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.
Romans 12: 3
On Sunday, we considered what it means to not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. If we have chosen to follow Jesus, we have chosen a life that that requires a reorientation of what lies at our center. In order to mature and to grow up as a Christian, we must change the way we think about ourselves– we must embrace a diminishing self-awareness, a diminishing self-consciousness, a diminishing self-referential orientation.
In order to do that, Paul instructs us to think with sober judgment according to the measure of faith that we have been given. This phrase ‘measure of faith’ has perplexed scholars for a long time. C. E. B. Cranfield, writing over 50 years ago, states in his commentary that
‘measure’ has 7 possible meanings, ‘faith’ has 5, and ‘of’ has 2, making 70 possible combinations altogether!”
But from that diversity, scholars usually distill 1 or 2 meanings as they look at this passage. They are both important for us as we seek to offer all of who we are to God (Rom 12:1).
Option 1: ‘measure’ as the standard of something.
That is ‘measure’ refers to an instrument for measuring something. Both Cranfield and the late Rev. John Stott support this option. Stott sums it up best:
A standard by which to measure ourselves; that this for all Christians is the same, namely saving faith in Christ crucified; and that only this gospel of the cross, indeed only ‘Christ himself in whom God’s judgment and mercy are revealed’, can enable us to measure ourselves soberly.
According to this view, to think of ourselves rightly, followers of Jesus are called on to estimate themselves in accord with the standard of their faith, Jesus himself. We measure our actions and our choices against the idea of how Jesus would do it. We think with sober judgment using Jesus as our ruler and our aspiration.
Option 2: Measure as the quantity of something
In this option, measure relates to the apportioning of our faith- meaning that God gives a varying amount of faith to different Christians.
Paul is speaking of the quantity of faith or trust that each believer possesses. Paul acknowledges elsewhere that believers have different levels of faith (Romans 14.1)…
Some of us are weak at some points and strong at others. For example, one person may have a lot of faith about financial matters– they do not experience anxiety or worry about whether they have enough or how they will pay for something. But that same person may lack faith about relationships– consequently they experience great anxiety about things they said, conflicts they have experienced, and situations that feel unresolved. In God’s unique creativity, He has given a large measure of faith to a specific person about a specific situation and not as much faith about a different category.
So thinking soberly about ourselves in this second option requires that we recognize that in some situations we will be weak and in others we will be strong. Thus we need people around us who are strong in our weakness to help us think rightly about ourselves and the context in which we find ourselves.
Called to go deep in the body of Christ
Both of these options require that we would be deeply known within our local expression of the body of Christ– so that we have people who are pushing us towards the standard of Jesus himself AND so that we have people who fill up our measure of faith where it is low.
At Restoration, we provide a place for you to do that in our small groups. They all start next week. So you have time to sign up and jump in right at the beginning. The trimester is short– only 8 weeks. You don’t want to miss any of it. So sign up today.
May we be people who think rightly about ourselves– according to the measure of faith that God has given us. Thanks be to God for the people He has put in our life to help us do just that.