We need to read 15:16. “That I should be a minister of Christ Jesus to the nations, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that the offering of the nations might be acceptable, having been sanctified in the Holy Spirit.” Paul was a minister of Christ, a public servant serving people with Christ, ministering Christ into the Gentile believers. He was like a waiter serving people at the dining table with delicious food. Paul was a waiter at the universal dining table, serving people with Christ. All the people at this dining table were filled with Christ, and Christ became the transforming element within their being. Thus, the Gentiles were transformed with the essence of the wonderful, all-inclusive Christ, who is the life-giving Spirit. Moreover, this verse reveals that Paul was a priest, for he was “ministering as a priest the gospel of God.” As a priest he offered to God the believing Gentiles as a sweet sacrifice for His satisfaction. The very Gentiles whom he served with Christ he presented to God as an offering.
The offering of the nations was made possible through the wide-spread preaching of the gospel (15:18-23). In 15:19 Paul says that “from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” During Paul’s time, Illyricum was a remote region on the northeastern corner of Europe. Paul preached the gospel from Jerusalem, a cultured city, to a remote, uncultured region. Furthermore, he desired to travel all the way to Spain (v. 24).
Our preaching of the gospel must be uplifted. Our gospel should not be a kind of heaven-going gospel; it must be a gospel which ministers Christ to people. We need to minister Christ to people that they may be sanctified and transformed with the very essence of Christ and thereby become an offering to God. Whenever and wherever the church preaches the gospel, we must do it with the conviction that we are ministering Christ to people, that we are serving Christ as food for hungry sinners. We must minister Christ to them in order that Christ might become within them the sanctifying element to change their very being.
In 15:16 Paul says that “the offering of the nations might be acceptable, having been sanctified in the Holy Spirit.” To be sanctified means to be separated, to be made holy with transformation in life. Paul considers the Gentile believers as a sweet offering to God. Once they were unclean and defiled people, but now they are sanctified and have become an offering pleasing to God. They have been transformed and conformed to the image of God and thus are fully acceptable to Him. This was the result of Paul’s ministering Christ into the Gentiles. When Christ was wrought into them, becoming their very element, the Gentiles became a corporate offering to God, an offering that had been saturated with Christ and permeated with His divine essence. Hence, they were presented to God for His satisfaction.
Out of the ministering of Christ to the nations and the offering of them as a sacrifice to God, developed the fellowship of love, the communication in love between the Gentile and Jewish saints (15:25-28, 30, 32). The Gentile saints communicated with the Jewish saints by the means of giving practical, material things. Formerly, in the eyes of the Jews, the Gentiles were swine; now they have become saints, a fragrant offering to God. Thus, the Gentile believers had it in their heart to care for the material needs of their Jewish brothers and they offered their own possessions as the expression of their desire to take care of the needs of the saints in Judea. When the Apostle Paul came to the Gentiles, he came with Christ and ministered Christ into them. When he returned from them to Judea, he returned with material possessions for the needy saints. Paul came with Christ and returned with material possessions of the saints’ love. This was the result of Paul’s ministry.
The spirituality of many Christians today is too impractical. They say, “I am for Christ and I will bring Christ everywhere, but I don’t care for money or for material possessions.” If you say this, it may mean that your spirituality is impractical. Consider the example of the Apostle Paul. He went to Achaia and Macedonia, ministering Christ to the people. What was the outcome of this? The outcome was that the Gentile believers contributed their own material possessions to care for their ex-enemies, their Jewish brothers in Christ. After the Gentiles had been converted, regenerated, sanctified, and transformed, their old heart had been removed and a new heart had been implanted, a heart of concern for their Jewish brothers. They expressed this concern in a practical way by giving material things. They did not say, “Paul, we stand with you, we go with you, and our prayer follows you. Send our greetings to the dear saints in the Holy Land.” Paul exemplified the practical church life by going with Christ and returning with material possessions. This is the genuine communication in love and practical expression of concern.
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