Tuesday, September 11, 2007

According to the Measure of Faith

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. (Romans 12:3)
The word “for” indicates that Paul is continuing the thought of the previous verse. In the previous verse, he spoke about being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Now he is talking about how to think, and how not to think. Here is how a few other versions translate it:
Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of faith. (J. B. Phillips)

Stop thinking too highly of yourselves beyond what it is necessary to be thinking, but be thinking [so as] to be thinking sensibly, to each as God apportioned a measure of faith. (Analytical-Literal Translation)

Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. (The Message)
Renewed thinking means that we do not have an exaggerated sense of our importance, as if we have merited special recognition before God. Rather, we are to maintain an accurate assessment of ourselves, and our relationship with God. This means that we are not to undervalue ourselves either, for God loved us so much that He gave us His Son.

The key is found in these words: “As God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”Our relationship with God is always about faith. Faith comes from God, by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17), and only that which comes from faith is pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6).

On the one hand, this means that nobody has room to boast about themselves, because nobody does anything pleasing to God apart from the faith that comes from God in the first place. On the other hand, there is no room for any Christian to feel left out, because God has apportioned a full measure of faith to each one of us. So it is not about us and what we do, but about God and what is doing in us and with us. Faith is the equalizer, the liberator that frees us to love and serve God and others, as Jesus did.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name. (Philippians 2:5-9)
The renewed mind is the mind of Christ. But there is also a new body. In verse 1, Paul urges us to offer ours bodies as a living sacrifice to God. In verse 4, Paul talks about our place in the body of Christ.
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 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; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:4-8)
As believers in Jesus, we are all part of the body of Christ. We do not all have the same function, but each one of us does function in some way. Whatever function we do have comes from God, and we are to operate in it according to faith, which also comes from God. There is no overvaluing of ourselves in this, because the faith and the function are of God. Nor is there any undervaluing, because God has given faith and a function to each one of us. It all works together to the glory of Christ.

God has given us a new way to think about ourselves, not in striving after reputation, but in yielding in cooperation with God, to bless the body of Christ, and the world through Him — according to the full measure of faith He has given each one of us.