Summary: In this sermon we examine three platforms for serving one another: humility, the communion of the saints, and spiritual gifts.
He says, in a very provocative way, that he wants us to live our lives for God. He wants us to give ourselves for God, and he does it in a striking way. He says that he wants us to put ourselves up on the altar. All the people in his day and time would have been familiar with sacrifices. Paul is saying to them, “Climb up on that altar and give yourself to God.”
Then when Paul gets to Romans 12:3 he wants to talk to us about how we relate to the family of God. He wants us to think about how grace works in the family of God. That’s what we’re looking at today in God’s Word. So, let’s read Romans 12:3-8:
3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:3-8)
Paul is speaking to Christians—and not just to those Roman Christians almost 2,000 years ago—about how we ought to relate to one another, how we ought to serve one another, and how we ought to use our gifts, abilities and resources to help one another.
In the context of the discussion, Paul gives us three platforms for serving one another in the church. They are humility, the communion of the saints, and the use of spiritual gifts. Let’s look at each in turn.
I. Grace Should Lead to Humility (12:3)
First, grace should lead to humility. Paul says in verse 3: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Grace, Paul knows, can lead to pride, if we’re not careful. It ought not to, it’s not designed to do that, but there is no blessing that God gives that we cannot turn upside down.
So Paul knows that grace on occasion leads to spiritual pride and he doesn’t want it to do so. He wants it to lead to humility. Paul is speaking here not just as an apostle, but as an example. He’s standing before us as a person who has been given the grace of apostleship.
Now, none of us has been given the grace of apostleship. Paul is emphasizing that he is speaking to us as Christians in light of the grace that had been given to him and in light of the fact that this grace that God had given to him had not led him to spiritual pride, but had cultivated real humility in him.
In fact, you can trace Paul’s humility in passing comments that he makes in his letters. He refers to himself in one place as “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9). In another place he refers to himself as “the foremost” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul was confident in what the Lord had called him to do. He was secure in his relationship with the living God, but he was not puffed up. And that is marvelous in light of the grace that God had given to him.
So when he says in verse 3, “by the grace given to me,” he wants to tell you something. It’s important for us not to be puffed up by the grace that God has given to us. Paul comes to us and says, “Look I have been given grace upon grace, and by his grace I have not cultivated a spirit of pride, but of humility. Therefore, you too ought to cultivate humility.”
We are able to see then that Paul is not telling us to do something that he has not done himself. Paul is telling us here in verse 3 that we ought to serve one another because of humility. Grace should lead us to humility.
Paul wants us to see that that humility is necessary in order to serve one another as we ought. He says in verse 3, “I say to everyone among you.” There is evidently a possibility among the Roman Christians that some of them were allowing spiritual pride to get the best of them. The grace that they had received had led them to be spiritually proud, and Paul wants to deal with that pride here. He wants to deal with the attitude that looks out for number one first.