For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Rom. 12:3)
Who’s Paul’s Audience?
The quotation at the head of this chapter is from the King James Version. In the New King James Version, this verse reads:
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.
In the English Standard Version, it reads:
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.
What’s the main difference, for our purposes? Paul’s audience. In the King James Version, Paul is addressing the men: “to every man that is among you.” However, the Greek does not reflect this. The NKJV and ESV are accurate on this point.
What does this mean?
This means Paul is writing to men and women. Paul is not writing exclusively to men. This is a very important point.
In our day and age, it has often become fashionable to view women as a sort of second-class citizen, under the authority of her husband. Now, the authority that a husband may or may not have over his wife is beyond the scope of this chapter, but it bears saying that it is often grossly abused today. Too often today, I have seen husbands act as Gentiles, “having dominion over” their wives’ “faith,” not being “helpers of their joy” (2 Cor. 1:24); they call the shots on what their wives may or may not do, prohibiting them from learning Biblical doctrine or practicing their own gifts in different ways. Likewise, I have seen women conveniently excuse themselves from responsibility because they see their husband as responsible for their own spiritual knowledge and understanding.
Both reactions are wrong. Husbands do not have dominion over their wives faith; and wives are required to be faithful themselves, in terms of God’s calling on their lives. (Remember perfection? We’ll be returning to this in future chapters.)
Paul expects that women, just as well as men, are going to implement what he is writing in these chapters.
A Closer Look
When Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service,” he is writing to women. (Yes, he is writing to men, too.) He expects the wives, widows, single women, and daughters to present their bodies in this manner.
In fact, he says nothing about “If it is ok with your husband;” he expects them to do so simply as priest (priestesses) before God in their own right!
When Paul writes that they are not to be “conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” Paul expects the Roman Christian women to do this. The women are to refuse to be conformed to the world; regardless of anything else, they are to be conformed to the image of Christ.
The implications of this, by the way, are that women are required by the Word of God to study Scripture and theology – whether their husbands want them to or not. God requires women to “be transformed through the renewing of their mind” that they “may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
I remember one time my wife, before we knew each other, had a conversation with another woman. Shelby was asked why she was studying theology. She replied that she wanted to be learned on the subject of God’s Word and what it says. The woman, the wife of an elder at that church, responded and asked, “But what if your husband someday disagrees with you?” Shelby responded with the obvious suggestion that she and I would have a conversation and talk about the point of dispute. “But,” replied the elder’s wife, “it would be easier to simply follow his lead on what doctrines to believe. It will save a lot of trouble – not mention the fact that he’s going to be held responsible for your beliefs.” My wife was, needless to say, dumbfounded.
This sort of ignorance-in-the-name-of-submission this elder’s wife spoke of is too common. Moreover, it is evil because it is really an escape from responsibility on behalf of the wife, and an assumption of “authority” and “dominion” by the husband that really has no basis in Scripture.
Wives and daughters are to practice godliness, as independent Christians, members of the Body of Christ, priests (priestesses) before the Lord. We must keep this in mind as we read through Romans 12.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (Joel 2:28-29)
- For those of us who have wives and/or daughters, how can we explicitly encourage them in faithful obedience to the Lord?
- How can we encourage them in their Biblical reading, studies, and prayers? Do they need books? Wise women? Time? Verbal encouragement?
- Do we give them too much to do that they don’t have the time to do such studies? What can we take off their plate – either do it ourselves, or outsource to someone else?
- Do we need to repent – to God, and personally to our wives or daughters – of overbearing or assumed “dominion” over their studies in an ungodly way?