Meditations on Christian Devotedness

Romans 12:3  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Verse 3. "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly titan he ought to think; hut to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." The Christian's walk, according to the first two verses, should be characterized by devotedness and obedience; and according to the verse before us, by humility and dependence.
These four graces, watchfully maintained in the presence of God, would certainly produce a very complete Christian; one very like his Lord and Master, who, though entirely devoted to the glory of God, was meek and lowly in heart. We should naturally suppose, that when there is such devotedness to God, both in body and soul, there would also be great sobriety of judgment and lowliness of mind. But, alas! it is not always so. The one is far from being a necessary consequence of the other. On the contrary, there is always a danger of the flesh coming in and availing itself of the power which such devotedness gives, either to assume a tone of superiority and high-mindedness, or to affect a false humility and speak contemptuously of self. This is manifest on every hand at the present hour, and it is written on every page of church history. Of this tendency the apostle was fully aware, and warns against it, as we learn from the peculiar tone and energy of his style in this verse.
The words, For I say, through the grace given unto me," have more the tone of apostolic authority, than the affectionate entreaties of a brother, as in the first verse, I beseech you therefore, brethren." But we must not suppose that the style of the one verse is less perfect, less consistent, less affectionate, than the other, but that the character of the exhortation, in the wisdom of God, required a different tone and style! Firmness is perfectly consistent with humility, and faithfulness with the strongest affection.
The apostle stands, as it were, at the center of practical Christianity. He sees its bearings on every side. His mind is filled with the higher principles of entire devotedness to the will of God, and also with the humbler gifts, which were to find their expression in the gracious ministries of love among the saints. He writes with decision and energy to secure both. The former he had faithfully enjoined in the first two verses; and now he is about to expatiate with great minuteness on the latter. The third verse is his stand-point. He clearly sees and feels as one standing in the light of God, that high mindedness would be ruinous to the first, and an effectual hindrance to the second. The will of God being the object of christian service, whether in the higher or humbler sphere, real devotedness must consist in the denial of self, and in humbly waiting on God to know His good and perfect will in all things. The human will must be set aside, if we are to enter into the meaning, importance, and application of this condensed treasury of practical Christianity.
Thou wilt now see, O my soul, a divine reason for the changed style of the great apostle; and thou wilt also see that he is most personal in his application of this weighty truth. He does not merely address the church as a body, but he appeals to everyone among the saints at Rome; the least as well as the greatest. This will show thee how prone all are to over-value themselves, even in the church of God and in their service to His saints. Oh, what deceitful hearts we have! What need for watchfulness!—for constant communion with the truly humble and blessed Lord, who " loved us, and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling savor."
But there is an opposite error into which many fall, and which must be as carefully avoided by the Christian. This is an affectation of humility by speaking of oneself in a depreciating manner. When a man speaks of " his small measure; of being the most unfit person for the important work he has in hand;" we feel that he is either insincere or unwise. God never requires the exercise of a gift which He has not bestowed. This species of false humility must be watched against by all who would walk with God in integrity of heart. God is real and He must have reality in us; He is true and He must have truth in the inward parts. Nevertheless, there are those who honestly, but unduly, depreciate their gift and fail to act for God and His people. This is a false modesty, and also a serious evil, and one which the Lord must judge sooner or later. But now, mark well, my soul, the wisdom of holy scripture. This alone, by God's grace, can give thee a well-balanced, a well-adjusted mind.
" Think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." The first thing is to find thy true place in the presence of God according to thy faith in Christ, and then thy own place amongst thy fellow-servants. The measure of faith with which each believer is blest, in the sovereign grace of God, becomes the proper limit, within which lie is to occupy himself according to the will of God. Surely the man who has the greatest who is a father in Christ, and who knows most of the word of God, will rise to his own level among his fellow Christians, where the Holy Spirit rules. The Lord give us to know the measure and character of our gift, what He has prepared us for; that we may be preserved from all extremes. In this as in all things the Christian's path is a narrow one, and requires spiritual discernment. Nothing short of constant communion with Him who closed His life of perfect obedience on the cross, will keep us in the place of true humility, obedience, and dependence. O Lord, lead Thy servants over Thine own path, preserve them from the indolence that falls asleep, from the energy of nature that would go too fast, from a false modesty that refuses to do Thy bidding, and from the want of modesty that would yield to the impulse of the natural will. May we never forget, that " unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of Christ."* Eph. 4:77But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Ephesians 4:7).
(*Haldane's Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, vol. 3 p. 80.; Lectures on the Romans by W. K.. p. 241.)
I would not work, my soul to save,
That work my Lord bath done
But I would work like any slave
For love to God's dear Son.