Dr. Robert R. Seyda



So it would behoove all readers of this Epistle, both then and now, not to just give these writings a cursory glance, but read them slowly, over and over again. Paul said this to young Timothy about the letter he wrote him: “If you present all this to the brothers, you will be serving the Messiah Yeshua well; it will show that you have digested the words of the faith and of the good teaching which you have followed.1 And then in his second letter, Paul said: “All Holy Scriptures are God-given and are made alive by Him. Man is helped when he is taught God’s Word. It shows what is wrong. It changes the way of a man’s life. It shows him how to be right with God. It gives the man who belongs to God everything he needs to work well for Him.2

Ambrosiaster feels that Paul rightly says that he has been given authority by the grace of God to embolden him to write to all the Gentiles, exhorting and confirming their calling in Christ. He does this gladly so that he can show his concern in his service to Christ as a teacher. Whatever they might do to help mend any rifts that appear in their relationship with the Jewish brethren will be reckoned as acceptable because of their sanctification in the Holy Spirit. For whatever is offered with pure faith and a sober mind is purified by the Holy Spirit.3

And Chrysostom points out that Paul is seen here as a humble and wise servant of God. Like a surgeon, he cut deep in the first part of his discourse, and after removing what he feels contributes to the agony of disharmony, he now sutures the incision with strings of kindliness. Even without anything else he might have said, his confession of being bold for Christ and the Gospel should be enough to calm their hurt feelings. Paul does this often in his epistles, but here even more than usual. For the Romans felt they were of a higher rank than the others, and Paul had to bring them down to their proper size.4

Early church scholar Origen takes a different point of view on what Paul meant by bringing the Gentile converts as an offering pleasing to God. We noted above, that the Peace Offering was a good choice, but Origen points out that the priests had to make sure when they offered sacrifices that there were no blemishes on the sacrificial animal, so that the sacrifice might be acceptable and pleasing to God.5 However, the Jewish interpretation of this concept as written in Genesis 49, was not so much the purity of the animal being sacrificed, but the purity of the one making the sacrifice. According to Rabbi Saba, this was God’s way of bestowing an additional level of “perfection” on these priests-to-be. God would confer some of His own sanctity on them. Becoming a priest without this sanctification process was impossible. It was only after these procedures had been completed that any newly consecrated priests were ready to perform their functions and to serve in the House of the Lord.6

So also the one who willingly sacrifices their time and effort for the Gospel sake must ensure that there is no blemish in their preaching, nor fault in their teaching. Failure to do so might make them culpable at the judgment.7 Just like Paul said earlier, they must first offer themselves as a living sacrifice in order for God’s sanctifying power to help strangle their sinful tendencies so that they prevent any sins being committed by their physical members. This would make sure that they would be a more effective servant not only by their teaching but also by their example. The Holy Spirit is the source of sanctification and, therefore, the offering of the Gentiles which is made by Paul, in the role of priest, is said to be made acceptable to God by the Holy Spirit and not by the observance of the law.8 In this case, Origen reminds us of what Paul said earlier to the believers in Rome of presenting their bodies as a living sacrifice, sanctified, and acceptable to God.9

Then Chrysostom shares his view. He gives the Apostle Paul credit for raising his discourse to a loftier tone, speaking no longer of mere ministry but also of “priestly service.” Paul uses the same Greek root word leitourgos here, once as a masculine noun and then as a verb to define him as a minister and his ministry. As a masculine noun, it means, “a minister, a kingly servant, or priest.” Thayer in His Lexicon places its use under the heading of “someone busy with holy things.” As a verb it becomes hierourgeō which means, “to minister in the manner of a priest,” or “to do the ministry of a priest.” In Paul’s metaphor, he likens it to the preaching of the Gospel. In other words, Paul was a ministering minister.

Paul may have had in mind the scene where the priest pours the water and the wine over the sacrifice on the altar. This took place during the Feast of the Gathering of the Harvest called Sukkot, also known as the “Feast of Tabernacles.” They used two silver looking clay pitchers with two different spouts, one wide (for the water) and one slender (for the wine) so that both the water and the wine pitchers would empty simultaneously in the appropriate amount.10 Nobody would reproach a priest for desiring to offer the most perfect sacrifice possible. Paul says this both to lift up their thoughts and show them that they are a sacrifice and to explain his own part in the matter because he was appointed to this office. My sacrificial knife, he says, is the Gospel, the subject of my preaching.11

John Calvin believes that Paul continues his effort to make the Roman believers know that he is not some big shot whose throwing his weight around just because he used to be a Pharisee and then had a personal encounter with the risen Lord, who then called him to go preach to the Gentiles. Then in order to show his modesty, he says by way of concession, that he acted boldly by interjecting himself in a matter which they themselves were able to resolve but did not do so. However, he was motivated to be fearless about it on account of his office. Although he was called by Christ as a minister of the Gospel to the Gentiles, he could not, however, pass the Jews by without saying something. By doing this he humbles himself so that the excellency of his office might be recognized. And by mentioning the favor of God, by which he was elevated to that high honor, he shows that he could not remain silent so that his apostolic office would then be thought little of. Besides, he denies that he had assumed the part of a lecturer, but that of a counselor.12

John Bengel believes that Paul’s statement that he had to act somewhat courageously in writing them about all these ethical matters and doctrines since it was not possible for him to have done so in person. Today we might express it this way: “Since I am unable to come to you and deliver my strong message in person, I’ve taken the liberty of making a video and I hope you will accept it this way.” Bengel also says that Paul is saying all this with great modesty because he does not assume that he knows everything they should hear. So he is giving them what he does know because it was given to him by the grace of God.13

On Paul’s method of introducing some subjects to believers that they were already knowledgeable of in the Word and Gospel, Charles Hodge notes how striking was the sincere humility of the great Apostle here. All that he said so far involved his counsel and instruction, for which he apologizes if they were too strong even though they were full of affection and heavenly wisdom. What a rebuke is this for any arrogant or demeaning sermons or lectures so often given by people who think they are using the Apostle Paul for an example!14 And once Paul shows that he is truly humbled by the opportunity to write such mature Christians, Paul then believes they will more easily accept the facts that they know about him, that it was the favor of God that called him to be minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. We see this also reflected in what Paul told the Ephesians: “Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, He graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.15

We must remember, Paul was brought up under the influence of Pharisaical Jewish manners, customs, and doctrines, along with observing the role of Rabbis in teaching, and priests serving in Temple where they brought offerings to God every day. There was the Burnt Offering, the Meal Offering, and the Peace Offering, all of which were voluntary. Then there was the Sin Offering, and Trespass Offering that was mandatory. I’m almost certain that Paul thought of the Gentiles as a Peace Offering since it symbolized fellowship with God. And Paul was thankful that God had chosen him to take the Good News to the Gentiles.16 And Paul had no doubt concerning his calling and mission: “The task I received from the Lord Yeshua — to declare in depth the Good News of God’s love and kindness.”17

And speaking of giving an offering to God, Paul tells the Corinthians about his ministry in Macedonia. He wrote: “It was more than we expected. They gave themselves to the Lord first. Then they gave themselves to us to be used as the Lord wanted.18 The Apostle Peter phrases it in a different way. He writes: “You are to be as living stones in the spiritual house God is making also. You are His religious leaders offering yourselves to God through Jesus Christ. This kind of offering pleases God.19 As such, Paul declares that by offering themselves to God for His cause, they are thus sanctified for service. He told the elders of the Church in Ephesus: “I give you over to God and to the word of His love. It is able to make you strong and to give you what you are to have, along with all those who are set apart for God.20

1 1 Timothy 4:6

2 2 Timothy 3:16-17

3 Ambrosiaster On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

4 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 29

5 See Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 1:3, 10

6 Tzror Hamor: On Exodus, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. II, p. 1137

7 See 1 Timothy 3:1-7

8 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

9 Romans 12:1

10 Babylonian Talmud: Seder Mo’ed, Masekhet Sukkah, folio 48a, 48b; See also John 7:37-39

11 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 29

12 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

13 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 360-361

14 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 677

15 Ephesians 3:8 – New Living Translation

16 See Acts of the Apostles 9:15; see 22:21

17 Acts of the Apostles 20:24b

18 2 Corinthians 8:5

19 1 Peter 2:5

20 Acts of the Apostles 20:32

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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