Romans 12:3-8 - Christians Are To Serve One Another With Their God-given Abilities

God has gifted each Christian with certain abilities or spiritual gifts. One of the ways that Christians are to bring their lives (as "living sacrifices") into obedience to God is to use the abilities that God has given them to serve others in the local church body (cf. 1 Pet 4:10, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms")

12:3 For by the grace given me [as an apostle and possessor of many spiritual gifts]

[Paul begins this section on spiritual gifts with a caution that we should be careful not to overrate ourselves (or our abilities) but instead we should evaluate ourselves in terms of the truth that God has given us.]:

I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober
[clearheaded] judgment,
in accordance with the measure of faith
[=standard of faith, i.e. the Word of God] God has given you.

12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members,
and these members do not all have the same function,

[Just as each individual part of the human body performs a different (and necessary) function, so each member of the local church "body" must carry out his or her individual function(s) in order to benefit the other church members.
So as we discover what individual abilities God has given us, we should think about how we can use those abilities to benefit the church body as a whole. ]

12:5 so in Christ we who are many form one body,
and each member belongs to all the others.
12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
If a man's gift is
let him use it in proportion to his faith
[= according to the standard of faith, cf. Cranfield p.621].

[Definition Of Prophesying:
In New Testament times, prophesy was a communication of the mind of God imparted to a believer by the Holy Spirit.
Prophesying may have involved a prediction (cf. Agabus, Acts 11:28; 21:10-11)
At other times prophesying may have involved an indication of the will of God in a given situation (cf. 1 Cor. 14:29-30; Acts 13:1-2). (NIV Study Bible, note on 1 Cor 12:10, p.1750)

In New Testament times, prophesying often served the same role that preaching serves in most modern church settings:

  • 1 Corinthians 14:3 - But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:31 - For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.]
12:7 If it is serving, let him serve;

[The word translated "serving" here is from the Greek word diakonos from which we get our English word deacon.
Paul may in fact be referring here to the abilities involved in being a deacon, but the word could certainly include anyone attending to the physical needs of the local church body.]

if it is teaching, let him teach;

[A teacher takes what God has given us in His Word and breaks it down so that others in the church can better understand it.
Teaching generally takes place in one of two arenas:

  • Public Teaching
  • Private Teaching

See for example Paul’s statement to the Ephesian elders:

  • Acts 20:20 - You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. ]
  • 12:8  if it is encouraging, let him encourage;

    [“Encourage” here is from the Greek word paraklesis which can mean to “beg, urge; encourage, speak words of encouragement; request, ask, appeal to; console, comfort, cheer up; invite, summon” (Barclay-Newman)]

    if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;

    [The "contributing" here could be giving of what is one's own, or it could be referring to distribution of the funds given by others. ]

    if it is leadership, let him govern diligently;

    [ Paul may be referring here to the function of the elders, but what is said here applies to informal leaders in the church as well.
    “The government of the church, in correcting abuses, preventing disorders, and in the administration of discipline, calls for constant vigilance and fidelity”
    (Charles Hodge on Romans, p.393)]

    if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

    [ One who showed mercy was one who cared for the sick, the poor, or the aged.
    Paul teaches that this gift should be exercised cheerfully for as Calvin observes:
    “For nothing gives more solace to the sick or to anyone otherwise distressed, than to see men cheerful and prompt in assisting them... to observe sadness in ... those by whom assistance is given, makes [those being cared for] feel despised” (John Calvin on Romans, p.463)]