Chapter # 12 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2
February 16, 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 Focus Upon "Grace".
- A. There is only one real solution to man's pride: the grace of God rightly apprehended.
- B. Paul began verse three with a reference to "the grace given to me".
- C. Paul ended the verse with a similar reference couched in terms of a divine dispensing of faith.
- 1. On the face of it, this declaration -- that God is at the root of every man's "faith" (or lack of it) -- pretty much eliminates any claim by any man that he, himself, has any reason to boast (Philippians 3:4).
- a. Paul says that his readers ought "to think realistically" . The term he uses is a combination word that is used to describe people who are the opposite of those considered to be absolutely incapable of rational thought (2 Corinthians 5:13). As a combination word, it was coined to wed the notions of "soundness" and "mental fixation" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). The word is used of those who have been delivered from demonic possession (Mark 5:15) and Theological Dictionary of the New Testament argues that the major concept of the word is thinking that is restrained by the boundaries of humility. This is exactly Paul's point in this text.
- b. The "realism" is centered upon the issues of "faith". These "issues" are most fundamentally focused upon three questions: what is "faith"; how do people come to it; and why people are involved in it. The answers are extremely complex and, for that reason, Paul simply ascribes legitimate "faith" to the activity of God. He, Paul says, "apportions" faith to men. Of all men, Paul knew what it had taken to get him to the point of faith, and he knew that most men are not given what he had been given. On the other hand, most men are not "the chief of sinners" either.
- c. This "realism" is most fundamentally designed to head off the kind of conflict in the church that is sponsored by men who see themselves as superior to others in regard to their level of "commitment to God" [Note Paul's statement in Philippians 3:6]. It is almost inevitable for pride to arise when men "compete" with one another on this issue: who is the most zealous?
- d. Thus, "realistic thinking" begins with the understanding that it is God Who has enabled us to be where we are in our understanding and practice (1 Corinthians 4:7).
- 2. This, on the face of it also, does create some difficulties for men (because of their pride) because they think it unfair for God to hold proud men accountable if He is the one Who decides who will have faith and who will not (Romans 9:14). But, this issue -- who is to be given the credit for the good accomplished -- leaves us with only two alternatives: if man gets the credit, he will immediately run to pride like the rivers run to the sea; but if God gets the credit, man cannot boast in himself. The other problem -- how God can judge men in whom He places no faith -- is only a problem if God owes them the gift. It is not unjust to destroy the wicked, it is simply not "gracious".
- 3. The declaration is this: God has "apportioned" a specific "faith" to each who "believes" and his/ her consequent "faith" is nothing more or less than the outworking of that apportionment. It is not in man's hand to "believe" what he sees as untrue any more than he can "disbelieve" what he sees as true.
- D. This aggression against pride by Paul is not in the least unusual and his focus upon grace as the opposition is constant. In Ephesians 1 he posits "grace" as the ultimate adversary against any type of "works" salvation by making the "election" that is "before the foundation of the world" (thus effectively eliminating any kind of human effort) a matter of "grace". In Romans 11:5 he also deliberately tied "election" to "grace". In 1 Corinthians 4:7 he asked how the Corinthians could act in pride when their abilities to act are "given" to them. This is just another way of saying that "grace", properly understood, keeps men from proudly exalting themselves over others. And this is not to even really address Ephesians 2:8-9 or Romans 3:27 as further declarations that men have nothing of which to "boast".
- E. This aggression against pride is intense because of two realities: God is violently opposed to "pride" in men (James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5); and "pride" is the most destructive element in all of the relationships of men and angels. The Jews' pride made them odious to the Gentiles (Romans 2:24) and the non-Jews were despised by the Jews because of their own pride as they rejected the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (2 Chronicles 32:14). The pride of angels is going to bring about an enormous conflict in heaven when God finally decides He has had enough (Revelation 12:7).