And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brothers, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge…
I. ITS NATURE.
1. The word "minister" imports any one who transacts the affairs consigned to his charge, whether they be religious or civil. It is therefore used in relation to —
(1) The Jewish priesthood. "Every high priest standeth daily ministering."(2) Christ, the antitype of that priesthood, who hath "obtained a more excellent ministry."(3) Angels. "Are they not all ministering spirits?"(4) Civil magistrates, who "are God's ministers."(5) Persons who perform acts of kindness. "If the Gentiles have been made partakers of your spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to you in carnal things." "Epaphroditus... ministered to my wants."
2. The office to which the apostle refers was emphatically a sacred office, partly peculiar and temporal, consisting in the exercise of agencies which were strictly miraculous; and partly general and spiritual, consisting in the proclamation of certain truths relating to eternal interests. The former department passed away with a single generation, but the latter is to be exercised till the end of time.
3. The office is connected with "Jesus Christ." The mode in which Paul received it, as recorded by himself, is one of the most wondrous events recorded in the annals of mankind. Thenceforth, renovated by that grace of which he speaks in ver. 15, he lived as a devoted servant of Him whose cause he once laboured to destroy. It is from Christ alone that all ministers derive their existence and authority. Every one of us hath received grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Nothing can save men from the guilt of blasphemous intrusion into this office, except their introduction to it by a power which is itself Divine. Intellect, imagination, eloquence, are nothing if they be not consecrated by the Spirit of the Holy One, nothing but the trappings of the traitor.
II. ITS DIRECTION. "To the Gentiles," i.e., all nations who were not numbered amongst the family of Israel. The Christian economy was expressly constituted that it might be applied to the race generally. This fact had been declared in prophecy, and by the Lord Himself.
1. This commission was directed to the Gentiles with a marked and peculiar emphasis. "Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." Hence he exclaims, "Inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office." The ministers of Christ must be always ministers of the Gentiles until the fulness of the Gentiles be brought in. When, therefore, Christian men carry forth throughout the nations the instrumentalities and energies of Christ's religion, they are doing nothing more than carrying out the essential principles of that religion.
2. This commission was needed at this period. The Gentiles were idolaters, and their hands, in consequence, were rife with the very foulest abominations. The same spiritual need still spreads over the vast track of the Gentile nations; God's power has indeed been felt over not a few. Yet, what are these among so many? Regard the existing state of a large proportion of our own population; regard those who own the influence of a superstition, bearing the name of Christ only to blaspheme it; regard the state of those who own the power of the false prophet of Mecca; and then regard the state of those over whom there still hangs the unbroken cloud of idolatry, and what a fatal mass of need and destitution is here, pleading tenderly and powerfully that with apostolic zeal there should go forth a ministry to the Gentiles!
III. ITS THEME. "The gospel"; a system which, as its chosen name imports, was glad tidings, and one which confers on man all the blessings which are identified with the happiness of his immortal nature. Note —
1. Its precise adaptation to the state and the wants of those to whom it comes. It is adapted(1) To the ignorance of the Gentiles, unfolding the light of the knowledge of the Divine truth.
(2) To their guilt, setting forth the all-sufficient propitiation for sin.
(3) To their pollution, purifying and refining the heart.
(4) To their debasement, lifting up the fallen spirit so that man appears but a little lower than the angels.
(5) To their misery, instilling the peace which passeth understanding.
2. This gospel has a certain mode of administration. It ought to be administered —
(1) Faithfully. Every one of its facts and principles should be announced in the precise proportion in which we find them in the Word of God.
(2) Freely. Its glad tidings must be proclaimed to all men everywhere, regarding all men as equal and inviting all to buy the great provision without money and without price.
(3) Zealously. The famine is in the land, and it is for us to distribute the bread of heaven; the plague is in the city, and it is for us to apply the medicine; the wreck is upon the breakers, and it is for us to go and snatch the perishing from the billows. Where is the chilling and heartless argument that would forbid?
IV. ITS RESULTS. The labours of the apostle were exercised in the express expectation that multitudes would embrace the gospel. Contemplating this result, he presents those in whom it must be accomplished under a very interesting figure — that of an oblation to God. Further, he states, this offering so presented to be "acceptable," being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, whose agency, working through the ministry, accomplished the transformation and renewal of the Gentiles — being likened unto the fire, which, under the Levitical dispensation, purified the oblation, and was at once the instrument and the token of its acceptance with God. The language before us shows —
1. That the success of the Christian ministry is always to be ascribed to the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is owned in the words before us, and in vers. 18, 19. Nothing is more manifest throughout the gospel than that the Word is nothing but the instrument of the Spirit; that by the Spirit the Word is rendered effectual to renovate and to redeem. "Not by power, nor by might," etc.
2. That this success shall be of vast and delightful extent, The apostle clearly anticipates that the Gentiles should receive the gospel generally, and that it should establish a redeeming empire over all the nations. Take the series of prophecies, the heads of which he quotes in preceding verses (Psalm 18; Deuteronomy 32:1.; Psalm 111.; Isaiah 11), the application made of which by the apostle rebukes the unauthorised application made of them by theorists of our own day to the personal reign of Christ. But passing this by, they tell us of a period which is to come, by the instrumentality and agency we have described, when the reign of peace and of blessedness shall be universal (see specially Isaiah 11).
3. That this success is to redound in one mighty ascription to God. The presentation of the Gentiles as a sacrifice means that in their conversion God is to be honoured, that all the glory may be to Him.
(1) Ministers, who are the instruments of this conversion, must ever render such a tribute, renouncing all pretensions; and when the sacrifice is laid upon the altar, exclaiming, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us," etc.(2) Men, who are the subjects of this conversion, must ever render such a tribute, acknowledging grace in all its sovereignty and freeness, and in each instance transforming the statement of doctrine into the song of praise — "Of His own mercy He has saved us," etc.
Parallel VersesKJV: And 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.