Members Of The Body Of Christ
Proper Self-Estimation

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 60b of 83

3  For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4  For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:  5  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. …” (Romans 12:3-8).

[The Church is an indispensible part of the Christian life. Therefore as Paul begins to give specific instructions for his readers on how to live the Christian life in view of all that God has done for them, he begins with life in the church. We saw in the previous of this study on our text that the church is one body with many members, but now we must return to the very first thing that Paul highlights, namely that the members of the church must have a proper self-estimation. —JJL ]

2.  Members of the Church Must Not Think of Themselves too Highly

Consider what Paul is saying in verse 3. He has just spoken about being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Now he is telling us to use our mind correctly as we serve the Lord in the church. He uses a word play that is not very clear in the English, but it is very beautiful in the Greek. Essentially, he is saying: “Do not be high-minded above what [you] ought to be minded, but be so minded as to be sober-minded.” 

The members of the church must be sober-minded in regard to their gifts and function in the church. They must neither over-value nor under-value their gifts that God has given them.

They must seek to assess them realistically and use them gratefully, —“according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

But what does Paul mean by “the measure of faith”? Well, the word ‘faith’ has numerous shades of meaning in the Scriptures. Sometimes, it speaks of confidence in God; other times it speaks of the truth of the gospel, such as when Jude teaches us to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints.

So the “measure of faith” could refer to one’s degree of inward confidence in God; or to the fullness of one’s belief in the gospel or in the knowledge of divine truth. However, this is not what Paul means here, for he does not say, “as God hath dealt to every man according to his measure of faith.” He says rather, “according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

Remember that God does not give us spiritual gifts according to our faith—whether it has to do with our knowledge of the gospel or to our belief in him. Think of Saul. He was given the gift of kingship, but it is highly unlikely that he had saving faith. Think of Judas Iscariot. He was given gifts which enabled him to serve as a treasurer and an apostle, but he was an unregenerate man.

What then does Paul mean by “the measure of faith”? Well what he is simply referring to is the nature and degree of the spiritual gift that God has given. In other words, the word ‘faith’ is probably used as a metonym to speak of the nature and level of gifts. A metonym is a name use in place of another, like we may say the ‘crown’ when we mean the ‘king’. So Paul is using the word faith to speak of the nature and degree of gifts. He is saying: ‘Let everyone think of himself according to the nature and degree of the gifts which he has received.’

We must never be puffed up with the idea of our own importance and superiority in the church. Now, to ‘think soberly’ or to ‘be sober-minded’ is essentially the opposite of insanity. So what Paul is saying is that one who overestimates his gifts is insane; whereas one who has a proper estimate of his gifts is sober (cf. 2 Cor 5:13).

Spiritual gifts are given by God for the edification of the church, not the exaltation of the receiver! Therefore, the gifts which we received of the Lord will only promote the well-being and harmony of the church if we use them with a spirit of genuine humility.

Since we are in the same body, and have different functions and gifts, we must not be puffed up one above another. We must not envy and oppose one another. We must not promote ourselves like “Diotrephes, who love[d] to have pre-eminence among [the saints]” (3 Jn 9); or like Simon Magus who wanted to buy the gift of apostleship from Peter and John so that he might be known as somebody in the church (Acts 8:19).

Instead, we should thank God for what gifts He has given us and we should discharge our respective duties diligently and humbly for the good of the whole church, and not for our own advantage.

This, essentially, is what Paul teaches us, thirdly, in verse 6-8…

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim