Romans 12:3-5, “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. 4 For as in one body we have many members,[a] and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Transformation by the renewing of our minds according to God’s Word as we present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices follows conversion and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer (Rom. 12:1–2). But what does the transformed life look like? Which fruits prove that our faith is real, that the Spirit is conforming us to our Savior’s image? In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul begins to reveal the evidences of sanctification.
Romans 12:3 indicates that we are not to think of ourselves “more highly” than we ought, but should consider ourselves with sober judgment. Note that Paul does not tell us that we should not think of ourselves highly in any sense, but that we must have a right estimation of ourselves. While it is true that we are fallen and must struggle with sin throughout our lives, we must not allow this truth to overshadow the fact that we are made in the image of God and are “being renewed day by day” (Gen. 1:26–27; 2 Cor. 4:16). We are not to be caught off guard by the remnants of sinful flesh that cling to our renewed selves, but we are also not to think of ourselves as useless, vile, and disgusting creatures if we are in Christ Jesus. Sin may be something that we do, and we will fall from time to time as we grow in the Lord; however, sin does not define who we are as Christians. We are saints whom our Creator is refashioning into what we were always meant to be, and He makes us useful for His kingdom. God has gifted us for ministry, bestowing upon us the honor of being the agents through whom He makes His invisible kingdom visible in this world (Rom. 12:6–8).
To think rightly of ourselves is to view ourselves and our gifts as no more important in the Lord’s plan than others. This is what it means to consider ourselves soberly “according to the measure of faith God has assigned” (v. 3). It is not so much that the Lord has given us different degrees of faith; rather, it is that we are to evaluate ourselves by the standards of the Christian faith, that is, the objective teachings of divine revelation. This revelation tells us that there are no distinctions when it comes to our significance in the church and before God (Gal. 3:27–29). In fact, we are all equally important in the plan of the Lord no matter what gifts we have. As the Apostle indicates, we are all one body even though as individuals we have different roles. Just as the individual parts of the human body need one another in order for the whole body to be healthy and function properly, the church requires all of its parts to do their job in order to be healthy as a corporate whole (Rom. 12:4–5).
Ultimately speaking, God does not need us for His plan to succeed. However, He has deemed it wise to use us—to use His church—to accomplish His purposes in the world. The Lord has ordered things so that all of His people must exercise their gifts in order for His church to work properly in this world. No Christian can get away with sitting on the sidelines. We all have something to contribute, and if we are not serving the body of Christ, the body will not be healthy.