The book of Romans is the closest we get in the Bible to a single explanation of God’s plan of salvation. It starts in chapter 1 with dark comments on the way things went wrong for the human race. Having been made to worship God, men and women turned instead to the worship of created things. The result was foolishness and darkness (Romans 1:21-23).
Well, chapters 2-11 explain how God wins. Through the work of his son Jesus, God has brought a new ‘race’ into existence. And you can tell by the way they worship. You see the book of Romans, when it gets through describing God’s plan, and moves on to the life of those who are rescued by God, automatically starts with worship (Romans 12:1).
Renewed to Worship
The point? Those who belong to Jesus have their minds renewed (Romans 12:2) so they can offer worship, which is ‘reasonable’ (the meaning of the word in Romans 12:1, which is commonly translated ‘spiritual’). Reasonable worship is the opposite of the futility and foolishness of the idolatry of chapter 1.
So Romans, amongst other things, is about God fixing broken worshippers and, by the Holy Spirit, giving them the right mind.
Renewed to Serve
This book then goes on to talk about how these new people, with new minds, treat one another. In these verses we are told how they need to use the gifts God graciously gives to them ‘according the measure of faith assigned’ (Romans 12:3). God has not brought into existence a random bunch of disconnected superheroes and a few nobodies. He has placed us in a body – a body in which everybody plays a part, in which everybody is needed.
This means the end of individual pride and selfish ambition. That is like a cancer in this body. Members which function without the ‘renewed mind’ agenda are dangerous and need correcting. They are ‘conforming to this world’ (Romans 12:2). The antidote is to serve according to the grace and faith that God uniquely gives. This means God’s strength, not our selfishness, is the driving factor.
We’re then given some examples of how different gifts serve the body
- Contributing (giving)
Renewed to Judge Rightly
Without the goal in mind being the good of the whole body, and without the energy coming from the Holy Spirit, our ‘service’ becomes self-aggrandizing. If we ‘outdo one another’ it should be in ‘showing honour’ (Romans 12:10).
To avoid missing the point we need the sober judgement, which comes from the gospel – a gospel view of ourselves.
This means reflecting on how all that we have (our salvation, our faith, our gifting) is a gift from God – therefore it is nothing we can boast in (1 Corinthians 4:7). We mustn’t idolize our own gifting or we’ll lose perspective and react fearfully or proudly whenever our false self worth is threatened.
To think soberly about oneself is to remember one is nothing special and one has no better thing than Jesus, with whom we must be completely satisfied, however well our gift is received!
We must also avoid idolizing other people’s gifts, to the point where we wish we were someone else and, instead of practicing our own measure of faith, submit to unbelief.
The main gift of the Holy Spirit is a renewed mind. With that in place everything else falls into place.
The final thing we need to do is settle with the fact that God has put us in a body. The best way to discover our gifts is to find out what it is we do which truly builds up other members. Then we can go crazy playing to our strengths. But this is humbling as we need to start accepting the evaluation of the people around us.
That can hurt but the gospel helps us to remember we are nothing special in ourselves – but loved as the most treasured possessions of almighty God! This means we can afford to get our ‘spiritual gifts ego’ jilted from time to time.