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. 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. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:3-8 ESV
Paul has spent the entire letter up to this point defending man’s justification based on the grace and goodness of God, not human effort. Both Jews and Gentiles are made right with God the same way – through faith in Christ alone. It is not based on heritage, race, background, income, achievement or any other human means of measurement. God has said, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15 ESV). So Paul concludes, “then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16 ESV). No one deserves God’s mercy. If we deserved it, it would no longer be mercy, because by definition, mercy is a choice, not an obligation. When Paul speaks of the mercy of God, he means “the mercy and clemency of God in providing and offering to men salvation by Christ” (“Greek Lexicon :: G1656 (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 21 Dec, 2015. <http://www.blueletterbible.orghttps://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm>). God’s mercy is undeserved. In fact, rather than giving us what we deserve, which is the essence of mercy, He gives us what we do NOT deserve: Grace, in the form of salvation and justification made possible through faith in His Son. And that grace is the work of God, not man. And Paul emphasizes that without God’s mercy, no man would ever experience a right relationship with Him. “For these is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is the Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:12-13 ESV).
So there is no reason for anyone to think more highly of himself. The Gentiles were not to become prideful because God had taken away the message of salvation from the Jews and given it to them. The Jewish believers were not to boast in their heritage as descendants of Abraham. None of that mattered. Instead, each was to “think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3 ESV). Our place in the body of Christ is not based on the amount of faith we conjure up. It is not a competition and it not intended to be a comparison. We are in Christ because of the mercy and grace of God. We have been placed in the body of Christ by God, each “having gifts that differ according to the grace give to us” (Romans 12:6 ESV). Even our spiritual gifts have been given to us by God. We didn’t bring them with us. Spiritual gifts are not human abilities on steroids. They are supernatural enablements, provided by the Spirit of God. And they are intended for the building up of the body of Christ. Paul told the Ephesian believers that God “makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16 NLT).
Our gifts are given to us by the grace of God, and we are to use them humbly and selflessly. They are given to us by God, not to boost our egos or inflate our sense of self-worth, but to build up the body of Christ. In the church in Corinth, Paul had to deal with a misuse and misunderstanding of the spiritual gifts, where they had turned them into badges of honor. The various gifts had become divisive, with members of the church bragging over the particular gifts that they had. Paul had to sternly remind them, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV). Every one of them had a spiritual gift “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11 ESV). There was no reason to boast or brag. In fact, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20 ESV).
Our salvation is the work of God. Our right standing before God is the result of His mercy, not our merit. Our place in the body of Christ was determined by Him, not us. Our spiritual gift was given to us by His Spirit and intended for the building up of the body of Christ. There is nothing about our relationship with Christ or our place in His family for which we have a right to boast. We should use our gifts “according to the grace given to us.” A recognition of God’s grace should always motivate our actions and attitudes. Like the psalmist, we should daily remind ourselves, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3 ESV). Not because we deserved it. But because of His marvelous grace.