Intro: Romans 12:3-8 – 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
- It has been said that even the brightest people among only use about 11% of their brain capacity. I personally know many who use much less than that! But it makes one wonder, what kind of place would this world be if we all used 100%. Certainly it would be different.
- The purpose of living as sacrifices to God (vs. 1-2) is not mystical or monastic but eminently practical. Devotion and worship are connected to active obedience and ministry to the Lord. In fact they are inseparable. We cannot be truly sacrificed to Him and be inactive in His work.
- So, as a transformed person, God expects you and I to do something. He expects us to use the gifts he has given to us to serve. (“This is your spiritual service” – vs. 1)
- In the next few verses the apostle outlines 3 important elements of our usefulness to God: 1) The proper attitude of serving; 2) The proper relationship of serving; 3) The proper activity of serving
I. The Proper Attitude of Serving: Humility. Romans 12:3 – For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. I don’t think I need to spend a great deal of time addressing this topic as Charlie Greves spoke eloquently on this very subject two weeks ago in the Wed. adult class. Appropriately enough, he spoke of humility as the proper attitude of worship. In just a moment we will discuss humility in more detail, but notice how Paul begins his admonition:
A. “Through the grace given to me” – the word for grace here refers to Paul’s commission to preach the gospel. We might identify this “grace” as his apostleship. Being an apostle was not something that he had earned, it was given to him as an act of grace. It was a gift (same word [charis] is translated as gift elsewhere).
1. Humility does not preclude authority or leadership. Paul was admonishing with the authority of an apostle, but he humbly refers to the source of this authority as a grace that given to him by God. He knew his position before God. (How could he ask others to be humble if he failed to be humble as well?)
B. “To everyone who is among you” – He addresses these words to every Christian. Who among us is not tempted to think of themselves more than they should? Pride is everybody’s problem. Paradoxically, even spiritual growth and knowledge can be a source of human pride, and thus a source of sin. Paul is continuing to address the need for a renewed mind.
C. “Not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” Paul uses a form of phroneo (to think) four times in verse 3. In the first instance he attaches the prefix “huper” which means to exceed, or go beyond. Sometimes we think too much!
1. A Christian is not to exceed in his estimation of himself, but to think of himself as he really is. It is easy for us to think we know more than we; to think we do more than we do; or to think we are better than we are. “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself ” (Gal 6:3).
2. Paul’s self estimation in 1 Timothy 1 would not make a very acceptable resume today. He referred to himself as a former blasphemer and persecutor and an insolent man. In his own words he was the chief sinner. But Paul was not humble because he was willing to talk bad about himself. Sometimes self-deprecation is evidence of pride, not humility. Paul was humble because he understood that he was not the one who made him who he was. He said “God enabled me… putting me in the ministry …I obtained mercy” (1 Tim. 1:12-16)
3. God could use Paul because he was willing to be humble. Peter admonished all elders in the church, young and old, to “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
4. Those who think too highly of themselves often think too lowly of others. They easily dismiss others or seek to put them down.
a. True humility requires that I submit to others, allowing them to lead. 1 Peter 5:5 – 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
b. True humility keeps me from hypocritically judging my brother – James 4:10-11 – Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. 11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
c. True humility causes me to treat every brother with the same mind and compassion. Later in Romans 12 Paul admonishes them to 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. (Rom 12:15-16) God (and John) opposed Diotrephes because he sought preeminence above others. (3 John)
d. True humility means esteeming others better than myself. Philippians 2:3 – 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. That is not a lack of self-esteem but a proper and humble self-evaluation.
D. “But to think soberly” – The phrase indicates “clear thinking” or according to reality. The intoxicated man loses his inhibitions and is not the same person he is in reality. When he sobers up he returns to reality and is able to make good judgments. We are sometimes intoxicated with ourselves. We need to base our self-evaluation on reality. To see ourselves as God sees us.
1. Paul warned the Corinthians against making judgments about themselves and others that would promote pride in themselves. 1 Cor 4:6 – 6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.
E. “As God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” – There are differing views concerning Paul’s meaning here.
1. Some say that the “measure of faith” is a portion of faith that God gives to each Christian. This portion of faith differs from one to person to another and is defined by our abilities and responsibilities. It is viewed as mystical and arbitrary.
2. Moses Lard says that this “measure of faith” refers to the miraculous portion of faith that was given to some as an accompaniment to a miraculous spiritual gift (such as prophecy). So one who prophecied was not to go beyond the faith that God had given him with the power of the gift.
3. R.L.Whiteside disagrees with this view. He states that the term “measure” as it is used in scripture indicates “a measuring instrument” (like a ruler would be called a measure). In this sense, the objective faith that God has given is the measuring stick by which we measure our thinking. I must, therefore, govern my self evaluation by what I believe concerning God’s revealed will. If I spend time in the faith given I will be not think of myself too highly. Bryan Vinson, Jr. says.. “No one under the influence of the teaching of the scriptures, and thereby regulated and controlled, can ever become egotistical. There is no quality of human behavior more contrary and inimical to the spirit of the master than egotism.”
F. Humility as a Prerequisite to Service. Sewell Hall wrote about a young man, who some time ago, wrote a letter to the elders of the church with which he had been worshipping, expressing his disappointment that he had not been used for song leading and preaching as often as he thought he should be. He stated confidently, “I have the knowledge and experience that would be an asset to any congregation.” Perhaps so. But the attitude indicated by those words is different from the attitude of those whom the Lord has always considered an asset among His people. What kind of people can God use? Consider those He did use:
1. Moses was confident at the age of 40 he had qualities that would enable him to deliver God’s people from Egyptian bondage. But he failed miserably. After forty years as a shepherd his attitude toward himself changed. When God called him to do the work his response was, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt ?” (Exodus 3:11). Once he was humble enough to recognize his own limitations God could use him.
2. Gideon was totally surprised when the Angel of the Lord addressed him as a “mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). He was even more taken aback when the angel said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.” To this he replied, “0 my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house:’ God’s use of this humble man to gain a notable victory is well known.
3. Saul’s response when he was called to be king over Israel was, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin. Why then do you speak like this to me?” (1 Samuel 9:21). Later God made a point of the fact that this was his attitude when he was anointed. “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel?” (1 Samuel 15:17). But afterwards he became great in his own eyes, even to the point of substituting his own wisdom for that of God. Then God said through Samuel, “You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel” (1Samuel 15:17, 19, 26).
4. Isaiah felt himself entirely unworthy of the great vision of God granted to him in the temple in Isaiah 6:1-4. His reaction: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.”
5. Jeremiah, when called by God to be a prophet replied, “Ah, Lord God! Behold I cannot speak, for I am a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6).
6. Simon Peter‘s proclamation, “though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:33) was ultimately a liability rather than an asset. He became useful again when he humbly refused to boast of his own resources and could not bring himself to profess the strong commitment to Jesus implied in agape love; he could only insist on his tender affection for Him (John 21:15-17). Then he was ready to tend the Lord’s sheep.
7. Saul of Tarsus was useless to the Lord when his resume was that he was “circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). His usefulness flourished, however, when he had come to say, “I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (I Corinthians 15:9-10).
Conclusion: In Romans 12 the next verses describe active service. They encourage the church, as the body of Christ, to accomplish its work through 100% of the members using 100% of the gifts that God has given. Can we imagine what a different world this would be if that happened here? Let us begin by cultivating that attitude behind the service. Let’s humble ourselves before God.