Romans 12:8
Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
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(8) He that exhorteth.—It will be observed that in the apostolic writings, the one idea of “preaching” is divided into its several branches, “speaking with tongues,” “prophesying” (which appears to have had reference to the more recondite portions or relations of the faith), “teaching,” “exhortation.” This last form of address, corresponding perhaps rather to our word “encouragement,” would be especially needed in the troubled circumstances of the early Church.

He that giveth.—In this and the following phrases the Apostle passes on from considering the definite functions of the ministry to those which were common to all members of the Church; “giveth” is therefore here to be taken in a wide sense.

Simplicity.—With singleness of motive, desiring only God’s glory, and to benefit the object for which he gives, and with no secret thought of self-exaltation. He who gives “to be seen of men,” or with any selfish motive, exhausts thereby the merit of the act, see Matthew 6:2 et seq.

He that ruleth.—He who holds any position of prominence or importance in the Church. The same word is applied to “presbyters” in 1Thessalonians 5:12; 1Timothy 5:17; and to heads of families in 1Timothy 3:4-5; 1Timothy 3:12.

He that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.—A happy combination which is an instance of the Apostle’s fresh and genuine view of human nature. The kindness of charity is doubled when it is done in a cheerful and kindly way. There is a class of religious minds which is especially apt to forget this. Cheerfulness is not merely a matter of temperament, but to be cultivated as a duty.

12:3-8 Pride is a sin in us by nature; we need to be cautioned and armed against it. All the saints make up one body in Christ, who is the Head of the body, and the common Centre of their unity. In the spiritual body, some are fitted for and called to one sort of work; others for another sort of work. We are to do all the good we can, one to another, and for the common benefit. If we duly thought about the powers we have, and how far we fail properly to improve them, it would humble us. But as we must not be proud of our talents, so we must take heed lest, under a pretence of humility and self-denial, we are slothful in laying out ourselves for the good of others. We must not say, I am nothing, therefore I will sit still, and do nothing; but, I am nothing in myself, and therefore I will lay out myself to the utmost, in the strength of the grace of Christ. Whatever our gifts or situations may be, let us try to employ ourselves humbly, diligently, cheerfully, and in simplicity; not seeking our own credit or profit, but the good of many, for this world and that which is to come.He that exhorteth - This word properly denotes one who urges to the practical duties of religion, in distinction from one who teaches its doctrines. One who presents the warnings and the promises of God to excite men to the discharge of their duty. It is clear that there were persons who were recognised as engaging especially in this duty, and who were known by this appellation, as distinguished from prophets and teachers. How long this was continued, there is no means of ascertaining; but it cannot be doubted that it may still be expedient, in many times and places, to have persons designated to this work. In most churches this duty is now blended with the other functions of the ministry.

He that giveth - Margin, "imparteth." The word denotes the person whose function it was to distribute; and probably designates him who distributed the alms of the church, or him who was the deacon of the congregation. The connection requires that this meaning should be given to the passage: and the word rendered "giveth" may denote one who imparts or distributes that which has been committed to him for that purpose, as well as one who gives out of his private property. As the apostle is speaking here of offices in the church, the former is evidently what is intended. It was deemed an important matter among the early Christians to impart liberally of their substance to support the poor, and provide for the needy: Acts 2:44-47; Acts 4:34-37; Acts 5:1-11; Galatians 2:10; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 9:2, 2 Corinthians 9:12. Hence, it became necessary to appoint persons over these contributions, who should be especially charged with the management of them, and who would see that they were properly distributed; Acts 6:1-6. These were the persons who were denominated deacons; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 3:12.

With simplicity - see Matthew 6:22, "If thine eye be single," etc.; Luke 11:34. The word "simplicity" ἁπλοτής haplotēs is used in a similar sense to denote singleness, honesty of aim, purity, integrity, without any mixture of a base, selfish, or sinister end. It requires the bestowment of a favor without seeking any personal or selfish ends; without partiality; but actuated only by the desire to bestow them in the best possible manner to promote the object for which they were given; 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:13; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22. It is plain that when property was intrusted to them, there would be danger that they might be tempted to employ it for selfish and sinister ends, to promote their influence and prosperity; and hence, the apostle exhorted them to do it with a single aim to the object for which it was given. Well did he know that there was nothing more tempting than the possession of wealth, though given to be appropriated to others. And this exhortation is applicable not only to the deacons of the churches, but to all who in this day of Christian benevolence are intrusted with money to advance the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He that ruleth - This word properly designates one who is set over others, or who presides or rules, or one who attends with diligence and care to a thing. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12, it is used in relation to ministers in general: "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord;" 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 1 Timothy 3:12, it is applied to the head of a family, or one who diligently and faithfully performs the duty of a father: "One that ruleth well his own house;" 1 Timothy 5:17, it is applied to "elders" in the church: "Let the elders that rule well, etc." It is not used elsewhere except in Titus 3:8, Titus 3:14, in a different sense, where it is translated "to maintain good works." The prevailing sense of the word, therefore, is to rule, to preside over, or to have the management of. But to what class of persons reference is had here, and what was precisely their duty, has been made a matter of controversy, and it is not easy to determine. Whether this refers to a permanent office in the church, or to an occasional presiding in their assemblies convened for business, etc. is not settled by the use of the word. It has the idea of ruling, as in a family, or of presiding, as in a deliberate assembly; and either of these ideas would convey all that is implied in the original word; compare 1 Corinthians 12:28.

With diligence - This word properly means haste Mark 6:25; Luke 1:39; but it also denotes industry, attention, care; 2 Corinthians 7:11, "What carefulness it wrought in you;" 2 Corinthians 7:12, "That our care for you in the sight of God, etc.;" 2 Corinthians 8:7-8, (Greek) Hebrews 6:11. It means here that they should be attentive to the duties of their vocation, and engage with ardor in what was committed to them to do.

He that showeth mercy - It is probable, says Calvin, that this refers to those who had the care of the sick and infirm, the aged and the needy; not so much to provide for them by charity, as to attend on them in their affliction, and to take care of them. To the deacons was committed the duty of distributing alms, but to others that of personal attendance. This can hardly be called an office, in the technical sense; and yet it is not improbable that they were designated to this by the church, and requested to perform it. There were no hospitals and no almshouses. Christians felt it was their duty to show personal attention to the infirm and the sick; and so important was their function, that it was deemed worthy of notice in a general direction to the church.

With cheerfulness - The direction given to those who distributed alms was to do it with simplicity, with an honest aim to meet the purpose for which it was intrusted to them. The direction here varies according to the duty to be performed. It is to be done with cheerfulness, pleasantness, joy; with a kind, benign, and happy temper. The importance of this direction to those in this situation is apparent. Nothing tends so much to enhance the value of personal attendance on the sick and afflicted, as a kind and cheerful temper. If any where a mild, amiable, cheerful, and patient disposition is needed, it is near a sick bed, and when administering to the wants of those who are in affliction. And whenever we may be called to such a service, we should remember that this is indispensable. If moroseness, or impatience, or fretfulness is discovered in us, it will pain those whom we seek to benefit, embitter their feelings, and render our services of comparatively little value. The needy and infirm, the feeble and the aged, have enough to bear without the impatience and harshness of professed friends. It may be added that the example of the Lord Jesus Christ is the brightest which the world has furnished of this temper. Though constantly encompassed by the infirm and the afflicted, yet he was always kind, and gentle, and mild, and has left before us exactly what the apostie meant when he said, "he that showeth mercy with cheerfulness." The example of the good Samaritan is also another instance of what is intended by this direction; compare 2 Corinthians 9:7. This direction is particularly applicable to a physician.

We have here an account of the establishment, the order, and the duties of the different members of the Christian church. The amount of it all is, that we should discharge with fidelity the duties which belong to us in the sphere of life in which we are placed; and not despise the rank which God has assigned us; not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought; but to act well our part, according to the station where we are placed, and the talents with which we are endowed. If this were done, it would put an end to discontent, ambition, and strife, and would produce the blessings of universal peace and order.

8. Or he that exhorteth—Since all preaching, whether by apostles, prophets, or teachers, was followed up by exhortation (Ac 11:23; 14:22; 15:32, &c.), many think that no specific class is here in view. But if liberty was given to others to exercise themselves occasionally in exhorting the brethren, generally, or small parties of the less instructed, the reference may be to them.

he that giveth—in the exercise of private benevolence probably, rather than in the discharge of diaconal duty.

with simplicity—so the word probably means. But as simplicity seems enjoined in the next clause but one of this same verse, perhaps the meaning here is, "with liberality," as the same word is rendered in 2Co 8:2; 9:11.

he that ruleth—whether in the Church or his own household. See 1Ti 3:4, 5, where the same word is applied to both.

with diligence—with earnest purpose.

he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness—not only without grudging either trouble or pecuniary relief, but feeling it to be "more blessed to give than to receive," and to help than be helped.

Exhortation: see the notes on the foregoing verse.

He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; i.e. he that hath the office of collecting and distributing the church alms, (which was the deacons’ work or charge, Acts 6:1, &c.), let him discharge it with simplicity, or with singleness of heart; ( so the word is rendered, Ephesians 6:5); let him do it faithfully and impartially, and without favour or affection.

He that ruleth; or he that is a president, and set over others. There is great difference amongst expositors, who is meant by this ruler. It is not meant of state rulers, (of them he treats in the next chapter), but of church rulers. Some understand, all church officers in general. Others think, such are meant as were not properly pastors and teachers, put together with them had the oversight of the church, to rule the same; to regulate misdemeanors, to pacify differences, to administer discipline in admonition and censures: these they call seniors or elders, or the censors of manners; and are the same the apostle calls governments, or governors, 1 Corinthians 12:28; see 1 Timothy 5:17.

He that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness: some understand this generally of all Christians, that they should be charitable, and that with cheerfulness. But the apostle is yet speaking of the special offices of the church. It cannot be meant of deacons, forasmuch as he had spoken of them before in this very verse. Such therefore may be intended, as had the care assigned them of the sick and impotent, of prisoners and strangers, &c.; see 1 Timothy 5:10; the same, it may be, that he calleth helps in 1 Corinthians 12:28. This charge he directeth them to discharge with cheerfulness; without being weary of that troublesome work, or being sour and froward to those they had to do with.

Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation,.... This is the other branch of prophesying or preaching, and which is more practical, and lies in giving a word of exhortation to the saints, as their particular cases call for; for as prophets were teachers, Acts 13:1; so also exhorters, Acts 15:32; and one considerable branch of the ministry, and which is more principally the pastor's work, as well as to teach, is to exhort all sorts of persons, young and old, rich and poor, high and low, bond and free, under his care, with all longsuffering and doctrine. The words will bear to be read, "he that comforteth, on consolation"; and so the Syriac version renders them, , "and another who is a comforter, in his consolation". Though all the ministers of the Gospel are to speak comfortably to the saints, by preaching the doctrines of free justification by Christ's righteousness, and remission of sins by his blood, by bringing the good news of salvation by him, and by opening the exceeding great and precious promises of the Gospel; yet some have a greater talent this way than others; some are "Boanergeses", sons of thunder, Mark 3:17, and others "Barnabases", sons of consolation, Acts 4:36; and each should attend to that with all diligence and humility, he is best qualified for.

He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity. Here begins the subdivision of the deacon's office into its several branches, "giving", "ruling", and "showing mercy": by "giving" is meant, not giving of his own, or performing: acts of charity, which is common to all the members of the church, who ought liberally to contribute to the relief of the poor; but imparting or distributing the church's money to proper objects, which is to be done "with simplicity"; with all faithfulness and integrity, without fraud or embezzling the church's stock, with impartiality, and without respect of persons, and liberally and bountifully, as the word here used signifies; see 2 Corinthians 8:2;

he that ruleth, with diligence; deacons are the "helps, governments", mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28, who are assisting to the pastor in the government of the church; their business is, to observe the conversations of the members of the church, and to warn them that are unruly and walk disorderly, to compose differences, and prepare matters to lay before the church; a deacon is "one that goes before"; and leads on others by way of example in his conduct and conversation; or as the Syriac renders it, , "that stands at the head" of affairs in the church; in the management of which he ought to use all study, thoughtfulness, care and diligence:

he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness; which is not to be understood of showing compassion to miserable objects in common, or of giving alms to necessitous persons, and which ought to be done according to the Jewish (l) canons, , "with a cheerful countenance"; and is what is highly pleasing to God, who "loves a cheerful giver": but of a branch of the deacon's office, whose work, among other things, is to visit the sick and distressed, and communicate to them as their wants require; all which should be done, not in a morose and frowning manner, but with a pleasant look and cheerful countenance, which makes the visit and the gift more welcome, acceptable, and useful.

(l) Maimon. Hilch. Mattanot Anayim, c. 10. sect. 4. 13.

Or he that {n} exhorteth, on exhortation: he that {o} giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that {p} ruleth, with diligence; he that {q} sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

(n) Who in other passages is called the pastor.

(o) That is, the alms, that he distributes them faithfully, and without any favouritism.

(p) The elders of the church.

(q) Those that are occupied with the care of the poor must do it with cheerfulness, lest they add sorrow upon sorrow.

Romans 12:8. Ὁ μεταδιδοὺς κ.τ.λ.] The detailed exposition with εἴτε ceases as the discourse flows onward more vehemently, but the series of those charismatically endowed is continued, yet in such a way that now there are no longer mentioned such as possess a χάρισμα for a definite function in the church, but such as possess it generally for the activity of public usefulness in the social Christian life. Hence, because with ἐν ἁπλότητι κ.τ.λ. the continuance of the exhortations is indicated, we are to place before ὁ μεταδιδοὺς not a full stop, but a comma, or, better, a colon. The reference of these last three points to definite ministerial functions (such as that ὁ μεταδιδ. is the diaconus who distributes the gifts of love; ὁ προϊστάμ. the president of the community, bishop or presbyter; ὁ ἐλεῶν he who takes charge of the sick) is refuted, first, by the fact that the assumed references of μεταδιδ. (according to Acts 4:35, we should at least expect διαδιδούς) are quite incapable of proof, and indeed improbable in themselves; secondly, by the consideration that such an analysis of the diaconal gift would be out of due place, after mention had been already made of the διακονία as a whole; and thirdly, by the consideration that the position of the προϊστάμενος, as the presbyter, between two diaconal functions, and almost at the end of the series, would he unsuitable. But if we should wish to explain προϊστάμ. as guardian of the strangers (my first edition; Borger), there is an utter want of proof both for this particular feature of the diaconia and for its designation by προϊστάμ. (for the προστάτης at Athens, the patron of the metoeci, was something quite different; Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 115. 4).

ὁ μεταδιδούς] he who imparts, who exercises the charisma of charitableness by imparting of his means to the poor. Ephesians 4:28; Luke 3:11. To understand the imparting of spiritual good (Baumgarten-Crusius), or this along with the other (Hofmann), receives no support from the context, especially seeing that the spiritual imparting has already been previously disposed of in its distinctive forms.

ἐν ἁπλότ.] in simplicity, therefore without any selfishness, without boasting, secondary designs, etc., but in plain sincerity of disposition. Comp. 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:13, and the classical collocations of ἁπλοῦς καὶ ἀληθής, ἁπλ. κ. γενναῖος κ.τ.λ. On the subject-matter, comp. Matthew 6:2 ff.

ὁ προϊστάμενος] the president, he who exercises the χάρισμα of presiding over others as leader, of directing affairs and the like (comp. προΐστασθαι τῶν πραγμάτων, Herodian, vii. 10. 16), consequently one who through spiritual endowment is ἡγεμονικὸς καὶ ἀρχικός (Plato, Prot. p. 352 B). This χάρισμα προστατικόν had to be possessed by the presbyter or ἐπίσκοπος for behoof of his work (comp. 1 Corinthians 12:28); but we are not to understand it as applying to him exclusively, or to explain it specially of the office of presbyter, as Rothe and Philippi again do, in spite of the general nature of the context, while Hofmann likewise thinks that the presbyter is meant, not as respects his office, but as respects his activity. What is meant is the category of charismatic endowment, under which the work destined for the presbyter falls to be included.

ἐν σπουδῇ] with zeal; it is the earnest, strenuous attention to the fulfilment of duty, the opposite of φαυλότης.

ὁ ἐλεῶν] he who is merciful towards the suffering and unfortunate, to whom it is his χάρισμα to administer comfort, counsel, help.

ἐν ἱλαρότ.] with cheerful, friendly demeanour, 2 Corinthians 9:7, the opposite of a reluctant and sullen carriage. Comp. Xen. Mem. ii. 7. 12 : ἱλαραὶ δὲ ἀντὶ σκυθρωπῶν.

Observe, further, that ἐν ἁπλότ., ἐν σπουδῇ, and ἐν ἱλαρότ. do not denote, like the preceding definitions with ἐν, the sphere of service within which the activity is to exert itself, but the quality, with which those who are gifted are to do their work; and all these three qualities characterize, in like manner, the nature of true σωφρονεῖν, Romans 12:3.

8. he that exhorteth] Here again a special division of Christian work is alluded to. The “exhortation” was, perhaps, a department of the speaking-duty of the Church less elaborate than the “teaching;” more entirely regarding practice; and allotted more with a view to physical qualifications, as of voice, &c.

on exhortation] Lit. in the exhortation.

giveth] distributeth; “imparteth” of his own possessions to the needy. Here, of course, no special office, but special opportunity, is in view. Every Christian would, more or less, be a giver; but the wealthier Christians would have peculiar responsibility in the matter.

with simplicity] Lit. in simplicity. A derived meaning of the Gr. word, in connexion with giving, (and so here,) is liberality, openhandedness; the opposite to the doubled, closed, hand of the stubborn.—Same word as 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:13, (where lit. “liberality of distribution”).

ruleth] Lit. presideth; whether in the Church, or over any section of work, or over his own household.

with diligence] Lit. in haste, i.e. with earnestness: with laborious and minute attention to duty.

he that sheweth mercy] Here it is unlikely that a special class, or duty, is in view; except so far as some Christians, by means or opportunity, would be specially led to works of love for the sad and the destitute. Such workers of mercy were to give their work full effect by a spirit of cheerful, and cheering, kindness; as those who had known the kindness of God.

Romans 12:8. Μεταδιδούς) διδόναι signifies to give; μεταδιδόναι to impart, [to give a share,] so that, he who gives, may not strip himself of all, that he has.—ἐν ἁπλότητι) as God gives, Jam 1:5, ‘liberally,’ abundantly, 2 Corinthians 8:2, [neither prevented by the desire of private advantage, nor by anxious deliberation, whether or not another may be worthy of the favour given, and whether proper moderation be observed in giving.—V. g.]—ὁ προϊστάμενος) one who has the care of [rules, Engl. V.] others, and has them under his patronage.—ἐν σπουδῇ, with diligence) The force of this word is very extensive; Romans 12:11; 2 Corinthians 7:11, note.

Romans 12:8Exhortation

Aimed at the heart and will. See on consolation, Luke 6:24. Compare 1 Corinthians 14:3; Acts 4:36, where Rev. gives son of exhortation.

He that giveth (ὁ μεταδιδοὺς)

Earthly possessions. The preposition μετά indicates sharing with. He that imparteth. Compare Ephesians 4:28; Luke 3:11.

Simplicity (ἁπλότητι)

See on single, Matthew 6:22, and compare James 1:5, where it is said that God gives ἁπλῶς simply. See note there. In 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:13, the A.V. gives liberality; and in James 1:5, liberally. Rev. accepts this in the last-named passage, but gives singleness in margin. In all the others liberality is, at best, very doubtful. The sense is unusual, and the rendering simplicity or singleness is defensible in all the passages.

He that ruleth (ὁ προΐ́στάμενος)

Lit., he that is placed in front. The reference is to any position involving superintendence. No special ecclesiastical office is meant. Compare Titus 3:8, to maintain good works; the idea of presiding over running into that of carrying on or practicing. See note there. Compare also προστάτις succorer, Romans 16:2, and see note.

With diligence (ἐν σπουδῇ)

See on Jde 1:3. In Mark 6:25; Luke 1:39, it is rendered haste. In 2 Corinthians 7:11, carefulness (Rev., earnest care). In 2 Corinthians 7:12, care (Rev., earnest care). In 2 Corinthians 8:8, forwardness (Rev., earnestness). In 2 Corinthians 8:16, earnest care.

With cheerfulness (ἐν ἱλαρότητι)

Only here in the New Testament. It reappears in the Latin hilaritas; English, hilarity, exhilarate. "The joyful eagerness, the amiable grace, the affability going the length of gayety, which make the visitor a sunbeam penetrating into the sick-chamber, and to the heart of the afflicted."

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