We all have different ways of regarding ourselves. We dislike those who seem to act as superior to others and make us feel like second class citizens. It is true that so many people are focussed on themselves and their own interests and pay scant attention to the interests of others. It is one of the marks of pride which Jesus said was one of the things that come out from a person to defile them. Mark 7:22.
There are many warnings in the Bible that tell us about the dangers of pride in humans, for example Proverbs16:18, Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. AND Proverbs 29:23, One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honour. Obviously God does not like pride in His creatures and warns them not to be proud.
What God has done through the writings of St Paul is to show us how we are able to have the right opinion of ourselves. We see that in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”We see here these truths,
1]. We are not to have too high an opinion of ourselves.
“not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” The word for “to think of himself more highly’ is from [hyperphrone, ὑπερφρονεῖν] which means to esteem oneself overmuch, that is to be proud, vain or arrogant. It means ignoring God and His demands on His creatures and choosing to do one’s own will. It means setting ourselves up as the lord and master of our lives and forgetting that we are creatures who are meant to be always dependent on our Creator God.
2].We are to think with sober judgment about ourselves.
“but to think with sober judgment” [from sōphroneō; σωφρονέω]. This word comes from sōzō; σώζω meaning to save or heal and from phroneō; φρονέω meaning to think or to exercise the mind. Combined it means to think soberly or healthily.
In other words to think godly thoughts which reflect the nature of God and are not severely limited by human powers of reasoning.
That means in practice that I am not to consider myself above what God has made me to be nor by how He has renewed me by His Spirit. Rather I am to remember that my entire existence is a given by God in His grace and mercy and that it is by His grace alone that I can make the right judgments about myself and about others as a new creation in Him.
On the other hand it reminds me that I should not consider myself of no worth or of little value in the kingdom of God. God has called me to belong to His body the church [the ecclesia], the ones whom God has “called out” from the world to belong to Him to fulfil His purpose. I am to recognise that that God has a purpose and plan to fulfil in and through me. That is how St Paul saw his life before God in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” We are who we are by the grace of God and it requires that we remain in close fellowship with Him so that His grace can accomplish what He wants to do in and through our lives.
3]. We are to think “according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
St Paul began this section by writing “For by the grace given to me.” He wasn’t relying on his own human wisdom gathered over the years. Rather he was describing what God in His grace and wisdom had given him to share with the believers in Rome.
Now he demands that his readers use their minds according to the faith that God had gifted them in His grace and mercy, to be able to think correctly. That faith had equipped them to be able to see things as God sees them, to access His wisdom as His Spirit enlightened them and to see themselves and others in a new light.
That is borne out in what Paul continued to write in this passage. His readers were to see themselves humbly as individual members of one body,
4]. We are humbly to play our part with others in the body of Christ, the church.
St Paul wanted his readers to understand that as believers they were dependent on others in the body of Christ. They were individuals but individually members of one another. Different members had different functions, having different gifts. Romans 12:4. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5. so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them….. .”
What St Paul is reminding us here is that God in His grace has gifted individuals with different gifts to be used for His purposes. It means that none of us has all the gifts and so we need to be dependent on others in the church for God to do what He wants through the church. It is all due to the grace of God at work through His people whom He has called in His grace and mercy to live and work for Him. They may have different gifts but they are all to use what gift they have, according to the grace given to them.
Where then is there any place for pride or arrogance in any believer? There is none! It is God who has called them to belong to Him. It is God who has equipped them by His grace with the gifts they need to do the work He has for them to do.
Perhaps our humble prayer should be, in the words of the hymn
“All to Jesus I surrender
All to Thee I freely give
I will ever love and trust you
in your presence daily live.”
BlogNo.396. Posted on Saturday 26 January 2022. [Australia Day].