Romans 12:3-8

Thursday Evening Bible Study

February 12, 2009


Paul has moved through his doctrinal section in Romans and now has moved on to the practical side of things.

He’s talked about our response to God’s incredible grace – how we ought to give ourselves to God as living sacrifices and how we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Now he goes on to talk about what we do with all this…

:3 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.

Three words used in this verse are all related and connected:

thinkphroneo – to feel, to think

think … highlyhuperphroneo (“over” + “think”) – to think more highly of one’s self than is proper; to be “conceited”

think soberlysophroneo (“saved” + “think”) – to be of sound mind; to be in one’s right mind; to exercise self control; to put a moderate estimate upon one’s self, think of one’s self soberly; it’s used in:

(Mark 5:15 NKJV)  Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind.

Paul is kind of saying that to have “self-conceit” is to have a form of insanity.


What do you think of yourself?

This part of the passage is going to be talking about how we as Christians are to get along with each other.
How do we relate with each other?  How do we work together?
(Luke 14:7-11 NKJV) So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: {8} "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; {9} "and he who invited you and him come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. {10} "But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. {11} "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Have you ever been asked to “step down” from something?  It’s pretty embarrassing, isn’t it?
The trick is not to put yourself in the place where you have to be asked to take a lower seat.
Thinking too highly of ourselves can lead to two kinds of problems:
1. Looking down on others

I used to think that since I had been to seminary, and since I had been a Youth Pastor, and because I had a home Bible Study, that I could listen to certain pastors teach and think, “I can do better than that!”

There were times when secretly I used to think that Chuck Smith was kind of boring. I know God had used him mightily, but he kind of bored me.

What I’ve found out is that the more I grow in the Lord, the more I get from Chuck. The more I grow in the Lord, the less I find myself criticizing some of the teachers on the radio, and instead I often say to myself, “I sure am thankful that MY messages aren’t being put out on the radio for the whole world to hear!”

I’ve found that many times my being critical of others and thinking I could do better was really just a cover for me thinking more highly of myself than I ought to.

2. Pushing your way into a place you’re not ready for.

I think there’s a fine line between having the faith to step out and make yourself available for a ministry, and pushing your way into one.

I don’t think it’s wrong to step out and say, “Hey, I think I can do something here”. I remember years ago when Dave Dunagan made an appointment to meet me in my office at Calvary Anaheim, and played his guitar for me, totally unsolicited by me. How else could I have ever known that Dave played guitar so well if he hadn’t played for me?

But on the other hand, Dave also didn’t tell me what he thought he ought to be doing at Calvary Anaheim. He played for me, and I took it from there.

The places we have the most problems with this attitude are usually the “up front” ministries. Nobody seems to be pushing to help Joy in the Children’s Ministry. But it’s the places that are up front, where you have the spotlight on you, where this problem seems to surface.

Why do you want to do this? What’s your motive behind your ministry?

: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.

The church is like a human body.

The body has many parts to it.

All the parts of the body have their own function.

The body isn’t healthy unless all the parts of the body are working properly.

(1 Cor 12:14-27 NKJV) For in fact the body is not one member but many. {15} If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? {16} And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? {17} If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? {18} But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.

Sometimes we can feel like we don’t belong because we’re not like someone else.
The thing that makes you belong in church is your relationship with Jesus, not the things you do or the things you’re good at.
If you stop functioning as your part of the body, the body is no longer well.
One of the fellows from the Men’s Fellowship, Jim Shields, is in critical condition in the hospital because his liver has stopped working.
A body (and church) are healthy when all the parts of the body are doing what they were designed to do.

{19} And if they were all one member, where would the body be? {20} But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. {21} And 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} No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. {23} And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, {24} but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, {25} that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. {26} And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. {27} Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

As members of the body of Christ, we need each other.
None of us can look at another Christian and say “I don’t need you”.
None of us should feel like we don’t belong because we’re not like another person.

The big question is, what part do you play in the body of Christ?

What is your function in the church?

If you think you are not important and don’t have anything to contribute, then we’re all going to be hurting because you’re not doing your part.
You might think that you’re just a “big toe” in the church, but even big toes are important, they are the thing that helps us keep our balance.

Your place in the church is determined by what your “gifts” are.

“Gifts” are special abilities that God gives to each believer.

:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:

gracecharis – grace; an undeserved kindness; that which affords joy, pleasure, delight

giftscharisma – a favor with which one receives without any merit of his own; literally a “working of grace”

differingdiaphoros – different, varying in kind; excellent, surpassing

from diaphero – to carry different ways


Not better, just different

Sometimes we’re like the spoiled kids at Christmas who are never happy with what they got, but instead always want what the other kids got.
And all along we have been given our own special gifts.
An ancient Persian legend tells of a wealthy man by the name of Al Haffed who owned a large farm.  One evening a visitor related to him tales of fabulous amounts of diamonds that could be found in other parts of the world, and of the great riches they could bring him.  The vision of all this wealth made him feel poor by comparison.  So instead of caring for his own prosperous farm, he sold it and set out to find these treasures. But the search proved to be fruitless. Finally, penniless and in despair, he committed suicide by jumping into the sea. Meanwhile, the man who had purchased his farm noticed one day the glint of an unusual stone in a shallow stream on the property. He reached into the water, and to his amazement he pulled out a huge diamond.  Later when working in his garden, he uncovered many more valuable gems.  Poor Al Haffed had spent his life traveling to distant lands seeking jewels when on the farm he had left behind were all the precious stones his heart could have ever desired.
Sometimes the “gifts” we’ve been given come more in the form of difficult circumstances.
"The Cross Room"
A young man was at the end of his rope. Seeing no way out he dropped to his knees in prayer. “Lord, I can’t go on,” he said. “I have too heavy a cross to bear.” The Lord replied, “My son, if you can’t bear its weight, just place your cross inside this room. Then open that other door and pick out any cross you wish.” The young man was filled with relief. “Thank you Lord,” he sighed, and he did what he was told. Upon entering the other door, he saw many other crosses, some so large the tops weren’t even visible. Then he spotted a tiny cross leaning against the far wall. “I’d like that one Lord,” he whispered. And the Lord replied, “My son, that is the cross you just brought in.”


Gifts and grace

Grace is something you receive that you don’t deserve.
We get confused with gifts sometimes, thinking that if we would just clean up our lives a little more then God could use us even more.
There is a little bit of truth in that idea.

(2 Tim 2:20-21 NKJV) But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. {21} Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

God’s desire is for us to be a “vessel of honor”. It’s good to be walking with the Lord.

But the work of the Holy Spirit and gifts don’t always follow the rule that only good people are used by God.

Sometimes God uses completely “unworthy” people.

Sometimes we can get to thinking that if we have a particular gift that we too must be something special.
That’s not necessarily the case.
God once used a donkey to speak to a prophet. I think He still uses donkeys from time to time.


Use your gifts

(Mat 25:14-30 NKJV)  "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. {15} "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.
Don’t think of a “talent” to be something like playing the guitar.  A “talent” was a measure of weight, somewhere between 75 and 100 pounds, probably a measure of gold.  The master was giving a “gift”, a “treasure”.
{16} "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. {17} "And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. {18} "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. {19} "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. {20} "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' {21} "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' {22} "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' {23} "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' {24} "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. {25} 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' {26} "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. {27} 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. {28} 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. {29} 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. {30} 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
God has given different kinds of “gifts” to each of us.  He hasn’t given us these gifts to simply be buried in the sand.  He wants us to use the things that He’s given us.

This is not an exhaustive list of gifts, but simply a partial list of the kinds of things that God wants us to be doing in the church.

:6 if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;

prophecy – speaking for God

We often think of “prophecy” as being able to see into the future – and sometimes it involves this.  But the gift of prophecy is broader than that, it’s a person being open to God using them as His spokesman.

Does God still speak through people today?
Some say that once the Bible was complete, that there has been no more need for prophecy.

The Bible says that it’s when Jesus comes back that we will no longer need prophecy.

(1 Cor 13:10 NKJV)  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

God does still speak today.
I think that in some Christian circles, where people claim to be using the gifts of the Spirit, that prophecy might be more rare than they wish to think.
It has been my experience over the years that some folks like put themselves in the place of God’s spokesperson because they then have the ability to tell people what to do.
As members of the church, if someone claims to have a word from God for you, you have a responsibility.  Test it.

(1 Cor 14:29 NKJV)  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.

(1 John 4:1 NKJV)  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Do not become stupid brainless sheep who don’t think for themselves.  You have a responsibility to find out what God wants for your life.  Don’t let someone else take the responsibility from you.

in proportionanalogia (“analogy”) – proportion (only place this word is found in NT)

An “analogy” (in English) is a similarity between two things, on which a comparison may be based.


There will be some sort of similarity or comparison between prophecy and faith.

It takes a measure of faith to be able to speak up and share what you think God is saying.

If you don’t think it takes faith, then you don’t understand the seriousness to be claiming to be a spokesperson for God.
(Ezek 13:3 NKJV)  Thus says the Lord GOD: "Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!
(Ezek 13:6 NKJV)  "They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, 'Thus says the LORD!' But the LORD has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed.
(Deu 18:20 NKJV)  'But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'

From time to time when we are praying for someone or when someone is sharing that they will say,

“I think God would want to say …”  That’s a good way to put it, “I think”
But be very careful about being too quick to say “Thus says the Lord”.

:7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering;

ministeringdiakonos – one who executes the commands of another, a servant

Over the years the church has taken this term and turned it into some sort of highly exalted title, a “Deacon” of the church.

It simply means a servant.

We all need to be serving.  When James and John asked Jesus if they could be the “top dogs” in His kingdom, He replied:

(Mark 10:42-45 NKJV)  But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. {43} "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant (diakonos). {44} "And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. {45} "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
The servant is the greatest.

When you go to a restaurant and the hostess seats you, she will often say, “Your server will be with you in a moment”.

A waiter or waitress is a great example of what it means to “minister” or “serve”.

(Gal 5:13 NKJV)  …but through love serve one another.

A good server not only responds to the requests of their customer, but they also anticipate what is needed.
They don’t need to be asked to do something, they see a need and take care of it.

F.B.Meyer:  “I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one higher than the other.  The higher you reached the more you received.  Now I know that God’s gifts are actually on shelves one lower than the other and the lower you bend the more you receive.”

:7 he who teaches, in teaching;

teachesdidasko – to teach

If teaching is what you do, then do it.

If you do well at explaining things to people, then find a spot to be teaching.

Keep your skills up.  Don’t just wait until I ask you to fill in for me on vacation.  There are lots of opportunities to be teaching.

Luis Navarro is teaching a Bible Study with kids in a group home.

The Youth Group has several adults who are involved in teaching.

We’ve always got opportunities to teach in the Children’s Ministry.

Be careful about brushing off Children’s Ministry.  I personally have this notion that if you can teach 6th graders, you can teach anybody.

Caleb Beller didn’t get his teaching experience filling in for me – he taught at his Karate studio, he’s taught Children’s Sunday School, Jr. High, College/Career, any place that would take him.  Now he’s teaching at the Bible College in Hungary.

:8 he who exhorts, in exhortation;

exhortsparakaleo – to call to one’s side for help.

As I’ve studied this word and its usage, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two main ideas behind it:

1)  Encouragement to action.
Getting someone off the sofa and doing something.
2)  Comforting others.
Those that are discouraged, those that are full of sorrow, we need to “comfort” or “encourage” them.

Barnabas was one of the chief “encouragers” of the Bible (his name means “son of encouragement”)

(Acts 4:36 NASB)  And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement),
(Acts 11:23 NKJV)  When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
Barnabas was keeping the church moving in the direction of holding on to the Lord.  He was the one who kept saying, “come on, you can do it, you can keep walking with Jesus!”
(Acts 14:22 NKJV)  exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."
Encouragement can be the exhortation to “keep going!”.  It does not have to be done by telling some kind of fairy tale either.  Paul and Barnabas reminded the people that they would face many trials as Christians, but they also encouraged them to keep trusting in the Lord.

:8 he who gives, with liberality;

givesmetadidomi – to impart

liberalityhaplotes – singleness, simplicity, sincerity, mental honesty; the virtue of one who is free from pretence and hypocrisy; not self seeking, openness of heart manifesting itself by generosity

Two ideas to think about.

Give liberally – Be generous in your giving to others.
The word is used in:

(2 Cor 9:11 NLT)  Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously

Give with no strings attached.
Some people will give things to you, as long as you will be their friend, or say nice things, or wash their car for them…
The same word is used in:

(Col 3:22 NKJV)  Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.

:8 he who leads, with diligence;

leadsproistemi (“before” + “to stand”) – to set or place before; to be over, to superintend, preside over

diligencespoude – earnestness, diligence

(Rom 12:8 NLT)  … take the responsibility seriously…

Diligence is supposed to be a part of leadership:

(Prov 12:24 NKJV)  The hand of the diligent will rule, But the lazy man will be put to forced labor.


Shortly after he opened his first plant, Thomas Edison noticed that his employees were in the habit of watching the lone factory clock. To the inventor who was a tireless worker, this was incomprehensible.  He did not indicate his disapproval verbally. Instead he had dozens of clocks placed around the plant, no two keeping the same time.  From then on clock watching led to so much confusion that nobody cared what time it was.
Are you a “clock-watcher” or a hard worker?  That may be the very factor that determines how much potential you have as a leader.

:8 he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

mercyeleeo – to have mercy on; to help one afflicted or seeking aid

Look at how this word is used:

(Mat 9:27 NKJV)  When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David, have mercy on us!"
(Mat 15:22 NKJV)  And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed."
(Mat 17:15 NKJV)  "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

How could you see this gift of “mercy” at work?

Helping those in need – hospital visits, shut-ins, those with addictions, helping the poor, any kind of need.

cheerfulnesshilarotes – cheerfulness, readiness of mind;

from hilaros – cheerful, joyous, prompt to do anything

Acts of mercy ought to be accompanied by the attitude of cheerfulness and compassion.

This is the Body of Christ.

Prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, mercy

What part do you play?