Thesis:The root of genuine humility is a clear-eyed understanding of God's activity in the light of our propensity to turn everything into a basis for self-exaltation.
Introduction:In our study last time we considered Paul's understanding of "humility-cloaked pride". We saw that Paul apparently believed that "every person among us" would be susceptible to the temptation to turn "commitment to God" into a basis for "self-elevation". In light of that "belief" we have Philippians 3:6. Paul, prior to his own conversion used "commitment to God" as a way to exalt himself over others. Because he was sharply aware of this propensity, he addressed the Roman believers with the caution we read in 12:3.
This evening we are going to take a closer look at what he believed was the solution to this "every-person-knee-jerk-tendency". In a word, his "belief" was that only a valid grasp of "grace" had any hope of blunting this tendency. I would like to argue this evening that the root of genuine humility is a clear-eyed understanding of God's activity in the light of our propensity to turn everything into a basis for self-exaltation.
I. What Paul Actually Wrote.
A. At the beginning of the verse he introduced his thesis that "grace" has to be the root of our relationships -- both with God and with other human beings.
1. When he reached back into his own background for the concept that would most effectively solve the problem he expected, it was "grace" that captured his attention.
a. It was not merely the 1:5 issue of grace in respect to apostleship that provided this focus.
b. It had to have included the Acts 9 events because it was there that the issue of apostleship was first raised (9:15-16).
c. In that light, Paul's apprehension of "grace" as an "apportioned faith" issue was rooted in the plain fact that he had been granted, by grace, a level of experience that the vast majority of believers never get.
1) The road to Damascus event was not Paul's only experience of an extraordinary "grace" (2 Corinthians 12).
2) Paul was aware, profoundly so, of the fact that it was not just his life that had its roots in "grace", but also the lives of all to whom he ministered (1 Timothy 1:16).
a) The "pattern" issue of this text does not mean that all will have the same "amount" of grace.
b) The "pattern" issue of this text does mean that the issue of "pattern" is God's prerogative of decision-making.
2. Because every man's relationship with God is determinative of his relationships with people, it is of the utmost imperative that every man "fixate" upon "grace".
a. This is a crucial issue in Romans 12 because the text has this from-God-to-men connection and it is clearly subject to subversion (commitment being turned into a basis for pride).
b. This is also a crucial issue in Romans 12 because Paul's primary interest beyond 12:3 is in the service of believers to each other.
B. At the end of the verse he expands our grasp of his thesis by moving from "grace" to "faith".
1. Faith is the key methodological issue in light of Grace as the fundamental precept.
2. The issues of "faith" are complex beyond human intelligence.
a. That "faith" is a methodological issue is not difficult: faith determines what will be done by reason of its nature as a conviction of what is true.
b. The difficult issues are several.
1) There is the difficulty of deciding what is true.
2) There is the difficulty of explaining why some people "believe" one thing and others another from the same platform.
3) There is the difficulty of understanding how people come to true faith.
4) There is the difficulty of understanding the timing of individuals' arrival at "faith".
3. Paul does not attempt to do anything more than attribute the answers to these questions to the act of God in dispensing "faith" in "measure".
4. But, by so doing, Paul compels his readers to recognize that evenif some are more "committed" than others, it is not by their own doing (1 Corinthians 4:7).
II. The Implications of What Paul Wrote.
A. If we are to buy into what Paul declared to be true, we are going to have to set aside the typical objections to "grace" at the level of "faith".
1. Paul already raised these objections.
a. In 9:14 and 19 Paul addressed the most difficult of the issues: righteousness (a justice issue) and God's will to reveal something of everything that is true of Him (a Life issue).
b. In 3:5-6 he had already addressed these issues.
2. Those who wish to make spiritual progress have to accept this perspective of God, which is a perspective of "Grace" as an unforced issue.
B. If we buy into what Paul declared to be true, we are going to find ourselves more and more interested in being available to God to edify others and less and less interested in all of the things in our lives that keep us from that availability.