Romans 12, 1 to 8 and Ephesians 2, 1 to 10, Does God Give Us Saving Faith? Part 2
by Karl Kemp
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We continue the discussion of the words at the end of Rom. 12:3 here in Part 2.
I'll quote several verses that use the words "THE FAITH" in a way that will help us understand Rom. 12:3. 2 CORINTHIANS 13:5 says: "Test yourselves to see if you are in THE FAITH; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?" GALATIANS 6:10 says: "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of THE FAITH." 1 TIMOTHY 1:2 says: "to Timothy, my true child in THE FAITH...." (The word "THE" and the word "my" are in italics in the NASB.) TITUS 3:15 says: "All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in THE FAITH." (The word "THE" is in italics in the NASB.) The last two references are doubly relevant in that the definite article, "the," was supplied (rightly I believe) in the English translation before the word faith. (The NASB has "the" in italics in 1 Tim. 1:1 and Titus 3:15, to show that the definite article was not included in the Greek.) And 1 TIMOTHY 3:13 says: "For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high [good] standing [or, rank, position] and great confidence [or, boldness] IN THE FAITH that is in Christ Jesus." (The Greek of 1 Tim. 3:13 does not have the definite article before the word faith, but it is required in the English translation. The word faith is clearly made definite [specific] by the added words, "that is in Christ Jesus" in 1 Tim. 3:13.)
To further justify the translation IN THE FAITH here in Rom. 12:3, I should point out that in the Greek of 12:3 there is no word for "of." (The Greek just has METRON followed by the word for FAITH in the genitive case.) I believe we should supply the word "in" instead of "of." (The translation "in" fits the Greek very well here.) The word "faith" in the genitive case helps define, along with the context, what kind of measure the apostle is speaking of. Every true Christian has been allotted (apportioned) a measure IN THE FAITH. That is, they have been given a place in the Body of Christ, with each Christian having assignments to fulfill (functions to perform) and the grace necessary to fulfill those assignments. (Instead of saying they have been given a place in the Body of Christ, you could say they have been given a place in the Christian faith/religion. True Christianity embraces all those who have true faith in God, His Son, and the gospel of new-covenant salvation.)
This understanding of the last part of Rom. 12:3 fits perfectly with the rest of the verse, and it is confirmed by Rom. 12:4-8. (Note that Rom. 12:4-8 is connected to Rom. 12:3 by the "For" at the beginning of Rom. 12:4.) How then should Christians think of themselves so as not to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think? They should think of themselves exactly in line with the MEASURE God has given to them. Also, it must be understood that we have no right to boast in ourselves in regard to anything we have been given by God (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 1:26-31; 3:5-7; 4:7).
A major point here, which the apostle will amplify in 12:4-8, is that CHRISTIANS MUST BE VERY CAREFUL TO STAY WITHIN THEIR MEASURE. It causes serious strife and confusion in the Body of Christ when, for example, a prophet or a teacher at Rome starts thinking of himself as having equal authority with the apostle Paul (or, even greater authority), and they think they can reject his ministry. For one thing, ministers are not called to compete with one another. That is a manifestation of the flesh (which includes the work of demons). It is very important that every apostle, every prophet, every teacher, every evangelist, every pastor, every elder, every deacon, every Christian, stay within their MEASURE (their measure assigned by God). Otherwise the church will be out of divine order.
I believe this is a major problem in the church today. It is rather easy for born-again Christians to think and act in the flesh, instead of in accordance with the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit. I should emphasize the point that when we try to minister outside of the MEASURE assigned to us by God, we won't have the grace required to properly fulfill that ministry, and we are sure to make a mess to one degree or another. We may, however, be fully accepted by large numbers of Christians.]] (4) FOR [my capitalization for emphasis] just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, (5) so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. [[In the human body there are many different members, with each member fulfilling their important, God-ordained functions. So it is in the Body of Christ. The MEASURE we have received from God determines what our assignments (functions) are and gives us the grace to fulfill those assignments. God gets the glory for the things we do by His grace (which also includes our walking in His righteousness and holiness through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit). When we do the things we are supposed to do by the grace of God in Christ we will do them well.]] (6) Since we have gifts ["Gifts" is the plural of "charisma," which is closely related to "charis" (the Greek noun for grace). A gift is a manifestation of God's grace.] that differ according to the grace given to us [THE DIFFERING GRACE/GIFTS GOES WITH THE DIFFERING MEASURES.], each of us is to exercise them accordingly [[I don't believe these eight words, which were added by the NASB in italics, are fully adequate. Something like the following addition must be understood: each of us is to exercise them accordingly, BEING VERY CAREFUL TO STAY WITHIN OUR MEASURE. The dominant message of Rom. 12:3-8 is that we shouldn't think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (as we will do to the extent that we are conformed to this world/to the extent that we are walking according to the old man); but (with a renewed mind, as we think in agreement with the Word of God by the Holy Spirit), WE ARE TO THINK OF OURSELVES IN LINE WITH THE MEASURE GOD HAS APPORTIONED TO US, AND ACT ACCORDINGLY.]]: if prophecy [[Prophesying often goes with the ministry of the prophet, and Paul is probably thinking of the prophet here. He has already referred to the grace given to him to be an apostle (a very special apostle) in verse 3. In 1 Cor. 12:28 Paul says: "And God has appointed [set] in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers...." Every ministry (every MEASURE) is important, but clearly some are more important than others. It is reasonable for Paul to mention the prophet first out of respect for the prophets at Rome, but it is also true that a prophet at Rome could be one of the most likely persons to think more highly of himself than he ought to think and reject Paul's apostolic ministry. Compare 1 Cor. 14:37, "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things I write to you are the Lord's commandment." Anyway, whatever MEASURE (including THE MEASURE of "prophecy") a person has received, they must be very careful to stay within their measure, as the apostle goes on to say with the following words.]], according to the proportion of his faith [[I mentioned that it would be essentially impossible to understand verse 3 with the translation "measure of faith" at the end of the verse. I believe it would be totally impossible to understand what the apostle Paul said here in verse 6 with the translation "according to the proportion of his faith." For one thing, the word translated "his" is the definite article in the Greek, and if we translate "the" it communicates the intended meaning: THE FAITH. Also, we need to see that the word PROPORTION here in verse 6 is equivalent in meaning to the word MEASURE in verse 3. (Here's part of the definition of PROPORTION from "Webster's New World Dictionary": "a part, share, or portion, especially in its relation to the whole.") It is probably better to translate IN THE FAITH instead of OF THE FAITH (as in verse 3), but the translation "of" will probably suffice here in verse 6.
So, I would translate the last part of verse 6, ACCORDING TO THE PROPORTION IN THE FAITH. If "prophecy" is your part/share/portion/MEASURE (or whatever else your MEASURE is IN THE FAITH/IN THE BODY OF CHRIST), then you must faithfully perform your function(s) by grace, being very careful to stay within your MEASURE. If one with a gift of prophecy (even if he has a powerful and effective ministry as a prophet) decides he wants to function as an apostle, teacher, etc., or challenge the apostle Paul, we are headed for confusion and trouble. Of course it is possible for God to give to one person the MEASURE to be a prophet and a teacher, or a prophet and a pastor, etc., but each minister (and each Christian) must remain within the particular MEASURE assigned by God. Divine order requires it. Different apostles have different measures, depending on the specific measure given by God; so too for all ministers and for all Christians. Whatever our measure we must stay within our measure. We must limit ourselves to the measure God has given us. If we don't, we will be ministering in the flesh, for one thing.]]; (7) if service [I prefer the translation "ministry" with the KJV instead of "service." "Ministry" is the way the NASB most often translates this Greek noun.], in his serving [[I would translate "in the ministering." As at the end of verse 6, the word translated "his" is the definite article in the Greek and is typically translated "the." The meaning then (in full agreement with everything the apostle says in Rom. 12:3-8) is that whatever ministry constitutes your MEASURE, FAITHFULLY FULFILL YOUR MEASURE BY GOD'S GRACE, BEING VERY CAREFUL TO STAY WITHIN YOUR MEASURE.]]; or he who teaches, in his teaching [[I would translate "or he who teaches, in the teaching," or the equivalent. As above, the word translated "his" by the NASB is the definite article in the Greek. The MEASURE of being a teacher in the Body of Christ (along with the following MEASURE of being an exhorter) is probably listed here as a prime example of ministering. There are, of course, different types of teaching ministries, depending on the measure given by God. The one teaching must faithfully fulfill his ministry by grace and be careful to remain within the MEASURE assigned by God. As we are faithful, God can increase our measure.]]; (8) or he who exhorts, in his [the] exhortation; he who gives, with liberality [or, simplicity]; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." It is interesting that the apostle includes the grace of giving. (You could think of this as a charismatic gift.) Some have special abilities to support the Body of Christ in financial ways. Whatever our MEASURE, it is necessary for us to do our part, and to do it right by the grace of God, being very careful to stay within our MEASURE. We must be careful "not to think more highly of [ourselves] than we ought to think" (Rom. 12:3), which is quite easy to do; all you have to do is walk in the flesh (the old man) instead of the Holy Spirit. If, for example, those with wealth think they have a right to try to force Paul (or any other minister) to preach the gospel according to their will (instead of God's), we're headed for big trouble.
It's good news to know that we - and especially ministers - are not called to compete with one another, but rather to respect and bless one another, in the Body of Christ. We need one another, according to God's plan. If another Christian fails to fulfill their MEASURE, it is not to our advantage, but to our disadvantage. We are called to put God first and do His will. This includes limiting ourselves to humbly stay within our MEASURE. I have found over the years that many ministers don't understand the concept of limiting ourselves to our MEASURE. It is true, of course, that we must make sure that we do everything that God calls us to do. When we do things God's way, it will always work for good! And we should always desire to do more for God, but only in accordance with His will. We cannot appoint ourselves to be teachers in the Body of Christ, for example.
We will start the verse-by-verse study of Ephesians 2:1-10 in Part 3.
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