Q.

Could you please explain Romans 12:10: “In honour preferring one another”?

A.
Having dealt with doctrinal aspects of the gospel in relation to Israel in chapters 9—11 of his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul went into a practical summary of Christian responsibilities, especially toward fellow believers, in chapter 12. These virtues hinge on the consecrated life he described in the first two verses.

The consecrated life is not just consecration to God without any regard for other believers; instead, in humility, the believer should build up other believers, recognizing the need other believers meet as well. We all have special gifts: “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (v. 5).

In addition to this important recognition of one another’s gifts, we are to have some qualities that only the Holy Spirit can enable us as sinners saved by grace to possess: love without hypocrisy, kindness, unselfishness, diligence, zeal, joy, patience, continual prayer, hospitality, forgiveness, sympathy and empathy, and humility. Verses 9–21 list these qualities. In other words, we should become more and more like Jesus. It is wonderful to see someone like Jesus! We don’t see such individuals enough.

Various commentators of the Word have found varied shades of meaning for the quality named in the phrase you asked about (v. 10). Basically, the verse tells us that we should lead the way in showing honor and should be more ready than others in recognizing and honoring God’s gifts in a brother in Christ. This thought is in keeping with the general context here concerning our spiritual gifts. We should outdo each other in showing respect for one another. We should prefer to see others honored rather than ourselves.

Showing honor is often hard to do. Maybe we should say it is impossible apart from Christ. The natural man craves glory for himself and only himself; he is miffed when he cannot get it. But the Spirit-controlled Christian has the ability to vacate rather than to occupy, to take the lowest position rather than the high place. Showing honor is quite a test.

Some see the parallel between this verse and verse 3 of the same chapter: “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.” Another passage linked to Romans 12:10 is Philippians 2:3 and 4, where Paul admonished: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

In showing respect and honor for the brother in Christ, each of us should strive to take the lead.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (December 1991).
© 1991 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.