Romans 12:4-6

Eyes Can’t Walk; Feet Can’t See

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Romans 12:4-5 (Holman) Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.

Using the human body to illustrate, Paul stressed two important truths about the church, Christ’s body. We are diverse; we are united. The fellowship needs both traits. Diversity without unity is chaos; unity without diversity is stagnation.

Diversity increases efficiency by letting us pool our varying abilities, and perform at our best. The different parts of our physical bodies interact to achieve certain functions. If we were all eyes, we could go nowhere. If our bodies were all feet, we could not see where to go.

Church members are united by their disability. No one can do everything. No one is the complete whole. This is why we are called “members”. Each is a fraction, only a part, of a larger body. Needing others to make up what is lacking in ourselves is what unites us.

Unity allows our differences to work together in harmony. We all belong to one another. No believer has the right to say of another, “I will have nothing to do with you,” or to ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Every believer needs to remember; the first person who asked this question was a murderer (Cain). We are our brother’s keeper, bound together in one body.

In our physical body, the same blood that flows through our hand also flows through our feet. A life-bond exists between them. If one is poisoned, the other will be eventually. The members of our body are connected, whether they externally appear to be or not.

The same is true of believers. We are connected by a life-bond. The Holy Spirit that permeates you also permeates me. We are connected whether we like it or not. We cannot escape one another.

To emphasize our unity with one another, in this passage Paul did not mention our being joined to a torso or head. He described us as being inter-linked with one another. We are not disjointed from one another. We touch Christ and each other.

Whenever someone in the fellowship hurts, I should hurt. Whenever there is need, I must help. We draw strength ultimately from Christ, but also draw support from one another. There is to be a give and take among us, an interdependence, as brothers and sisters in Christ. As we do this the body will function at its best.

Romans 12:6a “According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts,”

The Greek word for gifts (charismata) is derived from the word for grace (charis). We would better render the sense by translating the former as “graces” rather than as “gifts.” The word denotes undeserved abilities given to individuals by God that allow each member to be a contributing part of the body.

Seven gifts are mentioned here; the first four tend to be public in nature, the latter three are more behind the scenes. Other “graces” are mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. These are not rewards or trophies. Their very name, “graces”, proves they are not merit badges, but rather gifts given to help the fellowship at large.

Every believer has been given a gift that must be used. It is essential we find our God-appointed function within the body and perform it: “a place for everyone, everyone in their place.”

Every talent or ability comes as a gift from God, but in each believer a certain trait is magnified. Every believer has an ability which is emphasized and strengthened by the Spirit of God. As a candle burns brighter when set in a container of oxygen, even so a believer has a trait which the Holy Spirit flames into prominence.

To waste such a gift is tragic. The member who does nothing to contribute is worse than useless. A paralyzed limb is more cumbersome than an amputated one. It impedes the body. Doing nothing is equivalent to doing harm. Inactivity is a dead weight, a coldness that numbs, an example that discourages.

I fear some do not find their grace gift because it is not a highly visible one. Unfortunately, too many ask “How can I shine?” rather than “How can I serve?”

Every grace-gift counts. When a father and his small son work together in a flower garden, the elder carries a large, prominent, and highly visible water pot. The son, of course, carries a much smaller one. However, the plants that receive water from the small pot are no worse off than those watered by the larger pot. The containers look different on the outside, but their contents are the same.

In the same way, certain grace-gifts are more visible and seemingly more prominent than others. However, in the actual performing of them, the same Holy Spirit operates in and through them. Hence, anyone who uses their gift in the fellowship will prove to be a blessing. We cannot do everything, but we can do something, and whatever that something is, God can bless others through it.

Romans 12:6b If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith;

Paul began this catalogue of graces by referring to the most “visible” one. It is a gift that brings one to prominence, hence Paul again emphasized it is nothing to boast of. Even the most prominent gifts are merely results of a receiving faith.

The original rendering of the Hebrew word translated “prophet” carried the concept of an interpreter, one who skillfully explained God’s will. I believe God can still speak directly through prophets; in certain matters He may speak afresh.

But the prophet’s primary role is properly interpreting Scripture. History has verified the validity of this statement. The people we mark as the greatest prophets of the Christian era (for instance, Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, Wesley, Spurgeon, Moody, Graham), have all invested their whole ministries in interpreting Scripture.

The prophet’s main role is still found in interpreting the will of God, but it is from the Bible that we now gather the mind of God. Prophets speak with authority because they know the Book they expound contains the very thoughts of God with regard to people’s everyday lives.

Unless a person’s message agrees fully with Scripture, he has no right to consider himself as being a prophet. A spokesperson is worthy of the confidence of others only as long as he is in accord with the authoritative message of the Apostles. Paul wrote, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (I Cor. 14:37).

The apostles were the original bearers of Christ’s message. Their writings are authoritative, infallible, and abide forever. All Christian doctrine must forever be weighed in light of what the original Apostles wrote.

A prophet has been given a special ability to interpret the Apostle’s writings. He or she properly applies the Bible’s timeless message to everyday living. They bring explanations of Scripture that apply to the practical functions of life.

This ability to interpret Scripture correctly is a precious gift to the Church. Life is much more pleasant when lived in accord with God’s word. It is to our advantage to know and heed God’s truth.

Think of all the follies, cults, heresies, and heartaches that have been spawned by an improper interpretation of Scripture. The largest errors in Church history have been caused by an unwillingness to accept the fact that the Scriptures in and of themselves are complete and sufficient to meet all our needs.

Islam and other groups have made one grave error that has spawned all their other errors. They have each added to Scripture, saying that something else also has authority over us.

Blessed are they who realize we need no new revelations of truth. We simply need old truths applied to new circumstances. We need people who will give their lives to seeking out truths hidden in the Bible.

All that we ultimately need to know is treasured up somewhere in Scripture. Thank God for those people who are called to help us find that particular treasure we each stand in need of.