NOT TO THINK OF HIMSELF MORE HIGHLY
By John C. Carpenter
 
The apostle Paul wrote the Chrisitian church in Rome, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Rom 12:1-3). When he told those he was talking to “not to think of themselves more highly than they ought,” who was Paul writing to, and what did he mean by that? The apostle Paul was writing generally to believers in Christ in Rome: all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints (Rom 1:7), but he had specific messages in his letter for both the Jews and Gentile believers in Christ in Rome.
 
EVEN AS AMONG OTHER GENTILES
 
At the beginning of his letter, Paul was specifically speaking to Gentile believers in Christ: Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles (Rom 1:13), with whom he first addressed his concerns. Paul wrote, “herefore thou art inexcusable [indefensible], O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile (Rom 2:1-10). In verse 1, the word “judgest” is translated from the Greek word “krino,” which means to “distinguish, to decide mentally or judicially, to try, condemn, to call into question, and punish.” Paul was concerned that Gentile believers in Rome were distinguishing themselves from others (in particular the Jews), and were mentally trying and condemning others, actions which Paul knew that God considered a grievous sin. This judgement was made worse by the fact that the believers were committing the same sins they were judging in others.
Later in Romans chapter 11, the apostle Paul reveals who the Gentile believers were judging. Paul wrote, For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh [the Jews], and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them [the Jews] be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit [Christ] be holy, the lump [believers in Christ] is also holy: and if the root [Christ] be holy, so are the branches [the Jews]. And if some of the branches [the Jews] be broken off, and thou, being a wild [Gentile] olive tree, wert grafted in among them [the Jews], and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches [Jews]. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches [the Jews], take heed lest he also spare not thee (Rom 11:13-21). The Gentile believers were criticizing, judging, and boasting against the Jews.
 
In an effort to discourage his fellow believers in Christ to resist judging the Jews, Paul began a discussion with the Gentile believers regarding the mystery of God's mercy and love of both Jews and Gentiles: For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness [lack of understanding and faith] in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer [Christ], and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them [the Jews], when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies [temporarily of God] for your [Gentile] sakes: but as touching the election [all chosen for salvation], they [the Jews] are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling [of the Jews] of God are without repentance [has not changed]. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy [the mercy shown by God to Gentiles] they [the Jews] also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all [Jews and Gentiles alike] in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Rom 11:25-33). Paul eloquently reminded the Roman believers of what God had said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Rom 9:15). Paul clarified that the Gentile believers were ignorant and conceited when they judged the Jews. Paul further explained to the Gentile believers that, eventually, all Israel will be saved, because God's calling of the Jews to be His chosen people has not changed. The apostle summarized that God the Father will eventually show mercy upon the Jews for their unbelief, just as He has with the Gentiles.
 
BEHOLD, THOU ART CALLED A JEW, AND RESTEST IN THE LAW
 
Paul also addressed and challenged Jews, nonbelievers in Christ, who were claiming that they were superior to Gentile believers because they had the Jewish law and tradition. Paul wrote, Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest [continue to believe that your Jewish faith, history, and tradition will result in righteousness and salvation] in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast [pridefully call attention to, glory, rejoice] of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written (Rom 2:17-24). In defense of Gentile believers, Paul chastened the Jews that they were not in fact superior, and gave them God the Father's definition of a true Jew: For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly [physically circumcised]; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Rom 2:28-29). Paul continued explaining to Jewish believers, with some sting, that they were not only not superior, but in fact unrighteous sinners, when he wrote, What then? are we [Jewish believers] better than they [Gentile believers]? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one [Jew or Gentile]: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one (Rom 3:9-12), Paul summarized the end result of depending on the Jewish law for righteousness and salvation when he added, Therefore by the deeds of the [efforts to keep the Jewish] law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is [only results in] the knowledge of sin [that none can keep the law unto righteousness] (Rom 3:20).
 
Paul explained to the Jews, that despite their boasting in their Jewish faith, fully keeping the Jewish law unto righteousness before God was not possible. Paul then explained the only method of obtaining righteouness apart from keeping the Jewish law when he wrote, But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even [specifically] the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then [of Jewish faith and the law]? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also (Rom 3:21-29). Paul later attempted to reason with the Jews: What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness[by keeping the law], have attained to righteousness, even [specifically] the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel [the Jews], which followed after the law of [works in order to attain] righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they [the Jews] stumbled at that stumblingstone (Rom 9:30-32). The apostle wrote harsh, and sympathetic, but necessary, words about the Jews: Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them [the Jews] record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness [through faith], and going about to establish their own righteousness [through works of the law], have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ [God the Father's true and only righteousness] is the end of the law for righteousness to every one [Jew and Gentile] that believeth (Rom 10:1-4), but also explained God the Father's attitude towards the Jews when he added, I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew... (Rom 11:1-2). Paul summarized that, because God is a God of the Jews, as well as of the Gentiles, God's righteousness could never be attained by attempting to keep Jewish laws and traditions, but only by faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, Paul was instructing the Jews that boasting in God, Jewish law, and Jewish works, was considered by Paul, and especially God the Father, to be sin, and should not be continued.
 
THINK SOBERLY
 
Regarding their criticism and judgment of others, Paul summarized his letter by providing two instructions specifically intended for the Roman believers in Christ, but instructions which are equally valuable to all Jews and Christians alike: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies [physical realm] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind [spiritual understanding and realm], that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly [humbly, by considering all of what I have written you], according [because] as God hath dealt [apportioned, assigned, distributed] to every man the measure [a limited and variable portion] of faith (Rom 12:1-3). Paul similarly instructed the Philippian church: If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem [consider, think of] others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name (Phil 2:1-9). As Paul pointed out in his letter to the Roman believers at the time of Christ on earth, Jews were judging and criticizing Christians, and Christians were judging and criticizing Jews. Even today, some Christians are highly judgmental, even hateful, towards Jews. In order to fulfill God the Father's good and perfect will, Paul's instructs believers in Christ not to think of ourselves as highly as we do, but to think soberly and humbly, and to understand and accept the fact that God the Father has apportioned varying levels of faith to each of us, Jew and Gentile alike. Paul elsewhere reminds us, Hath not the potter [God] power over the clay [all men and women], of the same lump to make one vessel [individual] unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (Rom 9:21-24). Continuing to judge others is ungodly and unrighteous sin, and Paul reminds us, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. We will eventually pay a price for our judgment of others.  AMEN.
 
 
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
 
"And be ye kind
one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even
as God for
Christ's sake
hath
forgiven you"
(Eph 4:32)



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