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Bible Commentaries
Romans 12

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

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Verse 1

Romans 12:1

Ch. 12 The effect that the gospel should have in the lives of those who accept it.

Ch. 12 "The Little Bible"


The Christian Life in Relationship To:

A. God - v.1-2

B. Brethren - v.3-16

C. Others - v. 17-21

beseech -- Plead

therefore -- On the bais of what God has done for us. "In view of God’s mercy".

you -- Every Christian is a priest, to offer sacrifice. 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9; Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 1:6.

brethren -- Fellow Christians

by the mercies of God -- The word “by” dia dia denotes here the reason why they should do it, or the ground of appeal.

that you present -- Yield (Romans 6:13-19) Same Greek word. The word used here commonly denotes the action of bringing and presenting an animal or other sacrifice before an altar. It implies that the action was a free and voluntary offering.

a living sacrifice -- In contrast to OT sacrifices. The Jew offered his victim, slew it, and presented it dead. It could not be presented again.

holy -- Pure and without blemish.

acceptable to God -- One that was living and holy.

reasonable [spiritual] service -- The word rendered “service” λατρείαν latreian properly denotes worship, or the homage rendered to God.

Our worship of God includes presenting ourselves as a living sacrifie, holy and pure.

Verse 2

Romans 12:2

And do not be conformed -- The word rendered “conformed” properly means to put on the form, fashion, or appearance of something. Here it may refer to anything pertaining to the habit, manner, dress, style of living, etc., of others.

this world -- "this age". Here it refers to the people or generation who live for self and not for God.

Here it means that Christians should not conform to the maxims, habits, feelings, etc., of a wicked, luxurious, and idolatrous age, but should be conformed solely to the precepts and laws of the gospel;

but be transformed -- metamorphosis (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18) The direction is, “put on another form, change the form of the world for that of Christianity.”

This word would properly refer to the external appearance, but by the apostle immediately says “renewing of the mind,” he shows he intended the change to deal with the whole man.

renewing of your mind -- Change of inner purpose and disposition. Not just the outward circumstances, or appearance.

The word translated “mind” properly denotes intellect, as distinguished from the will and affections.

prove -- The word used here δοκιμάζω dokimazō is commonly applied to metals, to the operation of testing, or trying them by the severity of fire, etc.

that good, acceptable and perfect will of God -- God’s will for our conduct; his demands of us in our lives and worship.

perfect -- Free from defect, stain, or injury.

acceptable -- That which will be pleasing to God. or which he will approve.

Verse 3

Romans 12:3

Verse 3-8 Gifts of Grace

For I say -- The word “for” shows that the apostle is about to introduce some additional considerations to enforce what he had just said.

through the grace given unto me -- Through God’s favor in bestowing on me, Paul, the apostolic office. By the authority that is conferred on me to declare the will of God as an apostle; see the note at Romans 1:5; see also Galatians 1:6, Galatians 1:15; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:14.

to everyone who is among you -- Not one exemption.

not to think more highly -- Not to over-estimate himself, or to think more of himself than he ought to. This is a caution against pride; and an exhortation not to judge of ourselves by our talents, wealth, or function.

There had been problems at Corinth.

but to think soberly -- Literally, “to think so as to act soberly or wisely.”

Those who over-estimate themselves are proud, haughty, foolish in their deportment. Those who think of themselves as they ought, are modest, sober, prudent.

as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith -- As God has measured to each one, or apportioned to each one.

Supernatural spiritual gifts are probably under consideration, see Romans 12:6; There had been jealousy at Corinth and envying other’s gifts. cf. 1Cor 12, and 1Cor. 14. esp. 1 Corinthians 12:25; 1 Corinthians 14:12;

Verse 4

Romans 12:4

For as -- These words introduce an illustration or proof of what he had just before said.

we have many members -- Limbs, or parts; feet, hands, eyes, ears, etc.; 1 Corinthians 12:14-15.

in one body -- United in one body and making one person.

do have have the same function -- The same use or design; are not designated to do the same task, or for the same purpose

One is to see, another to hear, a third to walk with, etc.; 1 Corinthians 12:14-23.

Verse 5

Romans 12:5

So -- In like manner.

we being many -- We Christians are individuals.

are one body -- Are united together, constituting one society, or one people, mutually dependent, and having the same great interests at heart, Ephesians 4:1-4

in Christ -- We are joined to Christ, or connected with him as the head, Ephesians 1:22-23.

and individually members of one another. -- Compare 1 Corinthians 12:25-26. That is, we are so united as to be mutually dependent; each one is of service to the other.

No one should consider himself as unimportant. No one should despise or lightly esteem another.

Verse 6

Romans 12:6

Having then gifts -- Supernatural gifts that were given by the laying on of apostles hands. See Romans 1:11. Paul being an apostle could impart such gifts, see Acts 8:18; 2 Timothy 1:6.

[Some may argue that Paul is speaking here of natural endowments given by God and not the supernatural spiritual gifts since he has not yet been there to confer these on the disciples there in Rome. But some were from Rome at Pentecost, Acts 2:10].

differing according to the grace that is give us -- Just as natural endowments differ from person to person, the spiritual gifts were distributed by God differently as well according to God’s favor.

[If] prophesy -- The apostle now proceeds to specify the different classes of gifts which Christians may have, and exhorts them to use them accordingly.

prophesy -- Teaching. The spiritual gift would involve teaching by revelation from the Holy Spirit.

in proportion to our faith -- This word proportion, ἀναλογίαν analogian, is no where else used in the New Testament. The word properly applies to mathematics (Scheusner), and means the ratio or proportion which results from comparison of one number or magnitude with another.

The word "faith" here means whatever special endowment that is given one by God.

Verse 7

Romans 12:7

ministry [service] -- diakonian, Perhaps ministering as a preacher, or an elder or deacon. Ephesians 4:11-12.

This word is also used to mean service of any kind,, Luke 10:40.

teaching -- One gifted to teach but not through inspiration like a prophet.

(Timothy was a preacher/teacher and had been given a gift by Paul, , but Timothy apparently didn’t have the gift of "prophesy" for he was told to study and reading, 2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Timothy 4:13, as preachers/teachers today must.)

Verse 8

Romans 12:8

exhorts [encourages] -- Gives encouragement.

gives [contributes, imparts] -- Perhaps some were given wealth to use for the Lord. They are encouraged to give liberally.

liberality [generosity; simplicity;] -- Singleness of heart, without partially or ostentation. It was deemed an important matter among the early Christians to impart liberally of their substance to support the poor, and provide for the needy: Acts 2:44-47; Acts 4:34-37; Acts 5:1-11; Galatians 2:10; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 9:2, 2 Corinthians 9:12.

The word “liberally” ἁπλοτής haplotēs [ G572] is used in a similar sense to denote singleness, generosity, honesty of aim, purity, integrity, without any mixture of a base, selfish, or sinister end.

he who leads -- He is to lead with diligence. This word properly designates one who is set over others, or who presides or rules, or one who attends with diligence and care to a thing.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:12, it is used in relation to ministers in general: 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 1 Timothy 3:12, it is applied to the head of a family, or one who diligently and faithfully performs the duty of a father: 1 Timothy 5:17, it is applied to “elders” in the church.

with diligence -- It means here that they should be attentive to their duties, and engage with zeal to what was committed to them.

he who does acts of mercy (RSV) -- one devoted to works of mercy. Some think that this refers to those who had the care of the sick and infirm, the aged and the needy.

Some think it may refer to deacons who had the duty of distributing alms.

with cheerfulness -- The direction to those distributing alms or other acts of mercy and kindness should do so with pleasantness, joy, and a happy attitude. 2 Corinthians 9:7.

Verse 9

Romans 12:9

love -- (ἀγάπη, agapē), noble, high level of love.

without hypocrisy [dissimulation] -- unfeigned action, hypocrisy. Let love be sincere and unfeigned, genuine.

abhor [hate] -- To hate, to turn away from, to avoid.

that which is evil -- The word “evil” here has reference to malice, or unkindness, rather than to evil in general.

The word “evil” is frequently used in this limited sense to denote some particular or special evil; Matthew 5:37, Matthew 5:39, etc.; compare Psalms 34:14; 2 Timothy 2:19; Psalms 97:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:22.

cling [cleave; hold fast] -- The word “cleave” pictures the act of gluing, or uniting firmly by glue. It is then used to denote a very firm adherence to an object; to be firmly united to it.

The Christian should be firmly attached to what is good, and not separated from it. Apparently here it pertains especially to benevolence, showing kindness and good will to all men.

Verse 10

Romans 12:10

Vs. 10 -- Ephesians 4:32 Nine admonitions follow which have nine datives, all are placed forward; in the tenth we have an accusative. It is well to note that these nine datives plus the one accusative are alike, all are datives of relation and the last is an accusative of relation: “as regards,” nine times, and to conclude: “as for.” - Lenski

Be kindly affecionate [devoted; love] -- The word used here (φιλοστοργοι kindly affectioned G5387) only occurs here and has special reference to family affection. It properly denotes tender affection as between parents and children, and between siblings.

This was a compound Greek term (phileo + storge) combining “brotherly love” with “family love” and is used only here in the NT. Christians are a family. - Utley

to one another -- αλληλους, one to another G240

with brotherly love -- Love to the brethren. (Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7.)

In English we lose the paronomasia [pun, humorous play on words that sound alike] φιλαδελφία—φιλόστοργοι.

in honor -- In showing honor, put others first. Lit. in point of the honour; the honour due from each to all. Be happy to help honor another, not jealously seeking honor for self. Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 2:17, 1 Peter 5:5.

giving preference to one another -- To show genuine appreciation and admiration for fellow believers by putting them first (Philippians 2:3). - MSB

The Lord Jesus himself models this attitude (Philippians 2:3-7).

Verse 11

Romans 12:11

not lagging [no slothful; not lazy; not lacking] -- “Never be lacking” is literally “not slow, not slothful, not lagging behind (NASB), not hesitant, not lazy, not complacent.” The word for “lacking” describes “a person showing hesitation … through weariness, sloth, fear, bashfulness, or reserve” (Dunn, 2:741). It describes a loafer or a sluggard who is slow to get started, or who puts off fulfilling his Christian duties. See Proverbs 6:6-11; Proverbs 21:25; Proverbs 22:13; Proverbs 26:13-16 - CPNIV

in diligence [zeal] -- The word for “zeal” (σπουδή, spoudē) Its verb form has the sense of “to apply oneself diligently to, to devote oneself to” a task. Spoudē itself means “fervor, zeal, eagerness, ardor, passion, enthusiasm.” - CPNIV

Whatever is worth doing in the Christian life is valuable enough to be done with enthusiasm and care (John 9:4; Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 6:10-11: cf. Ecclesiastes 9:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:13). Sloth and indifference not only prevent good, but allow evil to prosper (Proverbs 18:9; Ephesians 5:15-16). - MSB

be fervent [zealous; enthusiastic] -- Lit. glowing, boiling. This word is usually applied to water, or to metals so heated as to bubble, or boil. It hence is used to denote ardour, intensity, or as we express it, a glow,—meaning intense zeal, Acts 18:25.

in spirit -- That is, the human spirit. In your mind or heart.

serving the Lord -- (Where is the punctation? ) In all our pursuits of life we are servants of the Lord.

(Or but serve the Lord with a zealous spirit; ...): As Christians, we are to be passionate about our faith and eager to fulfill our ministry to others within the church. - NLTSB

...the Greek idea is that of working as a slave whose entire work is directed by his master’s will. - Lenski

Verse 12

Romans 12:12

rejoicing in hope -- Better, In respect of the hope, rejoicing. Cp. Romans 5:2; - SBSC

By rejoicing in confident hope, we can be patient in trouble. - NLTSB

“As to hope—rejoicing; as to affliction— patiently enduring; as to prayer— steadfastly persisting.” ...Christian hope is not just a fond wish, but is an earnest and confident expectation of the full salvation awaiting us at the eschaton. - CPNIV

patient in tribulation -- Perseverance. enduring in affliction This can refer to any kind of hardship; however, Paul might have persecution in mind (Rom 12:14). - FSB

Afflictions include the various sufferings to which all men are susceptible because of the fallenness of this present world; they also include the opposition and persecution Christians can expect just because we are Christians (John 16:23; Acts 14:22; Revelation 7:14). - CPNIV

“Be patient” is ὑπομένω (hypomenō). Cranfield says this translation is too weak; he suggests “hold out steadfastly”

continuing steadfastly [instant; devoted to; constant; persevering;] -- steadfastly. It means “to continue steadfastly in, to persevere in, to persist in” prayer. “The idea is constant diligence, effort that never lets up, confident waiting for results.

in prayer -- Lit. "in prayer continuing constantly".

Cf. Acts 2:42; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:8.

The three commands are related: focusing on the certain hope for glory that we have in Christ enables us to handle affliction with patience, and prayer taps into this distinctly counter cultural mindset (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

At the heart of this triplet is the reference to hope, namely our confident Christian expectation of the Lord’s return and the glory to follow (cf. Romans 5:2; Romans 8:24 f.). It is to us the source of abiding joy. But it also calls for patience, as meanwhile we endure tribulation and persevere in prayer. - Scott

Verse 13

Romans 12:13

distributing -- sharing. The word used here denotes having things in “common” κοινωνοῦντες Romans 12:13; Romans 15:27; Galatians 6:6; Philippians 4:15; 1 Timothy 5:22; Hebrews 2:14; 1 Peter 4:13; 2 John 1:11.

to the needs of the saints -- the lack, destitution, necessity, of the saints.

The Christian is indeed to love all mankind, and to do them good as far as may be in his power, Matthew 5:43-44; Titus 3:8; 1 Timothy 6:18; Hebrews 13:16. But he is to show particular interest in the welfare of his brethren, and to see that the poor members of the church are provided for.

given to hospitality -- This expression means that they should readily and cheerfully entertain strangers. Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 3:2; Matthew 10:40; Matthew 10:42; Genesis 18:1-8; Genesis 19:1-2; Job 31:16-17; Luke 10:7; Luke 11:5; 2 John 1:10;

Before the 20th century in Palestine there were no inns or taverns in the region."It was customary, indeed, to erect places for lodging and shelter at suitable distances, or by the side of springs or watering places, for travelers to lodge in. But they are built at the public expense, and are unfurnished. Each traveler carries his own bed and clothes and cooking utensils, and such places are merely designed as a shelter for caravans." - BN

“The primitive Christians,” says Calmet, “considered one principal part of their duty to consist in showing hospitality ... Believers scarcely ever traveled without letters of communion, which testified the purity of their faith, and procured for them a favorable reception wherever the name of Jesus Christ was known;” (Calmet, Dict.).

Verse 14

Romans 12:14

Bless those -- see the note at Matthew 5:44; compare Luke 6:28.

persecute -- διώκω diṓkō; To prosecute, persecute, pursue with repeated acts of enmity. To do harm, here because of one’s religion.

bless and do not curse -- The word “bless” here means to “speak well of” or “speak well to:” - not to curse again or to slander, but to speak of those things which we can commend in an enemy; or, if there is nothing that we can commend, to say nothing about him.

The word “bless,” spoken of God, means to regard with favor or to confer benefits, as when God is said to bless his people. When we speak of our “blessing God,” it means to praise Him or give thanks to Him. When we speak of blessing people, it “unites” the two meanings, and signifies to confer favor, to thank, or to speak well of.

Verse 15

Romans 12:15

Rejoice -- χαίρω, chairō, A primary verb; to be full of “cheer”, that is, calmly happy or well off; impersonal especially as a salutation (on meeting or parting), be well: - farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice. - Strongs

This command grows out of the truth stated in Romans 12:4-5, that the church is one; that it has one interest; and therefore that there should be common sympathy in its joys and sorrows.

weep -- (G2799) to sob, wail aloud. (whereas G1145 is to weep silently.)

Verse 16

Romans 12:16

same mind -- Phrase used by the Greeks to mean like disposition, and goals, the likeness found in a family. Philippians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Peter 3:8.

“Enter into each other’s circumstances, in order to see how you would yourself feel.” - Chrysostom.

mind not high things -- Don’t be haughty. [Jeremiah 45:5; Luke 12:15]

The connection shows that the apostle had in view those things which pertained to worldly offices and honors; wealth, and state, and grandeur. They were not to seek them for themselves; nor were they to court the society or the honors of the people in an elevated rank in life.

condescend [associate with the humble] -- συναπαγομενοι sunapagomenoi. Literally, “being led away by, or being conducted by. Denotes a yielding, being guided and led in thoughts feelings, and plans of others, here meaning with those who are humble.

Do not be wise -- Cf Isaiah 5:21; Romans 11:25. The meaning is, do not trust in the conceit of your own superior skill and understanding, and refuse to hearken to the counsel of others.

in you own opinion -- Greek, “Among yourselves.” This means that they should not be elated with pride above their brethren; or be headstrong and self-confident.

Verse 17

Romans 12:17

Repay [pay back; Recompense] -- Render, give, or return. See Matthew 5:39.

Lit. "To no man evil for evil pay back."

provide [respect; consider; be careful] -- The word rendered “provide” means properly to “think” or “meditate beforehand.” Arrange before.

This direction would make it a matter of “principle” and fixed purpose to do what is right.

good things [honest; what is right] -- Literally, things “beautiful,” or “comely.” The context requires us to understand it respecting “conduct,” and especially our conduct toward those who injure us.

in the sight of all men -- What others would approve; so that which no man can blame; and, therefore, such will not discredit one’s religion. This expression is taken from Proverbs 3:4.

Verse 18

Romans 12:18

If it be possible -- If it can be done. This expression implies that it may not always be possible. Still, it should be one’s desire; and diligent effort should be made.

as far as it depends on you ... We are to do our utmost to preserve peace and to appease the anger and malice of others. We must not originate a quarrel.

you” being emphatic here. - CBSC

Verse 19

Romans 12:19

Beloved -- This expression of tenderness was especially appropriate in an exhortation to be peaceful people. It reminds one of the affection and friendship that should exist among brethren.

Dearly beloved -- Words here conveying a singularly beautiful appeal. The believers are entreated by the voice of love to walk in love. - CBSC

do not avenge yourselves -- To “avenge” is to take satisfaction for an injury by inflicting punishment on the offender.

The idea that begins in Romans 12:17 actually carry over into Romans 13. To render justice for injuries done to society, and thus satisfaction, will be the job of the magistrate, Romans 13:4.

give place unto [God’s] wrath -- 1) Leave place for God’s wrath; 2) the wrath of an enemy; 3) our own wrath. Probably #1 see NIV.

for it is written -- The quote is from Deuteronomy 32:35

Vengeance is mine ... To take satisfaction and render justice for sins done in this world is God’s place.

The apostle here is addressing private individual Christians. And the command is to avoid a spirit of revenge. But this command is not to be so understood that we may not seek for “justice” in a 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, this passage does not require us to submit to such oppression and injury without seeking our rights in an orderly and civil manner.

The magistrate is appointed for the praise of those who do well, and to punish evil-doers, 1 Peter 2:14. Remember our Lord Jesus did not surrender his rights John 18:23; and Paul demanded that he should be treated according to the rights and privileges of a Roman citizen; Acts 16:37. The command here “not to avenge ourselves” means, that we are not to take it out of the hands of God and the law, and to inflict it ourselves.

Verse 20

Romans 12:20

v.19 "for it is written" -- See Proverbs 25:21-22

If your enemy is hungry ... This verse is taken almost literally from Proverbs 25:21-22. Hunger and thirst here are put for want in general. If thine enemy is needy in any way, do him good, and supply his needs. Matthew 5:44.

for in so doing ... It does not mean that we are to do this “for the sake” of heaping coals of fire on him, but that this will be the result.

you will heap burning coals ... Coals of fire here are symbolic of pain and agony. It seems that the apostle is saying that the "effect" of doing good to an enemy will result in him suffering distress from shame, remorse of conscience, a conviction of the evil of his conduct, and an understanding of God’s displeasure that may lead to repentance.

The way to promote "peace" is to do good even to our enemies.

Most interpreters think Paul is teaching that the Christian is to do good to people so that they will feel ashamed and repent, and that sense is possible. But in the OT “burning coals” always represent punishment (2 Samuel 22:13; Psalms 11:6; Psalms 18:8, Psalms 12:1-13; Psalms 140:10), so another interpretation is that Paul is repeating the thought of Romans 12:19 - ESVSB

Verse 21

Romans 12:21

Do not be overcome by evil -- Be not “vanquished” or “subdued” by injury received from others.

overcome -- G3528 νικάω nikaō., to subdue (literally or figuratively): - conquer, overcome, prevail, get the victory. - Strongs

but overcome evil with good -- That is, subdue or vanquish evil by doing good to others. Show them the loveliness of a better spirit; the power of kindness and benevolence; the value of an amiable, Christian deportment. So doing, you may disarm them of their rage, and be the means of bringing them to better minds.

Overcoming evil with good ... may sometimes also include the “good” (Romans 13:4) of the civil government stopping evil through the use of superior force (military or police), as Paul explains in Romans 13:3-4. - ESVSB

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Romans 12". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/romans-12.html. 2021.
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