Romans 12:1-2 deals with our relationship to God after He has saved us by His mercy and grace. We willingly give our bodies to God as living and holy sacrifices for His service because of our love for Him for what He has done for us in our salvation. Romans 12:1-2 are the fulfillment of the first and greatest commandment – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (see Mark 12:30).
It is our relationship to God that becomes the well-spring from which all our other relationships flow. Being in a right relationship with God will affect how we relate to others. If we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength because of the mercy He has shown us, we will love others as ourselves (Mark 12:31). This is always the proper order – love God; love others.
The first area that our relationship to God affects in regard to our relationship with others is in our relationship to other believers. Paul was writing to Christians who were members of the local church in Rome. The first place our love for God will manifest itself is in the context of our relationship to each other in the body of Christ. If our relationships in the church are not right then we are not living what we say we believe.
Paul wrote Romans 12:3-8 in order to instruct the Christians at Rome to practice honest evaluation of self (12:3) and to practice faithful cooperation with each other (12:4-8). This passage instructs us that in light of God’s love and mercy toward us, we are to practice honest evaluation of ourselves and faithful cooperation with each other in the church.
First, in light of God’s love and mercy toward us, we are to practice honest evaluation of ourselves in the church (Romans 12:3). We are saved by grace and we are not to forget it! The truth that we have none earned salvation is to humble us and keep us from having an attitude of superiority. When God saved us He gifted us so that we could serve Him in His church. Each Christian must know what his or her spiritual gifts are and what ministries he or she is to have in the local church. It is not wrong to recognize and exercise your gifts. It is wrong to have a false evaluation of yourself. Nothing causes more damage in a local church than a believer who overrates himself and tries to perform a ministry that he cannot do. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We were saved by grace, gifted by grace, and must serve by grace.
It is also just as wrong for a believer to deny his giftedness and refuse to exercise it under a pretense of humility. False humility is just another form of pride but more cleverly hidden. The second part of verse three says, “But to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” To have sound judgment means that we are to be sober in our assessment of ourselves. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought and we are not to sell ourselves short on what God has gifted us to do. We are to exercise the gift God has given us to the degree that God has allowed us to trust him in that area.
So we are to avoid both thinking to highly of ourselves claiming giftedness we do not possess and thinking too lowly of ourselves claiming no giftedness at all. We are to practice honest evaluation of ourselves in the church.
Second, in light of God’s love and mercy toward us, we are to faithful cooperation with each other in the church (Romans 12:4-8). Each believer has a different gift and God has bestowed these gifts so that the local body can grow in a balanced way. We are interdependent by God’s design. We have unity of purpose and diversity of ability.
Romans 12:4 uses the example of our physical bodies having many members but the members have differing functions to illustrate the truth of unity and diversity in the body. Just as the different members of the body have different functions yet cooperate to fulfill the purpose of the body.
Romans 12:5 ties the way the church is to function to the illustration of a physical body given in Romans 12:4 – “So we.” Just like the members of our physical bodies have different functions and yet work together, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another, are to have faithful cooperation with each other. We have different functions and yet we work together as a team.
Romans 12:6-8 give seven categories of gifts that differ in function but are to work together in faithful cooperation with each other:
First, prophecy – means to tell forth. Prophecy means to declare the revelation of God through His Word. Here in Romans 12:6, prophecy is a spiritual gift for preaching and not the office of prophet. The gift of prophecy has to be in relation to and in proportion to the Word of God. The phrase, “according to the proportion of his faith,” is literally, “in agreement with the faith.” The one with the gift of prophecy is to remain in the bounds of the Word of God. He is not to add to it or take away from it. The motivation of the person with the gift of prophecy is to confront with truth. The motivation of teaching is to clarify with truth.
Second, serving – a menial and practical service. The word for serving is the word from which we get the words “deacon and ministry.” This is a person who supernaturally seeks to meet the practical needs of other people. The people with the gift of serving do not have to be appreciated by anybody. They know that they can believe God and their service to others is their service to God.
Third, teaching – the gift of teaching means taking something that you know and communicate it to someone else. Remember that the motivation for teaching is to clarify the truth. The motivation for prophecy is to confront with truth.
Fourth, exhortation – it means to comfort or to encourage. The person with the gift of exhortation comes alongside someone to comfort or encourage them. The person with this gift doesn’t just come alongside and put his arm around but he comes with “words” and his words are instructions from the Word of God.
Fifth, giving – means to give with good intentions. Liberality means to be sincere and pure in motive. There are to be no ulterior motives in giving. The person with the gift of giving turns loose the gift without worrying about where it went because he has given it to God.
Sixth, leading– to stand out before and lead. The one with the gift of leading is to do it with diligence. Diligence means with an earnest effort. Those with this gift do not complain about something going undone or needing to be done – they take the lead and do it!
Seventh, mercy – means to be sensitive to others and their needs. This gift has to be shown with cheerfulness.
We are to practice honest evaluation of ourselves and practice faithful cooperation with each other. The church is an organism and not just an organization.