Sunday, 19 January 2014
…that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:16
Paul provides an enormous amount of detail in this verse. He just stated that he has been bold in some points as a reminder to the Romans and then he said this was due to “the grace given to me by God.” He now explains that grace; it’s substance and how it is worked out. He shares that this included that he “might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.”
The word he uses for “minister” isn’t the normal one that we might think of, diakonos. Rather, the word is leitourgon. It is a word used only five times in the New Testament. One example is Romans 13:6 which is speaking of the “governing authorities” in the civilian world. Another example though is found in Hebrews 8:2. In this instance, it is referring to Jesus, the High Priest and “a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.”
Paul is showing that his apostleship is a ministry of such weight for the gentiles. He is a superintending governor in doctrinal matters and his ministry is executed in the form of a priest on behalf of the gentiles. This is evident from the context which he will continue to reveal.
In his priestly role, his work is for the purpose of “ministering the gospel of God.” Again, a word is introduced which provides the context. “ministering” here is the word hierourgounta. This is its only use in the New Testament and refers to doing temple work or performing sacred rites. These are duties only a priest of the Old Testament would accomplish, and yet he – from the tribe of Benjamin, has been granted this rite. This demonstrates the certainty that the previous covenant is set aside in Christ and a new order of priests and priestly duties has been initiated.
Paul’s ministry then is the “gospel of God.” The work of God in Christ is the very thing which makes the Gentiles acceptable to God. They are justified and sanctified, not through temple sacrifices and offerings, but through the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary’s cross. It is through His work and the ministering of Paul that the “offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable.”
Here again is another word demonstrating the greatness of what has occurred. The word “offering” is prosphora – an offering to God. This would be comparable to a sacrifice or offering made in the temple during the law. In Hebrews 10:8, this same word is used in a manner referring to those Old Testament offerings in which the Lord “did not desire, nor had pleasure in them.” And then in Hebrews 10:10 is says that believers “have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” In this verse, the word prosphora is used referring to the body of Christ.
As can be seen, the Gentiles have now actually become an offering to God because of the work of Christ, sanctified through what He has accomplished. It is through this great work that the Holy Spirit is available to do exactly that, the part of sanctification. Although it would appear to the Jews coming out of the Old Covenant that this would be impossible, it is the very heart of the work of Christ. That together, Jew and Gentile, are found acceptable through Him.
As an object lesson in this, the book of Acts notes the conversion of Cornelius and his household. When the Holy Spirit came down on them, it seemed incredible to the Jews, but in the end, it notes, “…they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.'” Acts 11:18
Life application: Through the work of Christ, Gentiles are now an acceptable offering to God. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is evidence of this. The Spirit is given upon belief and without any other thing being necessary. If God has justified the sinner and sanctified him by the Holy Spirit, then how can we argue against what God has done?
Heavenly Father, when I think of what Jesus went through for me, I can scarce believe it. And yet, we were told it was coming all along. In Him is redemption, in Him is full pardon from sin. Everything written pointed to Him and everything is accomplished in Him. May I never boast except in the cross of Jesus Christ my Lord,by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Amen.