Romans 1:9
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.







For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.
I. ITS GROUND IS THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF ENTIRE CONSECRATION TO THE SERVICE OF THAT GOD WHOM HE HAD FOUND IN THE REVELATION OF HIS SON.

1. These are the two thoughts which are stamped on the whole of this introduction, and which everywhere else are prominent.(1) Before he knew Christ his God was always the object of his fear and devotion. But how different was that God and his knowledge of Him — without his love in Christ, and His Triune essence. The service he offered was sincere, but ignorant and bigoted, a service which rejected Christ and persecuted His saints. But now in Christ all this had undergone a change. It had pleased God to reveal His Son in Him, and the Son had revealed the Father, and both revelations had been made perfect in the gift of the Holy Ghost. God in Christ became the Alpha and Omega of Divine things to Him.(2) To that God whom the gospel revealed the apostle gave the service of his renewed spirit. Not merely in the sphere of his intellect, because that was convinced, nor in the sphere of the emotions, because they had been stirred, but in the very inmost self of his self he had given his life to the God of the gospel.

2. Let the richest treasure of your experience be "God is my Witness." Paul had no grace that we may not claim. But the real secret which enables us to dare this Omniscient scrutiny is the habitual revelation of the Fatherly love of God in Christ which enables us to say, "My God." "If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity!" carried to an extreme would take away all confidence. "God is my witness," but He is "my God" in Christ.

II. ITS SPECIAL EMPHASIS RESTS UPON THE WORDS ''IN MY SPIRIT."

1. The terms are liturgical, for Paul never forgot the ancient temple. The soul is regenerate because inhabited by God. Where He dwells must be a temple; and all glorious things spoken about the ancient dwelling place of Jehovah may be transferred to the spirit of the believer. But He is Priest as well as Temple. "Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts." The great concern of our life must be to preserve our spirit inviolate for the sacred Indweller. The apostle lived in his body as in a temple: "an earthly house" which should be dissolved, but then built again. He lived in his spirit, however, as in a temple which should never be dissolved; and he lived in hope that both should be reunited and glorified as the eternal dwelling place of God in Christ.

2. This service that he offered in his spirit was the service of God in the gospel of His Son.(1) He served God for himself. In a certain sense he was a solitary worshipper, presenting in secret his whole devotion before it was translated to the outer sanctuary and the visible life. Habituate yourself to an interior life, hid with Christ in God.(2) With this, however, we must connect his supplications for others. In the temple of his spirit he offered a systematic, persevering intercession with thanksgiving for the Churches of Christ. It was a house of prayer for all nations.

3. Cultivate this habit of prayer for yourself, your own communion, Christendom and the world in general; cultivate also the habit of mixing mutual prayer with all your engagements.

4. Remember that God alone is the witness of your fidelity, but men will be the witnesses of its results.

(W. B. Pope, D. D.)

I.RESPECTS THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL.

II.IS RENDERED WITH THE SPIRIT.

III.IS CONSTANT.

IV.PRAYERFUL.

V.IS DISCHARGED AS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

We all serve something or someone, self, passion, prejudice, sin, business, ambition, etc., and we find the service pleasant enough. But the only service worth entering upon is that of Christ.

I. THE CLAIMS WHICH GOD HAS UPON OUR SERVICE. These are —

1. Self-interest. God is a good Master.

2. Gratitude. A child that turns his back on a kind parent, a servant who repays affection by insult, a rebel who plots against a munificent king — all these is the man who forgets God.

II. THE PRINCIPLES WHICH SHOULD DIRECT AND GOVERN OUR SERVICE TO GOD. "Whom I serve with my spirit," implies —

1. Voluntariness. We are not so much influenced by the command which addresses the ear, or the threatening which alarms the conscience, as by love.

2. Sincerity. The "spirit" is that which commands the whole of man. Often we see the affections dormant and the will persevering. How much of God's worship is performed outwardly when it is inwardly disliked. The body without the spirit is dead; service without love is hypocrisy.

3. Universality. It had respect to every precept of God's Word. The carnal mind will only obey such commands as seem pleasing to us.

4. Perpetuity. Not in prosperity only nor in adversity only. It is only by continuousness that perfection is arrived at.

III. THE RULE BY WHICH THE SERVICE SHOULD BE GOVERNED. The gospel is not only the means of salvation, but it is the rule which regulates our life. To serve God in the gospel is to —

1. Serve God in light. The gospel is the light which shows the Christian's safety and danger.

2. To serve God in faith. The whole principle of the gospel is faith, the principle of life, thought, and action.

3. To serve God in love. Love is the great rule of life and sanctification.

4. To be rewarded by God according to the gospel.

(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

1. There was an auction one day of the books and furniture of a very celebrated author, and a vain but rich young man, having induced the auctioneer to offer them in one lot, paid several thousand pounds for the books, shelves, carpet, and in fact everything except the room itself. He directed the things to be taken carefully to his house and fitted up in a room, and placed in the same positions as in the author's study. The young man then sat down with reverence on the author's chair, took up the author's pen, dipped it in the author's ink, and bent his head over the paper on the author's table. But nothing came; the paper remained a blank. The genius of the author was in neither his pen nor his surrounding, but in his spirit — the gift of God. We may be unable to create in our spirit the genius of a celebrated man; but we may develop our own faculty; and, if we do this, we shall bless the world exactly as God wishes us to do. The little forget-me-nots which grow in the quiet nook of the steep rock do their work as effectively as the great oaks which grace the park of a king; and as the tiny flower does its best, it is as worthy of praise as the gigantic tree that does no more.

2. But though we cannot obtain the special genius of another man's spirit, we can receive as our own the disposition of the greatest man who ever lived — Christ can be received by all, and the breathings of His Spirit within us shall mould our thoughts, fashion our desires, and develop our lives like His own. If a man would occupy the place in the world for which he has been specially created, it is absolutely needful for him to have the breathings of Christ in his own spirit; and when undertaking any sacred mission for the benefit of our fellow men, our inquiry should not be, Have I bags of money? but, Is my spirit influenced by Christ? Christ direction is the first and most important step in the kingdom of God.

3. One day a young soldier went to visit the tomb of Scandenberg and the sword of the famous warrior was placed in his hand. The soldier lifted it saying, "Is this really Scandenberg's sword? Why there is nothing in it more than mine!" The old clerk exclaimed, "You see only the sword; you should have seen the hand that grasped it!" Likewise, the preacher may be only an ordinary man, he is only an earthen vessel; but in his spirit there should be a power which can move men's hearts and influence their lives — God should breathe within him.

4. Christ and the angels do not look on us as we look on each other. We value a man's surroundings rather than the man himself, An artist whose soul loves beauty does not value a picture by its frame. Seeing the picture to be a gem, he buys it, and does not care twopence for the frame, So, when the Lord looks on you, He does not value your bank book, your dress, your bodily strength and beauty; he values you — your spirit. "A man is measured by his soul!"

(W. Birch.)

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