The Apostle Paul gives us a great picture of what ministry should be, when he starts to wrap up his letter to the Romans in the second half of chapter 15. I was reading this a few days ago, and upon first glance it seems like he is merely justifying the book and explaining what he is doing next.
- Bold (v15)
- Paul has been “appointed” as a minister, so he preaches and ministers boldly. I read that as an open, unashamed ministry. Any ministry (whether formal or informal) should be done because it is God’s will. Paul suggests that because it is God’s will, we should do it Boldly.
- Priestly (v16)
- Seems weird, hey. Priests had the role of mediating between God and man; they represented God to the people and the people to God. Hebrews and 1 Timothy 2 tell us that Jesus is the only mediator between us and God. So this seems strange to protestant/evangelical Christians. I take this “priestly duty” under the new covenant as having two parts. Firstly, is a sacrificial role; not one that affects salvation (only Jesus’ sacrifice could do that, and remember the OT sacrifices were also insufficient), but “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” (Romans 12:1). Secondly, there is some sense of mediation or representation. We are called to be holy (see above) and conform to Jesus’ likeness (Romans 8). The parable of the ungrateful servant (Matthew 18) tells us to reflect God’s grace and forgiveness. 1 John 3:16 says we should reflect Jesus’ love by laying down our lives for our brothers. Christians should not forget that we represent God in this world. These 2 points are almost the same; Priestly service is reflecting God, and offering our lives up to serve him.
- Sensitive/Perceptive (v21-23)
- This one is more inferred than directly stated. Paul says in v21 that he did not want to build on somebody else’s foundation. Paul is perceptive as to where his ministry is needed most, and sensitive to other ministries so that he is not overbearing or undermining. Similarly, he is perceptive of God’s will in v22-23. He has desired to be with the Romans for a long time, but he recognises that God’s will is for him not to be in Rome, but ministering elsewhere. He puts God’s idea of what will best serve God ahead of his own ideas of serving God. It’s all about perceiving where you can BEST serve God. Pray for wisdom, get into the word.
- Joyful (v17, 32)
- v17 says “I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God,” (NIV) glory meaning “to exult with triumph; rejoice proudly” (Dictionary.com). The ESV reads “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.” Paul’s pride/glory is in Jesus, and is served in ministry. v32 says that Paul wishes to come out of his ministry in Jerusalem “with Joy“, the ministry being well received. Serving people, ministering to them is something we should take Joy in, rather than being stoic and begrudging.
- Prayerful (30-32)
- Paul urges his brothers and sisters in Christ to “join me in my struggle,” (NIV) or “strive together with me,” (ESV), through prayer. The message is clear; in prayer, we are assisting, partnering and participating in the ministry of other Christians. The term “partner in prayer” often seems strange, but it is literally a partnership. I was challenged to change the way I pray for mission – if it is partnership, I should feel the pains and struggles, and find Joy in the triumphs. My prayer needs to be a whole lot more sincere when it comes to ministry.
- Christ-like (v5-6)
- This is a repetition of all the above in many ways. Jesus was bold, completely in tune with God’s will, prayerful, obviously loved serving people and bringing them to see God (it wasn’t his duty, he chose to die!). He is our High Priest, the image of God, the mediator. How this applies to us is found in the first half of Romans 15, particularly v5. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice , you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It says see things the way Jesus did.
- United (v5-6)
- This is taken from the verse just above; it’s very clear that we are meant to be on the same page, and working together (with one mind and one voice). The idea of partnering in Prayer is also very relevant; we are to join each other, or strive together in prayer.
“May the God of hope fill you with all Joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13