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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 12 - Verse 7
Verse 7. Or ministry, (diakonian). This word properly means service of any kind, Lu 10:40. It is used in religion to denote the service which is rendered to Christ as the Master. It is applied to all classes of ministers in the New Testament, as denoting their being the servants of Christ; and it is used particularly to denote that class who, from this word, were called deacons, i.e. those who had the care of the poor, who provided for the sick, and who watched over the external matters of the church. In the following places it is used to denote the ministry, or service, which Paul and the other apostles rendered in their public work, Ac 1:17,25; Ac 6:4; 12:25; 20:24; 21:19; Ro 11:13; 15:31; 2 Co 5:18; 6:3; Eph 4:12; 1 Ti 1:12. In a few places this word is used to denote the office which the deacons fulfilled, Ac 6:1; 11:29; 1 Co 16:15; 2 Co 11:8.
In this sense the word deacon (diakonov) is most commonly used, as denoting the office which was performed in providing for the poor, and administering the alms of the church. It is not easy to say in what sense it is used here. I am inclined to the opinion that he did not refer to those who were appropriately called deacons, but to those engaged in the office of the ministry of the word; whose business it was to preach, and thus to serve the churches. In this sense the word is often used in the New Testament, and the connexion seems to demand the same interpretation here.
On our ministering. Let us be wholly and diligently occupied in this. Let this be our great business, and let us give entire attention to it. Particularly the connexion requires us to understand this as directing those who ministered not to aspire to the office and honours of those who prophesied. Let them not think of themselves more highly than they ought, but be engaged entirely in their own appropriate work.
He that teacheth. This word denotes those who instruct, or communicate knowledge. It is clear that it is used to denote a class of persons different, in some respects, from those who prophesied and from those who exhorted. But in what this difference consisted is not clear. Teachers are mentioned in the New Testament in the grade next to the prophets, Ac 13:1; 1 Co 12:28,29; Eph 4:11.
Perhaps the difference between the prophets, the ministers, the teachers, and the exhorters, was this—that the first spake by inspiration; the second engaged in all the functions of the ministry, properly so called, including the administration of the sacraments; the teachers were employed in communicating instruction simply, teaching the doctrines of religion, but without assuming the office of ministers; and the fourth exhorted, or entreated Christians to lead a holy life, without making it a particular subject to teach, and without pretending to administer the ordinances of religion. The fact that teachers, are so often mentioned in the New Testament, shows that they were a class by themselves. It may be worthy of remark, that the churches in New England had, at first, a class of men who were called teachers. One was appointed to this office in every church, distinct from the pastor, whose proper business it was to instruct the congregation in the doctrines of religion. The same thing exists substantially now in most churches, in the appointment of Sunday-school teachers, whose main business it is to instruct the children in the doctrines of the Christian religion. It is an office of great importance to the church; and the exhortation of the apostle may be applied to them: that they should be assiduous, constant, diligent in their teaching; that they should confine themselves to their appropriate place; and should feel that their office is of great importance in the church of God; and remember that this is his arrangement, designed to promote the edification of his people.
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