God has given us eyes to see with and, even with a mirror, it can be difficult to look at them. The same thing is true—and in spades—when it comes to the eyes of our soul. We use these eyes to look at absolutely everything . . . except the act of ourselves, looking. We see everything except how our seeing is colored by our circumstances. To grow past partial blindness is a profound step in spiritual maturation.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 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. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:1-8).
Summary of the Text
We are encouraged here to submit ourselves to the Lord, in both body and mind. We are told—in the name of God’s mercies—to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (v. 1). And as a sacrifice offered to Him, it must not be defiled—not by porn sites, not by immodest dresses, not by lascivious entertainment, and not by unclean joking around. If your body is constantly on the altar, and it is, then make sure it is not a blemished offering. The second thing is to present your minds to God, for Him to shape them. The alternative is that of having the world shape your mind. Offering your mind to Him in order to be shaped will prove the will of God (v. 2). Notice that the world wants to defile your body, but wants to shape your mind. Having told us not to have our minds molded by the world, he then goes on to tell us what it would look like if our minds were to be shaped by the world (v. 3). It would look like each man thinking of himself more highly that he ought. We can see from this that the world is a lying flatterer, and is whispering constantly. Go ahead. Believe in yourself. You can do it.
God’s alternative to this comes to us in the reality of body life. We are many members of one body (v. 4). We all, being many, make up one body (v. 5), which means that we are members of one another.
We have gifts that differ, Paul says (v. 6), and they differ according to the grace of God. This is important—note it well. If we are prophets, let us do that by faith. If it is ministry or service, then let us do that (v. 7). If it is teaching, then we should be teaching. If exhortation, then our duty is exhortation (v. 8). The same goes for generosity, but keep it simple. A ruler should rule, and with diligence. Someone with the gift of mercy should make a point to be cheerful.
What Paul Did Not Say
Ours gifts do not differ according to the obstinacy of that other fellow over there, doggedly exercising a gift different from mine. Imagine the cussedness of an ear that refuses to see, as everyone knows we all must (1 Cor. 12:14-21). “And if they were all one member, where were the body?” (1 Cor. 12:19).
Notice what Paul did not argue:
“Having then gifts that differ according to others refusing to be like us, if you are a prophet, then all should prophesy; if you are in service, then you must demand that all pitch in the same way you have done; if you are a teacher, then it is necessary to complain about how ignorant everyone is; if you have the gift of exhortation, then exhort everyone to join with you in exhorting; if you are generous, then this is the baseline for everyone else’s generosity, and make sure to keep track of it all; if you are a ruler, then use the laziness of others as an excuse; if you are in mercy work, make sure to complain about how unloving all the regular Christians are.”
Our temptation is to measure other Christians by the length of our own gifts. First, recognize your gift. Then inflate that assessment. Then take stock of how far ahead of other Christians you are. You might not see as well as you think, but you do see way better than the ear does. But actually . . . perhaps not.
Recognize that when you see a need, this is not given to you so that you might blame everybody else for not meeting it. Your ability to identify a need should be taken by you as an indication from God on what you ought to be doing. If you look around at the body, and see a bunch of discouraged saints, then perhaps you have the gift of encouragement. If you see doctrinal ignorance, then perhaps you have the gift of teaching. If you see dirty bathrooms, perhaps you have the gift of helps.
More Highly Than He Ought
Now it is not possible to turn away from the shaping lies of the world without simultaneously turning toward Jesus Christ. The more you love and honor Jesus, the more you are becoming like His Father. And the more you love and honor Jesus, the less certain things will be happening.
Turning toward Christ means that you will be . . .
- Less inflated in your self-assessment;
- More sober in your self-assessment;
- Less competitive with Christians with differing gifts;
- Less autonomous and independent;
- And finally free from the besetting sin of envy.