Paul's Passing Thoughts

Romans 12:3-8

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 21, 2013

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As we continue in the book of Romans, we begin tonight’s study with 12:3,

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.

This shouldn’t surprise us, but the Bible often speaks directly and simply to issues that seem to turn all of culture upside down. For example, phobias are a huge issue in our culture. There are thousands of phobia clinics nationwide treating more than 530 different kinds of documented phobias. Yet, 1John 4:18 states,

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

Love prevents fear and cures fear. Depression is another issue that affects 10% of the American population. The Bible has a lot to say about this issue and documents at least four cases in detail: Cain; Jonah; King David; and Elijah. To Cain God stated,

If you do well, will your countenance not be lifted up?

As we discussed in previous lessons, I am not saying that right doing and right thinking is the cure-all for every instance of depression, but I am saying that the possibility should always be vetted.

From circa 1986 to 1998, the issue of self-esteem raged in the American church. Innumerable books were written on the subject. One camp stated that it was impossible to love others unless you loved yourself. Hence, regardless of the substance of your life, it is imperative that you love yourself and think highly of yourself. Christ died for you because you are worth saving, and also died for all your sins. So, no matter how sinful you are in your own eyes, you are still worth dying for. The essence of life is loving self the way God loves you regardless of the facts. This camp attributed almost every sin known to man to “self-hatred.”

The other camp posited the ideology of the Reformers which of course propagated self-hatred and the idea that self-love is the essence of all sin. This raging debate was fueled by the very folly Paul warned us about in verse two of the chapter we now reside in: don’t be conformed to the passing fads of whatever age you are in. Rather than searching the Scriptures for themselves, the vast majority of Christians chose one camp or the other.

Well, here we are at verse 3, Paul merely states that we should assess ourselves truthfully. Paul doesn’t exclude thinking highly of ourselves—he states that we shouldn’t have an exaggerated assessment regarding the positive. And let me suggest that our assessment of ourselves should not be exaggerated according to the negative as well. That would be no less a lie than the former. We are to assess ourselves according to “sober judgment.” I did a word study on this, and a good paraphrase would be, “right minded estimate.” This gets right back to one of our favorite verses, Philippians 4:8. We are to dwell on what is true.

Also, there is really no debate at all as to whether or not we love ourselves, the simple fact is that we are wired to love ourselves—we are all wired with a desire for self-preservation, no? Is that a bad thing? No, it is an instinct created within us. Turn to Ephesians 5:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Paul is saying as a statement of fact that men love themselves. He isn’t saying that is bad, it is just a statement of fact. Therefore, we should love our wives as much as we love ourselves because we are one flesh. To not love our wives is an anomaly because we are one flesh and we love ourselves. Christ said to do unto others as we would want them to do to you. This obviously assumes that you want good things for yourself because you think you’re kinda alright, right? Of course, in our day, this is interpreted strictly through grace which means all of us are totally depraved and grace is needed for everything. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you is translated as getting a pass (grace) on everything except asking leadership too many questions. The fact is, we are created to like ourselves. That’s not sin. Imagine if nobody liked themselves! What kind of world would that be? People would be waiting in line to be condemned to hell! No? The challenge is to love others as much as we already love ourselves.

Notice also that we are to assess ourselves according to the faith that we have been gifted with by God. It is interesting that in the Jewish Bible I am using right now, the word “faith” is everywhere translated “trust.” I like that. Faith is equated with trusting God. In evaluating ourselves, it is important that we trust God in regard to verses 4-7:

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 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.

This is how we evaluate ourselves: we have been gifted to serve a certain function in the body of Christ. As a Christian, you should take that seriously. If you are a kidney, and you are missing, that cripples the body of Christ. Paul used this same illustration in 1 Corinthians 12:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

As a quick aside, and regardless of how you want to argue what is known as Cessationism (the Charismatic gifts were temporary), “Do all speak with tongues?” is obviously a rhetorical question posed by Paul the apostle, and the assumed answer is, “no.” This flies in the face of Pentecostalism which teaches that all should seek the second blessing of the Spirit witnessed by that gift. That’s a free thought added in here.

Our function in the body is expressed through gifts that God has assigned each of us. This isn’t emphasized in the church, and never has been as far as I have seen in more than thirty years as a Christian. That’s astounding. And note the gifts are listed. Let’s look at them individually:

“if prophecy, in proportion to our faith”

“In proportion to our faith.” What does that mean? It means that faith is a gift that drives the other gifts we are given. Everyone is given a measure of faith. In fact, some are said to have the “gift of faith”:

1Corinthians 13:2 – … and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

We are to practice our gifts to the extent of the faith we have been given. How do we know how much of that we have been given? Well folks, there is only one way to find out: put the gift into practice until God stops you. Work out whatever God is working in:

Philippians 2:12 – Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

One may consider “by testing you may discern what is the will of God” from verse 2 to be applicable here.

We have noted in previous lessons that the Trinity was involved in our salvation, and all members are also involved in our sanctification. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work in both. “Salvation” is often referred to as the fullness of the Godhead that we receive when we are justified:

Ephesians 1:18 – having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

The word for prophecy (prophēteia) here has a broad meaning in the New Testament:

…prediction (scriptural or other):— prophecy, prophesying…a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; esp. by foretelling future events.

Used in the NT of the utterance of OT prophets of the prediction of events relating to Christ’s kingdom and its speedy triumph, together with the consolations and admonitions pertaining to it, the spirit of prophecy, the divine mind, to which the prophetic faculty is due of the endowment and speech of the Christian teachers called prophets the gifts and utterances of these prophets, esp. of the predictions of the works of which, set apart to teach the gospel, will accomplish for the kingdom of Christ.

If you look at the monitor on your table, once again we see how we can use the Olive Tree software to see how the same word is used throughout the New Testament. It primarily speaks to the eschatology of Scripture. In our day, I believe this speaks to those who have a special interest and ability to understand Bible prophecy. That’s a wonderful gift, and let us remember that prophecy comprises about 25% of the Bible. As we have seen in previous studies, end time predictions coincides with the gospel that we believe, especially in regard to the number of resurrections and judgments. So, prophecy confirms the gospel we believe. Prophecy should be used to warn, encourage, motivate, and instill hope. It is a wonderful gift, and is primarily a teaching gift. If you look at how the word is used elsewhere, we see that prophesy was also comprised of a temporary gift of short-term predictions in the apostolic church.

“if service, in our serving”

The preposition “in” (en) denotes a fixed position. Paul may be calling for a primary focus on our gifts as a priority. “Service”(diakonia) is similar to the word for deacon (diakonos) and simply means “to serve.” However, if you note 1Timothy 3:8-13 and other passages, qualifications are stated for that particular service as opposed to the service gift stated here in Romans. This is unavoidable, and once again brings us to the subject of what the biggest challenge is for the home fellowship movement: the integration of sound organization and the freedom to practice gifts. In Western culture, sound organization is the monopoly of the institution, and the home is a vacation from that. We have to get past that, and realize that the ONLY difference is what the building is and where it is located. We also have to properly define fellowship and authority in this context. ALL authority resides in the word of God, and ALL unity is experienced to the degree that there is agreement on what the authority states; the one mind of Christ. To the degree that is accomplished, fellowship is determined. At any rate, I find the idea of Christians deciding to go in this direction and hammering all of this out over time horribly exciting. What a rich fellowship in the word that would be.

“the one who teaches, in his teaching”

This is pretty straight forward and refers to the ability or gift to enable people to grasp the truth of Scripture. Both women and men have this gift.  But once again, I am going to discuss this in the context of the home fellowship movement. It is my conviction, according to Scripture, that women should not teach men the Scriptures in the assembly, or for that matter, anywhere else. Do I learn things about the Scriptures from Susan’s observations? Absolutely. All husbands should learn from their wives, but in regard to teaching in the assembly of the saints, the Bible is clear on this issue. If you don’t like that, but you can live with it, wonderful, we have fellowship. If you can’t, don’t fellowship with us. Pretty simple.

Can home fellowships that differ on this issue be a part of the same network? Yes, I think so. And when the network comes together corporately, certain fellowships should not expect the others to violate their consciences on that issue. They should practice their perceived freedom in their own group. If they won’t concede that, that’s probably a fellowship issue—simply go and start your own network. A city with multiple home fellowship networks? Wonderful! But what can happen later on is very exciting. Some networks may see that their way of doing things isn’t working out so well and may agree to refellowship with other networks. Can I suggest the “by testing you may discern what is the will of God” in verse 2 one more time? Possibly.

“the one who exhorts, in his exhortation”

I think this is the gift of counseling. I think this is the ability to give good advice and comfort people. It is really the gift of persuasion when it gets right down to it. I think people who have this gift will be marked by great concern for others resulting in a pattern of exhorting others. These are preachy type Christians, but it is out of genuine concern. That should be our assumption.

 “the one who contributes, in generosity”

This is the gift of giving, and the word for “generosity” is an interesting word (haplotēs). It means to be single minded, sincere, and not agenda driven. This is where the word “trust” in regard to faith comes in handy. We are to trust God that our reward is in heaven and not down here. Our giving shouldn’t be self-seeking, or double minded.

“the one who leads, with zeal”

This is the gift of eldership. One who “leads” (proistēmi). Turn with me to 1Timothy 5:17.

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

The word for “rule” is the exact same word for “lead” proistēmi. This would be better translated, “let the elders who lead well be considered worthy of double honor….” This is how several different versions of the Bible translate it. In the eight times that this word is used in the New Testament, five refer to elders and one to deacons. The other two refer to “self-leading” which is interesting.

Like other places in the New Testament, elders are exhorted (counseled) to not lose their zeal ant not lead “under compulsion” (with a complaining spirit) or for money. Obviously, the latter would not be a temptation if leaders of 1st century home fellowships were not getting paid. Also note “For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and  ‘The worker deserves his wages’” in 1Timothy 5:18.

“the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

This is the gift of compassion. “Cheerfulness” is a word that means, “cheerful promptness.” I am not sure why Paul attached this exhortation to mercy in the same way he attached single-minded sincerity to giving and zeal to leadership. But we do have a pattern of sorts in Paul’s spiritual gift list:

We are to be part of the body by practicing the gifts given to each of us. We are to exhibit these gifts according to the faith granted to us, and this is revealed by working out the faith God has given us. Some gifts come with temptations that are to be avoided. In addition, while discovering our gifts, we are to serve the church wherever there is need out of love.

And in all, we are to practice our gifts in accordance with the one gift that will not pass away for all of eternity, love. We have been given many gifts and the power to practice them which is the same power that raised Christ from the grave. And on top of all of that, we are able to adorn it all in the eternal gift. That is what we will examine next week.

3 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on October 21, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


  2. Jess said, on October 22, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Wonderful study!


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 22, 2013 at 8:39 AM

      Thanks Jess.


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