Thursday, 30 January 2014
It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. Romans 15:27
Referring to the donation from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia, Paul says that “it pleased them indeed” to give this offering. And then he explains that in fact “they are debtors” in this regard. The offering is something that, although not compulsory was still an obligation. In his explanation, he states that “if the Gentiles have been partakers of spiritual things” then they have a responsibility to the one(s) who imparted them. This responsibility and “duty is also to minister to them in material things.”
There was a great need in Jerusalem where the Jewish saints resided. Paul felt that resolving that need was something incumbent on the Gentiles who had received their spiritual heritage from those Jews who had brought the message to them. This sentiment is seen in Galatians 2:7-10 –
“But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.”
“The poor” in this passage from Galatians included those in Jerusalem from whom the spiritual heritage first came. Paul notes that they are “debtors” to them, but it isn’t Paul’s way of subordinating them in a heavy-handed manner. Rather it is acknowledging what is right and proper. We can tell this for certain because he spoke of himself in exactly this way in Romans 1:14 – “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.”
Paul felt himself a debtor and he worked tirelessly to pay the debt he felt he owed. So for him to call those Gentiles who had received their spiritual heritage from the Jews in Jerusalem “debtors” was in no way an attempt to lord his ministry over them. In other passages, he makes this same connection. Here are two for consideration –
“If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?” 1 Corinthians 9:11
“Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” Galatians 6:6
Life application: From whom do you receive your spiritual things? Who is your teacher in the word of God and in Christian living? According to Paul, there is a debt which is to be paid in these matters. Take time to remember them in 1) prayer; 2) kind words and a gracious demeanor; 3) material things which will benefit them; 4) other assistance to them and their ministry.
Lord Jesus, today I want to take time to thank You for those You have placed in my path who have properly instructed me in the Word of God and in other spiritual matters. Thank You for their advice and counsel in my times of need and for their patience in explaining to me the many intricacies of the spiritual matters I have grown in. They have glorified You and I want to acknowledge my thanks to You for them. Amen.