by Kraig Elliott
In this teaching from Shabbat, December 9, 2023, Kraig Elliott continued his series on Romans by looking at what Romans 12:3-21 says about how to function in the body of believers. He taught on how to think soberly, how and why we must function in a diverse body, and how to have a good attitude, both inside and outside the local assembly.
The audio-visual equipment did not work correctly on Sabbath, December 9, 2023, so we were unable to record a video of Kraig’s teaching from Romans 12:3-21. The following is an attempt to write out what he taught that day.
1. Live Soberly
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
To live soberly is the opposite of being a drunkard.
What are some words we think of when we picture someone who is drunk? A drunkard is selfish, foolish, has no sense, boisterous, mean, has no control, and does not make good decisions.
In Romans 12:3, Paul does a play on words.
- We are not to “think more highly” of ourselves, which is hyper-phroneo in Greek (Strong’s 5252). The prefix hyper- means to be higher, while the root phroneo means to think.
- Rather, we are to phroneo or “think” soberly of ourselves. We are to be wise and understanding in how we think.
YHVH hates pride.
“The fear of YHVH is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverse mouth I hate” (Proverbs 8:13).
Pride equals strife, but to be “well-advised” is to think with wisdom. This is the opposite of drunkenness.
“By pride comes nothing but strife,
But with the well-advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10).
Pride is wrong thinking!
“Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
Yeshua summaries all the kinds of evil thoughts that defile a man:
“And [Yeshua] said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.'” (Mark 7:20-23).
Our current culture celebrates pride. We see this even as people loudly proclaim that they have “Gay Pride” or “Black Pride.”
However, Paul warns us that arrogance has no place in a congregation. We need to ask ourselves:
- Do I feel there is any task within the congregation that is beneath me?
- Am I more spiritual than all the others within our congregation?
We need to check our hearts for these thoughts—or we may be headed for a fall!
To be proud in heart is even called an abomination to Yehovah.
“Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to YHVH;
Though they join forces, none will go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).
How does a sober person compare to a person who is drunk? This is the exact opposite!
The word sober in Greek is sophroneo (Strong’s 4993), and it means to be sound of mind, to exercise self control, to put a moderate estimate on one’s self, and to be in the right mind.
All natural giftings are from God, so pride is always wrong! The Bible Knowledge Commentary writes:
By his involved word play on various forms of the verb phroneō, “to think,” Paul emphasized that human pride is wrong (cf. Romans 3:27; Romans 11:18, Romans 11:20) partly because all natural abilities and spiritual gifts are from God. As a result every Christian should have a proper sense of humility and an awareness of his need to be involved with other members of Christ’s body.
In Galatians 5:13-15, Paul writes,
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the Torah is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Galatians 5:13-15, emphasis added).
The Torah is summed up in the Ten Commandments, sometimes called the “Ten Words.” In turn, these are summarized in two commands: to love YHVH with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Therefore, the greatest way to destroy a congregation is to bite and devour one another.
To learn and grow in our knowledge of Torah is great! However, we need to remember that the heart and purpose of that learning is to have a heart of love.
Yehovah desires to harvest a weird and diverse basket of fruit.
- If the fruit in His harvest is fresh and ripe, it will be pleasing to the eye and to the taste.
- However, if those pieces of fruit, kept in proximity to each other, off-gas, the fruit in the basket will quickly turn bad and become rotten.
- If we have negative attitudes toward our brothers and sisters here in the congregation, then the atmosphere in our “fruit basket” will quickly turn rotten.
- We must continuously allow the Spirit of Yehovah to challenge our hearts and our attitudes toward our brethren at Solel. We must be sober in how we think of ourselves, refusing to be “drunk” in our opinions of ourselves.
How does Yehovah look at us?
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him” (1 John 3:16-19, emphasis added).
He laid down His life for us!
In the same way, we must not shut up our hearts from those in need. We must encourage and strengthen each other, weeping with those who hurt.
“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:22-23).
2. Be Functional in the Body
A body that is sober has its wits about it, has a proper understanding of itself, and has control of its various body parts.
This allows it to perform its intended functions, to be good or functional in God’s eyes. Our personal responsibility is to allow our individual body part to be functional in the entire body.
In Romans 12, Paul continues:
“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Messiah, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:4-5).
The body has many body part, but together, it functions as one body.
For example, an umbrella has many individual components, but all those parts work together to be truly functional.
The Jewish New Testament Commentary words it this way:
“People often think of membership in a (congregation) as a matter of personal choice. But biblically, membership is organic, comparable with the relationship which members (parts) of the natural body have with each other, each with its own function but needing for its well-being the services of parts having other functions, and all contributing to the good of the entire body, whose life-energy is supplied by God.”
The word for functional in the Hebrew Scriptures is tov, which is often translated good.
Young’s Living Translation words Romans 12:5 as “we are members each one of one another.” We belong to each other.
In Ephesians, Paul writes,
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of YHVH is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to YHVH, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Master Yeshua the Messiah, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:15-21).
This passage explains why it is functional, healthy, and important for us to share our praises and testimonies with one another. It builds up the body, encourages other members, and is a necessity for a healthy community.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Paul summarizes this with,
“But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (1 Corinthians 12:18).
To not fellowship with other believers is to say we know better than God.
If we are unwilling to come and fellowship with our brethren, are we raising a bold-fisted challenge to our God? Are we saying to Him, “Yehovah, I don’t think you got this thing right. I have a better plan. I am going to stay home and do my own thing… or I need to get out in nature because that is where I worship You best.”
Is that what our Awesome Elohim, Creator of all, has said? Is this what His plan is?
The Torah plainly states,
“Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of YHVH in all your dwellings” (Leviticus 23:3, emphasis added).
Some people like to say that a “holy convocation” means that they can stay home with their family or meet with a person or two on their own—and that is all they need. They often use this verse as a proof text:
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
However, the context of this verse shows that it does not refer to a holy convocation, but instead, to how we are to deal with brothers who are in sin.
“Moreover if your brother [a member of the Body of Messiah, your congregation] sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’ [a quote from Deuteronomy 19:15]. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the congregation. But if he refuses even to hear the congregation, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth [as a congregation making a decision against a sinning brother] will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth [or bring back into fellowship once repentance is made] will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three [witnesses] are gathered together in My name [to bring an accusation], I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:15-20, emphasis added).
The account of how the congregation of Corinth dealt with a man who had his father’s wife is a good example of this in a local body (1 Corinthians 5).
Yehovah desires for us to be among a body of brethren, not among our own homogeneous family at home. Being among a diverse body challenges us, encourages us, and sharpens us toward spiritual maturity.
“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17).
“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We are to be in and with a Body because we each have a function to do and tasks to accomplish. Paul continues in Romans 12:
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8, emphasis added).
When we are homogeneous, we are all the same as each other. However, Yehovah chose to make us different. This is the best thing to Him. It is what He intended.
We are never going to be a homogeneous group of people, all having the same personalities, viewpoints, and gifts.
However, that does not mean we should all be off doing our own things. Nor should we think a certain gift is better or more important than others. All the gifts have value!
Toes, for example, are ugly! However, try cutting off your big toe. See how well you can walk!
Archeologists have even found a 3000-year-old, Egyptian prosthetic toe. Even the ancients knew how valuable a toe is to the body!
We have differing gifts, talents, and personalities, but as a body, we are to have one mind, one mission.
President John F. Kennedy famously said,
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
The Bible Knowledge Commentary says,
“The point is that each member functions to serve the body, not the body to serve the members.”
The Jewish New Testament Commentary states,
“God gives gifts (charisma) to all believers and grace (charis) suited to each gift. For example, the grace accompanying leadership is diligence and zeal. In the context of Romans 12:3, it is clear that boasting about one’s gifts is altogether out of place. Boasting kills unity.”
3. Have a Good Attitude, Both Within and Without the Body
In Romans 12, Paul continues,
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Romans 12:9-16, emphasis added).
To those within the Body of believers, we are to love without hypocrisy. Hypocrisy functions like osteoporosis in the Body, eating it from the inside out.
To choose to love take a lot of effort! We are to cling to what is good. The word good here is agothos in the Greek, which, again, is translated as tov in Hebrew. We are to cling to what functions properly.
We are to be kindly affectionate. We are to have phileo, or brotherly love, for one another. We are to walk in that Matthew 18 culture where we work hard to restore relationships with our brothers and sisters in a right manner, privately going to those with whom we might have a misunderstanding or have an offense against.
We are to show honor for one another, giving preference to one another. We are to leave people better than how we found them.
We are to be diligent in these, fervent in spirit, serving our Master. To be fervent is to be boiling over with love.
In reference to Romans 12:1, it is as if Paul is saying,
“Don’t stop being diligent in your walk. Focus on Yehovah and His commands. Continue to be boiling over with joy and excitement that Yah is working in you. Continue to put your living offering on the altar to your Heavenly Father.”
We are to rejoice in hope.
We are to be patient in tribulation.
We are to continue steadfastly in prayer.
We are to distribute to the needs of the saints.
We are to be given to hospitality to the saints.
In fact, I see throughout Scripture a major point that is rarely talked about. In our fervor for evangelism and “bringing in the sheaves,” it is common to forget those with needs already among the Body.
The Scripture is often quoted how the Shepherd goes after the one lost lamb, but little notice is given to how He regularly attends to and takes care of the other ninety-nine. It is only after the Shepherd safely has the other ninety-nine in the fold that He seeks out the one that is lost.
In the life of the Body, we as its members must first take care of our own in the local fellowship. We must make sure the members of the Body are cared for, nurtured, and healthy.
Only then can we have the proper effect and ministry on those who are outside the fold.
If we continue to take in new believers—babies—and place them fresh from the womb of redemption into the sick ward, with all its various festering wounds and bacterial infestations, all we will produce is more sick babies! These young ones are likely to die because of their lack of spiritual immunity. They have not first been grounded in truth.
While Yehovah does call us to be a witness to the lost, this can only be accomplished by those are are healthy and belong to a healthy congregation themselves. They must be part of a functioning Body.
However, to those without the Body, Paul does give us a few instructions.
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says YHVH. Therefore
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).
The Mishnah states,
“One should be guiltless before other people as well as before God, for it says, ‘You shall be guiltless before God and before Israel’ (Numbers 32:22)” (Sh’kalim 3:2, emphasis added).
The Psalmist writes,
“With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless” (Psalm 18:25, emphasis added).
To the Philippian believers, Paul said,
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15, emphasis added).
- We are a Body.
- Let us shine as lights in the world around us, together, sharing with one another, bearing each other’s burdens.
- Let us rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
- As we come together as the many parts of the whole, in love, without complaining and disputing, then and only then can we be the beacon of hope Yehovah wants us to be to the world around us.