Thesis:The function of the Body is grace-dependent and faith-enabled.
Introduction:In Romans 12:4-5 the apostle Paul flatly declared that the reality of what God is doing "in Christ" in respect to every believer is in harmony with the analogy of the human body. This means that we know, by our awareness of our own bodies, what God is doing "in Christ". As every physical body is an integrated unit with multiple, and distinctive, parts, so also is the Body of Christ, and as no physical body functions worth a hoot when the "parts" are disengaged for whatever cause, neither does the Body of Christ function worth a hoot when His people are disengaged. Paul's burden for the Roman believers is that they will cooperatively produce a living witness to Christ in Rome because the level and quality of their participation in the Eternal Kingdom is directly tied to their participation in the Temporal Body of Christ. Paul had absolutely no interest in producing a temporal showcase, divorced from Eternal Experience.
On the basis of these two realities -- that what God is doing is manifest by our physical bodies and that our cooperation with Him determines the level and quality of our participation in the coming Eternal Kingdom -- Paul launched into his specific instruction in verse six.
This evening we are going to begin our consideration of his instruction.
I. Our Consideration Will Begin Where Paul's Does: Grace.
A. The Issue of "Grace" shows up in three ways in 12:6.
1. It is an integrated part of the term translated "gifts".
2. It is the "standard" by which the "gifts" function.
3. It is the underlying principle of the phrase translated "the proportion of faith".
a. The word "proportion" is only found here in the New Testament and, according to Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, was used to refer to "ratios" in math in the sense of a comparative relationship.
b. It is used in our text, more precisely, according to its "coinage": an "again declaration", or "a repeated word" and refers to Paul's prior "grace" statement at the beginning and end of 12:3.
c. Paul's meaning is the same as in the "first" statement: "according to the measure of the faith given by grace."
B. Paul's fixation on "Grace" has multiple purposes.
1. The first such purpose is to retain the truth of the Gospel that "Life" is a grace-based reality while insisting upon certain "works" in view of a coming "judgment" of "the deeds of our bodies" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
a. This is, perhaps, the most confusing issue in "T"heology for the vast majority of mankind (where does "judgment" fit into a "grace" scenario"?).
b. The "solution" to the confusion is found in the biblical doctrine of "...by grace through faith...".
1) Grace is the initiator and provider.
a) The concept of "not of works" has never meant that there were no "works" involved.
b) The major issue of contention in "creation" is "whose works?".
2) Faith is the responder and participant in what is provided.
3) Judgment is the evaluation of the "whole" in light of the "parts" for the purpose of a final purification of the entire system.
a) There is no "condemnation" as an active imposition of "legal" consequences (no imposition of "an eye for an eye" -- no " active punishment" for evil).
b) But there is a "stripping out" of all that produced "death" with no "filling in" where the resulting "emptiness" exists (no "reward" for evil).
2. The second such purpose is to maintain the focus upon the necessary humility for Life in the Body.
a. Pride is an ever-present potential whenever something is "accomplished".
b. Humility is only maintained when that "accomplishment" is seen as a "grace-produced" reality...beginning with the provision and including the ability to engage it.
3. The third such purpose is to balance "expectation" within the Body.
a. "Grace" tends to skew the entire issue of "expectation" for two reasons.
1) On the one hand, "boundless grace" tends to create "expectations" that are extremely high.
2) On the other hand, "grace" tends to make any "expectation" significantly "iffy" (grace cannot be tied in any sense to human productivity and God's grace is always tied to a very large "Plan" that becomes exceedingly difficult at the microcosmic level).
b. "Grace", however, is presented as a primary basis for expectation also for two reasons.
1) On the one hand, "grace" is the alternative to the "justice" that robsall men of any expectation.
2) On the other hand, "grace" is presented as a "much more abounding" characteristic of the God by Whose hand all things are determined, either by submission or dominance.
c. The "balance" comes into being, therefore, by the understanding of divine submission or dominance (we "give thanks" and "pray without ceasing").
d. Therefore, "grace-gifts" exercised "according to the standard of grace extended" are to be "monitored" (so that "expectations" are properly adjusted) by their "monitors" in harmony with a general sense of "spirituality".
1) The "monitors" are the other members of the body.
2) The "general sense of spirituality" is a relative presence of the fruit of the Spirit.
3) When one gives evidence of a certain spiritual health, whatever that one does in terms of his/her spiritual contribution to the Body is what the Body is going to get.
a) There is a pronounced tendency, even among believers who are generally "healthy", to be dissatisfied with what others are contributing.
b) There is also a pronounced tendency, especially among those who are not "healthy", to be accepting of no contribution whatsoever, or, even, a destructive input (the "Corinthian tolerance syndrome" -- 2 Corinthians 11: 19-20).
4. The fourth such purpose is to press the envelope of "faith" by each of the members of the Body in respect to their own practice.
a. No one is exercising their "grace-gift(s)" at the "possible" level.
b. The entire notion of "Christ-likeness" as a progressive development is, when Matthew 16:27 is folded into the issues involved, a notion of progressively better contributions to the overall function of the Body.
c. The tendency is "to settle into a gradually nullifying rut" (note Paul's insistence to Timothy that he not do that).
d. The demands of such progressive improvement are, fundamentally, two.
1) The first is a growing awareness of how much grace will be applied by God to any given situation if it is "expected" (the declaration of the leper in Luke 5:12 is a declaration of an awareness of an enormous level of available grace).
2) The second is a growing awareness of what can actually be "expected" from God in any given situation (this is the essence of the promise of Romans 12:2).