Thinking As A Body (Exposition of Romans 12:3-8)

In Romans 12:1-2, the apostle Paul calls on believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to God by not allowing themselves to be conformed to this world, but by instead being transformed by the renewing of their minds. Three times in verse three some form of the verb “think” is used. There is an emphasis in this passage on how we think. One of the main areas where our minds need to be renewed is in our relationship to the body. We live in a very individualistic society where everyone thinks that they can make it on their own. Sadly many Christians think this way even in regard to spiritual things. They are what someone has called “Lone Ranger” Christians. But the Bible knows of no such oddity. When God saves an individual (and yes, we are saved individually by faith in Christ), He puts them in a body!

When we stop being conformed to the world’s individualistic mindset and start being transformed by the renewing of our mind to see ourselves as part of a body, then there will be three important results. Those results are outlined for us in this morning’s text. The three results are humility, unity and diversity. Let’s now look at Romans 12:3-8 together:

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (NKJV)

I. When We Think As A Body, the Result Will Be Humility, v.3.
Paul is here speaking with apostolic authority to urge the Roman Christians to humility. The phrase “the grace given to me” in verse 1 is parallel to the phrase “the grace that is give to us” in verse 6. Paul had the gift of apostleship to which he is now appealing. Instead of prideful thinking, we are to think of ourselves correctly (“soberly”) based on the fact that God has given to each a measure of faith.

This is not, as some argue, a statement that all human beings have the gift of saving faith. This is instead a statement that all “among you” have been giving a certain amount (“measure”) of faith. All those who have “saving faith” are saved! Those who are not saved do not have “saving faith”. The faith spoken of in verse 3 may be related to our gifts described in the following verses.

There are two reasons that this statement should stifle pride in our lives. First, whatever we have has been given to us from God. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:7 states:

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Secondly, every believer has a measure of the same faith from the same God! As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6,

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

Being humble does not mean you cannot recognize the giftedness that God has given you. In fact, part of thinking “soberly” about who we are involves a conscious recognition of our own spiritual gifts. Therefore, we shouldn’t go around with head hung low bemoaning the fact that we can’t do anything. Instead, Paul is saying that we should not think any higher or lower than we ought. We’re no better than any other believer, since we have all been given whatever gifts we possess. But we do have gifts that should be recognized and used for the edification of the body.

II. When We Think As A Body, the Result Will Be Unity, vv. 4-5.
Humility and Unity always seem to go together. For example in Ephesians 4:1-3 Paul states:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Likewise in Philippians 2:1-3 Paul urges the Christians at Philippi:

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

When we think of ourselves as a body the result will be unity! We are all individual parts of the same body! We are one body in Christ! We are each members of one another! Paul states this same idea in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.

If we recognize that we are all part of one body, the result will be unity because we will cherish and seek to nourish one another. As Paul states in a different context in Ephesians 5:29-30,

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.

When our minds are transformed by the Word of God in this area, it will make a difference in the way we view and treat one another. We will become more concerned about the good and health of our brothers and sisters. We may even start using our God-given gifts for that purpose!

III. When We Think As A Body, the Result Will Be Diversity, vv. 6-8.
Just as a body, though united, has many different members, so also the church though united through faith in Christ also has many different members. Not all members have the same gifts. Believers are not cookie-cutter replicas of one another. We are all being transformed into the image of Christ, but that looks different in each of us. God uses our unique personalities and abilities while sovereignly distributing gifts according to His good pleasure.

Here in Romans 12 we have a partial listing of the spiritual gifts. This list is not exhaustive, only seven out of twenty-two contained in the New Testament are listed. In 1 Corinthians 12, thirteen distinct gifts are listed. Ephesians 4 also contains a shorter list of four special gifts of Christ to His church. Interestingly, In Romans 12, God the Father is the source of the gifts, in Ephesians 4, God the Son is the source and in 1 Corinthians 12, God the Holy Spirit is the source. Spiritual gifts are gifts from the Triune God. Peter in 1 Peter 4:11 summarizes the gifts into two broad categories of speaking and serving gifts. Also, in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul adds marriage and singleness to the list of gifts given by God to certain individuals.

Rather than being a source of contention among Christians about exactly what these gifts would mean, Paul’s point is that Christians should be using whatever gifts they possess! Since there is no such thing as a giftless Christian, there should be no such thing as an inactive Christian! Paul is here urging the same thing that the apostle Peter is commanding in 1 Peter 4:11,

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Since every believer has at least one gift, every believer should be using that gift for the good of the body!

What is a “spiritual gift”? I think Wayne Grudem has helpfully defined a “spiritual gift” as follows:

A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in the ministry of the church.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1016

The seven spiritual gifts contained in this passage are as follows:

  • Prophecy – “telling something God has spontaneously brought to mind”
  • Ministry – from the word for “deacon” meaning to serve.
  • Teaching – “explaining and applying God’s Words”
  • Exhorting – challenge to put the Word of God in practice
  • Giving – should be done with simplicity or generosity (singleminded, no ulterior motives)
  • Leading – should be done with dilligence, not laziness
  • Showing Mercy – to poor, sick, outcasts, should be done with cheerfulness

Conclusion:
Allow your mind to be transformed by the biblical understanding of the church as a body. When you do this the result will be humility, unity and diversity in the church. Begin doing something! In 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul urges Timothy to not neglect the gift of God given to him and to stir up the gift of God that has been given to him. This is my challenge to you today! If you don’t use it, you might lose it. So begin using your spiritual gift(s) today!

3 comments

  1. Excellent exposition of this text! I like the definition of “sober” in verse 3–“sane” or “of a sound mind”. In other words, we are crazy not to think in the way that you described. Thanks for this post.

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