Devotional: Romans 12:3-8
Background: Paul has finished telling his readers (who are all trusters in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross) the wonderful things that God has done in and for them through Christ’ offering. Now he turns to explain how each of us can live out practically our gratitude for that grace that has been given to us. He starts with the idea that we are each to be “living sacrifices”; the idea is that we are not living for ourselves, but for God’s glory. He also says that the way we can learn what God’s will (His plan) for our individual lives is involves having our minds transformed from the worldly way of thinking (and thus, acting) to His way of thinking. What is it that transforms our minds? The Holy Spirit, working through our reading and internalizing Scripture—the thoughts of God. But, Paul, by the authority given to him by God as His agent to spread the Gospel sees a pitfall that believers can fall into: thinking they are better than they really are; forgetting that everything they are in Christ is not due to their own efforts, but to Christ’s.
Verses 4 and 5 remind me of what we were learning about a couple of weeks ago: unity. Verse 5 in my Amplified Bible says, “. . . so we, who are many, are [nevertheless just] one body in Christ, and individually [we are] parts one of another [mutually dependent on each other]. The idea that we are mutually dependent, like the parts of a healthy human body are all interdependent, really spoke to me. If we are not all using our giftings within the church, someone is having to do more than their own gifting called for. I think that ends up in someone experiencing burnout.
That brings up another question, how do you know what your gifting is? I am glad that we are doing this study, and hope that at the end of it each of us can say with at least some certainty, “I know what my gift is, and I am ready to use it in this local body of believers.”
I notice that Paul lists some examples of gifts. The first is “prophecy”. According to Strong’s, this word means “prediction (scriptural or other: It is not necessarily, nor even primarily, fore-telling; it is the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means; it emanates from God and is the forth-telling of the will of God, whether with reference to the past, the present, or the future. It signifies ‘the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God’.” The second gift in this list is “service”. Looking at Strong’s again, this means, “attendance (as a servant, etc.); it comes from a word that means “to run errands, to be an attendant, i.e. a waiter (at a table or in other menial duties). The next gift listed is “teaching”. This word “denotes to cause to learn, to effect learning; to give instruction.” This word can be used absolutely, as ‘to give instruction’ or transitively, as ‘things taught’.” “Exhortation” or “encouragment” is the next word. It “literally denotes ‘to call to one’s side,’ hence, ‘to call to one’s aid.’ It is used for every kind of calling to a person which is meant to produce a particular effect, hence, with various meanings, such as ‘comfort, exhort [to give warnings or advice], desire, call for,’ in addition to its significance ‘to beseech’. Next we see “giving”, meaning to give over or share; it stresses giving something that is part of and precious to the giver as if part of the giver resides within the gift.” Interestingly, this word is not linked to money, but refers more to sharing of oneself. “Leads” means “to stand before, i.e. (in rank) to preside, or (by implication) to practice” and has also been translated as “maintain”, “be over” and “rule”. Finally, Paul lists “mercy”. As a verb, this word means “to feel sympathy with the misery of another,” and especially “sympathy manifested in act” (more so than in word).
I don’t think this is an exhaustive list of gifts; I think that the important point he is making here is that whatever ability He has given to us, we are to use it for the glory of God. Remember, Paul starts this chapter urging us to be living sacrifices, to live out our gratitude for what God has done. Part of what He has done is to create in each of us an ability that is needed in the Body of Christ to keep it functioning in good health. This gets back to unity, as well. If we are all performing our part in Christ’s Body, we will all then be able to be focused and moving in the same direction. Not doing the same thing but working towards the same goal—bringing glory to God. Again, I think that verse 2 in this chapter is the key to learning what your gifting in the Body is: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Devotional reading to be shared on May 20th: Romans 12:3-8 with focus on Pentecost