Paul opened the twelfth chapter of Romans with a stern warning that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices.
Here is how the NASB puts it:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. NASB
I can just hear some old, Jewish, man, emphasizing loudly, the phrase, “I exhort you, by the mercies of God,” as though your life depended upon it.
There is, no doubt, a saucy flavor to Paul’s writing, but it is more noticeable when you realize that Paul was a Jew first; that understanding then permeates everything he says and should pervade your entire discernment of the Bible.
Perhaps the best way to understand Romans 12:1 comes through Eugene Peterson’s Message, when he says,
“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”
There is a reason for a comment like this, and we see it in Romans 12:2, where Paul says,
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. NLT
He might as well have said, the world will suck you in and turn you into something other than what God designed you to be if you play with the fire, and that is why you are going to need a tremendous amount of grace if you plan on pulling yourselves out of the fire because it is there every day, working against you. If you are not a follower of Christ but do not spend time in God’s, then you are going to have nothing but problems, especially with a statement like this because you think you are in control; you are not!
All of God’s goodness, the righteousness He bestows, His power, and the life that is in Him – that will be manifest is the age to come, is the Grace of God. A very inadequate descriptive I know, but the idea is much like holding a carrot before a horse, if you want it, you will pursue it – that life, which is the great mystery.
On that note, Paul begins expounding upon Romans 12:3.
Romans 12:3 NASB 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.
Without a broader understanding of God’s word, I might think Paul was the only one who received this grace, but that is not the case. Pay attention to the next few passages.
(Romans 1:3-6 NASB) “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 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, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;”
If you are in Christ, then you are one of the “whom” of which Paul speaks. Romans 10:12 tells us that His grace abounds to all.
Romans 10:12 NASB For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;
Let’s assume, for a moment, that God has poured great spiritual understanding upon you; to top it off, He even tells you when to take out the trash just minutes before the collection truck shows up. How are you supposed to act? The answer to this is also a part of Romans 12:3.
“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,” Romans 12:3b NASB
There you have it, don’t think more highly of yourselves than you ought to. What does that mean, or perhaps, what then is the limitation?
Romans 12:3c NASB, “as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
The limitation is, God has given this same measure to everyone who believes; therefore, you are no one special, merely, as Paul put it, an obedient slave, doing what a slave to Christ is supposed to do.
Okay, wait a minute here, I thought we were talking about grace – you know, God’s Riches AtChrist’s Expense, and now we are talking about slavery and obedience.
Paul introduced us to his letter to the church in Rome by addressing himself as a slave to Christ.
Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to the gospel of God,
(Romans 1:1 LITV)
For those who want to dance around the words, yes, many use the phrase “bond-servant,” because it is easier on the ears.
Get real! What do you think a “bond-servant is”?
It is someone who, in most cases, has given themselves over to another, typically because they have become indebted and can’t pay. This type of slavery often happens to children, to this day. It is not uncommon in India for a lower caste family to sell one of their children so that the family survives.
What if you like the way this owner treats you and you have become comfortable with the lifestyle – one in which you typically have no right to an opinion?
Then you submit yourself to them and have a hole punched in one of your ears that signifies your permanent submission. Paul knew what this meant, not only to the Jews, who frequently were the slave owners but on several occasions, as a nation, found themselves in bondage. Although the Jews will fight with you, saying we were never in bondage, Egypt is one of those times, and, for Paul to say it, it was like throwing cold water in the face of someone on a cold day. It was meant to wake them up and shock them at the same time.
In addition to slave terminology, Paul talked about a level playing field.
As students of the Bible, we know that Paul, speaking to the Jewish believers within this Christian community, equated this playing field to a perceived advantage the Jewish believers thought they had over, what they deemed the inferior Gentiles, who somehow had become followers of Christ, as the Jews had.
To some, this idea of a level playing field is completely devoid of God and involves a government in which bullies and terrorists control the power; take from those who have, and allegedly give it to the poor. Sadly, this idea includes those who don’t care to work. Lamentably, the bullies who want to run this Socialist style of government still get to keep what they acquire.
God’s kingdom, which is currently in the spirit and unseen to us, will come in the physical realm when Christ returns to clean house. We see this in Revelation 19:11-21. There, everyone covered under the blood of Jesus, and by right of that blood, is the same. In other words, NO ONE, who is a citizen of that kingdom has any advantage, or, more access to God, and His love, than anyone else. Paul understood all this, and if there were a person who could have a problem, it would have been him. You see, Paul, when we first learn of him, was named Saul, and at the top of his class in the school of Pharisees. By Paul’s own admission, he could have taught the teachers.
Did Paul know about the laws of God?
Without a doubt, but he did not know the love of God, and that is only found through an understanding of Jesus Christ. Fortunately, Paul gained that understanding one day, as he traveled on the road to Damascus, while on a mission to persecute these new Christ-followers – Jewish converts, which many devout Jews claimed were trying to corrupt the practices of the Synagogues.
Let’s get back to this idea that God has allotted to each, a measure of faith.
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. (Romans 12:4-5 NASB)
The fact that the members do not have the same function should be a good indicator that our faith is not exactly for the same service, either. Note also this idea that we are ONE body in Christ; however, we are individual members one of another. Perhaps the BBE translation might help.
So we, though we are a number of persons, are one body in Christ and are dependent on one another; (Romans 12:5 BBE)
We are dependent on each other, each of us with our allotted, measure of faith. WHY? Because, as we share our weaknesses and strengths, we grow. We grow through the act of praying for each, not mindless candy prayers, but prayers in which we pour out our hearts to God on behalf of the other.
The next verse seems as though it is a shift from an intense and power-filled lifestyle, to simply giving out information. Pay attention, and I will sort it out. Since we are one body, and those allotments of faith for a particular thing can be varied, then we need to look at the definitions that follow in that light.
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; 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. (Romans 12:6-8 NASB)
We saw, in Romans 12:3 that we all (those us in Christ) have an allotment of faith, but here, in Romans 12:6-8 we can see that this faith He speaks of is diversified and shows up in what we come to learn in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, that this diversity is the gifts of the spirit.
Can I logically explain this assertion?
Perhaps I don’t need to, but, as we saw in Romans 12:3, Paul, in speaking of faith, uses the Greek word pistis; this is the same word translated believe in 2Thessalonians 2:13. So, faith and belief are the same. (Although, faith often seems like a choice motivated by evidence, while belief is merely an action based on faith.)
I am thinking of Abraham and the offering of Isaac as a sacrifice when I write this. Abraham demonstrated a corresponding trust/belief in what God had said to him; and, if you will remember, most of what we know about God’s interactions with Abraham was in the form of some extraordinary and vivid dreams. It truly is a simple process when you think about it; what makes faith difficult is the demonic voices in your head that tell you it can’t be done. Recently, my wife had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery. It took faith on my part to say, do it! I knew the risks, and so did Abraham.
(The next time you read about Abraham, and his demonstration of willingness, take note of Sarah. We see nothing of her after this event. Did Abraham comprehend that this possible break in their relationship would be a part of the price he had to pay, I entirely off? Perhaps Sarah was just old, as Abraham was, and no longer a contributor to the story? If age was the factor that made her go away, then how do you explain that moment in time when Jesus, at eight days old, was brought to the temple, and Anna, an aged prophetess, and Simeon, an aged priest, just happened to be there at that moment. Both exclaimed, upon seeing the baby Yahshua, that they had seen the coming of the Messiah they had longed for?)
Luke 2:27-32 NASB And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, (28) then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, (29) “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; (30) For my eyes have seen Your salvation, (31) Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, (32) A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.”
1 Corinthians 12:9 makes it clear that pistis is one of the gifts of the spirit, alongside prophecy, teaching, and so many others.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 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. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NASB)
When you look at the endowments, there is a common theme. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The Amplified Bible puts it like this.
Now there are distinctive varieties and distributions of endowments (gifts, extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians, due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit), and they vary, but the [Holy] Spirit remains the same. 1 Corinthians 12:4 AMP
So why then do we idolize some people and treat others as mundane because they are not as flashy as some with their giftings as some people?