Romans 12:3-5

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 12:3
  • Romans 12:4
  • Romans 12:5

The Apostle Paul writes to the world-renowned believers in Rome, the center of the world at that time, in order to answer a slanderous charge made to them against Paul and his message. Paul’s detractors claim his emphasis on faith overturns the law. Paul says that ” just living by the law” does not achieve personal justice before God, while “just living by faith” does. Paul then demonstrates what a just life looks like: harmonious living with Jesus as the leader. Paul also makes clear the choice a believer has: to walk in faith and the power of the resurrection and experience resurrection life, or walk in sin and unnecessarily experience the negative consequences.

In Chapter 12, Paul shows that a life of righteousness or justice (living in harmony with God’s design) looks like a life that has been transformed spiritually. It looks like team harmony, like a human body, where every body part is doing what it does best as directed by the head (and a believer’s Head is Jesus.) In order to function like a body, it requires an active decision to love and honor others, while honoring Jesus as the One in charge. As the One in charge, it’s Jesus’ job to judge the world (not ours.)

Paul turns from defending against the slanderous attacks of competing Jewish “authorities” and begins an admonition to the world famous believers in Rome (1:8) concerning their pursuit of righteousness. Paul has comprehensively demonstrated that righteousness, which is harmony with God’s design, comes only through walking by faith in the resurrection power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. He has also proven that his gospel message is “good news” about three deliverances: 1) being delivered from the penalty of sin, irrevocably placing us into the family of God when we first believe 2) being delivered from the presence of sin when we are taken to heaven to be with Jesus, and 3) being delivered from the power of sin in our daily walk, when we choose to walk by faith in the power of the indwelling Spirit.

Since most of our lives are spent between the time we first believed and the time we leave this earth, Paul has and will continue to emphasize the practical impact of the gospel on how we live daily. Paul has made it crystal clear why we ought to choose to walk in faith by the Spirit and enjoy the newness of life in the resurrection power of Jesus, rather than going back into the death and slavery of sin by following our sin nature. We want to walk in obedience because of the immense positive consequence from walking by faith (believing God’s way is true and best), versus the terrible consequences we get when we walk in sin (believing we know best). Paul has also clearly shown us how to walk in the resurrection power of Jesus, through the exercise of a heart of faith. Now Paul will give us some tangible illustrations of what righteousness looks like in everyday life.

Paul is telling believers how pursuing righteousness (harmonious living) through faith ought to look. One major feature is humility, recognizing who God is and what He has given you. We should realize we are each one part of a living body.

In order to pursue righteousness, which is right and harmonious living, we must live sacrificially through faith (as Paul said in verse 1). Paul is promoting transformative principles, not a to-do list. He is endorsing attitudes, not rules to follow. Living sacrificially means having humility and living to benefit others. Much of humility comes from the recognition that God is God and we are not. God has given us everything we have, and to live sacrificially we must realize that everything we are and have to offer comes from God.

We are admonished to see things as they are. It is our natural bent to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to, but God tells us to see ourselves as we actually are, no more and no less. It is important not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgement. This is extremely important if we are to live a life of righteousness, because righteousness is all parts of the body working for the good of the whole. So if we say “I am only a little toe, and little toes are not important, therefore I will just not do anything” then the body is without a little toe. Anyone who has ever had an injured little toe discovers just how important a little toe really is. It is deeply necessary that we learn to identify our gifts, whatever they are, and use them to serve others – regardless of whether the world honors that gift.

We will soon learn how each person has a gift they can use to serve others. But it takes faith to believe that such service to others is really important. And God has allotted to each a measure of faith for us to exercise. It is a part of our logical service as a living sacrifice to exercise the faith we are given by employing the gifts we received to serve others.

Paul continues this thought on humility, which is seeing things as they actually are, and its importance to a life of harmonious and righteous living through faith by discussing how we, as believers, come together to form a body. Paul uses the analogy of a body to explain how each of us, though individual and uniquely gifted, should come together to form one cohesive unit, we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function. The Christian life is not intended to be lived alone. To live righteously, harmoniously with others, we must be in community and fellowship with others. And to live harmoniously we must have the humility to understand what part of the body we are, as well as being aware enough to appreciate and rely upon other parts of the body. We, who are many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another. 

Living in community with other believers is something we do every day, all day long, not just at a scheduled time each week. And living harmoniously is something we do unilaterally, regardless of whether others respond.

Biblical Text

3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For 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.

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