Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.– Romans 12:16
“Be not wise in your own conceits.”
At first this last sentence in verse 16 may be puzzling. It doesn’t seem to relate very much to what was just said. Paul has been talking about our LOVE toward others which brings about the right ATTITUDES toward others. Then, in the same verse we have the command, “Be not wise in your own conceits.” What may help to see how this does in fact connect with the preceding statements is to look back at the previous chapter.
In Romans 11 Paul draws up a big illustration. In this illustration he talks about two trees – the wild olive tree and the good olive tree. To help myself understand the illustration better, I like to call this good olive tree the “Tree of God’s Holy Vocation.” In other words, this good olive tree signifies the group of people who God has called to be His main “workers.” They have a holy calling. In the Old Testament, this good olive tree was mostly Israel. Israel was the one that was supposed to be the nation completely dedicated to the Lord. The nations of the earth should have been able to see the blessings of Israel and come to the realization that the God of Israel is the Lord of Lords. It was prophesied that through Abraham’s seed all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3). Salvation was by faith through grace in the Old Testament. The sinner just had to accept the God of ISRAEL as the Lord and trust in His Messiah to save the sinner from his sins. Israel turned her back on God. Israel rejected the Messiah, Jesus Christ. As a consequence, SOME of the NATURAL branches (Israel) of the good olive tree were broken off (Romans 11:17). Notice though, only SOME of the branches were broken off. We find the Gentiles, signified by the wild olive tree, were grafted in to the good Olive Tree – God’s Tree of Holy Vocation. Now the GENTILES will take PART in spreading forth the Gospel! God’s Good Olive Tree has BOTH Gentiles AND Jews.
However, Paul knew as he was writing this that readers tend to just pay attention to the good stuff pertaining to THEM. He knew that there would be some Gentile Born-Again Believers who thought themselves important and even superior to the Jews now. At this point, they might have been thinking, “well, it makes sense. After seeing the 10 plagues and the Red Sea crossing, the Israelites STILL rejected the Messiah! WE would NEVER think that WAY!” We have, however, one advantage over the Jew of the Old Testament – Christ in the Heart. OUR righteousnesses are as filthy rags! Christ makes the difference! If the Jews had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they might NOT have rejected the Messiah! Paul picks up on some of the possible haughtiness of his readers and rebukes their boasting. He says, “Boast not against the branches . . . thou bearest not the root, but the root thee” (v. 18). GOD by GRACE is allowing us to take PART in HIS plan! He continues the rebuke – “Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee” (v. 19-21). It is ONLY by GRACE and FAITH that we are allowed to take part in His plan. He explains that the natural branches can be easily grafted back on (v. 24). Then he gets to our verse –
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved . . .” – Romans 11:25-26a
At this point there were some Gentiles who were under the impression that God is done with the Jews so He has moved on to the Gentiles because they are more worthy. God is NOT done with the Jews. God did not CHOP down the good Olive Tree to plant another one! Reformed theology teaches the Church has REPLACED Israel. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Reformed theology is FALSE doctrine. We see clearly in this verse that God is not done with the Israel. Israel WILL BE reclaimed. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance! (v. 29). God is here in verse 25 rebuking every Calvinist and every other false doctrine holding to Reformed Theology. “Be not wise in your own conceits.” God hasn’t just moved on to the Gentiles so that they could replace the Jews as the true Israel. How can He if “all Israel shall be saved” is written in the future tense? Reformed theology reeks of pride and arrogance. This is why it is promoted by the intellectuals governed by pride in thinking they are wise in their own eyes.
The meaning is the same in the verse we began with. “Be not wise in your own conceits.” DO NOT think that God has called you to take part in His plan as a result of your own merits. It is by God’s GRACE. It is easy to exalt own own knowledge, wisdom, and opinions. It is easy to judge the lack of wisdom in others just as these Romans were judging the Jews. True, spiritual wisdom comes from God. “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: Fear the LORD, depart from evil.” – Proverbs 3:7