by Mike Ratliff
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:3-8 (NASB)
Born Again believers have a duty to God to give themselves unto Him completely as we saw in my post The Believer’s Supreme Act of Spiritual Worship. It is through becoming a living sacrifice that the believer’s sanctification precedes to the level of surrender. This process takes place as the Holy Spirit renovates the minds of these believers as they submit more and more to the Word of God in all parts of their lives. Those who are on this path of spiritual growth become ready for service.
Paul was given undeserved favor in his calling as an apostle. However, his apostleship endowed him with apostolic authority. Along with this, it also produced sincere humility within him.
1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, Romans 1:1-5 (NASB)
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:12-14 (NASB)
Paul used this example of humility to exhort his readers to not think too highly of themselves. Why? To do so would not be of faith and, therefore, a fruit of humility. Instead, it would be of the flesh and, therefore, a fruit of pride. The phrase, “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think” is actually these 3 Greek words, μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν παρ. This phrase actually means to “not esteem oneself overmuch.” This is a basic tenet of being Spirit-filled. We cannot be Spirit-filled if we are prideful because only the humble are. The prideful person is all about self while the humble, Spirit-filled believer is God-focused. Humble, Spirit-filled believers are surrendered to Him as living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1)
The next phrase is, “but to think so as to have sound judgment.” This is the exercise of sound judgment, which leads believers to understand that they are nothing in themselves. This is the type of thinking that flows from a renewed mind that is being transformed by one who is a living sacrifice. This is a humble assessment of oneself that will yield the fruit of humility. Again, the humble submit themselves one to another and this is the very thing that the Spirit-filled do.
5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5 (NASB)
The next phrase is, “as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” This is speaking of the correct proportion of each believer’s spiritual gift. The gift is the supernatural endowment and ability to serve God according to His will. These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to each believer so they can fulfill their role in the Body of Christ. The “faith” spoken of here is not referring to saving faith. This is faithful stewardship needed by believers in the correct quantity and kind in order for them to use their gift. Each believer is given the exact gift and resources needed to be a fully functioning member in the Body of Christ.
The next phrase is, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Our bodies are made up of many parts. They do not all have the same function. God has given the Body of Christ a unified diversity. Both qualities are needed. Unity is vital, but God has also provided diversity within that unity.
The next phrase is, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” These gifts are the Spiritual Gifts given according to God’s grace. These gifts are chosen by the Holy Spirit for each believer apart from personal merit. He also chooses their use and the results. Therefore, Paul exhorts us saying, “each of us is to exercise them accordingly.” Serving God with our gifts is necessary for the wellbeing of the Church. Then Paul lists some of the more predominate gifts, “if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
This list is different from that found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12. However, the emphasis for us is not on believers finding exactly what their gift is from the list, but on faithfully using God’s unique enablement that he has provided to each one. The lists being different should not trouble us. Here is the one from 1 Corinthians.
7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 (NASB)
Let us not be dogmatic about which gift we have or don’t have. Instead, let us obey God in all things as we follow our Lord. The differences in the lists imply that God blends them together uniquely for each believer’s life according to His will. It is vital that we remember that these gifts are given for God’s purposes not ours. Therefore, how can we take pride in our service within them? Also, we should not elevate those whose gifts are more public over those whose aren’t. These with the speaking gifts seem more glamorous than those who have the gift of mercy or giving for example, but all are necessary. Lastly, we must not covet the gifts of others. For example, I have seen more than a few men demand to be teachers only to prove they are not gifted there in a very embarrassing way. However, it was through these trials that they “discovered” where they were not to serve.
Soli Deo Gloria!