I am going to resist the temptation to restate the thesis of this three-part article and direct you back to Part One. There you will find a useful introduction and the individual application of what we are calling the anchor (think house, not ship) of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.

Part Two explores the bridge between the individual application of Part One and the community application we are exploring in this last part. The order is important – individual application working its way into the corporate body. So, once you have read Parts One and Two, you should be ready to dig in here.

Community Application

As we begin, it is important to note that, as it is with individuals, fellowships small, large, and in between, are also instructed and encouraged to offer themselves to God – to be used as corporate instruments of His sacrificial love. Furthermore, resisting conformity with the world and being transformed are best accomplished in community. In fact, it is impossible for individuals who are “members of one another” to be transformed separate from one another.

Now on to Romans 12:4-8.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8

The “for” found at the beginning of this passage connects our humble and sober thinking to our functioning as God intends in the community of faith. Some members may have more visibility or a seemingly more important function; others, less. In humility, we recognize that this is an unimportant consideration. Indeed, as we learn from 1Corinthians 12:23, greater honor is bestowed on those we think to be less honorable. This is sober thinking.

There are three considerations here that warrant our attention. First, there is our unity. We are not only members of “one body in Christ”, but “individually members of one another”. Spiritually, regardless of function, there are no boundaries between us. Our unity is a mystery beyond reason; only by faith and practice do we know it to be true.

Through faith, we function together in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:13). This is the desire, vision, and attitude of Jesus Christ. As we lay hold of the mind of Christ, we are anchored to the theological foundation, in Romans one through eleven, that He has established for our life in community.

Secondly, “let us use them”. Every member of the Body of Christ has been given at least one gift, God’s grace for the exercise of that gift, and a measure of faith with which to appropriate that grace. Therefore, every member should be discipled into the discovery and practice of their particular gift. Our failure in this area has left many wandering outside the community of faith.

Lastly, we must submit our worldviews and attitudes to the corporate life – committing ourselves, in community, to discover, accept, and exercise the gifts each one has been given, in the measure of faith that God has dealt to them. Notice that the “it” in “let us use it…” is our faith. It bears repeating: every function of the church will be effectual in accordance with the exercise of our faith, not the reasoning of our minds. A careful examination of the attitudes listed here help us understand why this is so.

Is it possible to prophesy, minister, or teach out of our reasoning minds? The Scriptures say, “No, the wisdom of the world is foolishness (1Corinthians 1:20).” Who can, through applied reason, give with liberality, lead with diligence, or show mercy with cheerfulness? It is only by grace, appropriate through faith, that these attitudes are possible and profitable in God’s kingdom.

Conclusion

Romans twelve through sixteen calls us to a life beyond our capabilities. We are not sufficient of ourselves for any part of it; our sufficiency is from God (2Corinthians 3:5). Left to ourselves, we would be conformed to the world. For those submitted to His work, the Holy Spirit transforms us by the renewing of our minds – to think humbly and soberly about the way we think (“repent” literally means to change one’s mind).

The jumping off point, and the strongest anchor between our Christian theology and its practice, is the measure of faith God has dealt to each one of us. Faith works itself out in community through the myriad of functions God has commanded each of us to practice. Faith grows, in individuals and the community, as we walk together in the good work God has promised and ordained (Ephesians 2:10). Increased faith appropriates greater grace for the good works which glorify our Father in heaven (John 14:12; Matthew 5:16).

God has given us spiritual disciplines for our participation with Him in the inward and outward work of faith disciplines to be practiced individually and in community. The disciplines are not an end unto themselves, but the means to an end (please consider that carefully). Furthermore, the spiritual disciplines are spiritual. They are best viewed as God working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). They are an opportunity to be with and know God.

God bless you with grace for the challenges of Romans twelve through sixteen. That grace is sufficient for you and for those whom you have been given responsibility!

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob