Romans 12:3
For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Having thus stated the broad principle which is to govern the conduct of the Christian, the Apostle now goes on to apply it to certain details, and, first, his object is to secure that temper in the members of the Roman Church which will best enable them to act with union and efficiency.

Through the grace given unto mei.e., in virtue of his apostolic authority.

To every man that is among you.—A rather more pointed expression than simply “to you all,” “to each one of you severally and individually.”

Not to think of himself . . .—There is a play upon words in this phrase, and those which follow, which is not preserved, and can hardly be preserved, in the English. “Not to be high-minded beyond that which he ought to be minded, but to be minded unto sober-mindedness.” Our words, “to be minded,” “high-minded,” &c., very nearly express the sense of the Greek, which is to have the thoughts and feelings habitually turned in a certain direction. This is brought out with emphatic repetition in the phrase “to be minded unto the being sober-minded,” i.e., to keep sobriety of mind constantly in view as the object or ideal towards which all the thoughts and feelings converge.

According as God hath dealt to every man.—The standard of action which each Christian ought to propose to himself should be in proportion to the amount of his faith as given to him by God. He who has the strongest faith may assume the highest standard, and offer himself for the highest offices, and so on down the scale. It is, however, essential that the estimate which each man puts upon the strength of his own faith, should be thoroughly single-minded and sincere, nor biased by self-love. The Apostle assumes that this will be the case.

Romans

SOBER THINKING

Romans 12:3
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It is hard to give advice without seeming to assume superiority; it is hard to take it, unless the giver identifies himself with the receiver, and shows that his counsel to others is a law for himself. Paul does so here, led by the delicate perception which comes from a loving heart, compared with which deliberate ‘tact’ is cold and clumsy. He wishes, as the first of the specific duties to which he invites the Roman Christians, an estimate of themselves based upon the recognition of God as the Giver of all capacities and graces, and leading to a faithful use for the general good of the ‘gifts differing according to the grace given to us.’ In the first words of our text, he enforces his counsel by an appeal to his apostolic authority; but he so presents it that, instead of separating himself from the Roman Christians by it, he unites himself with them. He speaks of ‘the grace given to me,’ and in Romans 12:6 of ‘the grace given to us.’ He was made an Apostle by the same giving God who has bestowed varying gifts on each of them. He knows what is the grace which he possesses as he would have them know; and in these counsels he is assuming no superiority, but is simply using the special gift bestowed on him for the good of all. With this delicate turn of what might else have sounded harshly authoritative, putting prominently forward the divine gift and letting the man Paul to whom it was given fall into the background, he counsels as the first of the social duties which Christian men owe to one another, a sober and just estimate of themselves. This sober estimate is here regarded as being important chiefly as an aid to right service. It is immediately followed by counsels to the patient and faithful exercise of differing gifts. For thus we may know what our gifts are; and the acquisition of such knowledge is the aim of our text.

I. What determines our gifts.

Paul here gives a precise standard, or ‘measure’ as he calls it, according to which we are to estimate ourselves. ‘Faith’ is the measure of our gifts, and is itself a gift from God. The strength of a Christian man’s faith determines his whole Christian character. Faith is trust, the attitude of receptivity. There are in it a consciousness of need, a yearning desire and a confidence of expectation. It is the open empty hand held up with the assurance that it will be filled; it is the empty pitcher let down into the well with the assurance that it will be drawn up filled. It is the precise opposite of the self-dependent isolation which shuts us out from God. The law of the Christian life is ever, ‘according to your faith be it unto you’; ‘believe that ye receive and ye have them.’ So then the more faith a man exercises the more of God and Christ he has. It is the measure of our capacity, hence there may be indefinite increase in the gifts which God bestows on faithful souls. Each of us will have as much as he desires and is capable of containing. The walls of the heart are elastic, and desire expands them.

The grace given by faith works in the line of its possessor’s natural faculties; but these are supernaturally reinforced and strengthened while, at the same time, they are curbed and controlled, by the divine gift, and the natural gifts thus dealt with become what Paul calls charisms. The whole nature of a Christian should be ennobled, elevated, made more delicate and intense, when the ‘Spirit of life that is in Christ Jesus’ abides in and inspires it. Just as a sunless landscape is smitten into sudden beauty by a burst of sunshine which heightens the colouring of the flowers on the river’s bank, and is flashed back from every silvery ripple on the stream, so the faith which brings the life of Christ into the life of the Christian makes him more of a man than he was before. So, there will be infinite variety in the resulting characters. It is the same force in various forms that rolls in the thunder or gleams in the dewdrops, that paints the butterfly’s feathers or flashes in a star. All individual idiosyncrasies should be developed in the Christian Church, and will be when its members yield themselves fully to the indwelling Spirit, and can truly declare that the lives which they live in the flesh they live by the faith of the Son of God.

But Paul here regards the measure of faith as itself ‘dealt to every man’; and however we may construe the grammar of this sentence there is a deep sense in which our faith is God’s gift to us. We have to give equal emphasis to the two conceptions of faith as a human act and as a divine bestowal, which have so often been pitted against each other as contradictory when really they are complementary. The apparent antagonism between them is but one instance of the great antithesis to which we come to at last in reference to all human thought on the relations of man to God. ‘It is He that worketh in us both to will and to do of His own good pleasure’; and all our goodness is God-given goodness, and yet it is our goodness. Every devout heart has a consciousness that the faith which knits it to God is God’s work in it, and that left to itself it would have remained alienated and faithless. The consciousness that his faith was his own act blended in full harmony with the twin consciousness that it was Christ’s gift, in the agonised father’s prayer, ‘Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.’

II. What is a just estimate of our gifts.

The Apostle tells us, negatively, that we are not to think more highly than we ought to think, and positively that we are to ‘think soberly.’

To arrive at a just estimate of ourselves the estimate must ever be accompanied with a distinct consciousness that all is God’s gift. That will keep us from anything in the nature of pride or over-weening self-importance. It will lead to true humility, which is not ignorance of what we can do, but recognition that we, the doers, are of ourselves but poor creatures. We are less likely to fancy that we are greater than we are when we feel that, whatever we are, God made us so. ‘What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?’

Further, it is to be noted that the estimate of gifts which Paul enjoins is an estimate with a view to service. Much self-investigation is morbid, because it is self-absorbed; and much is morbid because it is undertaken only for the purpose of ascertaining one’s ‘spiritual condition.’ Such self-examination is good enough in its way, and may sometimes be very necessary; but a testing of one’s own capacities for the purpose of ascertaining what we are fit for, and what therefore it is our duty to do, is far more wholesome. Gifts are God’s summons to work, and our first response to the summons should be our scrutiny of our gifts with a distinct purpose of using them for the great end for which we received them. It is well to take stock of the loaves that we have, if the result be that we bring our poor provisions to Him, and put them in His hands, that He may give them back to us so multiplied as to be more than adequate to the needs of the thousands. Such just estimate of our gifts is to be attained mainly by noting ourselves at work. Patient self-observation may be important, but is apt to be mistaken; and the true test of what we can do is what we do do.

The just estimate of our gifts which Paul enjoins is needful in order that we may ascertain what God has meant us to be and do, and may neither waste our strength in trying to be some one else, nor hide our talent in the napkin of ignorance or false humility. There is quite as much harm done to Christian character and Christian service by our failure to recognise what is in our power, as by ambitious or ostentatious attempts at what is above our power. We have to be ourselves as God has made us in our natural faculties, and as the new life of Christ operating on these has made us new creatures in Him not by changing but by enlarging our old natures. It matters nothing what the special form of a Christian man’s service may be; the smallest and the greatest are alike to the Lord of all, and He appoints His servants’ work. Whether the servant be a cup-bearer or a counsellor is of little moment. ‘He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much.’

The positive aspect of this right estimate of one’s gifts is, if we fully render the Apostle’s words, as the Revised Version does, ‘so to think as to think soberly.’ There is to be self-knowledge in order to ‘sobriety,’ which includes not only what we mean by sober-mindedness, but self-government; and this aspect of the apostolic exhortation opens out into the thought that the gifts, which a just estimate of ourselves pronounces us to possess, need to be kept bright by the continual suppression of the mind of the flesh, by putting down earthly desires, by guarding against a selfish use of them, by preventing them by rigid control from becoming disproportioned and our masters. All the gifts which Christ bestows upon His people He bestows on condition that they bind them together by the golden chain of self-control.Romans 12:3. For I say — As if he had said, You must be renewed, in order that you may walk as it is your indispensable duty and great privilege to do. He proceeds to show what that will of God is, which he had just spoken of: through the grace which is given to me — He chiefly means, given him as an inspired apostle, whereby he was qualified and authorized to direct the believers at Rome, in their duty in general, and in the exercise of their gifts, and the execution of their offices in particular. And he modestly mentions the grace of God as the source of his authority and qualifications for this office, lest he should seem to forget his own direction; to every one that is among you — To all and each of you, who profess Christianity at Rome: well would it have been if the Christians there had always remembered his advice! Not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think — On account of any special gift conferred on him, or any public office assigned him in the church; not to be lifted up with pride on account of it, or of his own wisdom or understanding, so as to arrogate to himself, or take upon him, more authority than he ought. But to think soberly — To think of himself, of his gifts or office, with modesty and humility; according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith — From which all other gifts and graces flow. And surely, as if he had said, When you consider it is God who hath given all, there will appear little reason to magnify yourselves on any distinguishing share of his bounty, which any one may have received; especially when you remember that this distribution is made not only, or chiefly, for your own sakes, but out of regard to the good of the whole. From the apostolic caution and advice here given, we may infer that “irregularities in the exercise of spiritual gifts had taken place, or were likely to take place, at Rome as at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 12:14, at Philippi, Php 2:3, and Thessalonica, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20. These the apostle endeavoured to correct, or prevent, by the excellent rules prescribed in this passage.”12:3-8 Pride is a sin in us by nature; we need to be cautioned and armed against it. All the saints make up one body in Christ, who is the Head of the body, and the common Centre of their unity. In the spiritual body, some are fitted for and called to one sort of work; others for another sort of work. We are to do all the good we can, one to another, and for the common benefit. If we duly thought about the powers we have, and how far we fail properly to improve them, it would humble us. But as we must not be proud of our talents, so we must take heed lest, under a pretence of humility and self-denial, we are slothful in laying out ourselves for the good of others. We must not say, I am nothing, therefore I will sit still, and do nothing; but, I am nothing in myself, and therefore I will lay out myself to the utmost, in the strength of the grace of Christ. Whatever our gifts or situations may be, let us try to employ ourselves humbly, diligently, cheerfully, and in simplicity; not seeking our own credit or profit, but the good of many, for this world and that which is to come.For I say - The word "for" shows that the apostle is about to introduce some additional considerations to enforce what he had just said, or to show how we may evince a mind that is not conformed to the world.

Through the grace - Through the favor, or in virtue of the favor of the apostolic office. By the authority that is conferred on me to declare the will of God as an apostle; see the note at Romans 1:5; see also Galatians 1:6, Galatians 1:15; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:14.

Not to think ... - Not to over-estimate himself, or to think more of himself than he ought to. What is the true standard by which we ought to estimate ourselves he immediately adds. This is a caution against pride; and an exhortation not to judge of ourselves by our talents, wealth, or function, but to form another standard of judging of ourselves, by our Christian character. The Romans would probably be in much danger from this quarter. The prevailing habit of judging among them was according to rank, or wealth, or eloquence, or function. While this habit of judging prevailed in the world around them, there was danger that it might also prevail in the church. And the exhortation was that they should not judge of their own characters by the usual modes among people, but by their Christian attainments. There is no sin to which people are more prone than an inordinate self-valuation and pride. Instead of judging by what constitutes true excellence of character, they pride themselves on that which is of no intrinsic value; on rank, and titles, and external accomplishments; or on talents, learning, or wealth. The only true standard of character pertains to the principles of action, or to that which constitutes the moral nature of the man; and to that the apostle calls the Roman people.

But to think soberly - Literally, "to think so as to act soberly or wisely." So to estimate ourselves as to act or demean ourselves wisely, prudently, modestly. Those who over-estimate themselves are proud, haughty, foolish in their deportment. Those who think of themselves as they ought, are modest, sober, prudent. There is no way to maintain a wise and proper conduct so certain, as to form a humble and modest estimate of our own character.

According as God hath dealt - As God has measured to each one, or apportioned to each one. In this place the faith which Christians have, is traced to God as its giver. This act, that God has given it, will be itself one of the most effectual promoters of humility and right feeling. People commonly regard the objects on which they pride themselves as things of their own creation, or as depending on themselves. But let an object be regarded as the gift of God, and it ceases to excite pride, and the feeling is at once changed into gratitude. He, therefore, who regards God as the source of all blessings, and he only, will be an humble man.

The measure of faith - The word "faith" here is evidently put for religion, or Christianity. Faith is a main thing in religion. It constitutes its first demand, and the Christian religion, therefore, is characterized by its faith, or its confidence, in God; see Mark 16:17; compare Hebrews 11; Romans 4. We are not, therefore, to be elated in our view of ourselves; we are not to judge of our own characters by wealth, or talent, or learning, but by our attachment to God, and by the influence of faith on our minds. The meaning is, judge yourselves, or estimate yourselves, by your piety. The propriety of this rule is apparent:

(1) Because no other standard is a correct one, or one of value. Our talent, learning, rank, or wealth, is a very improper rule by which to estimate ourselves. All may be wholly unconnected with moral worth; and the worst as well as the best people may possess them.

(2) God will judge us in the day of judgment by our attachment to Christ and his cause Matthew 25; and that is the true standard by which to estimate ourselves here.

(3) nothing else will secure and promote humility but this. All other things may produce or promote pride, but this will effectually secure humility. The fact that God has given all that we have; the fact that the poor and obscure may have as true an elevation of character as ourselves; the consciousness of our own imperfections and short-comings in the Christian faith; and the certainty that we are soon to be arraigned to try this great question, whether we have evidence that we are the friends of God; will all tend to promote humbleness of mind and to bring down our usual inordinate self-estimation. If all Christians judged themselves in this way, it would remove at once no small part of the pride of station and of life from the world, and would produce deep attachment for those who are blessed with the faith of the gospel, though they may be unadorned by any of the wealth or trappings which now promote pride and distinctions among men.

3. For I say—authoritatively

through the grace given unto me—as an apostle of Jesus Christ; thus exemplifying his own precept by modestly falling back on that office which both warranted and required such plainness towards all classes.

to every man that is among you, not to think, &c.—It is impossible to convey in good English the emphatic play, so to speak, which each word here has upon another: "not to be high-minded above what he ought to be minded, but so to be minded as to be sober-minded" [Calvin, Alford]. This is merely a strong way of characterizing all undue self-elevation.

according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith—Faith is here viewed as the inlet to all the other graces, and so, as the receptive faculty of the renewed soul—that is, "as God hath given to each his particular capacity to take in the gifts and graces which He designs for the general good."

Before he exhorted to a holy life in general, now he comes to more particular exhortations.

I say; i.e. I enjoin and command; see Galatians 5:16. I do not only beseech you, as Romans 12:1, but I also require you, as one that hath authority.

Through the grace given unto me:. {see Romans 1:5} See Poole on "Romans 1:5".

To every man that is among you; more particularly, to him that hath any particular gift or office in the church.

Not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; i.e. not to be drunk with a proud and overweening conceit of himself, his own wisdom, ability, &c.

But to think soberly, or modestly; let him contain himself within bounds, and not take upon him what doth not belong to him; let him not contemn others, and pretend to more than he hath. There is an elegant paronomasia in the Greek, which our language cannot reach.

According as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith: faith here is put for the knowledge of God and Christ, and all other spiritual gifts and graces bestowed upon the faithful; these are called faith, because they are given with faith, and exercised by faith: of these, God deals to every man his measure or portion; not all gifts to one, nor the same gift to every one in the same measure or proportion: see Romans 12:6 Ephesians 4:7. For I say, through the grace given unto me,.... The Ethiopic version reads, the grace of God: and so two of Stephens's copies. By which the apostle intends, not that internal grace which was wrought in his soul; nor the Gospel of the grace of God, which he preached; nor the gifts of grace, which qualified him for that service; but the grace of apostleship, or that authoritative power, which he, as the apostle, received from Christ to say, command, give orders and instructions to churches, and particular persons:

to every man that is among you: every member of the church, in whatsoever state or condition, whether in office or not; of whatsoever abilities or capacity, having gifts, whether more or less; the manifestation of the Spirit being given to everyone to profit with, for his own and the good of others:

not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; that is, either not to arrogate to himself what does not belong to him, and detract from others, who may have equal, if not superior, abilities to him; or not to glory in what he has, as if he had not received it, and as if it was altogether owing to his own sagacity, penetration, diligence, and industry; or not to search into things too high for him that are out of his reach, and beyond his capacity; though this is not to be understood as discouraging a search into the Scriptures of truth, the more difficult parts of it, and the more knotty points of controversy; but as forbidding inquiry into things not lawful to be searched into, or, if lawful, as requiring such a scrutiny to be made with modesty, and an humble dependence on superior light and assistance, and a discovery of it with humility and lowliness of mind;

but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith: such ought to consider that what gifts, abilities, light, and knowledge they have, they have then, not of themselves, but from God; that they have not all faith, and all knowledge, or do not know the whole of the faith of the Gospel only a measure of it, which is dealt out, divided, and parted to every man, some having a greater degree of evangelical light than others; and that all have some, but none all. The Syriac version renders it, "faith in measure"; one of Stephens's copies reads, "the measure of grace"; see Ephesians 4:7.

{3} For I {g} say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not {h} to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think {i} soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of {k} faith.

(3) Thirdly, he admonishes us very earnestly that every man keep himself within the bounds of his calling, and that every man be wise according to the measure of grace that God has given him.

(g) I charge.

(h) That he does not please himself too much, as those do who persuade themselves they know more than they actually do.

(i) We will be sober if we do not take that upon us which we do not have, and if we do not brag of that which we do have.

(k) By faith he means the knowledge of God in Christ, and the gifts which the Holy Spirit pours upon the faithful.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 12:3. The exhortation now passes on to single duties, amongst which that of humility and modesty, generally (Romans 12:3-5), and in respect of the individual χαρίσματα in particular (Romans 12:6-8), is the first—the first, too, compliance with which was indispensable to a prosperous life of the church. And Paul must have known how very necessary this same injunction was in the Roman community.

γάρ] for. The special requirement which he is now to make serves in fact by way of confirmation to the general exhortation of Romans 12:2. As to λέγω in the sense of enjoining, see on Romans 2:22.

διὰ τῆς χάρ. τῆς δοθ. μοι] Paul does not command διʼ ἑαυτοῦ, but by means of, i.e. in virtue of the divine grace bestowed on him. It is thus that he characterizes—and how at once truly and humbly! (1 Corinthians 15:10)—his apostleship. Comp. Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 3:7-8. This χάρις was given to him (μοι), not in common with Christians generally (ὑμῖν, Romans 12:6).

παντὶὑμῖς] to every one in your community; none among you is to be exempt from this exhortation; not: to every one who thinks himself to be something among you (Koppe, Baumgarten-Crusius).

μὴ ὑπερφρον. κ.τ.λ.] not loftily-minded ought the Christian to be, going beyond the standard-rule of that disposition which is conformable to duty (παρʼ ὃ δεῖ φρ.); but his disposition should be such as to have wise discretion (1 Peter 4:7) for its aim (comp. Hom. Il. xxiii. 305: εἰς ἀγαθὰ φρονέων, Eur. Phoen. 1135: εἰς μάχην φρονεῖν). Paronomasia. Comp. Plat. Legg. x. p. 906 B: σωφροσύνη μετὰ φρονήσεως, Eur. Heracl. 388: τῶν φρονήματωντῶν ἄγαν ὑπερφρόνων; and see Wetstein.

ἑκάστῳ ὡς] ἑκάστῳ depends on ἑμέρισε (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 7:17, and on Romans 11:31), not on λέγω (Estius, Köllner)—which view makes the already said παντὶὑμῖν to be once more repeated, and, on the other hand, deprives ἐμέρισε of its essential definition. Ὡς designates the scale according to which each one ought φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν, and this scale is different in persons differently furnished with gifts, so that for one the boundary, beyond which his φρονεῖν ceases to be εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν, is otherwise drawn than it is for another. The regulative standard, however, Paul expressly calls the measure of faith, which God has assigned. This is the subjective condition (the objective is the divine χάρις) of that which every one can and ought to do in the Christian life of the church. According, namely, as faith in the case of individual Christians is more or less living, practical, energetic, efficacious in this or that direction,—whether contemplative, or manifesting itself in the outer life, in eloquence and action, etc.,—they have withal to measure their appointed position and task in the church. He, therefore, who covets a higher or another standpoint and sphere of activity in the community, and is not contented with that which corresponds to the measure of faith bestowed on him, evinces a wilful self-exaltation, which is without measure and not of God—not that spirit wherein the Christian μετριοφροσύνη consists, the φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν, ἑκάστῳ ὡς κ.τ.λ. The πίστις is therefore to be taken throughout in no other sense than the ordinary one: faith in Christ, of which the essence indeed is alike in all, but the individually different degrees of strength (comp. 1 Corinthians 13:2), and peculiarities of character in other respects (Romans 12:4 ff.), constitute for individuals the μέτρον πίστεως in quantitative and qualitative relation. Comp. Ephesians 4:7. This likewise holds in opposition to Hofmann, who with violence separates μέτρ. πίστεως from ἐμέρισε, and takes it as an accusative of apposition, like τὴν λογικ. λατρείαν ὑμῶν, Romans 12:1; holding πίστεως to be the genitive of quality, which distinguishes the measure within which the thinking of the Christian is confined, from that which the natural man sets up for himself. Comp., in opposition to this strange separation, 2 Corinthians 10:13, and in opposition to this artificial explanation of the genitive, 2 Corinthians 10:13; Ephesians 4:7; Ephesians 3:16; Plat. Theaet. p. 161 E: μέτρῳτῆς σὐτοῦ σοφίας. Soph. El. 229: μέτρον κακότητος. Eur. Ion, 354: ἥβης μέτρον. Pind. Isthm. i. 87: κερδέων μ.Romans 12:3-8. The duties of members of the Church as such: avoidance of self-exaltation, and mutual service in the measure of the gift bestowed on each. λέγω γάρ: the γὰρ indicates that “humility is the immediate effect of self-surrender to God” (Gifford). διὰ τῆς χάριτος κ.τ.λ. Paul illustrates in his own person, in giving this advice, the rule he is laying down for the Church. He speaks “through the grace given him,” and therefore without presumption; but he does speak, and so puts his wisdom and love at the service of the Church. παντὶ τῷ ὄντι ἐν ὑμῖν: everybody in the Church needed this word. To himself, every man is in a sense the most important person in the world, and it always needs much grace to see what other people are, and to keep a sense of moral proportion. μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν: ὑπερφρονεῖν here only in N.T., but a common word. παρʼ ὃ δεῖ φρονεῖν: beyond the mind or habit of thought one ought to have. For this use of παρὰ see Romans 14:5, Luke 13:2, Hebrews 1:9. φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν: to cherish a habit of thought tending to sobriety of mind. σωφροσύνη is described by Jos., Macc. 2 f., as giving man dominion not only over bodily ἐπιθυμίαι but also over those of the soul, such as φιλαρχία, κενοδοξία, ἀλαζονεία, μεγαλαυχία, βασκανία. These are precisely the qualities to which Paul opposes it here. φρονεῖν and its cognates are favourite words with Paul: what they all suggest is the importance to character, especially to Christian character, of the prevailing mood of the mind—the moral temper, as it might be called. It should always tend to sobriety; but he gives a special rule for it in ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἐμέρισεν μέτρον πίστεως. ἑκάστῳ is governed by ἐμέρισεν: its place makes it emphatic. Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5. Whatever the characteristic of any individual may be, it is due to the discriminating act of God in measuring out faith to him in greater or less degree. Taken in connection with what precedes, the idea seems to be: There are various degrees of self-estimation proper, for God gives one more and another less; but all are fundamentally regulated by humility, for no one has anything that he has not received. 1 Corinthians 4:7.3. the grace given unto me] His qualifications as an Apostle; inspired authority as the Lord’s messenger and interpreter. See Romans 1:5, Romans 15:15-16. Cp. also 1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:7-8; for parallels more or less exact to this phrase in this connexion.

not to think—think soberly] In the Gr. there is a forcible “play on words” here, making an almost epigram. The verbs are, the simple verb “to think,” and two of its compounds meaning respectively “to overween” and “to be sober-thoughted.” Lit. not to over-think beyond what it behoves him to think, but to think so as to come to sober-thinking. The special direction to be taken by this “sober-thinking” was the recognition by each Christian of the limits of his own gifts, the reality of the gifts of others, and the position of the individual as only a part of the great community; as well as the ever-important fact that “gifts,” whether many or few, are the sovereign bounty of God.

hath dealt] Lit. did deal, or distribute; on the admission of each soul to His grace and service. Same word as 1 Corinthians 7:17; 2 Corinthians 10:13.

the measure of faith] Cp. Ephesians 4:7, where (see Romans 12:11) the context is similar to this. There, however, the word “grace” is used where “faith” is used here; and “faith” here is not quite easy of explanation. In this Epistle the special aspect of faith (trust in God and His word) as justifying has been consistently in view, rather than its aspect (Hebrews 11:1) as laying hold upon invisible realities in general. Here, therefore, it seems best to seek for a reference as consistent as possible with that of the rest of the Epistle, and one also which shall harmonize with the phrase in Romans 12:6 below; q.v. We explain the present passage then as follows:—“Faith” here means specially acceptance of Christ, revealed as the Propitiation: but that acceptance is also, ipso facto, the entrance on bondservice to God, (see e.g. Romans 6:18 :) therefore the gift of faith is here mentioned as involving the idea of the allotment of consequent duties and functions also to the various believers with their various capacities. Faith, in the Divine plan, is the grand qualification for service, (because it is the appointed instrument of reconciliation;) and it is therefore the sphere, so to speak, in which all true service is to be done.

In this view, we may paraphrase the passage before us: “even as God distributed the sovereign gift of faith, (Ephesians 2:7-8,) the gift of the power to ‘believe unto justification,’ to each of you, with a view in each case to the various tasks and services of the life of faith.”

See further on Romans 12:6.Romans 12:3. Λέγω) Flacius explains; I distinctly declare [edico]. This word adds the meaning of an imperative, to the subsequent affectionate [moratæ, i.e., having ἦθος. end.] exhortation.—γὰρ, for) He shows what the will of God intends.—διὰ τῆς χάριτος, through the grace) Paul himself affords an example, σωφροσύνης, of the sobriety, which he commends; lest, by this form of expression, λέγω, I distinctly declare [ordain], which Christ alone could have used absolutely, he should seem rashly to prescribe things so difficult to others, comp. Romans 12:6.—ὄντι) to each one, who is among you, of your rank, a believer.—ἐν ὑμῖν, among you) there were many reasons, why the Romans might think that they might exalt themselves, and they afterwards did so.—δεῖ) ought, according to truth and duty.—φρονεῖν) to think, and thence, to act.—εἰς) the particle limits.[129]—ἙΚΆΣΤῼ, to every man) No man ought to hold himself up as the only rule, according to which he tries others, and he ought not to think that others should be entirely such as he is, and should do the same things and in the same way as he does.—ὡς) as, and not more, Romans 12:5; but yet not less, Romans 12:6-7; therefore δὲ, but [and on the other hand: not then, as Engl. Vers.] is used, Romans 12:6.—μέτρον, measure) Both faith and the measure [proportion given] of faith is the gift of God.—πίστεως, of faith) from which the rest of the gifts flow (Cluverus); and that, too, those gifts that sanctify and do service [even sanctifying and administrative gifts flow from faith]. Faith is the source of them all, and the rule to regulate us in their very use. Of faith, which has been treated of ch. 1, and following chap. [Love follows, Romans 12:9.—V. g.]

[129] Σωφρονεῖν, to use moderation) σωφροσύνη, an excellent virtue among those that are spiritual.—V. g.Verse 3. - For I say, through the grace given unto me (the grace of apostleship to the Gentiles (cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 15:15). He is about to warn against either neglecting or exceeding the special graces given to each person; and he may, perhaps, mean to imply here that he himself, in giving these admonitions, is exercising, without exceeding, his own special grace) to every man that is among you (this is emphatic. The pretensions to superiority of some at Corinth who possessed more showy gifts than others had shown how the admonition might need to be pressed on all; and in a community like that of the Romans there might well be a special tendency to assumption on the part of some), not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly (rather, as in the Revised Version so to think as to think soberly, or, more literally, to be minded so as to be sober-minded), according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Why of faith? One might have expected the expression to be, "of grace," as in ver. 6, "according to the grace that is given to us;" or as in Ephesians 4:7, "according to the measure [μέτρον, as here] of the gift of Christ." It seems to be because by faith we become receptive of the grace given to each of us. Hence the faith assigned by God to each is regarded as "the regulative standard; the subjective condition" (Meyer)of the several gifts or graces. Cf. also Matthew 17:20 and 1 Corinthians 13:2, where miraculous powers are spoken of as dependent on the amount of faith. Tholuck explains thus: "Faith in an unseen Christ brings man into connection with a world unseen, in which he moves without distinctly apprehending it; and in proportion as he learns to look with faith to that world, the more is the measure of his spiritual powers elevated." Not to think, etc.

The play upon φρονεῖν to think and its compounds is very noticeable. "Not to be high-minded (hyperphronein) above what he ought to be minded (phronein), but to be minded (phronein) unto the being sober-minded (sophronein). See on 1 Peter 4:7.

The measure of faith (μέτρον πίστεως)

An expression which it is not easy to define accurately. It is to be noted: 1. That the point of the passage is a warning against an undue self-estimate, and a corresponding exhortation to estimate one's self with discrimination and sober judgment. 2. That Paul has a standard by which self-estimate is to be regulated. This is expressed by ὡς as, according Amos 3. That this scale or measure is different in different persons, so that the line between conceit and sober thinking is not the same for all. This is expressed by ἐμέρισεν hath imparted, distributed, and ἑκάστῳ to each one. 4. The character of this measure or standard is determined by faith. It must be observed that the general exhortation to a proper self-estimate is shaped by, and foreshadows, the subsequent words respecting differences of gifts. It was at this point that the tendency to self-conceit and spiritual arrogance would develop itself. Hence the precise definition of faith here will be affected by its relation to the differing gifts in Romans 12:6. Its meaning, therefore, must not be strictly limited to the conception of justifying faith in Christ, though that conception includes and is really the basis of every wider conception. It is faith as the condition of the powers and offices of believers, faith regarded as spiritual insight, which, according to its degree, qualifies a man to be a prophet, a teacher, a minister, etc.; faith in its relation to character, as the only principle which develops a man's true character, and which, therefore, is the determining principle of the renewed man's tendencies, whether they lead him to meditation and research, or to practical activity. As faith is the sphere and subjective condition of the powers and functions of believers, so it furnishes a test or regulative standard of their respective endowments and functions. Thus the measure applied is distinctively a measure of faith. With faith the believer receives a power of discernment as to the actual limitations of his gifts. Faith, in introducing him into God's kingdom, introduces him to new standards of measurement, according to which he accurately determines the nature and extent of his powers, and so does not think of himself too highly. This measure is different in different individuals, but in every case faith is the determining element of the measure. Paul, then, does not mean precisely to say that a man is to think more or less soberly of himself according to the quantity of faith which he has, though that is true as a fact; but that sound and correct views as to the character and extent of spiritual gifts and functions are fixed by a measure, the determining element of which, in each particular case, is faith.

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