Chapter # 12 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
February 9, 2010
3 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.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 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.
1901 ASV Translation:
3 For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but so to think as to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith.
4 For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office:
5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another.
6 And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith;
7 or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching;
8 or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.
- I. Paul's Concern Regarding "Commitment".
- A. Immediately upon the heels of Paul's "promise" (that those who present themselves to God as living sacrifices and follow through by avoiding the perspective(s) of this age and engaging in the active renewal of the mind will "discern" ("prove") the will of God in all of its goodness, God-pleasing-ness, and maturity), he cautions against "thinking too highly of oneself". This, obviously, indicates a fairly "normal" distortion of "being able to discern the will of God". Paul would not have immediately gone to this issue if he had not seen it as an almost inevitable problem.
- B. It is an observable phenomenon that those who "believe" something almost instantly begin to "wonder" why "others can't see it" the same way and, consequently, thinking that their view of things is "superior" to the views of those who disagree, they begin to think of themselves as the reason why they can see and others cannot and that leads inexorably to "thinking too highly".
- 1. Paul's term signifies being "fixated" upon something in mental-commitment. A perusal of Paul's use of the root term involved (the composite word that he used in this text is found only here in the New Testament) indicates (at least in Romans) a "fixation" that drives a person's attitude and choices (8:5; 12:16; 14:6; 15:5). The outcome of such "fixation" is behavior commensurate to it. Thus, Paul is addressing the way people look at themselves as a consequence of the choices they have made and the actions they have taken.
- 2. This is most often seen in those who have been recently converted. New believers are very often extremely critical of unbelievers for "not seeing the obvious" and do not know, or understand, the doctrine of "salvation by divine illumination". No one "sees" the truth until God shows it to them, and if God has revealed it, how does anyone take credit for "seeing"?
- 3. But, it also shows up too many times among "church leaders" who think that their status in the church means they "see more clearly". It goes without saying that the vast majority of "church leaders" in the American scene are in their position for reasons that are less than biblical. No matter how careful a "church" is regarding the leadership, there will be "leaders" who are in their positions without warrant [Note Paul's warning to the elders of Ephesus as proof that not even solidly biblical churches escape the problem of "high-minded" leaders: Acts 20:28-30].
- 4. The problem is significant. No one can "live by faith" if he/she does not "think" his/her view of things is "truth". Thus, anyone who disagrees is simply "wrong". But, it is not the thinking that one's view of things is "right" and those who disagree are "wrong" that is the "problem"; it is, rather, the thinking that one's "right" view of things came out of him/her self because of some attitude, or action, that he/she took, and it is the acting on one's view without a commensurate humility. Paul's comments in Acts 20:28-30 give us a classic illustration. He, clearly, believed himself to be "right" and those who opposed his message were due heavy judgment (Galatians 1:8-9). On the other hand, it is he who wrote our current text. The tension here is palpable. The resolution begins to be found in this question: whose interests are going to be served by the action being insisted upon as "right"? I wrote "begins" for a purpose: even this question is not "simple". Sometimes a person's "interests" are hidden and not obvious. There are those who are masters at making their agenda look like God's and keeping the truth from being visible. But, the larger perspective invariably reveals the truth: men cannot keep false motives hidden forever because God brings them to light over time. Paul claimed, in our context, that he loved to the uttermost (9:3), a claim that, if true, made his personal interests immaterial and God's interests in love the most critical. The fact that most "church leaders", or "new converts" clearly do not love like this is reason enough to be aware of how critical Paul's immediate turn to humility is.
- C. At this juncture we should be able to see why Paul chose to launch into this caution with the words, "I say through the grace which was given to me...".
- 1. That he claims to be speaking in humility does not resolve the problems immediately, but the claim does, at least, come in the right "words". Paul is either a master of deceit, or he is writing "truth". A master of deceit would immediately recognize the value of "saying" that he was writing "through grace given". In a case such as this, one must look on the larger perspective: who is going to profit from the obedience rendered to the words?
- 2. This claim has its origins as early as 1:1. Paul was either an apostle, or a master-deceiver. This is the rationale behind the first two chapters of Galatians which constitute the most definitive defense of his claim in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 9 also presents somewhat of a defense of his claim, but it is not as detailed as Galatians.