Paul opens chapter 12 with a call for us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. And now for the rest of chapter 12 Paul is going to give us brief, but still detailed explanation of how we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. The first way Paul explains this is by talking about the gift each and every one of us has been given by God to fulfill our unique role in the body of Christ (the local church), which in turn helps fulfill the unique role God has for us outside of the body of Christ.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.—12:3-8
Paul encourages the Roman Christians, in anticipation of chapters 14-15, to adopt a humble attitude toward one another (Philippians 2:1-11). Paul speaks not from a superior position but simply as one who has received grace (Romans 12:3). All the Roman Christians have faith, and they should think of themselves in accordance with that faith—not in terms of its quantity, which might lead to a pecking order in the church, but in terms of the simple fact that each has faith. Paul compares the Roman church to a body, which means members are different from one another (Romans 12:4) but interdependent (v. 5). A person’s faith is not identical to someone else’s but differs in how it works out in different forms of service, which are listed in vv. 6-8 and are:
- “Prophesying” which refers to the activity we see at work in Acts, such as in Agabus predicting a famine or foretelling what would happen to Paul (Acts 11:28 and 21:10-11) and in the prophecies of the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9). In other words, prophesying is sharing a God-given word about a particular situation. In exhorting those who prophesy, Paul reminds them to resist the temptation to produce their own ideas and to say only what accords with their faith in Christ.
- “Serving” is the God-given desire, ability and power to lend practical assistance to members and leaders of the church to help them better develop their gifts and fulfill their responsibilities to God.
- “Teaching” is the God-given desire, ability and power to examine and study God’s Word and to help others better understand and apply it. Teaching involves defending and proclaiming the truth of God’s Word in such a way that others grow spiritually and develop Godly character.
- “Encouraging” is the God-given desire, ability and power to uplift others and inspire them to trust God, use their gifts or take positive action. Often associated with teaching, this gift involves delivering God’s Word in such a way that it touches the heart, the conscience and will of the hearers, inspiring greater faith and producing deeper devotion to Christ. While a teacher shows others what should be done, the encourager helps them do it.
- “Contributing” or “giving” is the God-given desire, ability and power of one who has the financial or material resources to give freely so that others’ needs are met and God’s work is advanced.
- “Leadership” is the God-given desire, ability and power to guide and oversee the various activities of the church for the spiritual benefit of all.
- “Showing mercy” is the God-given desire, ability and power to help and comfort those in need or distress.
All of these abilities should be exercised “cheerfully”—as God-given opportunities—not grudgingly or reluctantly, as if they were a chore. They should be done out of love, not just for God but for your fellow believers and those whom you might reach with your God-given abilities. And that is where we will pick tomorrow as we see Paul move into a discussion of love in action.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Jeremiah 2:31-4:18, Colossians 1:1-17, Psalm 76:1-12 and Proverbs 24:21-22
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