Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 22, 1955

"When They Had Fulfilled Their Ministration"

George P. Estes, Maplewood, Missouri

The rule given by inspiration for exegesis is that no scripture is of private interpretation, (2 Pet. 1:20.) Therefore, before drawing any conclusions as to the meaning of "ministration" in Acts 12:25, it is necessary to look at its meaning and usage in other verses.

Jesus is the perfect example in all things. He said, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:28.). The two infinitives, "diakoneetheenai (to be ministered unto) and "diakoneenai" ,to minister) in this verse are formed from the same root as the noun in Acts 12:25, "diakonian" (ministration). The meaning of the word 'minister' in reference to Jesus is supplied by other passages in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah writes of Him: "Behold my SERVANT whom I uphold." (Isa. 42:1.) It was prophesied that He would suffer and die on the behalf of others, "He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by the knowledge of Himself shall my righteous SERVANT justify many; and he shall bear their iniquities." (Isa. 53:11.) He took upon Himself the form of a servant to accomplish this mission. (Phil. 2:7.) The whole idea therefore of "to minister" in Matt. 20:28 is expending oneself in service to others; toiling for people; the servant in his activity of work as he executes the commands of another; a servant attending or ministering to the welfare of others.

The word "deacon" (diakonos) is formed from the same stem. There is "the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18), that is those who serve by preaching the gospel. The collection raised by each church to relieve the poor saints in Jerusalem is ministering. (2 Cor. 8:4). To distribute to brethren the necessities to sustain life. (Acts 6:1.) Wherever the word is used in the New Testament, it means when one renders a service to others.

When a famine occurred in Judea, the church at Antioch determined to raise and send relief (eis diakonian — for ministry) to the brethren who dwelt in Judea. (Acts 11:29.) The word "send" (apostelloo) means that Saul and Barnabas who carried the relief were obligated to fulfill the will of the church at Antioch. "When they had fulfilled their ministration" (Acts 12:25) is a genitive absolute in construction and introduces a time element. It certainly means that Saul and Barnabas spent quite some time in their ministration or service to the brethren in Judea as they carried out the decision and wishes of the church at Antioch. The word "ministration" definitely means that these two men did have an active part in and participated in the dispensing of the relief sent. They took it to the elders. (Acts 11:30.) In exegesis it is only right to consider the context. This being so, one must understand "elders" in verse 30 with "brethren of Judea" in verse 29. They are then the elders in the churches in Judea. Saul and Barnabas therefore, went through Judea and dispensed with the relief by committing to each eldership a portion of the whole amount sent. That Saul and Barnabas were acting under orders is plainly and specifically taught from the words "ministration" and "send"; they were executing the commands of the church at Antioch. Jesus came to minister but at the same time He was executing God's will. (Johns 6:38.)

The same may be said concerning the second ministration. Each of the congregations at Rome, Corinth, of Macedonia, Achaia and Galatia laid by in store and raised a collection which was destined to help the poor saints in Jerusalem. (1 Cor. 16:1, 2; Rom. 15:25-27; 2 Cor. 8-9.) Messengers were approved and chosen by the churches to carry this relief to its destination, (1 Cor. 16:3; 2 Cor. 8:19, 21-24.) These messengers, according to the meaning and usage of the word, were charged with the stewardship of the relief and were obligated to handle it according to the dictates and direction of the church who had chosen and sent them. They were to dispense with the relief as they had been told to.

This grace, this bounty "which is ministered BY us," (2 Cor. 8:19, 20.) The preposition "by" is hupo in the Greek text and expresses agency. In Dana and Mantey's Grammar of the Greek Testament, page 112, they say, "With the ablative case: by (agency). Hupo is most frequently used for expressing agency. In fact, agency is expressed with the aid of hupo more frequently than it is by all other methods combined." In the text of 2 Cor. 8:19, 20, "us" is theemoont in the ablative case. According to the text, Paul and the messengers of the churches were the agents who were to see that it, the bounty, reached the poor saints. We read nothing about their turning it over to the Jerusalem elders who distributed it to various places. There were brethren who accompanied Paul on his trip to Jerusalem, (Acts 20:4.) Nothing further is said about it until Paul made a defense, (Acts 24:17.)

All sponsoring church advocates and the Herald of Truth program endorse the theory that in both cases cited previously, the relief was turned over to the charge and jurisdiction of the Jerusalem elders who in turn had charge to distribute it according to their discretion. This is no more than a fabrication of their own imagination. The text of the New Testament does not support their contention. The truth is this: these brethren started a large program without consulting the New Testament and when called in question as to the scripturalness of their program, they searched the New Testament in vain for scripture sanction and didn't find it. Then instead of surrendering their unscriptural practice, they tried to force the New Testament to teach what they believe. If this is not the case and they did know what the New Testament teaches about church organization and cooperation but went ahead and set up larger programs than they could finance, they have no respect for God's word. In any case, their efforts to find one instance in the New Testament where a church carried on a program larger than it itself could finance and where one eldership did carry on a program that involved the work and oversight of more than one congregation, have been in vain. Only by studying the words and text of the New Testament is one able to learn what was done and how it was done. It is our authority and guide; therefore, we must adhere to it in all that we do.