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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 12 - Verse 8

Verse 8. He that exhorteth. This word properly denotes one who urges to the practical duties, of religion, in distinction from one who teaches its doctrines. One who presents the warnings and the promises of God, to excite men to the discharge of their duty. It is clear that there were persons who were recognised as engaging especially in this duty, and who were known by this appellation, as distinguished from prophets and teachers. How long this was continued there is no means of ascertaining; but it cannot be doubted that it may still be expedient, in many times and places, to have persons designated to this work. In most churches this duty is now blended with the other offices of the ministry.

He that giveth. Margin, "imparteth." The word denotes the person whose office it was to distribute; and probably, designates him who distributed the alms of the church, or him who was the deacon of the congregation. The connexion requires that this meaning should be given to the passage; and the word rendered giveth may denote one who imparts or distributes that which has been committed to him for that purpose, as well as one who gives out of his private property. As the apostle is speaking here of offices in the church, the former is evidently that which is intended. It was deemed an important matter among the early Christians to impart liberally of their substance to support the poor, and provide for the needy, Ac 2:44-47; 4:34-37; 5:1-11; Ga 2:10; Ro 15:26; 2 Co 8:8; 9:2,12.

Hence it became necessary to appoint persons over these contributions, who should be especially charged with the management of them, and who would see that they were properly distributed, Ac 6:1-6. These were the persons who were denominated deacons, Php 1:1; 1 Ti 3:8,12.

Hence it became necessary to appoint persons over these contributions, who should be especially charged with the management of them, and who would see that they were properly distributed, Ac 6:1-6. These were the persons who were denominated deacons, Php 1:1; 1 Ti 3:8,12


With simplicity. See Mt 6:22, "If thine eye be single," etc.; Lu 11:34. The word simplicity (aplothv)is used in a similar sense to denote singleness, honesty of aim, purity, integrity, without any mixture of a base, selfish, or sinister end. It requires the bestowment of a favour without seeking any personal or selfish ends; without partiality; but actuated only by the desire to bestow them in the best possible maimer to promote the object for which they were given, 2 Co 8:2; 9:11,13; 1:12; Eph 6:5; Col 3:22.

It is plain that when property was entrusted to them, there would be danger that they might be tempted to employ it for selfish and sinister ends, to promote their influence and prosperity; and hence the apostle exhorted them to do it with a single aim to the object for which it was given. Well did he know that there was nothing more tempting than the possession of wealth, though given to be appropriated to others. And this exhortation is applicable not only to the deacons of the churches, but to all who in this day of Christian benevolence are entrusted with money to advance the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He that ruleth. This word properly designates one who is set over others, or who presides or rules, or one who attends with diligence and care to a thing. In 1 Th 5:12, it is used in relation to ministers in general: "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord." 1 Ti 3:4,5,12, it is applied to the head of a family, or one who diligently and faithfully performs the duty of a father: "One that ruleth well his own house." 1 Ti 5:17, it is applied to "elders" in the church: "Let the elders that rule well," etc. It is not elsewhere used except in Tit 3:8,14, in a different sense, where it is translated "to maintain good works." The prevailing sense of the word, therefore, is to rule, to preside over, or to have the management of. But to what class of persons reference is had here, and what was precisely their duty, has been made a matter of controversy, and it is not easy to determine. Whether this refers to a permanent office in the church, or to an occasional presiding in their assemblies convened for business, etc., is not settled by the use of the word. It has the idea of ruling, as in a family, or of presiding, as in a deliberative assembly; and either of these ideas would convey all that is implied in the original word. Comp. 1 Co 12:28.

With diligence. This word properly means haste, (Mr 6:25; Lu 1:39) but it also denotes industry, attention, care. 2 Co 7:11, "What carefulness it wrought in you;" 2 Co 7:12, "That our care for you in the sight of God," etc.; Ro 8:7,8, (Gr.) Heb 6:11. It means here, that they should be attentive to the duties of their vocation, mid engage with ardour in that which was committed to them to do.

He that sheweth mercy. It is probable, says Calvin, that this refers to those who had the care of the sick and infirm, the aged and the needy; not so much to provide for them by charity, as to attend on them in their affliction, and to take care of them. To the deacons was committed the duty of distributing alms, but to others that of personal attendance This can hardly be called an office, in the technical sense; and yet it is not improbable that they were designated to this by the church, and requested to perform it. There were no hospitals and no almshouses. Christians felt it their duty to show personal attention to the infirm and the sick; and so important was their office, that it was deemed worthy of notice in a general direction to the church.

With cheerfulness. The direction given to those who distributed alms was to do it with simplicity, with an honest aim to meet the purpose for which it was entrusted to them. The direction here varies according to the duty to be performed. It is to be done with cheerfulness, pleasantness, joy; with a kind, benign, and happy temper. The importance of this direction to those in this situation is apparent. Nothing tends so much to enhance the value of personal attendance on the sick and afflicted, as a kind and cheerful temper. If anywhere a mild, amiable, cheerful, and patient disposition is needed, it is near a sick bed and when administering to the wants of those who are in affection. And whenever we may be called to such a service, we should remember that this is indispensable. If moroseness, or impatience, or fretfulness is discovered in us, it will pain those whom we seek to benefit, embitter their feelings, and render our services of comparatively little value. The needy and infirm, the feeble and the aged, have enough to bear without the impatience and harshness of professed friends. It may be added, that the example of the Lord Jesus Christ is the brightest which the world has furnished of this temper. Though constantly encompassed by the infirm and the afflicted, yet he was always kind, and gentle, and mild, and has left before us exactly what the apostle meant when he said, "he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness." The example of the good Samaritan is also another instance of what is intended by this direction. Comp. 2 Co 9:7. This direction is particularly applicable to a physician.

We have here an account of the establishment, the order, and the duties of the different members of the Christian church. The amount of it all is, that we should discharge with fidelity the duties which belong to us in the sphere of life in which we are placed; and not despise the rank which God has assigned us; not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought; but to act well our part, according to the station where we are placed, and the talents with which we are endowed. If this were done, it would put an end to discontent, ambition, and strife, and would produce the blessings of universal peace and order.

{1} "giveth" or, "imparteth" {2} "simplicity" or, "liberally" {t} "that ruleth" Ps 111 {u} "cheerfulness" 2 Co 9:7

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