Monday, July 11, 2011

In Search Of Truth, Romans 12:3-8

Paul is urging his readers, in light of the amazing gift of salvation and the eternal future ahead of them, to give themselves completely to God and his agenda. The first step in that process is having a “renewed mind”, which enables us to discern God’s will for us.

Usually, when Paul says “by the grace given me”, it is related to his role as an Apostle and servant of Christ. (Romans 15:15, Galatians 2:9, Ephesians 3:7) So in verse three, he is gently appealing to the role of authority God has given him, making his next statement all the more strong. He commands us not to see ourselves as better than we are, but with eyes calibrated to God’s word by the degree of mature faith God has given us. (v.3)

Paul returns to his metaphor of the human body, which he used, in 1 Corinthians 12, to describe how a diverse group of believers should work together. He makes the same point here. The church should not look like an assembly line of cookie cutter Christians, all acting and serving God in the same way. Instead, the church should be a collection of people with diverse personalities and gifts that are committed to each other toward the same goals. (v.4-5) Either too much similarity OR disunity will result in a community of believers becoming ineffective, or less effective than they could be.

This teaching can be challenging when it comes to the place of us geeks in the church. Our lifestyles can alienate us from others. Sometimes this is because other Christians hold to legalistic ideas of what it means to be a believer in Christ. Other times, we alienate ourselves, throwing an ongoing pity party over how misunderstood we feel.

Paul’s command here is not just for those Christians who think us geeks are weird. It’s for us too. It may be that we need to take the first step in engaging with “normal” believers around us, rather than waiting for them to read this passage, apply it correctly, and come seek us out.

When both sides of that equation reach out in unity to each other, that’s when some amazing things can happen. Our diverse strengths overshadow our diverse weaknesses. This is God’s design for the church. We should each serve God, not according to how he has equipped and gifted those around us, but according to how he has equipped and gifted us.

Paul goes on to list some examples. Those enabled to represent God’s will or word for the moment (prophecy) should do so in agreement with the teaching of God (“the faith”). (This verse is often poorly translated “in proportion to his faith”, leaving the impression that prophecy is exercised in proportion to the subjectively perceived faith of the individual. Instead, this verse teaches that prophecy should be exercised in agreement with the revealed truth of scripture.) (v.6)

Those with a unique heart and ability to be compassionate and serve others should make it a priority in life. Those gifted to help others understand truth and scripture should dedicate themselves to teaching. (v.7)

We don’t use the word “exhort” very often. It means : to incite by argument or advice, urge strongly, to give warnings or advice, make urgent appeals. The Greek word here is not quite as abrasive and contains the meaning of “calling to one’s side”. It can also refer to encouragement. Someone gifted to "exhort" others is persuasive through either urgent appeal or encouragement. Believers with influence should engage themselves in influencing others on behalf of Christ.

Those God has allowed to accumulate resources and enabled them to willingly give a larger percentage than most to God’s work, should continue to look for ways to give even more generously.

Those equipped to lead others should do so without letting their passion fade.

Those equipped to help those in pain or need should do so with a positive attitude, undefeated by the discouraging realities they inevitably interact with. (v.8)

Notice that Paul is not teaching us to develop ONLY our areas of primary strength, but they are useful in determining what God wants us to invest our time, energy and resources in.

Next- What “renewed minds” and transforming lives look like.

Coffee House Question- Which of these above “gifts” do you think describe best how God has equipped you?

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