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Commentary On Romans by Jean Calvin

Romans 12:3

3. 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.

3. Dico enim per gratiam, quae data est mihi, cuilibet vestrum, ne supra modum sapiat praeter id quod oportet sapere, sed sapiat ad sobrietatem, sicuti unicuique distribuit Deus mensuram fidei.

3. For I say, through the grace, etc. If you think not the causal particle superfluous, this verse will not be unsuitably connected with the former; for since he wished that our whole study should be employed in investigating the will of God, the next thing to this was, to draw us away from vain curiosity. As however the causal particle is often used redundantly by Paul, you may take the verse as containing a simple affirmation; for thus the sense would also be very appropriate.

But before he specifies his command, he reminds them of the authority which had been given to him, so that they might not otherwise attend to his voice than if it was the voice of God himself; for his words are the same, as though he had said, |I speak not of myself; but, as God's ambassador, I bring to you the commands which he has entrusted to me.| By |grace| (as before) he means the Apostleship, with respect to which he exalts God's kindness, and at the same time intimates, that he had not crept in through his own presumption, but, that he was chosen by the calling of God. Having then by this preface secured authority to himself, he laid the Romans under the necessity of obeying, unless they were prepared to despise God in the person of his minister.

Then the command follows, by which he draws us away from the investigation of those things which can bring nothing but harassment to the mind, and no edification; and he forbids every one to assume more than what his capacity and calling will allow; and at the same time he exhorts us to think and meditate on those things which may render us sober-minded and modest. For so I understand the words, rather than in the sense given by Erasmus, who thus renders them, |Let no one think proudly of himself;| for this sense is somewhat remote from the words, and the other is more accordant with the context. The clause, Beyond what it behooves him to be wise, shows what he meant by the former verb huperphronein, to be above measure wise; that is, that we exceed the measure of wisdom, if we engage in those things concerning which it is not meet that we should be anxious. To be wise unto sobriety is to attend to the study of those things by which you may find that you learn and gain moderation.

To every one as God has distributed, etc. (Unicuique ut divisit Deus.) There is here an inversion of words, instead of -- As to every one God has distributed And here a reason is given for that sober-minded wisdom which he had mentioned; for as distribution of graces is various, so every one preserves himself within the due boundaries of wisdom, who keeps within the limits of that grace of faith bestowed on him by the Lord. Hence there is an immoderate affectation of wisdom, not only in empty things and in things useless to be known, but also in the knowledge of those things which are otherwise useful, when we regard not what has been given to us, but through rashness and presumption go beyond the measure of our knowledge; and such outrage God will not suffer to go unpunished. It is often to be seen, with what insane trifles they are led away, who, by foolish ambition, proceed beyond those bounds which are set for them.

The meaning is, that it is a part of our reasonable sacrifice to surrender ourselves, in a meek and teachable spirit, to be ruled and guided by God. And further, by setting up faith in opposition to human judgment, he restrains us from our own opinions, and at the same time specifies the due measure of it, that is, when the faithful humbly keep themselves within the limits allotted to them.

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