“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 (NKJV)
There is a very real tendency in our world for people to think more highly of themselves than they should. Pride lurks in the heart of all people. If not dealt with, this pride will cause us to become puffed up about ourselves. Then we will put ourselves on a pedestal over and above others. The issues that can cause us to think higher of ourselves than we ought to are numerous. We could be puffed up with our own sense of importance. We could be puffed up because of our looks. We could be puffed up because of our education. We could be puffed up because of our position or title. We could be puffed up because of our family name. We could be puffed up because of our financial status. We could be puffed up because of the possessions we own. There are any number of things that could cause us to become puffed up about ourselves.
Instead of being puffed up in our estimation of ourselves, we are to “think soberly” about ourselves. The idea of thinking soberly about ourselves is that of having a balanced view of ourselves. While we shouldn’t think too highly of ourselves, neither should we think too lowly of ourselves. Biblical humility doesn’t require us to say things about ourselves that aren’t true. Instead, we are to be balanced in our evaluation of ourselves. We are to be aware and honest about our strengths. We are also to be aware and honest about our weakness and flaws. To think soberly about ourselves is to look at ourselves and honestly acknowledge the good and bad that we see.
This evaluation is to be based off the measure of faith that we’ve been given. There are two questions we need to answer from this. First, what is meant by a measure of faith? Second, how do we evaluate ourselves in light of this measure of faith?
There were several ideas about what the measure of faith meant. There were three that were the most common. Measure of faith refers to our confidence in God. Measure of faith refers to our understanding of God. Measure of faith refers to our devotion to God. There were several commentators that made good cases for the different positions. As I studied, I couldn’t see a good reason why it didn’t refer to all three. Let me explain my reasoning for this. Our confidence in God will always flow from our knowledge of God. This will naturally lead us to be devoted to God.
Knowledge of God develops confidence in God that produces devotion to God.
I don’t see how these things can possibly be separated. The way we evaluate ourselves according to the measure of faith is by looking at our lives and seeing what is produced because of our faith. One of the ways people often misunderstand faith is to narrowly define it as what we affirm to be true. Doing this allows us to affirm faith in Christ without this so-called faith ever moving us to demonstrate this faith through devotion. This would completely miss the point Paul is making in this passage.
Believers do not evaluate themselves according to worldly standards of wealth, position, possessions, looks or education. Instead, believers are to evaluate themselves according to their faith and what their faith produces in their lives. Sadly, many believers in our day don’t see the need to demonstrate their faith and devotion to Christ They do this in part because they misunderstand the active nature of faith. Biblical faith is not merely a set of truths that we affirm to be true without it affecting the way we live our lives. Instead, faith is confidence in God based on the character and nature of God that produces devotion to God. Our faith is demonstrated as we live for Christ. Faith is active and not passive. Let me show you two great examples of this from Scripture.
The first comes from Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11 is the famous chapter about the heroes of faith. Hebrews 11:2 tells us that everyone listed in that chapter received God’s approval because of their faith. Hebrews 11:6 says that it’s impossible to please God without faith. After explaining the importance of faith, the author of Hebrews gives us some examples of people with faith.
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Hebrews 11:7 (NKJV)
Noah was warned that a flood was coming that would destroy the world. His understanding of the character and nature of God gave him confidence that God would do what He said he would do. What did Noah do next? Did he passively set back and do nothing while affirming that he believed in God? No he didn’t. Noah’s understanding of the character and nature of God gave him confidence that God would do what He said He would do. Noah’s faith in God produced devotion to God and Noah did what God told him to do. We could look at every person listed in Hebrews 11 and see the exact same thing. Their faith, which was a Biblical faith, was active and not passive. Knowledge of God develops confidence in God that produces devotion to God. This is always the way Biblical faith works.
One of the most common arguments against genuine faith producing devotion is that this makes salvation a work and we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. That’s why I like this second example.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)
These two verses very clearly teach us that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Our salvation is not at all based on works because this would give us a reason to boast before God. Salvation is entirely based upon what Christ has done. We only experience this salvation because we believe in what Christ has done. What people often forget is that every text has a context, including Ephesians 2:8-9. The context of Ephesians 2:8-9 includes verse 10.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
Why were we saved when we believed? Were we saved so that we could live exactly the same way we did before we were saved, except that now we believe a new set of doctrines? Or were we saved so that we could serve Christ by doing the things He planned for us to do? Each and every person that is saved is saved by faith. Each and every person is saved by faith so that they can serve Christ. We are saved to serve. A genuine saving faith always produces devotion to Christ that is visible through service to Christ.
As you look at your life, what is your faith producing? What do you do in life simply because you believe in Jesus?