Faith Humbles Us
“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.” (Romans 12:3)
Have you ever watched the “Great British Baking Show” on Netflix? I enjoy the show even though I don’t know why I like it so much, since I don’t bake. There are three challenges every episode, two of which the bakers can prepare for at home. However, the middle, technical challenge usually involves making something the bakers have never made before, and sometimes have never seen. I would be hard-pressed to make something without an example or illustration. The judges, Paul and Mary, show and taste a sample of the item to the television audience, so we can have a few chuckles along the way, watching the work of the bakers as they try to imagine how their finished dessert or bread should look. They are usually quite good—and much better than mine would be.
Sometimes we have a hard time imagining how the Christian life should look. But the Apostle Paul is an expert at modeling correct biblical theology and applications while explaining it to us. In Romans 12:3, Paul says, “for the grace given to me,” as an example of humility that he is describing in the verse. “Paul reminds them of the authority which had been given to him, so that they might not otherwise attend to his voice than if it was the voice of God himself; for his words are the same, as though he had said, ‘I speak not of myself; but, as God’s ambassador, I bring to you the commands which he has entrusted to me’…By ‘grace’ he means the Apostleship, with respect to which he exalts God’s kindness, and at the same time intimates, that he had not crept in through his own presumption, but, that he was chosen by the calling of God.” (1) Paul recognizes that only by God’s grace could he be an apostle, writing as he does.
As Paul is humble about his calling, we should also be about the gifts or talents God has given us. Our thoughts of ourselves should be moderate, not higher than we have a right to think. Scripture refers to us as saints and sinners, and we are both—sinners because we are born such (and continue to live as such) – but saints only because of God’s mercy and grace. God gives us faith to believe in Jesus Christ at regeneration, so our saving faith is also a gift from God.
However, saving faith is not the kind of faith Paul is referring to in Romans 12:3, according to the Reformation Study Bible. “The faith given to us [is] to utilize the gifts given to us for the good of the body.” (2) Calvin states, “And further, by setting up faith in opposition to human judgment, he restrains us from our own opinions, and at the same time specifies the due measure of it, that is, when the faithful humbly keep themselves within the limits allotted to them.” (3) Our gifts are given to us by God, as is the faith to use them for the good of the body, not according to our ideas or lofty visions.
Humility is not just deferring praise. True meekness evidences itself in every area of our lives—in our self-image, our service, our reactions to events, and even in our interpretation of Scripture. In what area should your thoughts of yourself be more restrained?
(1) Calvin, John, Calvin’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Romans 12:3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-12.html
(2) The Reformation Study Bible, Note on Romans 12:3, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
(3) Calvin, John, Ibid.