Or he that exhorteth - Ὁ παρακαλων, The person who admonished and reprehended the unruly or disorderly; and who supported the weak and comforted the penitents, and those who were under heaviness through manifold temptations.
He that giveth - He who distributeth the alms of the Church, with simplicity - being influenced by no partiality, but dividing to each according to the necessity of his case.
He that ruleth - Ὁ προΐσταμενος, He that presides over a particular business; but as the verb προΐσταμαι also signifies to defend or patronize, it is probably used here to signify receiving and providing for strangers, and especially the persecuted who were obliged to leave their own homes, and were destitute, afflicted, and tormented. It might also imply the persons whose business it was to receive and entertain the apostolical teachers who traveled from place to place, establishing and confirming the Churches. In this sense the word προστατις is applied to Phoebe, Romans 16:2; : She hath been a Succorer of many, and of myself also. The apostle directs that this office should be executed with diligence, that such destitute persons should have their necessities as promptly and as amply supplied as possible.
He that showeth mercy - Let the person who is called to perform any act of compassion or mercy to the wretched do it, not grudgingly nor of necessity, but from a spirit of pure benevolence and sympathy. The poor are often both wicked and worthless: and, if those who are called to minister to them as stewards, overseers, etc., do not take care, they will get their hearts hardened with the frequent proofs they will have of deception, lying, idleness, etc. And on this account it is that so many of those who have been called to minister to the poor in parishes, workhouses, and religious societies, when they come to relinquish their employment find that many of their moral feelings have been considerably blunted; and perhaps the only reward they get for their services is the character of being hard-hearted. If whatever is done in this way be not done unto the Lord, it can never be done with cheerfulness.
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 functions of the ministry.
He that giveth - Margin, “imparteth.” The word denotes the person whose function 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 connection 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 what 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: Acts 2:44-47; Acts 4:34-37; Acts 5:1-11; Galatians 2:10; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 9:2, 2 Corinthians 9:12. 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; Acts 6:1-6. These were the persons who were denominated deacons; Philemon 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 3:12.
With simplicity - see Matthew 6:22, “If thine eye be single,” etc.; Luke 11:34. The word “simplicity” ἁπλοτής 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 favor without seeking any personal or selfish ends; without partiality; but actuated only by the desire to bestow them in the best possible manner to promote the object for which they were given; 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:13; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22. It is plain that when property was intrusted 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 intrusted 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 Thessalonians 5:12, it is used in relation to ministers in general: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord;” 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 1 Timothy 3:12, 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 Timothy 5:17, it is applied to “elders” in the church: “Let the elders that rule well, etc.” It is not used elsewhere except in Titus 3:8, Titus 3:14, 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 deliberate assembly; and either of these ideas would convey all that is implied in the original word; compare 1 Corinthians 12:28.
With diligence - This word properly means haste Mark 6:25; Luke 1:39; but it also denotes industry, attention, care; 2 Corinthians 7:11, “What carefulness it wrought in you;” 2 Corinthians 7:12, “That our care for you in the sight of God, etc.;” 2 Corinthians 8:7-8, (Greek) Hebrews 6:11. It means here that they should be attentive to the duties of their vocation, and engage with ardor in what was committed to them to do.
He that showeth 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 was their duty to show personal attention to the infirm and the sick; and so important was their function, 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 intrusted 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 any where 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 affliction. 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 apostie 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; compare 2 Corinthians 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.
Brother B, you seemed anxious to find out what had been said in regard to your position in the church and what was our mind in regard to it. It was just this that I have written. I feared for you because of what I have been shown of your peculiarities. You moved by impulse. You would pray if you felt like it, and speak if you felt like it. You would go to meeting if so disposed, or stay at home if not. You greatly lacked the spirit of self-sacrifice. You have consulted your own wishes and ease, and pleased yourself, instead of feeling that you should please God. Duty, duty! at your post every time. Have you enlisted as a soldier of the cross of Christ? If so, your feelings do not excuse you from duty. You must be willing to endure hardness as a good soldier. Go without the camp, bearing the reproach; for thus did the Captain of your salvation. The qualifications of a bishop, or of an elder or deacon, are, to be “blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” 1T 692.1
Paul enumerates the precious gifts to be desired, and exhorts the brethren: “He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” Here is a wise and perfectly safe investment; good works are here specified and recommended for our practice, for your practice. Here are profits that are valuable. There will be no danger of a failure here. A treasure may be secured in heaven, a constant accumulation which will give to the investor a title to eternal life. And when his life here shall close, and probation end, he may lay hold on eternal life. 1T 692.2
Brother B, you are not a lover of hospitality, you shun burdens. You feel that it is a task to feed the saints and look after their wants, and that all you do in this direction is lost. Please read the above scriptures, and may God give you understanding and discernment, is my earnest prayer. As a family you need to cultivate liberality and to be less self-caring. Love to invite God's people to your house, and, as occasion may require, share with them cheerfully, gladly, that of which the Lord has made you stewards. Do not give grudgingly these little favors. As you do these things to Christ's disciples, you do it unto Him; just so, as you grudge the saints of God your hospitality, you grudge Jesus the same. 1T 693.1Read in context »