Romans - Lesson 49

Romans 12:3-8

In Romans 12:3-8, Paul emphasizes humility and unity within the body of Christ. He warns against arrogance, urging believers to assess themselves soberly in light of the faith given by God. Each member possesses unique gifts, such as prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and showing mercy. Paul underscores the importance of using these gifts to contribute to the community's unity, fostering cooperation rather than self-elevation. 

Lesson 49
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Romans 12:3-8

V. The Transforming Power of the Gospel: Christian Conduct (12:1–15:13)

A. The Heart of the Matter: Total Transformation (12:1-2)

B. Humility and Mutual Service (12:3-8)

C. Love and Its Manifestations (12:9-21)

D. The Christian and Secular Rulers (13:1-7)

E. Love and the Law (13:8-10)

F. Living in Light of the Day (13:11-14)

G. A Plea for Unity (14:1-15:13)


  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.
  • In Romans 14:1-15:13, you learn about the division in the Roman Christian community, the concept of adiaphora, the balance between liberty and love, and Paul's emphasis on mutual acceptance and avoiding spiritual harm through personal conviction and respect for others' practices.
  • In Romans 15:14-16:27, you explore Paul's extended conclusion, his ministry to the Gentiles, his request for prayers regarding his journey to Jerusalem, the roles of Phoebe and Junias in ministry, and the diversity of the early Christian community.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 12:3-8  
Lesson Transcript


Romans 12:3-8

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.


A. Humility and Unity of the Body: 

The general overview of the vision of giving ourselves as living sacrifices and trying to approve what God’s will is by the renewing of the mind. Now Paul begins to break that down in 12:3-8. This focuses on the importance of humility on our part and the unity of the body; two ideas often closely related in Scripture. I think of Philippians 2, another passage where these two are closely connected, a place where again we see Paul anticipating where the argument is going to go in his application in chapter 14. Paul warns us about thinking too highly of ourselves. 

The word he is using here about thinking highly of ourselves picks up the language Paul has just been using in chapter 11. So, we are beginning to see again, a kind of a sequence here. In chapter 11, Paul warns the Gentile Christians in Rome in verse 18, don’t consider yourselves to be superior; verse 20don’t be arrogant. This is the same language Paul now uses here in 12:3, don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought, think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 

Let’s pause on that phrase for a moment at the end of verse 3. As the NIV translates here, it sounds like each of us has been given a sort of different degree of faith. Paul is saying to think of yourself in line with the amount of faith God has given to each of you which will differ from person to person. That could be what Paul intends here, might even be probably what he intends. This is a place where I would like a different view to be what Paul says, but I am not sure I can justify it in the Greek text. 

A second way to understand this is to think about faith as a kind of common standard that God has given everybody. He is telling us not so much think of yourself in accordance to how much faith you have as opposed to how much faith you have, but rather use the standard of faith you all have in common as a measuring stick against which you evaluate yourself. Rather than trying to compare gifts, to brag about what one person has as opposed to another person, Paul says to look at the faith that you all have as that which you need to measure yourself by.

In either case though, Paul’s concern is with people who are arrogant, who are not recognizing the place they actually have in the community. I had a professor back in my Trinity days that used to use this verse to say that there was a problem with people thinking too highly of themselves but there is also the problem of people not thinking highly enough of themselves. He would really emphasize the point to think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the faith God has given you. 

Obviously within the context, Paul is concerned about people thinking too much of themselves. But there can also be the other danger of people not appreciating adequately enough the gifts they do have, the faith that God has given them, who become too timid in ministry or who are afraid to take some bold moves that God might be calling on them to make because we are sort of uncertain of ourselves. There might be a good application here.


B. The Gifts: 

At the end of the paragraph in verses 4 and following, brings in the common Pauline teaching about the single body with the diversity of members. This is very similar to what we have in 1 Corinthians 12; somewhat similar though not quite as parallel to Ephesians 4 also where the concern is to emphasize the unity we have together in Christ even as we recognize the diversity of gift and function, etc. 

Paul, of course, never gives us a neat comprehensive list of gifts. All three of the passages are Pauline - Ephesians 4 again and 1 Corinthians 12 and the passage here Romans 12. In each case, Paul is illustrating his point by mentioning certain gifts. We realize we can’t go to the New Testament and claim here are all the gifts God has made available to the church, these are the only ones that He has made available to the church. There may well be gifts that aren’t mentioned in the New Testament that God is giving His people. Of course, some of us may have more than one gift as well. 

We have to back off a little bit from the thing we are prone to do sometimes, pass out to our congregations a list, here are all the gifts mentioned in these passages of Paul, check off the one you have. This can be helpful in encouraging people to think about how God wants to use them and what kinds of abilities they have and how they can be used to serve the church, but can be reductionistic in these sense of not realizing there may be more gifts than that and I may have to check five or six boxes. 

I took some encouragement when I was looking at this. If your gift is to give, then give generously. I thought about probably most of our churches have two to five families who are the ones making the church happen financially. It’s just the reality that they are the primary givers. Sometimes they complain with the thought that everyone ought to be giving. But there are some people who have more of an ability and more of a gift to give financially. And praise God that there are people who make that choice!

Dr. Moo:  
Why is it when you do this inventory of spiritual gifts, that no one checks the box that my gift is the gift of giving? The gift of giving is one that kind of gets missed; people aren’t jumping into this as such. 

I have found those who have the gift of giving, use their gift to inspire others to give. 

Dr. Moo:  
There is often a real pattern of example that comes with givers. That is why when you are doing fundraising drives with school, institution, or church, usually they say, get your leadership together and make sure that they are committed first to give a certain amount and then the people are going to follow that.


C. Defining Prophesy: 

Paul mentions some gifts here and the focus is on making sure that each person who has a gift uses it well, whatever that gift might be. So, Paul briefly mentions prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading (there is some debate about the meaning about this word), and showing mercy. This is just a sample of the kinds of gifts God has given to the community which we are to exercise as Paul says in verse 6, according to the grace given to each of us. 

Obviously, God distributes His grace, it takes different forms in different lives for different people and we are called upon the recognize that and use our gift faithfully in the context of the community. Paul’s chief concern is to use it in a way that fosters the unity of the body, that recognizes here is my place in the body; here is where I can use my gift and use it in a way that doesn’t try to elevate me but tries to genuinely fit into what the body as a whole is about. 

What do you do with the prophesying prophesier, are you comfortable with the interpretation that says that a prophesier only speaks for God, and is not necessarily a future-teller?

Dr. Moo:  
I think it is more than a future-teller, yes. I think the evidence in the New Testament goes that way. Moving on from there though, I think is challenging. On the one hand, you have what I would call a fairly narrow view of prophesy that is argued by Wayne Grudem in his doctoral dissertation and in a couple books and articles since then, in which prophesy in the New Testament is very much tied to communicating a revelation from God. This is a revelation with a small ‘r’, not a capital ‘R’, authoritative biblical truth, but revelation, small ‘r’. In 1 Corinthians 14 toward the end of the chapter there, Paul does in the context of prophesy, talk about people who have received a revelation. That is the key biblical basis for that. 

So that is a fairly restricted sense of prophesy which involves this sense of receiving a revelation from God that is then communicated to others for the body’s edification. That can take the form of a prediction as we see in the Book of Acts two or three times, but need not be a prediction either. It can just be a Word from God for the community. 

Other people, for instance, Anthony Thistleton in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, take a much broader understanding of prophesy as speaking on behalf of God, of bringing a word from God to the community with some kind of degree of authority. If that is how we define it then, certain forms of preaching could fit under the rubric of prophesizing. 

If you take the first view, the view that Grudem argues, it is a narrow idea and usually what we think about as preaching wouldn’t fit in the gift of prophesy then. I’m not sure myself. I used to hold Grudem’s view. I still may slightly incline to it, but reading Thistleton recently has led me to go back and reevaluate a little bit. It is difficult to pin down, obviously.

Clearly, it isn’t the same thing as the Old Testament prophet, I think that is clear enough, the person appointed by God who speaks with authority, as in ‘thus says the Lord’. 

Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 14, whatever prophesying is, others are to judge the prophesy. It is not something that comes with immediate unquestioned authority from God.