Measure of Faith
Romans 12:1-2 teaches us that all of our service for the Lord begins with offering up ourselves as living sacrifices. The remainder of the book of Romans shows us the many practical aspects of living as a sacrifice. The first thing we learn is that God has given each of us a measure of faith.
Our service for the Lord is motivated by the mercies of God which have been mapped out for us in the preceding chapters of Romans. Now, as we come to the mapping out of our service, the author, Paul, first establishes his authority or right to speak to us concerning our service for the Lord. He says, "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you..." ( ESV) His instruction is based on the "grace given" to him and his instruction is for "everyone among" us.
In Romans 15:15-16, Paul describes the grace given to him.
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. ( ESV)
In these verses, Paul says that he was given grace to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. This echoes the first verses of the book of Romans where Paul describes himself as “...a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1 ESV)
Paul was conscious of His special calling as the apostle of Christ to the Gentiles, and reminds us of it on a number of occasions. In 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, he says:
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. ( ESV)
Paul says his calling as an apostle was by the grace of God, and it is to this grace that he refers in Romans 12:3 when he says, “For by the grace given to me...” As the Apostle of Christ to the Gentiles, he has both the right and responsibility to address us in regard to our service for Christ.
This leads us quite naturally to the part where he says, “...I say to everyone among you.” By this statement, he makes it abundantly clear that his words apply to us all. No one is exempt.
We all tend to think of ourselves as exceptions. When we speed or do not signal when we change lanes, it is no big deal. Maybe we just forgot to signal, and since we are late to work, we are justified to go a little over the speed limit. However, when someone else does these things, they are idiots who are making it unsafe to be on the road. God, however, is no respecter of persons. He shows no partiality.
Paul’s statement is emphatic and cuts against our tendency to think of ourselves as exceptions. He is addressing each one of us. This emphatic statement is necessary because the first issue he addresses is common to all of us. He says, “...I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” (Romans 12:3 ESV)
Romans 12:3 is not the only place Paul addresses this human tendency to overestimate one’s own importance. In Philippians 2, he says:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. ()
Repeated admonitions against thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought bring home to us the fact that this is a problem common to all. And, it is one of the chief threats to our effective service to the Lord.
Two Scriptural warnings come to mind as we think about this tendency to overestimate one’s self. First, Proverbs 26:12 says:
Second, Galatians 6:3 says:
Isn’t it interesting? The devil is a deceiver, but if we think we are something when we are nothing, we apparently do his work for him.
In order to guard against this, Paul admonishes us to “...think with sober judgment.” (Romans 12:3) Sober-minded judgment comes with maturity in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking.” () It is instructive for us to note that in the church with the most strife, the most error and the most moral corruption, there was a problem with childish thinking.
Sober-minded thinking is necessary to our lives as children of God, followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter gives us two admonitions in 1 Peter reminding us to be sober minded. These are:
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ()
This first admonition comes at the beginning of the letter as Peter lays the groundwork for what he is saying. The second comes at the end of the letter and is much more ominous in tone.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 ESV)
This verse brings home to us the importance of being sober-minded. A sober-minded assessment of one’s self begins with being transformed in one’s mind as Romans 12:2 has already instructed us, and it continues as we learn to base our assessment according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Before we go much further we must clarify, sober does not mean somber. Somber means dark or gloomy. We have the joy of the Lord as our strength and are instructed to rejoice in the Lord always. We can rejoice and be glad in the Lord without being childish in our thinking and behavior. A sober assessment of ourselves in light of the grace of God brings us much cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving. The definition of sober I am working from is to be serious and sensible. A serious, sensible assessment of the grace of God brings joy.
Part of the grace of God is the faith that He has gifted us with. Each of us is given a measure of faith. As we see in Romans 12:3, each is given faith in a measure that God assigns. Ephesians 2:8 tells us:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God... (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)
We understand from this that even the faith we exercise in being saved is not of ourselves; it is the gift of God.
Romans 12:3-8 makes it clear that not all have the same measure of faith. If I am honest with myself, at times I am tempted to envy the faith of others. Some people seem to be gifted with great faith. In fact, faith is one of the spiritual gifts. However, God has a reason for giving each of us a different measure of faith. Romans 12:4-5 gives us that reason when it says:
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. (Romans 12:4-5 ESV)
The reason God has given us a different measure of faith is that we are a body and individually members one of another. Each of us has a different function, and we are dependent on each other.
This is a crucial part of our service, and it is essential that we understand this. This is why a sober-minded assessment of ourselves is also important. We are individually members of one another.
It is important to realize that we are individuals. Each one is unique, and that uniqueness is both important to the body and necessary for the role the individual has to fill in the body. When we childishly think that our role is the most important, we hurt the body, and in the same way, when we think that we are not necessary to the body, we also hurt the body. Each part of the body has a function. In another place, using the analogy of a body, the Apostle Paul tells us that just as hands, feet and eyes have different functions and yet each is necessary, so it is with us. Each of us has a different function. Therefore, while it is important to realize that we are individuals, it is equally important to realize that we are joined together in a body. We are not independent of each other. Galatians 6:2 & 5 point out the two sides of this when they say:
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
For each will have to bear his own load.
Individually we are responsible for ourselves and yet corporately we are responsible for each other. This is where Romans 12:6 takes us.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them... (Romans 12:6 ESV)
This is the whole point of the measure of faith that has been given to each of us; that we might use our gifts. Let’s read verses 6-8.
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. (Romans 12:6-8 ESV)
In using the gifts God has given us, we exercise our faith. In these verses, we have listed several ways we can do this in prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, contributing, leading and mercy. This list represents the categories that we serve in. As individuals, we will all serve differently, but all of our service can be categorized under one of these from this list.
Paul’s instruction is to each one of us. As the Apostle to the Gentiles, he has the right and responsibility to instruct us. He clearly states that we each should be using our gifts.
If you are not using your gift, why not?
All our service begins with presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, and our service works itself out as we soberly assess our place in the Body of Christ.
Let us ask ourselves questions in keeping with Paul’s instruction.
Do I think of myself too highly? Am I serving?