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 by the grace given me, I say to every one of you"
Paul begins by being an example of this himself. He is about to tell his reader, and by extension us, to be humble. As a result he starts by saying that it is only by grace that he can say this. Before he was saved, Paul was a pharisee and he made it his business to hunt down Christians and to put them in prison. It is only by God's grace that he was saved from that lifestyle - he was changed from a persecutor of Christians to a missionary and teacher of Christians. It is also God's grace that made him an apostle - he didn't deserve it, but God gave him the necessary spiritual gifts so that he could work in that way. That's why Paul has the right to write this to the churches - God gave him that position of authority. But Paul acknowledges that it was entirely God who put him in that position. It's not based on his own merit.
Paul's words are not only meant for the Christians in Rome. If they applied to "every one of [them]" then and God doesn't change, then they apply to us now as God's people. Do we read the word and apply it to our lives? Do we take it seriously? I find it's so easy not to, but we need to do it.
"Do not think of yourselves more highly then you ought"
We live in a society that bases most of its marketing schemes on making us feel good about ourselves. We live in a society largely based on pride. Therefore, as part of not conforming to the pattern of this world, we need to submit to God and be humble. Instead of being chuffed with ourselves and our talents, we need to give the glory to God for what we do and the gifts he has given to us.
Pride is one of the things I struggle with most in my walk with God. It just kind of creeps in, and I don't realise for a very long time that I'm being proud. I slowly start to look down on others, I slowly start to trust in my own abilities, I slowly start to edge away from God and start looking at myself, enjoying myself instead of enjoying God and contemplating his character. Instead I need to realise how sinful and wretched I am and how much I deserve God's wrath. I need to reflect on myself as God sees me, a sinner who does not deserve grace, but who has received it freely because of God's goodness. Is this a problem you face as well?
"in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you."
I don't entirely understand what Paul means by this, but I've read a few different interpretations. John MacArthur seems to think that faith refers to the amount of gifting we have with which we can serve God. We all have gifts from God to varying degrees, and we need to look at them honestly and humbly to know how we can best serve God with them. That doesn't mean that we ignore or belittle our gifts, it means we use them honestly and we give God the glory, since he gave us the gifts.
"A believer should appraise the gifts God has given him fairly, glorifying God for their bestowal, and then exercise them through dependence upon the Holy Spirit and not in mock humility make light of them. A renewed mind thinks soberly about oneself." (Preceptaustin.org)
Barnes offers a different idea about this: He says that since faith is key to being a Christian, what Paul means is that we need to measure ourselves by our walk with God. He says:
"we are not to judge of our own characters by wealth, or talent, or learning, but by our attachment to God, and by the influence of faith on our minds."
- Be humble! We need to realise how wretched and undeserving we are of God's grace to be able to truly understand what he has done for us. I'm not sure that we will grasp this fully until we go to be with God, but we need to work hard at hating our sin and realising how gracious God is in saving us.
- Have humility when evaluating and using your gifts. God has given us all gifts and we aren't called to hide them or belittle them. We are called to use them as best we can for God, and to give him the praise for them.
- We need to measure ourselves by our walk with God. Regardless of how well or poorly our lives are going, it is our relationship to God and our love for him that matter. Work hard to be walking in obedience and love of God instead of focussing on other things.
I'll probably do another (more topical) post on humility at a later date - it's definitely a topic I need to dwell on more, but I hope those thoughts were helpful.
Soli Deo Gloria!