September 7, 2003
A MINISTER OF JESUS CHRIST
"I have written...unto you...putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost" (Romans 15:15-16). Just as we have gifts "according to the grace that is given us" (12:6), so the apostleship of Paul was given him by "the grace of God."
In this chapter Paul "glorifies his ministry" (11:13) in a way often overlooked, for the words translated "minister," are from two different Greek words. The word in verse 16 suggests that Paul's service is of a priestly nature and the offering he presents to God (like the Hebrew priest) is "the Gentiles," an offering accepted by God. Gentiles might fail to appreciate the honor of these words but Hebrew believers would be reluctant to accept an offering of Gentile dogs, even if redeemed by the same sacrifice of Christ! This figure of a sacred offering is continued as Paul explained to Gentiles their duty "to minister (same priestly word) unto them (Israel--imagine that!) in carnal things" (15:27). No wonder he prayed, and asked the Roman saints to join him, "that my ministry which I have for Jerusalem, may be accepted of the saints" (15:31). Paul rejoiced in the work of God in these Gentiles and supported it by quoting their own scriptures, "to whom He (Christ) was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand" (Isa. 52:15). But would the Jewish believers accept it? Such is the reluctance of religion to follow God.
God's grace working through Paul had made "the Gentiles obedient so that by word and deed, by mighty signs and wonders (connecting to deed), by the power of God (connecting to word); so that from Jerusalem and round unto Illyricum, I have fulfilled the gospel of Christ." Paul strived to preach "where Christ was not named." But we are not called to preach where Christ is not named. Paul "laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon (this is where we come in)...let every man take heed how he builds" (1 Cor. 3:10).There is no other foundation on which to build during the dispensation of grace!
Ivan L. Burgener