Romans 12:3 “For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think as to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith”
“For”: “If we have given ourselves wholly to God, and if all our talents and gifts for service are entrusted to us by Him, we may be expected to have a humble opinion of ourselves” (Erdman p. 146). “Through the grace that was given me”:The grace given to Paul had qualified him to be an apostle (1:5; Galatians 2:7-9; Eph. 4:8,11ff). “To every man that is among you”: Everybody needed this lesson. “Not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think”: Everyone needs this admonition because people tend to see themselves as the most important person in the world (Philippians 2:3-5). “Not to estimate himself above his real value” (Wms). “Humility is the immediate effect of self-surrender to God”(Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 688). “Soberly”: “He must take a sane view of himself” (Mof). “Humility is a sound assessment of oneself in light of where God has placed him. It isn't a false or exaggerated humility. We aren't vermin crawling around a garbage pail (as I once heard a man say); we're made in the image of God. But we're not spiritual tycoons either”(McGuiggan p. 360). “According as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith”: “Allotted to each a measure of faith” (NASV). Faith in this verse is not one's own personal faith, for that comes by hearing. (10:17), rather, “The measure of faith is the specific expression of faith (office or work) delivered to each Christian” (McGuiggan p. 360). This measure of faith is the same as our “function” (12:4) or “gift” (12:6). Compare with 1 Corinthians 12:11 and Ephesians 4:11. “As saving faith is belief in testimony, it is the product of man's own action, and God does not deal it out, or give it to any one. If He did, how could He consistently condemn men for the lack of it (Mark 16:16), or how could He exhort men to believe (John 20:27)?” (McGarvey p. 491).
“Each man”: The measure of faith, is something that all have. The context that follows suggests that Paul stresses the need for humility, because it appears that the Christians in Rome may have or could have fallen into the same trap that the Corinthians had, that is thinking that spiritual gifts equaled moral superiority 12:6. “Whatever differences exist must be due to a divine provision, thus whatever estimates we place upon ourselves, all must be controlled by the humility which is inspired when we remember that we belong to God and that whatever we are and possess comes from Him”(Erdman p. 146).
Every Christian has a talent (Matthew 25:14-15; 1 Corinthians 12:18), and every member of the body of Christ has a function (Romans 12:4). Yet no one has earned or merited their place in the body. Everyone has God-given abilities and everyone is or has the potential to be very skilled at something. I can choose to neglect and waste that ability or, by my trust in God, use it. Yet I must always remember, this talent does not make me morally superior to other Christians, for they all have talents as well, and every talent is greatly needed.
Romans 12:4 “For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office”
“Not the same office”: “The same function” (NASV). “Christians are not all intended to major in the same areas. It's right and proper to call people to function for Christ according to their ability and capacity and gifts. It is right to urge people to surrender their talents to the Master. But it isn't right to make people feel guilty because they are not exercising abilities they don't have!” (McGuiggan pp. 361-362). “Office”: A practice, an act, by extension, a function, deed, office or work. “Lit., mode of acting” (Vincent p. 155). “Task, activity” (Lenski p. 756).
Romans 12:5 “So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another”
“Severally”: “Individually” (NASV). “A further safeguard against pride is found in the fact that in the church there is awide variety of gifts; no one should expect to possess all the talents and to do all the work necessary for the life of the church” (Erdman p. 146). The work of the church never falls on the shoulders of one man.
The failure of a congregation to grow never falls on the shoulders of one person. At times we violate this passage when we try to force people into functions for which they do not have the abilities. This means that not every young man is cut out to be a preacher or song leader, and not every woman is cut out to be a teacher. The same truth is taught in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30. The members of the body of Christ are individuals, not denominations (1 Corinthians 12:27).“Members one of another”: “And each acts as a counter-part of another” (Knox). Every member of the body is a needed member (1 Corinthians 12:14-27). It is a false humility to say, “The church down there doesn't need me”. Talent, ability, (or in New Testament times) my spiritual gift, is only useful, if I use it for the benefit of the whole body.
Romans 12:6 “And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith”
“Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us”: None of these gifts had been earned or merited, for what would be true of spiritual gifts would also be true of natural abilities. “Whether prophecy”: If your gift happens to be inspired utterance (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11), not merely someone who predicted the future, which they sometimes did (Acts 11:27-28), but rather one who received their message directly from God (1 Corinthians 14:30; 2 Peter 1:20-21), “Paul calls his brothers and sisters to a faithful exercise of their differing capacities” (McGuiggan p. 365).Paul just assumes that every Christian would know what their gift is. “Let us prophesy”: Put that gift into use. “According to the proportion of our faith”: “His faith” (NASV). Yet many here take faith as being objective the contents of Christian doctrine, or “the faith” (Jude 3). “Proportion”: Signified in classical Greek "the right relation, the coincidence or agreement existing or demanded according to the standard of the several relations" (Vine p. 225). “Right relationship, in right relationship to, in agreement with, in agreement with the faith” (Arndt p. 57). Since prophets did have control over their gift (1 Corinthians 14:32), the person with the gift of prophecy is warned, not to claim a message is from God, when it is not. Only attach God's name to those utterances that are truly from God and are in agreement with the faith. In other words, simply be content to speak the utterances of God (Jeremiah 23:25-28). The same rule would apply to preachers, that is, simply remain content to preach the truth (1 Peter 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:2).
Romans 12:7 “Or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching”
“Ministry”: This word covers a lot of different jobs. “Of service in general, including all forms of Christian ministration tending to the good of the Christian body” (Vincent p. 157). “This is a general word for Christian service of all kinds”(Robertson p. 404). Preaching is ministry or service (Acts 6:4), but so is caring for the physical needs of another (Acts 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:10), assisting the congregation in some manner (Romans 16:1; Acts 12:25; 1 Corinthians 16:15), and being a Deacon (1 Timothy 3:8). Any area of service in the body of Christ is ministry. “Let us give ourselves to our ministry”: “If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well” (Tay). “The imperative phrase: ‘in that ministry!’ throws this field wide open and bids the Romans plunge in” (Lenski p. 763). Sometimes Christians think, “Well, I've been doing this for awhile, maybe I should stand aside and let someone else do it”. Paul says, “Where do you excel?” “Well, then keep on doing it!” In fact, Paul would often tell people, to “abound more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:10). The apostles refused to get involved in something that would subtract from their time to teach others. Someone else could do that, but they could not leave the area of service they were better qualified, than anyone else (Acts 6:2). “Or he that teacheth”: “Aimed at the understanding” (Vincent p. 157). “Teaching is instructing, making things plain” (Lenski p. 763). “To give the sense so that they understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). Are you able to make the hard--simple, the difficult---understandable? Then that is exactly what you need to be doing!
Romans 12:8 “Or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness”
“Exhorteth”: “Aimed at the heart and will” (Vincent p. 157). “If you can encourage, encourage” (Beck). “The gift of stirring speech should use it to stir his hearers” (NEB). Barnabas seems to have fit into this category (Acts 4:36; 11:23). “The teacher teaches what the will of God is and calls for. The exhorter calls him to the performance of it by inspiring and encouraging and challenging words--this does not mean that the work of teaching and exhorting do not overlap”(McGuiggan p. 365). “Giveth”: “There is nothing miraculous about this gift. There are many business people enabled by God to make money so they can glorify God through the wise and loving use of their wealth” (McGuiggan p. 366) Compare with 1 Timothy 6:17-19. “With liberality”: “With sincerity” (Lam), i.e. from the proper motive. “With all your heart” (NEB). “Which does not refer to the size or value of the gift imparted, but refers to the giver's own motivation, that is, not covertly seeking to secure credit, praise, honor, or reward for whatever he imparts. See Matthew 6:1-4” (Lenski p. 764). “He that ruleth”: “Those who take the lead”. 1 Timothy 5:17 has the same word. So has 1 Thessalonians 5:12. There seems to be no reason to doubt that these are elders or overseers” (McGuiggan p. 366). “With diligence”: “Haste in the good sense: prompt efficiency, no delay, no excuses” (Lenski p. 765). “Moral earnestness or vigor” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 691). “With the spirit of zealous attention to the work entrusted to them” (1 Peter 5:1-4) (McGarvey p. 495).
“Showeth mercy”: “If you are helping others in distress” (NEB). See Matthew 25:35ff. “With cheerfulness”: “No one should attempt to show mercy in a half-hearted or indifferent way” (Whiteside p. 251). “If the one receiving mercy gets the impression the ‘shower of mercy’ is tired of them, they are often driven into deep depression. Be sure you are accepting your limitations before you get involved in serious welfare work for Christ. Those are rough waters!” (McGuiggan pp. 366-367). “Cheer, like love, must be without hypocrisy, for the one showing mercy has the better end of the blessing (Acts 20:35)” (McGarvey p. 496).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017