For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son…
To the full and ardent mind the statement of one fact or thought calls up many associated ideas, and a parenthesis is the result. In the widespread recognition of the faith of the Roman Christians (ver. 8) Paul discerned an answer to his prayers. How constant those intercessions were only God could know, and to him the apostle appealed, justifying the appeal by a parenthetical reference to his life of faithful service. The text, therefore, suggests reflection on three topics.
I. THE PROPRIETY OF INVOKING THE TESTIMONY OF GOD. Too frequently have public utterances and conversation been interlarded with the mention of the Divine Name, violating the third commandment and the Saviour's instructions. The tendency of modern legislation to restrict the occasions on which the taking of an oath is obligatory should be welcomed. It is allowable to call God to witness in solemn matters, befitting the dignity of the Most High. Especially in matters that lie within God's cognizance only, as here respecting the frequency of the apostle's petitions at the mercy-seat. The invocation of the Divine witness is seemliest from the lips of his servants. With what show of reason can others demand his presence to confirm their statements? Profane swearers convict themselves of inconsistency. Even a regard for others' feelings will sometimes lead men to abstain from trifling with the sacred Name of our Father and Friend.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER. Largeness of heart contributes much to the enjoyment and prevalence of our prayers. When we seem dull in respect of our own needs, the remembrance of another's wants may "unlock the scaled fountain." We may gauge our interest in our fellows by the regularity of our petitions on their behalf. If we pray not often for them, how can we be said to care for their welfare? Speak of them where it shall be of most avail.
"For what are men better than sheep or goats,
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?" The apostle evidently thinks of praying as a real part of Christian service. Like the incense which it was the honourable duty of the priests to offer, so did Paul daily "lift up holy hands" as his continual sacrifice and ministration. It is a law of God's paternal government that his children's requests should, though so simple and feeble in themselves, link them with Omnipotence, and achieve mightiest effects. What ails us that we are so slow to visit this "wishing-gate"? God measures the constancy and fervency of our prayers. They are not a small performance soon forgotten. They constitute a revelation of our condition, a spiritual thermometer whose readings are registered.
III. THE QUALITIES THAT RENDER SERVICE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. It must be spiritual, that is, not formal or ceremonial, but an expression of the inner life; not rendered as a burdensome task, but according to "the spirit that giveth life rather than the letter which killeth." The apostle was constrained by love, for Christ had laid hold of his heart's affections and made him conscious of a new inward impulse, which transfigured obedience and made it liberty, and altered wearisome duty into gladsome service. It was the difference between the mechanical elevation and motion of a kite by the wind, and the soaring flight of the bird joying in its vital powers. Spiritual service is not blind, unreasoning devotion, but a ministration approved of by the noblest faculties of the soul. It is evangelical, arising from and moving in the sphere of the glorious revelation of the Son of God. Through Christ had the apostle "received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his Name's sake" (ver. 5). The knowledge and reception of the gospel imply privilege and responsibility. The true Christian life is filled with gospel motives and aims, nor is any condition inapt for gospel service, its priesthood and sacrifices. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;