Thesis:An initial problem with being obedient to Romans 12:1-2 is developing a "humility-cloaked" pride.
Introduction:In our study last time we wound up our consideration of Paul's words in Romans 12:1-2 by looking into the promise that he made. He said that the outcome of submission to the three elements of his doctrine would result in a person's ability to "prove" what is the will of God. In our study, I tried to show that the word "prove" ultimately boils down to this: in the affairs of life, those who practice the principles given will be able to "discern" the particulars of the will of God. In other words, there is a promise here that God will show those, who wish to know, what He wants from them. For the serious child of God, there is no better promise anywhere because it comes with a provision for the actual execution of the revelation given.
But, there are, as always, potential problems.
Immediately upon giving the promise, Paul cautioned his readers in terms of "everyone who is among you." Because this "everyone" is so inclusive, I have concluded that the problem is pervasive. Therefore, this evening we are going to begin to look into Paul's "concern".
I. The Initial Issue: the Believer's "Self-Concept".
A. The term Paul uses to address what he sees as an almost knee-jerk problem.
1. The word itself is a composite that he never used in any of his other epistles.
2. But the root idea is revealed by its uses.
a. Interestingly, the root is found in this verse four times.
b. But its uses in Romans are revealing: 8:5; 12:16; 14:6; and 15:5.
1) The basic idea is to be mentally focused so that behavior is determined.
2) The concepts Paul develops from this basic notion are three.
a) There is the "reaching too far" idea of the word used in warning.
b) There is the "not reaching far enough" idea of those who tend to draw back.
c) There is the "reaching unto reality" idea of those who know and understand the truth (as illustrated by Paul in this text and book).
B. The issue of every believer being "tempted" to "reach too far" is paramount.
1. The "problem" is easily illustrated by simply observing people who do it.
a. New believers are notable for their involvement: it is not unusual for one who has recently come to grips with "salvation" truth to express his/her frustration with others who do not immediately fall into line with that truth.
b. The greater problem, however, is the person who has been a believer for a while and has been elevated by one means or another into a position wherein decisions that will affect others are made who 'reaches too far' in his own estimation of his grasp of "the will of God".
2. The text of Romans 12:1-2 leads immediately into the probability that this will be a problem.
a. Being "committed to God" is a great thing when it is real.
b. Using "commitment to God" as a way to exalt oneself over those "not so committed" is not only enormously destructive, it proves the "commitment" to be false.
II. The Reason for the Problem.
A. Doing the will of God is enormously important.
B. Knowing what to "do" is the essence of the promise of 12:2.
C. Believing one knows the will of God is problematical as soon as he/she runs up against someone who also claims to "know" but is in significant disagreement.
D. There are at least four issues involved.
1. Two who claim to "know" what God wants but are in disagreement are involved in the logic that one (or maybe both) is/are actually wrong (but believe they are right).
2. Living by faith means being confident of one's rightness.
3. Living by faith does not, however, mean attempting to force the action of faith upon another.
4. Living by faith in corporate unity means understanding that that which is the will of God for the group will be brought about by God as the individuals do what they believe God wishes of them (God never requires an individual to attempt to force another individual to do something contrary to that other's wishes, though He does, sometimes, require corporate bodies to do so).
E. The "problem" shows up in two primary ways.
1. There is always an "attitude" when one considers himself/herself "more committed" and, therefore, more spiritually aware of the will of God.
2. There will always be actions taken that reflect the attitude and corporate bitterness will result (Hebrews 12:15).
III. The Solution to the Problem.
A. Is first revealed by Paul's own attitude.
1. He "spoke" through the grace given to him.
2. He was an "apostle" by grace and he neither "reached too far" nor "tended to draw back".
B. Is then revealed by Paul's exhortation to "think soberly".
1. The word here means to think in a way that is defensible by the facts of reality.
2. When a person makes a claim of being on the inside of the knowledge of the will of God, but has no track record to validate that claim, it is clear that he/she has "overreached".
3. Likewise, when a person retreats from what he/she "knows" is the will of God by refraining from the actions that such faith would produce, it is clear that he/she has "underreached".