naked; and yet he says, "It was given me by the grace of God." If we could only view every task in relation to the church of God as the apostle Paul did, not a duty to be born, but as a gift!

"Ministering the gospel" of verse 16 means to minister as a priest ministers. "That the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit." The same figure occurs in Numbers 8, where Aaron took the Levites, sanctified them (in the Old Testament sense), and then offered them up to God. The apostle Paul was a priest ministering "in the gospel," that is, sanctifying the Gentiles, as the Levites were offered up by Aaron to God. Paul was offering up all those "trophies" he gathered in his travels.

Verse 18-19 indicate that Paul would take no credit for what others did. In verse 20 he gives the reason, "Lest I should build on another man's foundation." Paul had a great ambition. He wanted to go out where nobody had ever been. In verse 22 Paul comes to the point of telling his plans. A ministry should not be a haphazard ministry. It should have a plan to it and a purpose.

"My journey into Spain" proved Paul's occasion for coming to Rome. Whether Paul ever got to Spain or not, we do not know, but possibly he did. At the time of that journey, he says, "I will come to you," because Rome was on his way. He says with anticipation, "If I may be somewhat filled with our company," refreshed as a man is filled when he sits down to a feast of good things. Paul longed for their fellowship, but of these people, only a few had he ever seen.

In verse 25 the word "minister" means not to minister as a priest, but to minister as a deacon. This gives the office of deacon a holy aspect. Verse 27 indicates that the Gentiles owe a great deal to the Jews. Paul cannot refrain from reminding them of that. Go back to the eleventh chapter where he said, "The casting away of them was the reconciling of the world." So, Paul concludes, we should share with them our bodily or "carnal" things such as food, clothing, and money.

Verse 29 presents an amazing collection of words: "In the fullness  of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." Paul did not know then how he was going to come. He  went to Rome as a prisoner with a chain upon his wrist and was shipwrecked on the way. Yet he came "in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ"; for he wrote, after he was in Rome and placed in a cell, to the Philippians, "I would ye should understand brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." This was another way of saying that he came "in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ."

He closes this discussion with a plea: "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me." The minister of God needs the ministry of prayer on his behalf. It is a ministry that the world does not take much account of, yet there is nothing greater than a prayer ministry.

Paul tells them three things that he wants them to pray about. He is very specific. "Pray that I may be delivered from them that do not believe." He is going  down to Jerusalem, where the unbelieving Jews tried to kill him. They hated him! He was delivered from them, but not in the way he expected. He was delivered into he hands of Rome and so escaped with his life.

"Pray that my ministry might be acceptable." There were some Jewish Christians who did not like Paul. A message is sometimes accepted from one person, but not accepted from another. These Jews felt that way about Paul. Paul's attitude could have been, "If they won't take it from me, they won't get it." But instead Paul said, Pray that they will accept it." What a beautiful spirit that is!

"Pray that I may come to you with joy." He went up as a prisoner, and when the brethren met him, they kissed and greeted him. This was a great encouragement to him. For two whole years he was permitted to dwell in his own hired house, where he preached the gospel to every one who came. So this prayer was answered, too.

In verse 32 Paul insists that his visit much be "by the will of God." In other words, "I want to come to Rome, but I am not going to tell God how to do it." The purpose of his visit: "that you may be refreshed."

Then he closes with that beautiful benediction, addressed to those two groups of Christians who had been engaged in strife: "Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen."

May the Lord help each one of us, that our ministry may be fashioned after the ministry of the Lord Jesus and the ministry of Paul: sacrificial, impartial, personal, powerful, purposeful, and prayerful!

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 87 - The Heartwarming Conclusion to a Great Revelation")

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