Romans 12:3-8 —
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Greetings, readers! I am excited to continue working our way through Romans 12 and what it means to be the Church. I hope this finds you well, and I want you to know that I am praying for you.
Last week, we began looking at the nature of the Church in Romans 12:1-2 – focusing on the fact that the Bible tells us that it is made up of saved people and not wood or stone. We also looked how Christ has called us to voluntarily offer ourselves to Him as Lord in worship to Him. Today, just as Paul built on that in Romans 12:3-8, I pray that we grow and build on our understanding.
Churches, especially here in the South, are all over the place. We have multiple denominations. And, unfortunately, there are so many reputations – good, bad, and ugly – that go along with all of that. For this reason alone, a refresher on what God intends for His Church is necessary. Hopefully, this will at least spark a little bit of revival for you, and, if necessary, an appropriate amount of repentance.
Paul starts this paragraph by giving believers a stark reminder (with “grace”): do not think more “highly [of yourself] than [you] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (v. 3) If that did not hit you like a freight train, you need to read it another two or three times. This hits me like a sledgehammer and is a serious reminder of where Christ found His Church!
He did not find a group of lovely, clean, hard-working church folks who would make lovely additions to the nice brick country club on the corner. Romans 5:6 tells us, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly”, and, before we try to rationalize “weak” and “ungodly”, look at 5:8: “…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Everyone one in church from the oldest member to the most revered and respected, and especially the pastor and deacons, have a past as a lost sinner. Every single part of Christ’s Church was formerly dead in their sin (Ephesians 2:1), and, had it not been for God saving them – making them alive (Ephesians 2:4-5) – by His grace, they would be just like the lost world around them.
But it is easy to forget where you have come from when you feel like you have arrived and have some status. ***Buckle up here, if you are sensitive, because it is going to be a bumpy ride for a little ways.*** I wish I could point this out without pointing fingers at myself, but I have been guilty of this more times than I would ever care to admit. So many times, “church folks” look down at the lost and are so critical of their actions and ways. They/we point them out. They/we remark on how it is evident they are headed to Hell and understand why they are on their way. Let me tell you what makes the difference: putting our pointing fingers and gossip up, remembering that we deserve death and Hell for our own sin, and stopping to tell those we see that there is a Way out of death and sin, and His name is Jesus. That is what happens when we think on ourselves with “sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned”: we remember that Jesus is the only Way for us to have any righteousness at all and not be left in our sin.
But there is good news, even in this. If Jesus can save us, we should have no doubts that He can save anyone. I promise you there is none reading this who is more self-righteous than I was during my twenties. I burned hot in anger in those years. And I burned myself out, too. Do you know what made the difference? I will tell you that time spent in God’s Word, prayer, and a repentant heart leads to healing and more grace than I deserve. David writes in Psalm 51:16-17:
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
That “broken and contrite heart” is an invitation for the healing salve of God’s grace to do it’s work in our lives. When that happens, we see ourselves as we should, and we look to the broken and lost world around us with eyes that lead to sharing the gospel from the overflow of our hearts.
Alright, now that is said and done. Let us move on to calmer waters. Let us talk about the Body of Christ.
It is hard to understand the idea of church membership in the present age. We hear the phrase “member of a church”, and we automatically shift our understanding to being counted on a roll or having bought into a membership – like a country club or the Burger King Kid’s Club. But that is not what God had in mind when He laid this out in His Word. When He says through Paul in verse 4 that we are the “many members” of “one body”, He is giving us the image that we are all part of one organism – the Church – not an organization like many see the local churches. We are arms, legs, hands, feet, knees, and elbows.
The Body of Christ is to be carrying out His work in the world around us, wherever He has planted us. We should look at the communities surrounding our church buildings and homes as mission fields where we are being sent out. You see, that is exactly what they are and exactly why God has put you where He has – to be His hands and feet and carry out His plan for you (Ephesians 2:10) where He has you.
You may be thinking that you have nothing to offer. You may feel like you are not equipped or prepared to talk to people around you about Jesus. You may think that you are not gifted in those areas. Let me reassure you: every member has a function, and God equips those members to perform that function.
Now, having said that, everyone is not called to perform the same function. That is one reason why I am glad that we are in Romans 12 (for more on the body of Christ and spiritual gifts, check out 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 4), because it does not get into the usual list of giftings that people think of when performing a “function” in the body of Christ. In fact, let us do away with the idea that someone must be a pastor, preacher, evangelist, missionary, Sunday school teacher, or worship leader to have a calling or a “function” in their local church. But God has a plan for all of us.
Romans 12:6-8 looks at various categories of service: prophecy (preaching the Word), service (taking care of any number of things), teaching (helping people understand the Word), exhorting (discipling other believers), leading (from whole churches to various smaller parts), and acts of mercy (acts of generosity). This list is not exhaustive, but, instead, it serves as a guide to get us thinking about how we can serve the Lord where He has planted us.
And that is what I want you to do: think about gifts that God has given you in your life and prayerfully look for opportunities to serve. Maybe you are not gifted to stand in front of the room and talk to the whole congregation; that is good because if everyone preached we would never get to lunch! Maybe you are not gifted to ____. But you do have a gift. Everyone does not perform the same function. But everyone does have a function.
I want to close by looking again at what we have talked about here today. Please note that my harsher tone in the section earlier was as much directed toward myself as it was to anyone else. I have a great love for Christ’s church, and I am passionate about sharing His Word with anyone who will listen. Sometimes that passion translates better than others.
I know that there is redemption to be found in Christ. I am more thankful for it than I could ever put into words. And I want you to find that as well. If you have reservations about finding a local church to be a part of, feel free to reach out to me. I would love to meet with you and pray with you, hearts and Bibles open, seeking the will of the Lord. If you feel that you have no gifting, I would love to sit down with you and help you seek the Lord to show what He has for you.
All in all, know that you are loved by God and that He has a plan for you. With that going for you, what can stand against you?