Romans 12:6-8 God’s Gifts to Christ’s Body


Paul calls the parts of the body “members.” We are those members. So the image teaches that Christians have different gifts and are to function differently from others in the use of these gifts, while nevertheless being part of the body and contributing to the body’s unity.

Charismata, the word translated “gifts,” occurs seventeen times in the New Testament; sixteen of those occurrences are in Paul’s writings. Charismata is based on the word grace (charis) and actually means “a grace gift.” It’s something given to the people of God by God or, as can also be said, by Jesus Christ. Since grace is God’s unmerited favor, the word indicates that spiritual gifts are dispensed by God according to His pleasure and that the gifts will differ. Every Christian has at least one gift, like the people who received talents in Christ’s parables. Moreover, since these are given by God, they are to be used for His glory and according to His plans rather than to enhance our own glory or further our plans. This is where the thrust toward unity comes in. Each member of the body is to work toward the well-being of the whole so that when one member does well all the others do well and when one member suffers the entire body suffers. Another way of saying this is to say that we not only belong to Christ, we also belong to one another.

There are nineteen spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament (Rom.12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:8-10 and 28-30, Eph. 4:11, 1 Peter 4:11), but the number in not absolute. Different words may describe the same gift, as with serving and helping, and there are probably gifts that could be mentioned but are not. Seven gifts are mentioned in Romans 12:

(1) The first is prophesying (v. 6b). In the Old Testament a prophet is one who speaks the words of God. The Greek word for prophet literally means “one who stood in front of another person and spoke for him.” An example is the relationship between Moses and his brother Aaron (see Exod. 7:1). It’s the same in the New Testament (Luke 7:26-28, John 4:19). From this and other passages it would seem that the prophets were men who spoke under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit to communicate a doctrine, remind people of a duty, or give a warning. (Acts 21:10-14). The gift of prophesy is sometimes predictive, but not necessarily or primarily. This gift is normally the communication of revealed truth in a manner that convicts and builds up its hearers. Oftentimes one who has this gift will have penetrating things to say about specific problems in society or life. One is to do this “in proportion to our faith” looking, as we saw in verse 3.

(2) The next spiritual gift is serving (v. 7a). The Greek word diakonian is the root of our word deacon. So what is spoken of here is a diaconal, or service, ministry. Does this refer to the specific office of a deacon or deaconess in the church, as in Acts 6:1-6? Yes, but not only that. In the church we are called to serve others, though some are given this gift in special measure in order to lead others in the work. We need to remember that even Jesus was a deacon in that, as He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Here the text says, “If it is serving, let him serve.” In other words, just do it! Each of us has a service ministry to perform, because each of us is called to be like Jesus Christ.

(3) Next is the grace of teaching (v. 7b). Teaching differs from prophecy in that it instructs the mind, whereas prophecy is addressed more to the heart and will. Teaching is more concerned with knowledge, prophecy with revelation. The teacher is to apply his all to this task. Probably a third of the Christians has this gift and should be using it. If you know anything about Jesus and the gospel, you should teach what you know, formally if you have the opportunity but also informally by a casual word or testimony. You will be surprised what you are able to teach others.

(4) Then there is the grace of exhortation (v. 8a). The root idea is “to come alongside and encourage.” Exhortation can take many forms – warning, advice, counsel, encouragement. It is a wonderful gift, and we are to place it at Christ’s feet and be willing to be worn out in its use. What a tremendous need we have for those who have this gift.  Many people are hurting, but there are not many helping, because we are all absorbed in ourselves and our own private affairs. We are living in a narcissistic age, another “Me Decade.”

(5) Next is the grace of giving (v. 8b). “Generosity” should be translated “with simplicity.” This refers to our motive in giving. Those who have this gift are to exercise it without ulterior motives or hidden purposes, simply out of love. This is where Ananias and Sapphira failed (Acts 5:1-10). When we give, it is to be simply to the glory of God and to meet the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ in the world.

(6) Then there is the grace of leadership (v. 8c). Those who exercise spiritual leadership in the church, whether pastors or elders or deacons or committee leaders, are not “to wing it.” Leaders should not become casual and careless but should see their abilities as divinely granted gifts and their charges as from God.

(7) Lastly, there is the grace of showing mercy (v. 8d). This gift takes many forms – aiding the poor, working with the mentally handicapped, tending to the ill. But whatever the function, it must be done with cheer. There is no room for a hangdog expression in the Church. If you have come with sympathy to sorrow, bring God’s sunlight in your face.

Seven beautiful gifts, are they not? Perfumes for the Body of Christ. If Paul’s advice were followed, think how healthy the Church would be. Perhaps God is speaking to you about your gifts. Remember, the Church did not give you your gifts – God did. They are His. Use them for His glory!

Paul told Timothy, “Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6). That is exactly what you should do. You have a gift. The rest of the Body needs it. You will be accountable for what you do with it. Use it so that one day you will hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt. 25:21, 23).

Romans 12:6-8 Reflection Questions:

How does Paul suggest that the gifts he mentions are not just ways in which we are carried away by supernatural power but that they also involve plain hard work?

How according to Paul, might our attitude make a big difference as we express our gifts?

How can you identify your spiritual gifts?

Romans 12:3-5 One Body in Christ


Assuming we are committed Christians according to the guidelines of Romans 12:1-2, how do we who are having our minds renewed and our lives transfigured think about life as we live it? Specifically, how do we who have had our minds renewed think about ourselves and fellow believers?

In verse 3 Paul again advises us negatively and positively. First the negative: “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…” (v. 3a). The language here is alive. If we were very literal, we could render the phrase, “I say to everyone, do not super-think of yourself,” Or perhaps “Do not get hyper about yourself!” Perhaps Paul knew of some individuals in Rome who thought they were better than others. Whatever the case, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think is a universal tendency of the human race. Our Adamic nature loves to overthink about itself.

How then are we to think about ourselves? Paul gives us positive advice in verse 3b: “think [of yourself] with sober judgment.” Instead of super-thought there is to be sober thought. Paul continues, “according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This most important phrase has often been given the misleading interpretation that sound judgment comes in proportion to the degree of our faith – if we have strong faith we will think rightly of ourselves. However the word “measure” should be translated “standard.” The idea is that God has allotted to each believer a standard of faith by which to measure himself – and that standard is Christ.

Paul is not asking the believer to estimate himself according to changing subjective feelings, but to examine himself according to his relationship to Christ. When one sees that Christ is the standard of measurement, he will not think of himself more highly than he ought, but will rather think of himself with sober judgment. It’s impossible to think more highly of ourselves than we ought if we are sound on this point. If we truly make Christ our standard, we will experience the reality of the beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

From thinking rightly about ourselves, we move in verses 4-5 to thinking rightly about fellow believers. Here Paul, a master illustrator, gives us a wonderfully mystical conception based on the human anatomy: “For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” The word “as” at the beginning of verse 4 links it closely with verse 3 because when we think rightly about ourselves, with Christ as the standard, we will be able to think accurately about others – the Body of Christ.

This illustration underscores three characteristics of the Body of Christ: its unity, diversity, and mutuality. First, we will view its unity. Both verses 4 and 5 stress the one Body of which we are all members. We must emphasize that while this unity is mysterious, it is real! This is not an illustration that serves only to suggest that we should try to live in a more close-knit manner. It describes the reality that all of us are part of Christ’s Body if we trust in Him for our salvation. We share the same nature. We derive our spiritual life from the same source (John 15:5). Our unity is the subject of Christ’s prayers to the Father (John 17:21a, 22b, 23a).

Second, while there exists a profound, real unity, there is also a corresponding real diversity: “…the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one Body in Christ” (vv. 4b-5a). Without diversity the body would become a monstrosity. God’s glory is revealed in the diversity of His people. This means that as we measure ourselves by Christ’s standard we will be ourselves. Being Christ’s Body will maximize our uniqueness if we allow such. Of course we must be careful to allow others to be themselves. It is always a danger signal when members of a Christian organization or a church begin to all dress and act like the leader. When the Spirit of God is free to work in a church, there is diversity.

Finally, we must not stress this truth of diversity without grasping the balancing truth of our mutuality; we are “members one of another” (v. 5b). First Corinthians 12 beautifully emphasizes this mutuality by pointing out that when one member rejoices, the others rejoice, and when one member hurts, the others hurt. Each of us belongs to and needs the others. The church is no place for lone rangers. If your life seems stuck even though you read your Bible and pray, it may be that you are neglecting getting together with other believers and are depriving yourself of the exchange necessary for spiritual growth.

How beautiful this all is. Those who think rightly about themselves, measuring themselves by the standard that God has given them in their faith, discern the one body and recognize that they do not exist for themselves. As a result, they are free to develop and use their gifts.

Romans 12:3-5 Reflection Questions:

How do Paul’s words in verses 3-5 help Christians be more unified in one body?

What does Paul mean when he writes, “Be honest in your estimate of yourselves (v. 3)?

Romans 12:1-2 The Living Sacrifice


Romans 12:1-2 states a call to commitment. It can nourish us wherever we are in our spiritual pilgrimage. For those further along, it can serve as an affirmation and deepening of matters long settled. For those just beginning to seriously interact with the demands of Christ, it can be a spiritual benchmark.

The basis of commitment is the mercies of God, as Paul so clearly states in the opening phrase of verse 1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…” Specifically, Paul is talking about the mercy of God as spelled out in the eleven preceding chapters – God’s mercy to the terribly fallen human race through the provision of His Son. Radically sinful man was radically lost. But God provided a radical righteousness through the radical person of His Son, which made a radical new life and view of history possible. In view of this mercy God calls us to commitment. The greater our comprehension of what God has done for us, the greater our commitment should be. Practically applied, Christ’s gift, meditated on, accepted, taken to heart, is a magnet drawing us to deepest commitment to Him. There is scarcely anything more important for building our commitment than an increasing understanding of the greatness of God and His mercies to us.

The character of the commitment is given in the last half of the verse: “…to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This commitment has two prominent characteristics: it is total, and it is reasonable. The totality of the commitment comes dramatically to us through the language of sacrifice. “Your bodies,” refers to more than skin and bones, it signifies everything we are – our totality. For Paul, true worship in offering ourselves to God is reasonable or logical because it is consistent with proper understanding of the truth of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Total commitment is the only rational course to take when you really see who God is. Nothing else makes any sense.

Halfway commitment is irrational. To decide to give part of your life to God and keep other parts for yourself – to say “Everything is yours, Lord, but this relationship, this deal, or this pleasure” – is beyond spiritual logic! If we are worshiping apart from commitment to God, it is false worship. We are deceiving ourselves if we are doing “Christian things” but are not consecrated to Jesus Christ.

Notice that in verse 2a there are two commands. The first is negative: “Do not be conformed to this world.” The second is positive: “…but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” These are two sides of commitment. Paul’s words in the first command can be paraphrased, “Don’t be conformed to the schemes of this passing evil age.” The painful truth is, such conformity is common to many of us to a greater extent than we like to acknowledge. Sometimes it’s difficult to know when we are conforming because there are many good things in the world. Moreover we are not to write off our culture entirely. Yet we must think critically. We must be careful what we read and watch. We must not fear to challenge others’ presuppositions. Above all, we must not be afraid to be different.

Then comes the positive command: “…but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The full meaning of the word “transformed” is richer than the simple definition of a caterpillar to a butterfly, as other uses in the New Testament indicate. In Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2 it is used to describe the transfiguration of Christ – when the Lord’s glorious inner essence was allowed to show through His body so that His face radiated like the sun and His clothing was white with light. We experience such transfiguration in Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). How does this happen? This must be done by someone else, which is of course the Holy Spirit. We are to submit to the Holy Spirit who brings about “the renewal of the mind.” The Christian is to allow himself to be changed continually so that his life conforms more and more to that of Christ.

As we answer the call to commitment, we are called to voice a monumental “no” to the schemes of this fleeting evil age and a determined “yes” to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in renewing our minds. The “no” without the “yes” will lead to a life of futile negation. The “yes” without the “no” will lead to frustration because Christ will not dwell in Satan’s house. These are not suggestions, but are rather imperial commands to be obeyed by all!

The final phrase of verse 2 reveals the effects of genuine commitment in our lives: “… that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (v. 2b). A committed life has the power to perceive what God’s will is. The one who is committed to God sees life with a sure eye. While the careless and uncommitted are in confusion, he knows God’s will, and he finds God’s will to be “good and acceptable and perfect.”

To summarize; the basis of commitment is the mercies of God and His love for us. The character of our commitment is to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. The demands of commitment are that we are not to be conformed to this world and to be transformed by the renewal of your minds. And the effect of commitment is knowing the will of God. Nothing but total commitment of our lives to God makes any sense. He holds the universe together by the Word of His power – “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” And if this is not enough, He gave us His “mercies” through His Son, even while we were yet sinners. Total commitment is the only logical way to live. Let us live under the logic of God.

Romans 12:1-2 Reflection Questions:

What does it mean to be “living sacrifices” (v. 1)? What sacrifice is Paul talking about?

When did you really have to sacrifice for something? What did you give up? What made you willing to invest so much of yourself to achieve that goal?

Why does Paul emphasize the mind in verse 2?