Grace and God’s Body (A Study in Romans)


Romans 12:3-8

We live in a time when people place great emphasis on the physical body. But what does God have to say about our bodies?

God’s Grace Helps Us Accurately Evaluate Ourselves (vv. 3-4)

Healthy self-esteem is an issue for many people. Some have too much while others don’t have enough. A middle evaluation is best, but perhaps most people fall on one of two extremes. Many verses in the Bible warn against pride. Pride results when we think too much of ourselves. Whether prideful people were born with a silver spoon or acquired wealth and possessions through hard work, one or the other has affected their attitude about themselves and others.

On the other hand, some don’t think enough of themselves. Perhaps they were given derogatory messages as a child by parents who had been given the same messages and didn’t know how to break the cycle. Maybe it resulted from being in an abusive marriage with a spouse who constantly demeaned them. Or perhaps it was a body image that caused kids at school to make fun of them and not pick them for games. Whatever the reason, their self-esteem is low.

But what should the believer think of themselves? Paul warns us to be honest in our estimate. While on the one hand, we cannot let pride destroy us, neither should we think less of ourselves than God says we should. We must realize who we are apart from Christ but also who we are in him. Paul has already detailed our condition before Christ. We are sinners, and the wages of our sin is eternal separation from God. Our condition changes after accepting Christ as our Savior. Saved, sanctified, forgiven, cleansed, and justified are all words that now apply.

Believers must do a balancing act. Knowing what Christ has done for us can also lead to pride. Grace helps us remember all that has taken place is of grace and not anything on our part. We are no longer judged or condemned based on what we were. We should be confident in who we are now while at the same time realizing we had nothing to do with it. This will result in an honest estimate of ourselves and will help us avoid the difficulties that come with low self-esteem.

To reinforce this, Paul alludes to the human body. Like car engines, it works best when all parts are doing what God designed them to do. Many of us have had particular parts malfunction or stop working and know what happens when they do. It can result in death, impaired health, or surgery. Clogged arteries can result in a stroke or heart attack. Gallbladders have to be removed when not functioning properly. Cataracts must be removed to restore proper eyesight.

Believers all have a special function, and that makes us unique and important in God’s sight. So we must learn to view ourselves as God sees us. You may not like your body now or perhaps you didn’t like it when you were younger. Diet plans and exercise equipment relay the fact that many are not satisfied. Regardless of whether or not we wished it looked differently is immaterial. We are special because of who created us.

God’s Grace Helps Us Find Our Place (vv. 5-8)

God’s church is multi-faceted like kaleidoscopes. Looking through the lenses, we can see all sorts of colors, but somehow mixing the colors produces a magnificent sight. It’s the same with God’s church. He takes people from all walks of life—as was evident in his choice of the disciples—and with all sorts of personalities and binds them together, equipping them to do his work.

This may not appear to be the best plan, but it’s the way God has chosen to work. We might think things would function more effectively if we were all alike and had the same opinions, but God has chosen to work through variety. We are one body but have different responsibilities. At the same time, we need each other to accomplish God’s work. We are not lone rangers on a mission to see how much we can achieve by ourselves.

God is the source of all gifts and talents. They are not given because we are special or his favorites. God has no pets such as some teachers might. Believers share gifts but use them differently because our circumstances and personalities are different. Knowing ourselves—our circumstances and our personalities—helps us use these gifts more effectively. Using our gifts should be done with the idea of furthering God’s kingdom and not bringing attention to ourselves or for our pleasure. We should give our best in using these gifts.

Theologians are divided over whether the Bible gives a complete list of spiritual gifts. They also differ on whether some are still in effect or were simply given for a limited time. Regardless of our conclusions, God does gift his children with various gifts. Most believers have more than one and some have many. As we use them, God gives us more opportunities and perhaps more gifts. Gifts are not the same as talents or abilities, although they often work in conjunction with one another. Paul maintains God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.

Some have the gift of prophecy. Prophecy was not and is not always predictive in nature. A prophet’s validity was judged by whether or not the prophecy came true. But prophecy was also expounding on God’s revealed message. To prophesy could mean either to predict or preach God’s message. If one has the gift, they are to do it with the faith God is speaking through them and that they are not simply using their words to deliver a message. The message is vital because it proceeds from God. Peter reminds us no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation but rather those who spoke were moved by the Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:20).

Service is a gift probably possessed by all believers. It is the ability to meet the needs of others and to do so in God’s name and because of his love. Christ has deposited his love in our heart, and we have the ability to share the practical results with others. If we have this gift, we are to serve well and do our best.

Those with the gift of teaching are also to do a good job. They are entrusted with the responsibility of clearly explaining God’s Word and its practical application. James says many should not desire to teach because God will judge them more strictly (James 3:1).

Encouragement is a further gift. Everyone can use a steady dose of it. There is enough discouragement in our world without believers contributing to the mass of despondency. God also gives the gift of giving. He blesses some with monetary abilities. They are able to assist in expanding God’s work through monetary gifts the average person could only dream of. Money is not evil, and it is certainly necessary for God’s work.

Others are blessed with leadership skills. This is necessary in some callings God gives. The one called to pastor must possess it. Leaders are good organizers and managers, and this must take place in God’s work.

The final gift Paul mentions is kindness. All believers have this gift as well. Because of Christ’s kindness to us, we have the ability to demonstrate the same.

Building and maintaining relationships is difficult and takes effort. It takes time to get to know someone. While some date only a few weeks or months before marriage, most take months and some years. Just when we think we know someone, they can act in uncharacteristic ways. And it’s good to discern this before the vows are stated. Nor does twenty or even fifty years of marriage remove the challenges of getting along. We must learn to tolerate our differences and peculiarities.

Think of parents. They tend to treat children like children, no matter how old they are, but when they are older the chances are great the children will have to treat them like children. Moms never quit being moms, no matter how old their children are. And the road is not always smooth with our children and grandchildren either. In spite of our best efforts, children sometimes grow up and don’t learn how to parent like the parents taught and demonstrated. Grandparents often have to step in, instruct, and demonstrate. We also have to add friends, employers, employees, and social acquaintances to the mix.

Relationships are difficult.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Martin Wiles
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