Romans 12 Series – The Kind of Life That Is Pleasing to God (7): Responsibilities As Members of the One Body (Romans 12:4-8)

By Jimmy Tuten


A. Responsibility involves two things: ability and opportunity.

1. It carries the idea of obligation.

2. While not questioning the fact that man has abilities, our Lord in parables taught that men are not equal therein and that each has at least one (Matt. 25:14-30, “according to his several ability”).

3. Obligation is laid upon us in the care and use of our abilities (Tit. 2:11-12). To fail constitutes disobedience in that we have received “the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1). That is, we have not acted in accordance with the conditions stated in the “word of his grace” (Acts 20:32).

B. We are to be ready unto every good work (Tit. 3:1).

1. The Scriptures furnish us completely for this (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

2. No step must be taken without heaven’s directives before us.

C. Christians are a part of the “one body” in Christ, joined in one communion and fellowship with each other, where competition for honors gives place to loving concern on the part of every member for every one of the others.

1.. The various gifts, abilities and “offices” should not become the occasion for jealousy, envy and deprecation on the part of the “have nots,” nor should pride, arrogance, conceit and self-importance mar the attitude of the “haves.”

2. In the parallel passage (1 Cor. 12) the writer shows that it would be just as logical for the foot to be jealous of the ear, as for Christians to corrupt their love of one another through pride, etc.

D. There is logical form to this section of Scripture evidenced by established thoughts from the previous verses, with the exhortation that the Roman brethren in their estimation of themselves should not be exalted above what each one ought to be.

1. Problems in this area have always existed (Mk. 9:33-41, “who is the greatest”).

2. Salome wanted places of honor for her sons James and John (Matt. 20:21).

3. Today many count degrees and positions as if God himself made these established rules of greatness (we have witnessed brethren who retire to our area from positions of prominence up North only to have problems just being one of the brethren).

E. Two of the basic elements of Christianity are humility and faithfulness. We should think of ourselves as useful in the body and discharge our responsibilities, however big or small, without seeking preeminence or thinking of ourselves more important than other honorable and necessary members in the body.


I. “All have not the same office:”

A. The force of the term “office” carries the idea of function or use; so when used concerning the Christian, it is to be understood as being purely functional. (Correctly understood, it stifles every impulse of thinking more highly than we should. If we look upon the term as if it denoted officialdom or authority, then the disposition to think improperly is encouraged.)

B. Up to this point three things are taught clearly in Romans 12:

1. No member of the body should consider himself of no importance. “In his own place he may be of as much consequence as the man of learning, wealth, and talent may be in his” (Barnes Notes).

2. God designed that there be differences of endowments in the Church just as there are differences in the members of the human body.

3. No one should despise or lightly esteem another.

4. “Nay, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary: and those parts of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness” (1 Cor. 12:22-23).

C. Whatever our role or position in the body, “all ye are brethren” (Matt. 23:8). There is not to be found, comparatively speaking, places of honor, but rather places of service.

1. In this we are mutually dependent upon one another as we have the same interest, i.e., to save ourselves and them who will listen to us (1 Tim. 4:16).

2. We cannot afford not to be interested in other members of the body. But at the same time we must at all times seek the best interest and welfare of the whole body.

3. In the brotherhood we must have the same concern that the Apostle Paul had when he spoke of the continual “care of the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28).

II. “In Christ.”

A. Members of the body perform their work as the motivation of the head gives strength and movement (Prov. 3:5-6).

1. The perfecting of the body demands that “speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15-16).

2. In the one body under one head we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1), and our relationship with Christ must be one of complete obedience (Rom. 6:16-18).

3. With other members under the same head and in the same body we endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

4. Harmonious living within the body is the evident result of submission to his divine will to the point that the smallest member bears its responsibility to make the body strong, healthy and united. Thus, Eph. 4:15-16 is talking about zeal for truth being tempered by a loving spirit (true doctrine is absolutely necessary, but we must not be harsh and repellent), i.e., true belief and conduct are under consideration in the passage, rather than true speech per se.

5. There are errors and false teachers to contend with and oppose, but holding truth in love demands that we make distinctions between those who are having problems, and need help, and those who are advocates of false doctrine, who lead the church astray and create factions in the church (Jude 22-23; Tit. 3:8,10-11). Threats and hindrances are seen in the church in the rise of the following:

a. The spirit of compromise.

b. The trend of young people’s lack of submission to older brethren.

c. The rise of the spirit of the feminist movement in the church (a definite rise of a critical spirit on the part of some Christian women toward the elders and the preacher, and an increase in general arrogance).

B. Members are to develop in such a way as to correspond with Christ, expressing perfectly the purposes and intents which have their origin in him who is the head.

1. Spiritual gifts were temporary and provisional (1 Cor. 12 gives a list of the gifts, while Eph. 4:8,11-12 mentions the various ones to whom the gifts were given and the functions they performed). The basic purpose was to co-ordinate the saints, with a view to the work of service in the building up of the body of Christ (supported by the fact that there is a change of preposition in verse 12 (for, Gr. eis – unto, Gr. pros) meaning that gifts were given in order to perfect or equip the church so that she could carry on the work of ministering and building up the body of Christ.

2. The text of Romans 12 stresses the perpetuation (work of ministering and growing) on the part of that which Christ fully equipped (fitted together), making an harmonious body out of many separate individuals, so that each member could perform his special task better because all work together (E.F. Scott, The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians, to Philemon and to the Ephesians, pp. 210-211). James Bales rightfully concludes on the passage: “in both parts (perfect man and stature of the fulness of Christ, jt) there is the same metaphor of fitting separate stones into a single edifice, with the further suggestion that the work is to be solid and permanent” (Restoration, Reformation, or Revelation, p. 142).

3. Therefore, welded and compacted the body grows “according to the working in measure of each part” (each part has due activity and appointed function in the measure required).

C. The conclusion then is this: The faith delivered by the inspired men of the first century was given to perfect (equip) the church so that she could do the work of ministering and building.

1. Romans 12:4-8 deals with the responsibilities of those in the body of Christ toward the work of ministry and growth. The body has been fully prepared and equipped for this purpose.

2. Colossians 2:2-7; 1:22-12 – observe the connection with Romans 12.

3. Without the standard of the New Testament one cannot distinguish between healthy growth and cancerous growth (unscriptural). With the equipment the Lord has given we can fulfill our purpose as a member of the body of Christ.


1. Let us recognize our role in the purpose of God for the salvation of the human race.

2. In humbleness let each member of the body function to the fullest extent and even as God hath placed us therein.

3. 2 Peter 1:3.

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 22, pp. 680-681
November 21, 1991