— Martin Luther (1483-1546).
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Vol. II — Chapter 13 — Romans 12:9-21
Vol. II — Chapter 13 — Romans 12:9-21
GOD’S RULES FOR THE HOLY LIVING OF THE BRETHREN
Romans 12:9-21 (9) Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. (10) Be kindly affected one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; (11) Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; (12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; (13) Distributing to the necessity of saints; given hospitality. (14) Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. (15) Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (16) 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. (17) Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. (18) If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (20) Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. (21) Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. We have been given Christian gifts for the body of Christ and now Paul tells the believers how these gifts should be used. Preaching, exhortations, pastoral work, giving, teaching, performing acts of mercy, are all Divine gifts. Every true member of the body of Christ is indwelt by the Holy Ghost and given these gifts to be used diligently. The ministry of the Church must be with true love for all the body; without hypocrisy. In the leadership of our Lord’s Church and the administration of His spiritual gifts there must be true love.
Verse 9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Paul is moving on from the list of gifts to instructions for exercising them and he begins with “love” — the entire principle of love to God and man (1 Cor. 13: 1-8). But love here is not the peculiar brotherly affection Christians should cherish towards each other — that is brought forward in the next verse. This is the charity that the Apostle Peter calls on Christians to add to brotherly love (2 Pet. 1:7). It is a cordial goodwill to make all persons whom we come in contact with happy. It is sincere desire that we wish the best for everyone and leads us to confer benefits on them toward that end, “as we have opportunity.”
Our love must be “without dissimulation,” pretension and hypocrisy. Our love to others, like our love to Christ, must be genuine and sincere and from the heart — not in word only, but in deed and truth (1 John 4:7-8; 19-20). We must not pretend to love when we do not love or profess more love than we really possess. There is a great deal of professed love in the world and much of it is feigned. It is but the assuming of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, with dissimulation of real character or inclinations, especially in respect of religious life or beliefs, playacting, pretense and sham. But true love avoids the stage of playacting and walks the path of real life. Human nature and mere religion cannot produce the love which comes from Christ alone (1 John 3:18-20).
“Abhor that which is evil.” True believers sin, but they do not love sin whither in principle or deed, nor do they excuse or justify it in themselves or others (Psa. 51:3-4). Radically changed by the power of God they now detest sin and fear it (Psa. 97:10). Christians must not only abstain from inflicting wrong on any human being, but they must abhor every temper and action that has an injurious tendency, as to keep at the greatest distance from it (Prov. 8:13). Although religion is constantly saying love, love, when it is to be feared that most know not what real love is, they do not know that hatred is a real Christian virtue. Hatred must be directed at sin and evil, and not at individuals. We must follow our Lord Jesus Christ. His throne is a scepter of righteousness and He “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity” (Heb. 1:8-9). The Scriptures are throughout telling us of the hatred of all sin, iniquity and evil by our Blessed Lord. When this text commands us to hate all that is evil, it is saying that we are to be like our Lord and Saviour.
God tells us of seven things that He hates in Prov. 6:16-19 and if we, as followers of the Lamb, are in Christ and are partakers of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), we hate them also. First, there is “a proud look,” or haughty eyes. We must hate that proud look in ourselves, and then in others. Second, God hates a lying tongue. We must hate lying lips — our own first of all — and then hate all lies in whatever forms we find them, whether in the pulpit, religion, politics, the business world, etc. Our Lord Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) we certainly love Him and all truth and seek to overcome error with bold proclamation of that truth. Third, God hates “Hands that shed innocent blood.” My how our Lord, and we in Him, hate the abortion of innocent babies in this country and around the world. Fourth, object of God’s hatred is “a heart that devises wicked imaginations,” or plans. Paul tells us in Phil. 4:8 the things that saved people are to think upon. Five, God says He hates, “feet that be swift in running to mischief.” This implies hatred of those who direct their steps to join in evil that others are doing. God hates those who corporate with evil doers. So we are to hate all evil courses of action. Six, is “a false witness that speaketh lies.” Religious lies, lies in conducting business, lying attorneys, all lying our Lord hates and so do His true children. Seven, “and he that soweth discord among the brethren.”
Leaving this list of God’s hatreds in the Book of Proverbs, we find several passages that speak of His hatred of false religion. He sets up His own standards and shows great hatred against any variance from that which He has planned and proclaimed through His servants. Great multitudes are so blind to think that one religion is as good as another and they stake their eternal souls on that lie. There is truth which is of God; then there is the opposite of truth which is certainly not of God, no matter what banner it presents itself under. This difference must ever be determined by the Word of God.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God voiced one of His greatest hatreds in connection with religion (Isa. 1:12-15). He hates formal religion which comes from hypocritical hearts. Religions that leave the adherents living disobedient and immoral lives are abominations to Him. Any form of insincere worship is a stench in the nostrils of a Holy God. He delights only in that which comes from a broken spirit, contrite heart, and trembles at His Word (Isa. 66:2; 57:15) — that true worship which is in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Oh, dear Reader, in salvation the life of Christ becomes our life. His love becomes our love and His hate becomes our hate. May He bring us more and more fully to hate all that He hates, fleeing from every and all appearance of evil (1 Thes. 5:22), and to love only what He loves.
“Cleave to that which is good.” The word “cleave” means we are to stick to or keep company with (Acts 11:23. We are to hold fast to truth — to the standard of God’s Holy Word in our connection with civil government, our Church life, and our own private lives (1 Thes. 5:15). We must stand for truth, honesty, and that which God’s Word proclaims is right (Heb. 12:14). Lord, help us to walk with Thee, and with those who know Thee. Help us to hold to the principles of godliness, associate with Thy people and go to places which contribute to our spiritual growth (1 Pet. 3:10-11).
Verse 10 Be kindly affected one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. “Be kindly affected one to another with brotherly love.” Paul had given directions about the use and improvement of spiritual gifts for the edification of the Church, and now he is showing the manner in which these gifts are to be used. The love spoken of here is not the desire for all men to get along well in life or the relieving of the poor and afflicted. This love is the great duty among true Christians brought to light by the Gospel. It is the means of communication between all the members of the mystical body of Christ our Lord (Phil. 2:3-4; Gal. 6:10). Besides that general benevolence or charity the saints have to mankind, there is this peculiar and very distinguishing kind of affection, which every true Christian experiences towards those whom he looks upon as truly gracious persons (John 13:34-35); whereby the soul is very sensibly and sweetly knit to such persons, and there is an ineffable oneness of heart with them; whereby the whole Church body can be spoken of as “They are one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32). This holy affection is exercised between them on account of the spiritual image of God in them, their relation to God as His children, and to Christ as His members, and to them as spiritual brothers in Christ (1 Thes. 4:9). The words “brotherly love” represents that peculiar endearment that there is between gracious persons. It is a cleaving one to another, with brotherly, strong, endearment. “seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:11).
This “brotherly love” is a fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22). It is a fruit of the Spirit of God, an effect of true faith, whereby believers, being knit together by the strongest bonds of affection, upon the account of their interest in one Head, Jesus Christ our Lord, and participating of one Spirit, do delight in, value, and esteem each other, and are in a constant readiness for all those regular duties whereby the temporal, spiritual, and eternal good of one another may be promoted (Psa. 133:1). That which renders it peculiarly Gospel love is it being the product of the Holy Ghost in our hearts. It is that love which doth knit together the hearts and souls of believers with entire affection one unto another. It is that virtue that the Apostle John so much insists on in his first epistle, as one of the most distinguishing characteristics of true grace, and a peculiar evidence that God dwelleth in us, and we in God (1 John 2:9-11). It is the love of saints one for the other on account of the spiritual image of God in Christ in us, and our spiritual relation to Him. We thus love others because they are visibly real members of Christ.
“In honour preferring one another,” or, as Paul says in another of his epistles, “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). Where Christian love is cultivated and exercised there is a thinking and acting respectfully unto our brothers and sisters (1 Pet. 5:5). Paul does not mean that a very spiritual, intelligent Christian should regard, as worthy of more esteem for his knowledge, a very weak and ill-informed brother, nor that he should pretend a degree of respect which he does not nor cannot feel. What he means is that under the influence of true Christian love, we should put the best possible construction on the motives of our brethren and, knowing ourselves, abase ourselves for “in us, that is, in our flesh, dwells no good thing.” We are to cherish very lowly thought of ourselves, and comparatively high and honourable thoughts of our spiritual brothers and sisters. As Christians we must “honour all men,” but especially “the brotherhood” (1Pet. 2:17); and to show this in the manner in which we treat them — guarding their representation no less carefully than we do our own. In discerning the image of Christ in our Lord’s people so as to make deference in love to them both an easy and pleasant duty, we put their interests before our own. In judging ourselves faithfully, we discover that “the least of all saints” suits no one better than ourselves. The exercised and humble believer will rather put honour on his brethren than seek it for himself.
Verse 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord. “Not slothful in business.” Commentators are divided over the meaning of this phrase but we ignore their dilemma for the utterance is clearly directed to the true people of God, not to the natural man. The true believer is to “serve his Master” as he is about his Lord’s business in ministering the Gospel as well as when he is conducting his secular business, worldly calling (Eccl. 9:10). As our Lord Christ said, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49), we must be Followers of Him in conducting that business of carrying out the Father’s will in the redemption of His people. Secular business is included in the injunction, but only as that forms a part of “the service of the Lord.” Let our whole life, every phase of it, be service to our Lord.
“Not slothful,” but diligent in serving our Lord in the way of the use of the gifts and graces He sovereignly bestows upon each member of the body of Christ, enlightening our souls with truth, and enabling us to minister as He guides us. So also should we be diligent in connection with the house and worship of God. So also it includes diligence in whatever tends to our spiritual progress — be in it watchful and earnest (Heb. 6:10-11).
“Serving the Lord.” Make the Law of the Lord your rule in everything. Whatever you do, do it as to Him (1 Cor. 7:22). When engaged in the ordinary affairs of life, remember we are His servants, and we beseech Him to enable us to ever act in His sight, under the motives and for the ends He has enjoined (Eph. 6:5-8). When we are employed in the duties of true, pure religion, still, whatever we do, it must be unto Him, guided by His authority, animated by His love. In all of our lives let all of our actions be “service to our Heavenly Master” and let it never degenerate into cold formalism or mere bodily service; let all our duties be animated by His love which constrains us (2 Cor. 5:14). And by His enablement may all our service indeed be the expression of fervent zeal for the honour of our Lord, growing out of a habitual faith of His truth — kept alive by constant supplies of Holy Ghost power (Heb. 12:28). Oh, dear Reader may the Lord give us grace to be diligent in the Master’s business, whose service is perfect freedom; and may it be our increased delight to spread His name and fame.
Verse 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer. “Rejoicing in hope.” This hope is tried in a variety of ways, but being the work of God in the soul and a grace planted in the heart by the Eternal Spirit, it is an anchor to the soul (Psa. 16:9-11). Sweet, sweet hope! What would we be without it? A good hope through grace — what a Divine source of consolation (Lamen. 3:24-26). The hope of the believer appears in the preceding part of this epistle as well as other parts of the apostles’ writings. That true believers “shall never come into condemnation” (Rom. 8:1); that sin shall not have dominion over us” (Rom. 6:14); that “all things work together for our good” (Rom. 8:28); that “the God of peace will bruise Satan under our feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20); that our “light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work for us a far more exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17); that nothing “shall separate us from the love of Christ — the love of God which is in Christ” (Rom. 8:35-39); that “when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we shall have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1); that when we “become absent from the body,” we shall be “present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8); that we shall “attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3:11); that “the Saviour, the Lord Jesus, shall change our vile bodies and fashion them like unto His own glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21); and we shall be “with Him where He is, that we may behold His glory” (John 17:24); and that we “shall be forever with the Lord” (1 Thes. 4:17). This is the hope of every true child of God.
This hope comes to the children of God, poor elect sinners, in the hearing of “the Word of the truth of the Gospel” (Col. 1:5-6); and the Word coming “not in Word only, but in power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” (1 Thes. 1:5). The true believer is brought to “rejoice” in hope, being firmly persuaded in his saving interest in Christ, in His precious blood and all-sufficient righteousness. A good hope rests in the testimony of Him that cannot lie and it brings “joy” to the heart of the believer in whatever circumstances he may find himself to be (Col. 1:27)).
The cultivation of this “rejoicing (or joy) in hope” was used of God to bring Christians to the place of being able to be “patient in tribulation;” to bear the afflictions of life, especially those arising out of their walk with the Lord Christ. This injunction is only obtained by the strengthening influence of the joy of the Holy Ghost (Col. 1:11). It is after coming to a saving knowledge of Christ that the believers conflicts begin, and the way to the Kingdom of Heaven is proven to be through much tribulation (Acts 14:22). “Tribulations” cause the throne of grace to be prized — a covenant God in Christ, to be sought unto, and delighted in. Patience is a grace of the Holy Ghost, and it is brought into the experience of God’s children by means of the various trials, outward and inward, that the soul passes through; and the believer feeling his need of continual supplies from his Lord in the midst of many pressures. “Tribulation” is descriptive of affliction, of whatever kind, and “patient” as expressive of the duty of the saints to submit to afflictive dispensations brought by Divine appointment and agency (1 Pet. 2:19-20). The Lord enables His people to bear the suffering without murmuring, while He is pleased to continue the tribulation, and the saints use no improper means to escape it, and calmly wait for it to bring its intended goal to fruition in their lives (Heb. 10:23; 12:1).
“Continuing instant in prayer.” As prayer is the appointed means of obtaining renewed supplies of the power of the Holy Ghost in our lives, the apostle adds this statement. By being “instant in prayer” it is not meant that a believer is to be praying with a form of words from morning until bedtime; but praying when he is pressed to it in various and heavy trials (Psa. 55:16-17). Peter was instant in prayer when walking on the water and he began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me, or I perish” (Matt. 14:30), and it is for this the Lord weighs His people with afflictions and crosses, so that they may cry unto Him (Jer. 29:18-19). It is prayer that is the proper mode of expressing our entire dependence upon our Lord, and of obtaining from Him such blessings as our circumstances requires (Phil. 4:6-7). Our Lord says, “Call on me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee” (Psa. 50:15). And our prayer must be “instant” — fervent and continued. “Men ought to pray always,” continue praying, “and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
“Never do we need more to be fervent and persevering in prayer, than when tempted by afflictions to ‘make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience’ (1 Tim. 1:19). Then with redoubled eagerness, feeling our own weakness, and aware of the fearful consequences of ‘casting away our confidence which has great recompense of reward,’ we should cry ‘out of the depths;’ and the deeper we sink, the louder we should cry. ‘Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe;’ ‘Give to me the joy of Thy salvation;’ and, in order to this, ‘Lord, increase my faith;’ ‘then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect to all Thy commandments.’” (John Brown).
True “prayer” does not consist in repeating a form of words at set seasons; but it is the heart going up to God in sighs, desires, and wishes (Rom. 8:26). Under these inward feelings the saints do not need to be told they must pray; for no matter where they are; they are pressed to cry out to God, pouring out their hearts. The Lord keeps His children poor in spirit that they might have continual errands to Him. Dear fellow saint, live in the spirit of prayer all the day: continually groaning up petitions, “Lord keep, strengthen and sanctify me.”
Verse 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. While the Christian is to exercise human sympathy for the needy — human sympathy for human suffering — this injunction is directed to the Christian regarding that which we owe to our suffering brethren; “distributing to the necessity of saints.” The “saints” here are just another name for Christians, as “set apart by the Lord for Himself” — His “peculiar people.” To ‘distribute to the necessities of the saints” — is to communicate to them what is necessary to supply their wants and needs, thus relieving their distress. This was a loving practice of the early Church and any church (?) that does not practice this is not a true Church. “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17). When another believer is in need, the Church will respond to that need. We are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and see that the family of God is provided for.
Secondly, to our needy brethren we are to be “given to hospitality.” We are to take home to our houses, those who had “forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or lands, for Christ’s name sake” (Matt. 19:29). “I was hungry, and ye gave Me meat; thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; naked, and ye clothed Me” — this is “distributing to the necessities of the saints.” “I was a stranger, and ye took Me in” (Matt. 25:34-40) — this is Christian hospitality. We are to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), which the law of love, sympathy, and kindness. The Scriptures say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive;” and our Lord Christ said, by way of expostulation, to those who had indignation within themselves because the woman with the alabaster box of ointment broke it, and poured it on His head, “She hath done what she could”
Being believers we are to look around us, and see what we can do to help the needy, especially the poor brethren and sisters, and to extend the friendly hand to the suffering and sorrowful. “Pure religion and undefiled before God” is not to isolate one’s self in selfish separation, but it is to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27), and be friends with the friendless. In this way we shall be following in our Master’s footsteps.
Verse 14 Bless them which persecute you; bless and curse not. Paul had stated how Christians are to behave toward their fellow believers, and here he proceeds to show how they should conduct themselves toward their opponents — the authors of their sufferings. Persecutors are those who are the authors of these unjust sufferings of true believers. It is natural for man to resent ill-treatment, and, if in his power, to avenge it. It is very easy for those abused to respond with abuse; but that is the natural reply of the unregenerate. But Paul’s injunction to the Christian is the same as what our Lord Christ has said to us in the Sermon on the Mount: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:43-44).
The word “bless” does not mean here to praise or commend them, but Christians are to show them kindness, speak in kindness to, speak well of, and to pray for our enemies, revilers, and persecutors. True sheep, as followers of the Good Shepherd, are to answer all challenges in the spirit of our Lord, with Christian restraint and consideration (1 Cor. 4:12-13). “Persecution” here speaks of harassment, of the hostility of troublemakers, of any maltreatment of the believer. It is met without reciprocation; hostility is not met with hostility. The spirit of the believer speaks in kindness, gentleness, and Christian meekness (1 Thes. 5:15). It does not pray blessings upon evil, but neither does it pray revenge or doom upon its attackers (1 Pet. 3:9).
Instead of imprecating vengeance on our persecutors, pray for their salvation. “Inspired men, under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, were often called prophetically to denounce God’s judgments against the wicked; and in the way of kindly and solemn warning good men may now do the same; but every thing like bitterness, cursing and imprecation is contrary to the Christian temper and to the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments (Psa. 35:13-14; Matt. 5:44).” (William S. Plumer).
Verse 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. A fellow-feeling with our neighbors and particularly with our Christian brethren is the duty the Holy Ghost gives here. Persecuted believers have a peculiar claim on the sympathies of the whole household of faith, and should therefore be given a special place in their supplications and intercessions. The cultivation and exercise of love one to another is incumbent upon us at all times, but especially in seasons when fellow saints are in distress (1 Cor. 12:26). Oh, what a blessing does the Lord make one Christian to another! And often are we enabled to solve each other’s difficulties, and made a means of deliverance from misery and burdens.
The persecuted Christian must not withdraw from society. He must not go out of the world; he must mingle with his fellow-men and take an interest in their happiness — “rejoicing with them when they rejoice, and weeping with them when they weep.” This is the duty of the Christian in reference to all men. Of course the joys of the worldling are often that which the Christian ought not, yea, cannot rejoice; but in all the moral enjoyments of his fellow-men we are to take a kindly interest. And in every case of suffering we are to pity the sufferer.
Verse 16 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. “Be of the same mind” — regard every Christian brother and sister with true affection — a kind of affection which none but regenerate children of God can cherish, and which can only be cherished to another true member of the family of God. And in love let us put forth conscious effort to coincide with one another in thought and action; giving deliberate effort to be in agreement, not in conflict with each other (1 Cor. 1:10); Phil. 1:27).
Let us guard against an inspiring ambitious spirit, “mind not high things.” No member of the body of Christ our Lord is to make the attaining of a high position in the world their great object. The duty and delight of the true children of God is to “seek first the Kingdom of God” — mind spiritual things — “the things that are above” — and look down on what the world classifies as high things as low things. Christians are not to “love to have the pre-eminence” (3 John 1:9). They do not seek high office and honour in the Church, nor do they aspire to lordship over the faith or practice of their brethren (1 Pet. 5:3). “In love they serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). Our Lord Christ tells us, “One is your Master, and all ye are brethren” (Matt. 23:8).
As true believers are not to be guilty of “minding high things,” and we are to “condescend to men of low estate,” to regard no employment beneath us by which we may benefit a fellow creature who is dejected in mine and whose spirit is overwhelmed within him (Matt. 18:1-4). Let us not despise the most menial duty (Phil. 4:11-13). Remember that our Lord Christ washed the feet of the disciples. As followers of the Lamb we must count it not beneath us to associate with the poorest, and the most despised and persecuted among the Lord’s children (Jam. 2:1-7).
“Be not wise in your own conceits” — and stand not in high estimation of your own supposed wisdom, power, and acquirements (Isa. 5:21). Let no man think he has a monopoly on all the knowledge and wisdom in the Church body that we belong to and therefore refuse to co-operate in works of importance to the body because his plans are not followed (1 Cor. 3:18). We must cherish a deep sense of our own ignorance and fallibility, and ever stand ready to receive instruction from our Christian brethren (1 Cor. 8:2). What kind of Church would it be if all men were “wise in the own conceits?” Instead of being in unity, bound together “in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace,” there would be nothing but “strife and division,” “the biting and devouring of one another,” and “confusion and every evil work.”
Verse 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. Now the apostle proceeds to instruct the saints of God in their duties in this ungodly, unfriendly world around them. Believers will experience, not only afflictions, but injuries from the hands of unsaved men and women. The apostolic writers and our Lord Himself warned us of the sacrifices we must make, the hazards we would be exposed to, and the sufferings we must endure, as genuine disciples of the Captain of our salvation. Christ said, “In this world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). The apostle wrote, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). And again the apostles preached, “that we through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). And, though we will receive many injuries, we are not to inflict injuries on others (Prov. 20:22).
We are not to “Recompense to any man evil for evil.” Private revenge is contrary to the God whom we serve and the Gospel that we preach. We are not to “pay back” evil words with evil words, or evil deeds with evil deeds (1 Pet. 3:9). In our hearts we are to be patient in tribulation; our words are to be fountains of blessing, not of cursing. In our actions we are never to repay evil with evil (1 Thes. 5:15). However believers are not prohibited from going to law enforcement to defend their persons, property, and reputation from lawless violence, or to obtain justice when we have been wrongfully injured; but we are forbidden everything of vindictive retaliation. What our Lord is forbidding is not the resisting of evil by a lawful defense, but by way of public revenge. Public reparation is when proper law enforcement officials, according to the justice and mercy of the Divine Law, sentence an evil person who has injured another. Private revenge is when those who are not law enforcement officials take matters into their own hands and retaliate against those who have wronged them. Any man who seeks to take vengeance on another is trespassing on the functions of God. “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord” (Heb. 10:30).
“Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” The word “honest” carries with it the meaning honorable, comely, and of good report. We are to add to the substantial virtues of Christianity, such as piety, truth, justice, beneficence, chastity, and temperance — a temper and a behavior fitted to command the respect and esteem of all mankind. As believers we must assuredly not “be conformed to the world,” in order to avoid the contempt and secure the good will of the worldly. However, we must avoid acting in a way that increases the worlds dislike of us, nor should we act so as to strengthen their prejudice against the truth of Christianity and fellow Christians, and give plausibility to their misrepresentations of both. There should never be anything mean, or suspicious about the character and conduct of a true believer in Christ. We must be honorable, with strict integrity, open and straightforward in the sight of all men in all our business dealings, our clean conversation, our kindness, our conduct in public, and our faithfulness to all family, civic and business duties (2 Cor. 8:21).
“The idea here seems to be that the true follower of Christ is to face life with definite consideration of all that he must do; to ponder the effects of his movements on other people; so to live his life that the things that are noble, good, pure, true, will mark him. The believer in Christ is to take serious consideration of the kind of music he prefers and listens to. He is to calculate the effect of his literary tastes on others. He never goes with the crowd for the crowd’s sake. His life is such that everyone who knows him will know that the smutty joke will fall flat in his presence; the ugly will be avoided; the ignoble will be spurned.
“The thought embedded in this verse is that a true believer in Christ will seek to be outwardly attractive as well as inwardly holy. His love for the Lord Jesus will keep him from being vulgar. Yieldedness to Christ will bring a power of discrimination that will eliminate the cheap, the low, and the tawdry. The believer’s taste in all things will progress toward higher and higher cultural standards. Paul wrote to Titus, ‘And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses’ (Titus 3:14). Thus, wherever the believer finds himself he will be a witness for the beauty and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Especially as the humble grow in wisdom and nobility, men will take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus Christ (Acts 4:13).” (Donald Grey Barnhouse).
Verse 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. In reference to the Christians conduct toward all men the apostle lays down this injunction in this verse. To “live peaceably” is to live so as the saint of God does not disturb others and neither is the saint disturbed by the words and actions of others (Matt. 5:5, 9). “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you.” True believers ought never to offer an offence, insult, or inflict an injury. Neither must we put forward that will cause others to quarrel with us. We are to overlook many slights; put up with many injuries; we are to make many sacrifices. We are to avoid all needless occasions of contention, yet never to the point of sacrificing the Truth, compromising principle, of forsaking duty. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself did not so (Matt. 10:34).
“If it be possible;” these very terms denote that so far from compliance therewith being a simple task, it is one which calls for constant vigilance, self-discipline, and earnest prayer. Such is the state of human nature, that offences must come, nevertheless it is part of Christian duty to see to it that we so conduct ourselves as to give no just cause of complaint against us (2 Cor. 13:11).
If we are to be successful in “living peaceably with all men” we must bridle our unmanageable tongues” (Jam. 3:5-6). Too, we must not be “tattlers” or “busybodies in other men’s matters” (1 Tim. 5:13). We must do all possible to avoid anger and enmities. A relish for discord is no part of Christian virtue and the children of God must make every effort to preserve and promote peace with his fellowmen (Heb. 12:14). Peace is a priority in the followers of the Prince of peace (Col. 3: 14-15).
But there are things that must never be done, even to secure peace. We must never flatter nor imitate that which is Scripturally wrong in men’s opinions and conduct. We must never compromise but stand for truth and justice in true humility. We must not omit our God given duties and certainly not commit sin. If we, in order to gain peace with men, must in any way be disloyal to our Heavenly Master, then peace, must not be sought under such damnable conditions. With such persons the saints will never have peace. That is the reason Paul said, “If it be possible,” for we meet with some touchy, captious people, even among the children of God, with whom it is very difficult to maintain peace (Jam. 3:16-18).
Verse 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. “Dearly Beloved” — exemplifying what Paul has already called for among the Church, he displays affection for all the brethren. This shows the genuine affection of the Church members toward each other for the truly regenerate love each other. Paul in earnestness is pressing this matter upon them which is so important to individual Christian improvement and the credit and progress of the Christian cause.
“Avenge not yourselves.” It is evident that this is a problem that must be handled for Paul deals with it in verses 14, 17, and here in 19. Its admonition applies both within the Church and among the society of the world (Prov. 24:17-19, 29). It is not ours to vindicate our rights among each other, for we are to be “esteeming the other better than himself” (Phil. 2:3). Our interest is not to be in this world’s realm, but in our Heavenly inheritance. Christ is our Defender, our Deliverer; we rest our right in Him. It is certain that true Christians have many injuries inflicted upon them by the unsaved. There is no “living godly lives in this world” without meeting with hatred and harm by its citizens (2 Tim. 3:12). But the Christians must not seek to injure those who have injured them. The good of society may make it necessary for believers to prosecute those who have wronged them, but in no case must they do this to gratify ill-will, or to avenge injury. Resentment must not be the impelling cause, nor the suffering of the one who caused the injury the ultimate object.
“But rather give place unto wrath:” the wrath of that man who has injured us; who is our enemy; we must give place to his wrath, not by approving him or his wrath, but by not answering him with our own wrath (Luke 6:27-29). When he becomes angry, we must remain calm; when he rages, we must remain gentle and meek, both in speech and spirit, then we give place to wrath: that is, we allow it to pass away and blow over. Solomon has given us the sum of this exposition, “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1). While we must not allow our own wrath to cause us to take revenge, and we must let it be abated calmly, peacefully, and without vengeance, we must understand that we must give way to the wrath of God.
“For it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.” Paul quotes here from Deut. 32:35. If we would take upon ourselves to avenge ourselves, we take God’s work from His hand. God’s perfect justice will settle all things, and must be left to do so (Nahum 1:2-3). The voice of God has spoken it; let it stand! God Himself has laid claim to vengeance; all repaying is His business. “I will repay.” Our Lord will not abandon the cause or the rights of His beloved children. Wrongs against them will be avenged by Him in due time.
Verse 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. This is a quotation from Prov. 25:21-22. The law of love is not expounded more spiritually in any single precept either by Christ or His apostles than in this exhortation. As Christians we are to seize upon the moment of distress in our enemies to show kindness to them even though they hate us. Rather than be guilty of malice and insult we must “give place to wrath” by being willing to submit to their insults.
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.” The enemy of the child of God is anyone who is hostile to him, opposing or otherwise odious to his person, faith, or service. Believers do not respond in kind, but rather renders benevolence, meeting the needs of their enemy. The command of our Lord is, “Love thine enemy, do good to them that hate you” (Matt. 5:44). If our enemy is needy in any way, do him good, and supply his needs. Our anger will never win the heart of our foe, but kindness may reach his heart and conscience. Scriptural principles by which Christians are to live is that of overflowing love which under God will become overcoming love (1 Sam. 24:16-19).
John Gill says, “‘thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head;’ not to do him hurt, not to aggravate his condemnation, as if this would be a means of bringing down the wrath of God the more fiercely on him, which is a sense given by some; as if this would be an inducement to the saints to do such acts of kindness; which is just the reverse of the spirit and temper of mind the apostle is here cultivating; but rather the sense is, that by so doing, his conscience would be stung with a sense of former injuries done to his benefactor, and he be filled with shame on account of them, and be brought to repentance for them, and to love the person he before hated, and be careful of doing him any wrong for the future; all which may be considered as a prevailing motive to God's people to act the generous part they are here moved to.”
Verse 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil of good. The word “evil” here carries with it the meaning “injury,” just as it does in verse 17. Thus the believer is not to be overcome by the injuries he receives from others, however numerous, varied, severe, and long-continued they may be. “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work” (Prov. 24:29). Corrupt nature thirsts for retaliation, but grace must suppress it. If someone has slandered us, that does not warrant us to slander him. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov.16:32). Never allow the injuries and malignity of man to interfere with our loving obedience to the authority of God and love of our Lord Christ. Never let the diabolical pleasure of revenge displace the Divine delight of forgiveness.
“But overcome evil with good.” True believers cannot disregard evil around us or within us, nor are we at liberty to try, for our calling is to face evil and overcome it with good. We are to refuse to take revenge when others wrong us, to bridle our passions, control ourselves, and rest contented in every state and condition of life that God in His wise and good providence may be pleased to place us in (Phil. 4:11). The rule of conduct which our Lord gives us in His Holy Word sets before us far more than a series of negative prohibitions that forbid us certain things: He also marks out a path to be walked in, setting forth positive directions of righteous action. His Word directs us in the path of righteousness and preserves us from sinning, but it also impels us into practical holiness.
“What a blow such a line of things is to the taunt that, if you know you are saved, you can just live as you list — throw the reins on the neck of the wild steed of human nature, and let it plunge wherever it likes! Far, far from it! We are to ‘present our bodies a living sacrifice unto God.’ It is true the child of God will live as he lists, but that living will be in the ways of the Lord, which will become his delight; for the Lord has shown us the emptiness of this world and its pleasures, and led us to higher and more substantial joys. And I am satisfied that, when the heart is truly humbled, and a Saviour unfeignedly loved, there will be the earnest desire to please Him and glorify His name. I am sure of this from personal observation, that loose-living professors are chiefly found among persons of a loose creed, while the children of God, who are fed from the stores of the covenant of grace, will be circumspect in their lives, testifying by their life, walk, and conduct that they are on the Lord’s side, and thereby putting to silence the ignorance of foolish men who assert the contrary” (George Cowell).
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 12:9-21
Verse 9. One can never be rid of sin until it is buried in the grave of the Lord Jesus. — T. T. Shields (1873-1955).
Christian love is the distinguishing mark of Christian life. — John Blanchard.
The hypocrite is a cloud without rain, a blossoming tree without fruit, a star without light, a shell without a kernel. — Thomas Brooks (1608-1680).
I do not understand how a man can be a true believer in whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow and trouble. — John Owen (1616-1683).
Christian love does not ignore or deny evil; rather, it hates evil. Not because of personal offense, but because it is offensive to its Lord. It rejects any behavior contrary to the character and spirit of Christ. It has no place for that which does not promote the love of Christ among His people. How is this hatred manifested? Not by an objectionable or abusive attitude, but by abstinence; it avoids evil in its own character and conduct. What is this evil? It is that which falls short of God’s glory. — Jay Wimberly (1936-2012).
It is not the absence of sin but the grieving over it which distinguishes the child of God from empty professors. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Faith and obedience are bound up in the same bundle. He that obeys God, trusts God; and he that trusts God, obeys God. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
Verse 10. The language here emphasizes the family spirit among the household of faith. It directly and strongly contradicts the more modern concept of the institutionality of the Church. The Church was never intended to be a business, or to be conducted like a business. It is not a club, or structured in any way like the organizations of the world. It is a family, and is to be conducted as one. — Jay Wimberly (1936-2012).
As there is nothing more opposed to brotherly concord than the contempt which rises from pride, while each esteems others less and exalts himself, so modesty, by which each comes to honour others, best nourishes love. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
Fidelity to God does not require any to act uncharitably to his servants. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
Love is the binding power which holds the body of the Christian Church together. — Stephen Olford (1918-2004).
Oh for true unfeigned humility! I know I have cause to be humble; and yet I do not know one half of that cause. I know I am proud; and yet I do not know the half of that pride. — Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843).
Verse 11. There are two options here; both are true. (1) Make the Lord’s glory your rule in everything. Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. If you are engaged in secular work for wages, or if you serve the public, work as if the Lord Jesus is your employer (Eph. 6:5-7; Col. 3: 22-23). (2) Let not the worship and business of the Lord degenerate into a cold formalism. Let our religious duties (such as study, prayer, witnessing, and singing giving, and preaching) be always motivated by fervent zeal and interest. — Henry Mahan (b. 1926).
Our laziness after God is our crying sin . . . No man gets God who does not follow hard after Him. — E. M. Bounds (1835-1913).
(1) Negatively, ‘not slothful in business;’ you will do nothing at it if ye be sleepy or slothful; the business is not such as may be done in a dream. Ad idleness is the burial of our persons, so slothfulness is the burial of our actions. It is bad to be slow at our business, but much worse to be slothful. (2) Affirmatively, ‘fervent in spirit;’ this is the greatest diligence possible. Fervency is the heat and height of the affections, and is as contrary to slothfulness as fire to water. — George Swinnock (1627-1673).
“Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” The Greek word Zeovres (fervent), signifies seething hot. God loves to see His people zealous and warm in His service. Without fervency of spirit, no service finds acceptance in Heaven. God is a pure act, and He loves that His people should be lively and active in His service. — Thomas Brooks (1608-1680).
Since my heart was touched at 17, I believe I have never awakened from sleep, in sickness or in health, by day or by night, without mu first waking thought being how best I might serve my Lord — Elizabeth Fry.
Verse 12. The Christians hope of glory is not the fact Christ is in him, but the Christ who is in him as a fact. — Anonymous.
Patience is the ballast of the soul that will keep it from rolling and tumbling in the greatest storms. — Ezekiel Hopkins (1634-1690).
Sin has brought many a believer into suffering; and suffering has kept many a believer from sinning. — William Gurnall (1617-1679).
There is no set time to pray, for it is always appropriate. Our text tells us to “continue” in prayer, and this is the same word as in Romans 12:12, which urges us to be “instant in” prayer. In fact, the admonition of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is to “pray without ceasing.”
Children should pray, as did little Samuel. When the Lord called him, he could answer: “Speak; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10). Young people should pray, as Timothy, who was exhorted by Paul to make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks . . . for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1). Adult men should pray, as did Paul himself, who could say to the Christians of Philippi that he was “always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy” (Philippians 1:4). Old men should pray, like Simeon, and old women, like Anna, who “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:25, 36-37). And even dying men should pray, as did Stephen who, as he was being stoned to death, was also “calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).
We can pray at dawn like David, who said: “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3). In a Philippian prison, “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God” (Acts 16:25). Daniel “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed” (Daniel 6:10). There is no time that is not a good time for prayer. One should pray in times of sorrow and also in times of joy, as did Hannah in both circumstances (1 Samuel 1:15; 2:1).
It is a most marvelous privilege that we have through Christ, that we are able to speak to the infinite God in prayer, and to know that He hears, and cares! Therefore, pray! — Henry M Morris (1916-2006).
“Men ought always to pray.” This is but another way of saying, “We shall never on earth be without needs, or a God, able and willing, and engaged to supply them. — Hardy.
Prayer is the task and labour of a Pharisee; but the privilege and delight of a Christian. — Joseph Hart (1712-1768).
Verse 13. True liberality is the spontaneous expression of love. — Geoffrey B. Wilson (b. 1929).
A holy life and a bounteous heart are ornaments of the Gospel. — Thomas Manton (1620-1677).
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. This is not common charity, as compassion would call the believer to reach out o the starving, no matter who on earth they might be. Rather, this is a particular relationship with fellow believers in Christ. It is to become partners with the saints in their needs, especially whatever they need to carry out their duty or calling in the faith. Believers are to take care of each other, seeing to it that none suffers need. Here, however, offered in the context of hospitality, believers are called upon to share what they have with those who are given to the service of the Gospel. As men give themselves to the service of Christ in the ministry of the Word, see to it that their needs are supplied. — Jay Wimberly (1936-2012).
I shall not value his prayers at all, be he never so earnest and frequent in them, who gives not alms according to his ability. — John Owen (1616-1683).
Verse 14. Our lives are to be so lived that we are patient in tribulation; so when someone persecutes us, we are to pray for him and ask God to bless him. This does not mean that we are to ask God to prosper his evil ways, but to deal with him so that he will see his folly and repent. Then God can bless him. The Christian is to live in such a fashion that it is apparent that he is not animated by original, human life, but is indwelt by Christ. The child of Adam by nature is a rock, which, when struck, brings forth bitter water. Thus we will stand in our wilderness surroundings as fountains for Him. Is not this implied in Christ’s wonderful promise and announcement of the quality of the Christian life? “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). Through the centuries many preachers have noted that the Christian life, like a rose, gives forth perfume when it is crushed. By tribulation and persecution our Lord fulfills this purpose: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14). — Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960).
Take care if the world does hate you that it hates you without cause. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
Suffering for Christ’s sake is to be viewed as a privilege. As God has bestowed the gift of salvation so He has also bestowed the gift of suffering. — Howard F. Vos (b. 1925).
Verse 15. Think it not hard if you get not your will, nor your delights in this life; God will have you to rejoice in nothing but himself. — Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661).
Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.
— Martin Luther (1483-1546).
— Martin Luther (1483-1546).
Rejoice with them that do rejoice,.... Not in anything sinful and criminal, in a thing of nought, in men's own boastings; all such rejoicing is evil, and not to be joined in; but in things good and laudable, as in outward prosperity; and to rejoice with such, is a very difficult task; for unless persons have a near concern in the prosperity of others, they are very apt to envy it, or to murmur and repine, that they are not in equal, or superior circumstances; and also in things spiritual, with such who rejoice in the discoveries of God's love to their souls, in the views of interest in Christ, and of peace, pardon, and righteousness by him, and in hope of the glory of God; when such souls make their boast in the Lord, the humble hearing thereof will be glad, and will, as they ought to do, join with them in magnifying the Lord, and will exalt his name together: and weep with them that weep; so Christ, as he rejoiced with them that rejoiced, at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, wept with them that wept, with Mary at the grave of Lazarus. The design of these rules is to excite and encourage sympathy in the saints with each other, in all conditions inward and outward, and with respect to things temporal and spiritual; in imitation of Christ their great high priest, who cannot but be touched with the infirmities of his people; and as founded upon, and arising from, their relation to each other, as members of the same body; see 1 Corinthians 12:26. — John Gill (1697-1771).
Verse 16. Think of, that is, regard, or seek after the same thing for each other; that is, what you regard or seek for yourself, seek also for your brethren. Do not have divided interests; do not be pursuing different ends and aims; do not indulge counter plans and purposes; and do not seek honors, offices, for yourself which you do not seek for your brethren, so that you may still regard yourselves as brethren on a level, and aim at the same object. — Albert Barnes (1798-1870).
“Not thinking,” he says, “of high things:” by which he means, that it is not the part of a Christian ambitiously to aspire to those things by which he may excel others, nor to assume a lofty appearance, but on the contrary to exercise humility and meekness: for by these we excel before the Lord, and not by pride and contempt of the brethren. A precept is fitly added to the preceding; for nothing tends more to break that unity which has been mentioned, than when we elevate ourselves, and aspire to something higher, so that we may rise to a higher situation. I take the term humble in the neuter gender, to complete the antithesis. Here then is condemned all ambition and that elation of mind which insinuates itself under the name of magnanimity; for the chief virtue of the faithful is moderation, or rather lowliness of mind, which ever prefers to give honor to others, rather than to take it away from them. Closely allied to this is what is subjoined: for nothing swells the minds of men so much as a high notion of their own wisdom. His desire then was, that we should lay this aside, hear others, and regard their counsels. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
Pride is a vice, which cleaves so fast unto the hearts of men, that if we were to strip ourselves of all faults, one by one, we should undoubtedly find it is the very last and hardest to put off. — Thomas Hooker (1586-1647).
Neither God nor man will care to lift up a man who lifts up himself; but both God and good men unite to honour modest worth. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
Verse 17. Now, such a life must inevitably arouse the hatred of those who do not experience it. To live supernaturally in the midst of a natural world is a silent rebuke that becomes intolerably galling to those who are not trusting the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus this section of the epistle to the Romans forearms for conflicts that must result as we draw nearer and nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ who is the central target of all of earth’s hatreds. — Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960).
Provide things honest - Be prudent, be cautious, neither eat, drink, nor wear, but as you pay for every thing. “Live not on trust, for that is the way to pay double;” and by this means the poor are still kept poor. He who takes credit, even for food or raiment, when he has no probable means of defraying the debt, is a dishonest man. It is no sin to die through lack of the necessaries of life when the providence of God has denied the means of support; but it is a sin to take up goods without the probability of being able to pay for them. Poor man! suffer poverty a little; perhaps God is only trying thee for a time; and who can tell if He will not turn again thy captivity. Labour hard to live honestly; if God still appear to withhold His providential blessing, do not despair; leave it all to Him; do not make a sinful choice; He cannot err. He will bless thy poverty, while He curses the ungodly man‘s blessings. — Adam Clarke (1760-1832).
Verse 18. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably,.... Or be at peace, seek after peace, pursue it, and cultivate it: with all men; with those that we are immediately concerned with, in a natural relation; so husbands should live peaceably with their wives, and wives with their husbands; parents with their children, and children with their parents; masters with their servants, and servants with their masters; and one brother, relation, and friend, with another: and so with all we are concerned with in a spiritual relation, as members of Christ, and in the same church state; such should be at peace among themselves, 1 Thessalonians 5:13; peace should rule in their hearts, Colossians 3:15, and they should study to keep "the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace", Ephesians 4:3, yea, with all we are concerned in a civil sense; saints should live peaceably in the neighborhood, towns, cities, and countries, where they dwell, and show themselves to be the quiet in the land; should pray for the peace of the place where they are; and do all that in them lies to promote it, by living themselves peaceably and quietly, in all godliness and honesty; yea, they should live peaceably with their very enemies, "if it be possible"; which is rightly put, for there are some persons of such tempers and dispositions, that it is impossible to live peaceably with; for when others are for peace, they are for war; and in some cases it is not only impracticable, but would be unlawful; as when it cannot be done consistent with holiness of life and conversation, with the edification of others, the truths of the Gospel, the interest of religion, and the glory of God; these are things that are never to be sacrificed for the sake of peace with men: the apostle adds another limitation of this rule, "as much as lieth in you"; for more than this is not required of us; nothing should be wanting on our parts; every step should be taken to cultivate and maintain peace; the blame should lie wholly on the other side; it becomes the saints to live peaceably themselves, if others will not with them. — John Gill (1697-1771).
Few things more adorn and beautify a Christian profession than exercising and manifesting the spirit of peace. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
He that is not a son of peace is not a son of God. — Richard Baxter (1615-1691).
Verse 19. Avenge not yourselves - To “avenge” is to take satisfaction for an injury by inflicting punishment on the offender. To take such satisfaction for injuries done to society, is lawful and proper for a magistrate; Romans 13:4. And to take satisfaction for injuries done by sin to the universe, is the province of God. But the apostle here is addressing private individual Christians. And the command is, to avoid a spirit and purpose of revenge. But this command is not to be so understood that we may not seek for “justice” in a regular and proper way before civil tribunals. If our character is assaulted, if we are robbed and plundered, if we are oppressed contrary to the law of the land, religion does not require us to submit to such oppression and injury without seeking our rights in an orderly and regular manner. If it did, it would be to give a premium to iniquity, to countenance wickedness, and require a man, by becoming a Christian, to abandon his rights. — Albert Barnes 1798-1870).
To give place to wrath, is to commit to the Lord the right of judging, which they take away from him who attempt revenge. Hence, as it is not lawful to usurp the office of God, it is not lawful to revenge. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
God Himself has laid claim to vengeance; all repaying is His business. The voice of God has also promised the evening up of all things. I will repay, saith the Lord. God will not abandon the cause or the rights of His beloved! Wrongs against His servants will be avenged in due time. — Jay Wimberly (1936-2012).
Verse 20. .If therefore, etc. He now shows how we may really fulfill the precepts of not revenging and of not repaying evil, even when we not only abstain from doing injury but when we also do good to those who have done wrong to us; for it is a kind of an indirect retaliation when we turn aside our kindness from those by whom we have been injured. Understand as included under the words meat and drink, all acts of kindness. Whatsoever then may be thine ability, in whatever business thy enemy may want either thy wealth, or thy counsel, or thy efforts, thou oughtest to help him. But he calls him our enemy, not whom we regard with hatred, but him who entertains enmity towards us. And if they are to be helped according to the flesh, much less is their salvation to be opposed by imprecating vengeance on them. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
Coals of fire are doubtless emblematical of “pain.” But the idea here is not that in so doing we shall call down divine vengeance on the man; but the apostle is speaking of the natural effect or result of showing him kindness. Burning coals heaped on a man‘s head would be expressive of intense agony. So the apostle says that the “effect” of doing good to an enemy would be to produce pain. But the pain will result from shame, remorse of conscience, a conviction of the evil of his conduct, and an apprehension of divine displeasure that may lead to repentance. To do this, is not only perfectly right, but it is desirable. If a man can be brought to reflection and true repentance, it should be done. — Albert Barnes (1798-1870).
Verse 21. Be not overcome] In revenge of injuries, he is the loser that gets the better. Hence the apostle disgraceth it, by a word that signifieth disgrace or loss of victory, ηττημα, 1 Corinthians 6:7. When any one provokes us, we use to say, We will be even with him. There is a way whereby we may be, not even with him, but above him; that is, forgive him, feed him with the best morsels, feed him indulgently (so the apostle’s word ψωμιζε in the former verse signifies), feast him, as Elisha did his persecutors; providing a table for them, who had provided a grave for him. “Set bread and water before them,” saith he, and mark what followed; “The bands of Syria came no more after that time,” by way of ambush or inroad, “into the bounds of Israel,” 2 Kings 6:22-23. In doing some good to our enemies (saith a grave divine hereupon) we do most to ourselves: God cannot but love in us that imitation of his mercy, who bids his sun to shine on the wicked and unthankful also; and his love is never fruitless. It is not like the winter sun that gives little heat, but like the sun in his strength, that warms and works effectually upon the rest of the creatures.
But overcome evil] This is the most noble victory. Thus David overcame Saul, and Henry VII, emperor of Germany, overcame the priest that poisoned him at the sacrament; for he pardoned him, and bade him be packing. (Fanc. Chron.) So did not Jacup the Persian king, who perceiving himself poisoned by his adulterous wife, enforced her to drink of the same cup; and because he would be sure she should not escape, with his own hand he struck off her head. (Turkish Hist.) But this (to say truth) was not revenge, but justice. Henry IV of France was wont to say, that he made all the days of those golden, who had most offended him; that so, the lead of their wickedness might be darkened by the gold of his goodness. — John Trapp (1601-1669).
Be not conquered by the evil that thy enemy may show thee, do not let this incite thee to thoughts of enmity and revenge under any circumstances; rather conquer the evil by doing good. Subdue your enemies by kindness, not by meanness. For doing good is the sphere in which we believers should move at all times, and this must exert its influence in the case of our enemies. Many a bitter enemy has been overcome by Christian magnanimity and has become the friend of the Christian cause. — Paul E. Kretzmann (b. 1883).