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Bible Commentaries
Romans 12

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Verses 1-99


12:1., 12:2. With this wonderful programme of salvation before you offer to God a sacrifice, not of slaughtered beasts, but of your living selves, your own bodies, pure and free from blemish, your spiritual service. Do not take pattern by the age in which you live, but undergo complete mora. reformation with the will of God for your standard.

12-15:12. We now reach the concluding portion of the Epistle, that devoted to the practical application of the previous discussion. An equally marked division between the theoretical and the practical portion is found in the Epistle to the Ephesians (chap. 4); and one similar, although not so strongly marked, in Galatians (5:1 or 2); Colossians (3:1); 1 Thessalonians (4:1); 2 Thessalonians (3:6). A comparison with the Epistles of St. Peter and St. John will show how special a characteristic of St. Paul is this method of construction. The main idea running through the whole section seems to be that of peace and unity for the Church in all relations both internal and external. As St. Paul in the earlier portion of the Epistle, looking back on the controversies through which he has passed, solves the problems which had been presented in the interests no longer of victory, but of peace, so in his practical exhortation he lays the foundation of unity and harmony on deep and broad principles. A definite division may be made between chaps. 12, 13, in which the exhortations are general in character, and 14-15, in which they arise directly out of the controversies which are disturbing the Church. Yet even these are treated from a general point of view, and not in relation to any special circumstances. In the first section, the Apostle does not appear to follow any definite logical order, but touches on each subject as it suggests itself or is suggested by the previous ideas; it may be roughly divided as follows: (1) a general introduction on the character of the Christian life (12:1, 2); (ii) the right use of spiritual gifts especially in relation to Church order (3-8); (iii) a series of maxims mainly illustrating the great principle of�

Tertullian quotes the following verses of this chapter from Marcion: 9, 10a, 12, 14b, 16b, 17a, 18, 19. There is no evidence that any portion was omitted, but ver. 18 may have stood after ver. 19, and in the latter γέγραπται is naturally cut off and a γάρ inserted. The other variations noted by Zahn seem less certain (Zahn, Geschichte des N. T. Kanons, p. 518; Tert. adv. Marc. v.14).

1. παρακαλῶ οὖν. A regular formula in St. Paul: Ephesians 4:1; 1 Timothy 2:1; 1 Corinthians 4:16. As in the passage in the Ephesians, the οὖν refers not so much to what immediately precedes as to the result of the whole previous argument. ‘As you are justified by Christ, and put in a new relation to God, I exhort you to live in accordance with that relation.’ But although St. Paul is giving the practical results of his whole previous argument, yet (as often with him, cf. 11:11) the words are directly led up to by the conclusion of the previous chapter and the narration of the wisdom and mercy of God.

διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ. Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3 ὁ πατὴρ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν. Οἰκτιρμός in the singular only occurs once (Colossians 3:12); the plural is a Hebraism directly derived from the LXX (Ps. 118:156 οἱ οἰκτιρμοί σου πολλοί, κύριε, σφόδρα). There is a reference to the preceding chapter, ‘As God has been so abundantly merciful to both Jews and Greeks, offer a sacrifice to Him, and let that sacrifice be one that befits His holiness.’

παραστῆσαι: a tech. term (although not in the O. T.) for presenting a sacrifice: cf. Jos. Ant. IV. vi. 4 βωμούς τε ἐκέλευσεν ἑπτὰ δείμασθαι τὸν βασιλέα, καὶ τοσούτους ταύρους καὶ κριοὺς παραστῆναι. The word means to ‘place beside,’ ‘present’ for any purpose, and so is used of the presentation of Christ in the temple (Luke 2:22), of St. Paul presenting his converts (Colossians 1:28), or Christ presenting His Church (Ephesians 5:27), or of the Christian himself (cf. Romans 6:13 ff.). In all these instances the idea of ‘offering’ (which is one part of sacrifice) is present.

τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν. To be taken literally, like τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν in 6:13, as is shown by the contrast with τοῦ νοός in ver. 2. ‘Just as the sacrifice in all ancient religions must be clean and without blemish, so we must offer bodies to God which are holy and free from the stains of passion.’ Christianity does not condemn the body, but demands that the body shall be purified and be united with Christ. Our members are to be ὅπλα δικαιοσύνης τῷ Θεῷ (6:13); our bodies (τὰ σώματα) are to be μέλη Χριστοῦ (1 Corinthians 6:15); they are the temple of the Holy Spirit (ib. ver. 19); we are to be pure both in body and in spirit (ib. vii. 34).

There is some doubt as to the order of the words εὐάρεστον τῷ Θεῷ. They occur in this order in אc B D E F G L and later MSS., Syrr. Boh. Sah., and Fathers; τῷ Θεῷ εὐ. in א A P, Vulg. The former is the more usual expression, but St. Paul may have written τῷ Θεῷ εὐ. to prevent ambiguity, for if τῷ Θεῷ comes at the end of the sentence there is some doubt as to whether it should not be taken with παραστῆσαι.

θυσίαν ζῶσαν: cf. 6:13 παραστήσατε ἑαυτοὺς τῷ Θεῷ, ὡσεὶ ἐκ νεκρῶν ζῶντας. The bodies presented will be those of men to whom newness of life has been given by union with the risen Christ. The relation to the Jewish rite is partly one of distinction, partly of analogy. The Jewish sacrifice implies slaughter, the Christian continued activity and life; but as in the Jewish rite all ritual requirements must be fulfilled to make the sacrifice acceptable to God, so in the Christian sacrifice our bodies must be holy, without spot or blemish.

ἁγίαν, ‘pure,’ ‘holy.’ ‘free from stain,’ 1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 19:2. So the offering of the Gentiles (Romans 15:16) is ἡγιασμένη ἐν Πν. Ἁγ (See on 1:7.)

εὐάρεστον τῷ Θεῷ: cf. Philippians 4:18 δεξάμενος παρὰ Ἐπαφροδίτου τὰ παρʼ ὑμῶν, ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας, θυσίαν δεκτήν, εὐάρεστον τῷ Θεῷ: Romans 14:18; ‘Well-pleasing to God.’ The formal sacrifices of the old covenant might not be acceptable to God: cf. Psalms 51:16, Psalms 51:17.

τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν. Acc. in apposition to the idea of the sentence. Winer, § lix. 9, p. 669, E. T.: cf. 1 Timothy 2:6 and the note on 8:3 above. A service to God such as befits the reason (λόγος), i. e. a spiritual sacrifice and not the offering of an irrational animal: cf. 1 Peter 2:5. The writer of Test. XII. Pat. Lev_3 seems to combine a reminiscence of this passage with Philippians 4:18: speaking of the angels, he says προσφέρουσι δὲ Κυρίῳ ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας λογικὴν καὶ�

We may notice the metaphorical use St. Paul makes of sacrificial language: ἐπὶ τῇ θυσίᾳ καὶ λειτουργίᾳ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν Philippians 2:17; ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας (Leviticus 1:9) Philippians 4:18; ὀσμή 2 Corinthians 2:14, 2 Corinthians 2:16; λειτουργός, ἱερουργοῦντα, προσφορά Romans 15:16. This language passed gradually and almost imperceptibly into liturgical use, and hence acquired new shades of meaning (see esp. Lightfoot, Clement, i. p. 386 sq.).

2. συσχηματίζεσθε ̣ ̣ ̣ μεταμορφοῦθε, ‘Do not adopt the external and fleeting fashion of this world, but be ye transformed in your inmost nature.’ On the distinction of σχῆμα and μορφή preserved in these compounds see Lightfoot, Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology, vol. iii. 1857, p. 114, Philippians, p. 125. Comp. Chrys. ad loc., ‘He says not change the fashion, but be transformed, to show that the world’s ways are a fashion, but virtue’s not a fashion, but a kind of real form, with a natural beauty of its own, not needing the trickeries and fashions of outward things, which no sooner appear than they go to naught. For all these things, even before they come to light, are dissolving. If then thou throwest the fashion aside, thou wilt speedily come to the form.’

There is a preponderance of evidence in favour of the imperatives (συσχηματίζεσθε, μεταμορφοῦσθε) in this verse, B L P all the versions (Latt. Boh. Syrr.), and most Fathers, against A D F G (א varies). The evidence of the Versions and of the Fathers, some of whom paraphrase, is particularly important, as it removes the suspicion of itacism.

τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ‘this world,’ ‘this life’ used in a moral sense. When the idea of a future Messianic age became a part of the Jewish Theology, Time, χρόνος, was looked upon as divided into a succession of ages, αἰῶνες, periods or cycles of great but limited duration; and the present age was contrasted with the age to come, or the age of the Messiah (cf. Schürer, § 29. 9), a contrast very common among early Christians: Matthew 12:32 οὒτε ἐν τούτῳ τῷ αἰῶνι οὕτε ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι: Luc. xx. 34, 35 οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ̣ ̣ ̣ οἱ δὲ καταξιωθέντες τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου τυχεῖν: Ephesians 1:21 οὐ μόνον ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ�Enoch xvi. 1 μέχρις ἡμέρας τελειώσεως τῆς κρίσεως τῆς μεγάλης, ἐν ᾗ ὁ αἰὼν ὁ μέγας τελεσθήσεται. As the distinction between the present period and the future was one between that which is transitory and that which is eternal, between the imperfect and the perfect, between that in which οἱ ἅρχοντες τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου (1 Corinthians 2:6) have power and that in which ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν αἰώνων (Enoch xii.3) will rule, αἰών like κόσμος in St. John’s writings, came to have a moral significance: Galatians 1:4 ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ: Ephesians 2:2 περιεπατήσατε κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου: and so in this passage.

From the idea of a succession of ages (cf. Ephesians 2:7 ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσι τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις) came the expression εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας (11:36), or αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων to express eternity, as an alternative for the older form εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. The latter, which is the ordinary and original O. T. form, arises (like αἰώνιος) from the older and original meaning of the Hebrew ‘ôlam, ‘the hidden time,’ ‘futurity,’ and contains rather the idea of an unending period.

τῇ�Titus 3:5 διὰ λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ�2 Corinthians 4:16: Colossians 3:10. On the relation of�Syn. § 18. By this renewal the intellectual or rational principle will no longer be a νοῦς σαρκός (Colossians 2:18), but will be filled with the Spirit and coincident with the highest part of human nature (1 Corinthians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 2:16).

δοκιμάζειν: cf. 2:18; Philippians 1:10. The result of this purification is to make the intellect, which is the seat of moral judgement, true and exact in judging on spiritual and moral questions.

τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ, κ.τ.λ., ‘That which is in accordance with God’s will.’ This is further defined by the three adjectives which follow. It includes all that is implied in moral principle, in the religious aim, and the ideal perfection which is the goal of life.


3-8. Let every Christian be content with his proper place and functions. The society to which we belong is a single body with many members all related one to another. Hence the prophet should not strain after effects for which his faith is insufficient; the minister, the teacher, the exhorter, should each be intent on his special duty. The almsgiver, the person in authority, the doer of kindness, should each cultivate a spirit appropriate to what he does.

3. St. Paul begins by an instance in which the need of an enlightened mind is most necessary; namely, the proper bearing of a Christian in the community, and the right use of spiritual gifts.

διὰ τῆς χάριτος κ.τ.λ. gives emphasis by an appeal to Apostolic authority (cf. 1:5). It is not merely a question of the spiritual progress of the individual, for when St. Paul is speaking of that he uses exhortation (ver. 1), but of the discipline and order of the community; this is a subject which demands the exercise of authority as well as of admonition.

παντὶ τῷ ὄντι An emphatic appeal to every member of the Christian community, for every one (ἐκάστῳ) has some spiritual gift.

μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν, ‘not to be high-minded above what one ought to be minded, but to direct one’s mind to sobriety.’ Notice the play on words ὑπερφρονεῖν ̣ ̣ ̣ φρονεῖν ̣ ̣ ̣ φρονεῖν ̣ ̣ ̣ σωφρονεῖν. The φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν would be the fruit of the enlightened intellect as opposed to the φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός (8:6).

ἑκάστῳ is after ἐμέρισε, not in apposition to παντὶ τῷ ὄντι, and its prominent position gives the idea of diversity; for the order, cp. 1 Corinthians 7:17. ‘According to the measure of faith which God has given each man.’ The wise and prudent man will remember that his position in the community is dependent not on any merit of his own, but on the measure of his faith, and that faith is the gift of God. Faith ‘being the sign and measure of the Christian life’ is used here for all those gifts which are given to man with or as the result of his faith. Two points are emphasized, the diversity ἑκάστῳ ̣ ̣ ̣ μέτρον, and the fact that this diversity depends upon God: cf. 1 Corinthians 7:7

12:4., 12:5. Modesty and sobriety and good judgement are necessary because of the character of the community: it is an organism or corporate body in which each person has his own duty to perform for the well-being of the whole and therefore of himself.

This comparison of a social organism to a body was very common among ancient writers, and is used again and again by St. Paul to illustrate the character of the Christian community: see 1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:18. The use here is based upon that in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. In the Epistles of the Captivity it is another side of the idea that is expounded, the unity of the Church in Christ as its head.

12:5. τὸ δὲ καθʼ εἷς. An idiomatic expression found in later Greek. Cf. Mark 14:19 εἷς καθʼ εἷς: John 8:9: 3 Macc. 5:34 ὁ καθʼ εἷς δὲ τῶν φίλων: Lucian Soloecista 9; Eus. H. E. X. iv, &c. εἷς καθʼ εἷς was probably formed on the model of ἓν καθʼ ἕν, and then καθʼ εἷς came to be treated adverbially and written as one word: hence it could be used, as here, with a neuter article.

6-13. ἔχοντες δὲ χαρίσματα, κ.τ.λ. These words may be taken grammatically either (1) as agreeing with the subject of ἐσμέν, a comma being put at μέλη, or (2) as the beginning of a new sentence and forming the subject of a series of verbs supplied with the various sentences that follow; this is decidedly preferable, for in the previous sentence the comparison is grammatically finished, and ἔχοντες δέ suggests the beginning of a new sentence.

Two methods of construction are also possible for the words κατὰ τὴν�Mey. Go. Va. Gif.) is preferable is shown by the difficulty of keeping up the former interpretation to the end; few commentators have the hardihood to carry it on as far as ver. 8; nor is it really easier in ver. 7, where the additions ἐν τῇ διακονίᾳ are very otiose if they merely qualify ἔχοντες understood. In spite therefore of the somewhat harsh ellipse, the second construction must be adopted throughout.

12:6. κατὰ τὴν�sc. προφητεύωμεν). The meaning of πίστεως here is suggested by that in ver. 3. A man’s gifts depend upon the measure of faith allotted to him by God, and so he must use and exercise these gifts in proportion to the faith that is in him. If he be σώφρων and his mind is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he will judge rightly his capacity and power; if, on the other hand, his mind be carnal, he will try to distinguish himself vain-gloriously and disturb the peace of the community.

Liddon, with most of the Latin Fathers and many later commentators, takes πίστεως objectively: ‘The majestic proportion of the (objective) Faith is before him, and, keeping his eye on it, he avoids private crotchets and wild fanaticisms, which exaggerate the relative importance of particular truths to the neglect of others.’ But this interpretation is inconsistent with the meaning he has himself given to πίστις in ver. 3, and gives a sense to�

7. διακονίαν, ‘if we have the gift of ministry, let us use it in ministering to the community, and not attempt ambitiously to prophesy or exhort.’ διακονία was used either generally of all Christian ministrations (so Romans 11:13; 1 Corinthians 12:5; Ephesians 4:12, &c.) or specially of the administration of alms and attendance to bodily wants (1 Corinthians 16:15; 2 Corinthians 8:4, &c.). Here the opposition to προφητεία, διδασκαλία, παράκλησις seems to demand the more confined sense.

ὁ διδάσκων. St. Paul here substitutes a personal phrase because ἔχειν διδασκαλίαν would mean, not to impart, but to receive instruction.

8. ὁ μεταδιδούς: the man who gives alms of his own substance is to do it in singleness of purpose and not with mixed motives, with the thought of ostentation or reward. With ὁ μεταδιδούς, the man who gives of his own, while ὁ διαδιδούς is the man who distributes other persons’ gifts, comp. Test. XII. Patr. Iss. 7 παντὶ�

ἁπλότης. The meaning of this word is illustrated best by Test. XII. Patr. Issachar, or περὶ ἁπλότητος. Issachar is represented as the husbandman, who lived simply and honestly on his land. ‘And my father blessed me, seeing that I walk in simplicity (ἁπλότης). And I was not inquisitive in my actions, nor wicked and envious towards my neighbour. I did not speak evil of any one, nor attack a man’s life, but I walked with a single eye (ἐν ἁπλότητι ὀφθαλμῶν). … To every poor and every afflicted man I provided the good things of the earth, in simplicity (ἁπλότης) of heart. … The simple man (ὁ ἁπλοῦς) doth not desire gold, doth not ravish his neighbour, doth not care for all kinds of dainty meats, doth not wish for diversity of clothing, doth not promise himself (οὐχ ὑπογράφει) length of days, he receiveth only the will of God … he walketh in uprightness of life, and beholdeth all things in simplicity (ἁπλότητι).’ Issachar is the honourable, hardworking, straightforward farmer; open-handed and open-hearted, giving out of compassion and in singleness of purpose, not from ambition.

The word is used by St. Paul alone in the N. T., and was specially suited to describe the generous unselfish character of Christian almsgiving; and hence occurs in one or two places almost with the signification of liberality, 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:13; just as ‘liberality’ in English has come to have a secondary meaning, and δικαιοσύνη in Hellenistic Greek (Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek, p. 49). Such specialization is particularly natural in the East, where large-hearted generosity is a popular virtue, and where such words as ‘good’ may be used simply to mean munificent.

ὁ προϊστάμενος, the man that presides, or governs in any position, whether ecclesiastical or other. The word is used of ecclesiastical officials, 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17; Just. Mart. Apol. i. 67; and of a man ruling his family (1 Timothy 3:4, 1 Timothy 3:5, 1 Timothy 3:12), and need not be any further defined. Zeal and energy are the natural gifts required of any ruler.

ὁ ἐλεῶν. ‘Let any man or woman who performs deeds of mercy in the church, do so brightly and cheerfully.’ The value of brightness in performing acts of kindness has become proverbial, Ecclus. 32:11. (11) ἐν πάσῃ δόσει ἱλάρωσον τὸ πρόσωπόν σου: Proverbs 22:8 ἄνδρα ἱλαρὸν καὶ δότην εὐλογεῖ ὁ Θεός (quoted 2 Corinthians 9:7); but just as singleminded sincerity became an eminently Christian virtue, so cheerfulness in all the paths of life, a cheerfulness which springs from a warm heart, and a pure conscience and a serene mind set on something above this world, was a special characteristic of the early Christian (Acts 2:46; Acts 5:41; Philippians 1:4, Philippians 1:18; Philippians 2:18, &c. 1 Thessalonians 5:16).

Spiritual Gifts

The word χάρισμα (which is almost purely Pauline) is used of those special endowments which come to every Christian as the result of God’s free favour (χάρις) to men and of the consequent gift of faith. In Romans 5:15, Romans 6:13, indeed, it has a wider signification, meaning the free gift on the part of God to man of forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but elsewhere it appears always to be used for those personal endowments which are the gifts of the Spirit. In this connexion it is not confined to special or conspicuous endowments or to special offices. There are, indeed, τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα (1 Corinthians 12:31), which are those apparently most beneficial to the community; but in the same Epistle the word is also used of the individual fitness for the married or the unmarried state (1 Corinthians 7:7); and in Romans 1:13 it is used of the spiritual advantage which an Apostle might confer on the community. So again, χαρίσματα include miraculous powers, but no distinction is made between them and non-miraculous gifts. In the passage before us there is the same combination of very widely differing gifts; the Apostle gives specimens (if we may express it so) of various Christian endowments; it is probable that some of them were generally if not always the function of persons specially set apart for the purpose (although not perhaps necessarily holding ecclesiastical office), others would not be confined to any one office, and many might be possessed by the same person. St. Paul’s meaning is: By natural endowments, strengthened with the gifts of the Spirit, you have various powers and capacities: in the use of these it is above all necessary for the good of the community that you should show a wise and prudent judgement, not attempting offices or work for which you are not fitted, nor marring your gifts by exercising them in a wrong spirit.

This being the meaning of χαρίσματα and St. Paul’s purpose in this chapter, interpretations of it, as of the similar passage (chap. 12) in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, which have attempted to connect spiritual gifts more closely with the Christian ministry are unfounded. These are of two characters. One, that of Neander, maintains that in the original Church there were no ecclesiastical officers at all but only χαρίσματα, and that as spiritual gifts died out, regularly appointed officers took the place of those who possessed them. The other finds, or attempts to find, an ecclesiastical office for each gift of the Spirit mentioned in this chapter and the parallel passage of the Corinthians, or at any rate argues that there must have been προφῆται, διδάσκαλοι &c., existing as church officers in the Corinthian and Roman communities. Neither of these is a correct deduction from the passages under consideration. In dealing with the χαρίσματα St. Paul is discussing a series of questions only partially connected with the Christian ministry. Every church officer would, we may presume, be considered to have χαρίσματα which would fit him for the fulfilment of such an office; but most, if not all, Christians would also have χαρίσματα. The two questions therefore are on different planes which partially intersect, and deductions from these chapters made in any direction as to the form of the Christian organization are invalid, although they show the spiritual endowments which those prominent in the community could possess.

A comparison of the two passages, 1Co_12. and Romans 12:3-8, is interesting on other grounds. St. Paul in the Corinthian Epistle is dealing with a definite series of difficulties arising from the special endowments and irregularities of that church. He treats the whole subject very fully, and, as was necessary, condemns definite disorders. In the Roman Epistle he is evidently writing with the former Epistle in his mind: he uses the same simile: he concludes equally with a list of forms of χαρίσματα—shorter, indeed, but representative; but there is no sign of that directness which would arise from dealing with special circumstances. The letter is written with the experience of Corinth fresh in the writer’s mind, but without any immediate purpose. He is laying down directions based on his experience; but instead of a number of different details, he sums up all that he has to say in one general moral principle: Prudence and self-restraint in proportion to the gift of faith. Just as the doctrinal portions of the Epistle are written with the memory of past controversies still fresh, discussing and laying down in a broad spirit positions which had been gained in the course of those controversies, so we shall find that in the practical portion St. Paul is laying down broad and statesmanlike positions which are the result of past experience and deal with circumstances which may arise in any community.


12:9-21. The general principles of your life should be a love which is perfectly sincere, depth of moral feeling, consideration for others, zeal, fervour, devoutness, hopefulness, fortitude under persecutions, prayerfulness, eagerness to help your fellow-Christians by sharing what you possess with them and by the ready exercise of hospitality.

Bless, do not curse, your persecutors. Sympathize with others. Be united in feeling, not ambitious but modest in your aims. Be not self-opinionated or revengeful. Do nothing to offend the world. Leave vengeance to God. Good for evil is the best requital.

9. ἡ�Euthym.-Zig. διδάσκων γὰρ πῶς ἂν τὰ εἰρημένα κατορθωθείη, ἐπήγαγε τὴν μητέρα πάντων τούτων, λέγω δὴ τὴν εἰς�1 Corinthians 12:13, and obviously suggested by it. In the section that follows (9-21),�

ἀνυπόκριτος. Wisd. 5:18; 18:16; 2 Corinthians 6:61 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 1:5 (πίστις); James 3:17 (ἡ ἄνωθεν σοφία); 1 Peter 1:22 (φιλαδελφία). It is significant that the word is not used in profane writers except once in the adverbial form, and that by Marcus Aurelius (8:5).

ἀποστυγοῦντες: sc. ἔστε as ἔστω above, and cf. 1 Peter 2:18; 1 Peter 3:1. An alternative construction is to suppose an anacoluthon, as if�2 Corinthians 1:7. The word expresses a strong feeling of horror; the�

τὸ πονηρὸν … τῷ�

10. τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ, ‘love of the brethren’; as contrasted with�2 Peter 1:7. Euthym.-Zig.�

φιλόστοργοι: the proper term for strong family affection. Euthym.-Zig. τουτέστι θερμῶς καὶ διαπύρως φιλοῦντες. ἐπίτασις γὰρ φιλίας ἡ στοργή, καὶ τῆς στοργῆς πάντως αὔξησις ἡ φιλοστοργία.

τῇ τιμῇ κ.τ.λ.: cf. Philippians 2:3 ‘in lowliness of mind each accounting other better than himself.’ The condition and the result of true affection are that no one seeks his own honour or position, and every one is willing to give honour to others. The word προηγούμενοι is somewhat difficult; naturally it would mean ‘going before,’ ‘preceding,’ and so it has been translated, (1) ‘in matters of honour preventing one another,’ being the first to show honour: so Vulg. invicem praevenientes; or (2) ‘leading the way in honourable actions’: ‘Love makes a man lead others by the example of showing respect to worth or saintliness,’ Liddon; or (3) ‘surpassing one another’: ‘There is nothing which makes friends so much, as the earnest endeavour to overcome one’s neighbour in honouring him,’ Chrys.

But all these translations are somewhat forced, and are difficult, because προηγεῖσθαι in this sense never takes the accusative. It is, in fact, as admissible to give the word a meaning which it has not elsewhere, as a construction which is unparalleled. A comparison therefore of 1 Thessalonians 5:13; Philippians 2:3 suggests that St. Paul is using the word in the quite possible, although otherwise unknown, sense of ἡγούμενοι ὑπερέχοντας. So apparently RV. (=AV.) ‘in honour preferring one another,’ and Vaughan.

11. τῇ σπουδῇ μὴ ὀκνηροί, ‘in zeal not flagging’; the words being used in a spiritual sense, as is shown by the following clauses. Zeal in all our Christian duties will be the natural result of our Christian love, and will in time foster it. On ὀκνηρός cf. Matthew 25:26: it is a word common in the LXX of Proverbs (6:6, &c.).

τῷ πνεύματι ζέοντες: cf. Acts 18:25, ‘fervent in spirit’; that is the human spirit instinct with and inspired by the Divine Spirit. The spiritual life is the source of the Christian’s love: ‘And all things will be easy from the Spirit and the love, while thou art made to glow from both sides,’ Chrys.

τῷ Κυρίῳ δουλεύοντες. The source of Christian zeal is spiritual life, the regulating principle our service to Christ. It is not necessary to find any very subtle connexion of thought between these clauses, they came forth eagerly and irregularly from St. Paul’s mind. Κυρίῳ may have been suggested by πνεύματι, just as below διώκειν in one sense suggests the same word in another sense.

There is a very considerable balance of authority in favour of κυρίῳ (א A B E L P &c., Vulg. Syrr. Boh., Gr. Fathers) as against καιρῷ (D F G, Latin Fathers). Cf. Jer. Ep. 27 ad Marcellam: illi legant spe gaudentes, tempori servientes, nos legamus domino servientes. Orig.-lat. ad loc. scio autem in nonnullis Latinorum exemplis haberi tempori servientes: quod non mihi videtur convenienter insertum. The corruption may have arisen from κω κρω being confused together, a confusion which would be easier from reminiscences of such expressions as Ephesians 5:16 ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν.

12. τῇ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες. See above on ver. 8. The Christian hope is the cause of that Christian joy and cheerfulness of disposition which is the grace of Christian love: cf. 1 Corinthians 13:7 ‘Love … hopeth all things.’

τῇ θλίψει ὑπομένοντες. Endurance in persecution is naturally connected with the Christian’s hope: cf. 1 Corinthians 13:7 ‘Love … endureth all things.’

It is interesting to notice how strongly, even thus early, persecution as a characteristic of the Christian’s life in the world had impressed itself on St. Paul’s phraseology: see 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:4, 2 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 1:4, &c.; Romans 5:3; Romans 8:35.

τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες: Acts 1:14; Acts 2:42; Colossians 4:2. Persecution again naturally suggests prayer, for the strength of prayer is specially needed in times of persecution.

13. ταῖς χρείαις τῶν ἁγίων κοινωνοῦντες. This verse contains two special applications of the principle of love—sharing one’s goods with fellow-Christians in need, and exercising that hospitality which was part of the bond which knit together the Christian community. With κοινωνεῖν in this sense cf. Philippians 4:15; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Hebrews 13:16.

The variation ταῖς μνείαις (D F G, MSS. known to Theod.-Mops., Vulg. cod. (am), Eus. Hist. Mart. Pal., ed. Cureton, p. 1, Hil. Ambrstr. Aug.) is interesting. In the translation of Origen we read: Usibus sanctorum communicantes. Memini in latinis exemplaribus magis haberi: memoriis sanctorum communicantes: verum nos nec consuetudinem turbamus, nec veritati praeiudicamus, maxime cum utrumque conveniat aedificationi. Nam usibus sanctorum honeste et decenter, non quasi stipem indigentibus praebere, sed censum nostrorum cum ipsis quodammodo habere communem, et meminisse sanctorum sive in collectis solemnibus, sive pro eo, ut ex recordatione eorum proficiamus, aptum et conveniens videtur. The variation must have arisen at a time when the ‘holy’ were no longer the members of the community and fellow-Christians, whose bodily wants required relieving, but the ‘saints’ of the past, whose lives were commemorated. But this custom arose as early as the middle of the second century: cf. Mart. Polyc. xviii ἔνθα ὡς δυνατὸν ἡμῖν συναγομένοις ἐν�Ant. xiii. 9. 5. WH. suggest that it was a clerical error arising from the confusion of ΧΡ and ΜΝ in a badly written papyrus MS.

φιλοξενίαν. From the very beginning hospitality was recognized as one of the most important of Christian duties (Hebrews 13:2; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9; compare also Clem. Rom. § 1 τὸ μεγαλοπρεπὲς τῆς φιλοξενίας ὑμῖν ἦθος: § 10 of Abraham διὰ πίστιν καὶ φιλοξενίαν ἐδόθη αὐτῷ υἱὸς ἐν γήρᾳ: § 11 διὰ φιλοξενίαν καὶ εὐσέβειαν Δὼτ ἐσώθη: § 12 διὰ πίστιν καὶ φιλοξενίαν ἐσώθη Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη § 35). On its significance in the early Church see Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 288, 368. The Christians looked upon themselves as a body of men scattered throughout the world, living as aliens amongst strange people, and therefore bound together as the members of a body, as the brethren of one family. The practical realization of this idea would demand that whenever a Christian went from one place to another he should find a home among the Christians in each town he visited. We have a picture of this intercommunion in the letters of Ignatius; we can learn it at an earlier period from the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 8:18, 2 Corinthians 8:23, 2 Corinthians 8:24). One necessary part of such intercommunion would be the constant carrying out of the duties of hospitality. It was the unity and strength which this intercourse gave that formed one of the great forces which supported Christianity.

14. εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς διώκοντας. The use of the word διώκειν in one sense seems to have suggested its use in another. The resemblance to Matthew 5:44 is very close: ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.’ Emphasis is added by the repetition of the maxim in a negative form. Cf. James 3:9.

15. χαίρειν μετὰ χαιρόντων κ.τ.λ. On the infinitive cf. Winer, § xliii. 5 d, p. 397, E. T. But it seems more forcible and less awkward to take it, as in Philippians 3:16, as the infinitive used for the emphatic imperative than to suppose a change of construction. ‘But that requires more of a high Christian temper, to rejoice with them that do rejoice, than to weep with them that weep. For this nature itself fulfils perfectly: and there is none so hardhearted as not to weep over him that is in calamity: but the other requires a very noble soul, so as not only to keep from envying, but even to feel pleasure with the person who is in esteem. And this is why we placed it first. For there is nothing that ties love so firmly as sharing both joy and pain one with another,’ Chrys. ad loc. Cf. Ecclus. 7:34.

16. τὸ αὐτὸ … φρονοῦντες, ‘being harmonious in your relations towards one another’: cf. 15:5; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 4:2. The great hindrance to this would be having too high an estimation of oneself: hence the Apostle goes on to condemn such pride.

μὴ τὰ ὑψηλὰ φρονοῦντες: cf. 11:20; 1 Corinthians 13:5 ‘Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,’ shows how St. Paul is still carrying out the leading idea of the passage.

τοῖς ταπεινοῖς: prob. neuter; ‘allow yourself to be carried along with, give yourself over to, humble tasks:’ ‘consentinge to meke thingis,’ Wic. The verb συναπάγειν means in the active ‘to lead along with one,’ hence in the passive, ‘to be carried away with,’ as by a flood which sweeps everything along with it (Lightfoot on Galatians 2:13; cf. 2 Peter 3:17), and hence ‘to give oneself up to.’

The neuter seems best to suit the contrast with τὰ ὑψηλά and the meaning of the verb; but elsewhere in the N. T. ταπεινός is always masculine, and so many take it here: ‘make yourselves equall to them of the lower sorte,’ Tyn. Cov. Genev. ‘Consentinge to the humble,’ Rhen. So Chrys.: ‘That is, bring thyself down to their humble condition, ride or walk with them; do not be humbled in mind only, but help them also, and stretch forth thy hand to them.’

μὴ γίνεσθε φρόνιμοι παρʼ ἑαυτοῖς: taken apparently from Proverbs 3:7 μὴ ἴσθι φρόνιμος παρὰ σεαυτῷ. Cf. Origen non potest veram sapientiam Dei scire, qui suam stultitiam quasi sapientiam colit.

17. μηδενὶ κακὸν�Matthew 5:43, Matthew 5:44; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9; 1 Corinthians 13:5, 1 Corinthians 13:6 ‘Love … taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness but rejoiceth with the truth.’

προνοούμενοι καλὰ ἐνώπιον πάντων�Proverbs 3:4, 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 8:21. ‘As nothing causes offence so much as offending men’s prejudices, see that your conduct will commend itself as honourable to men.’ Euthym.-Zig. οὐ πρὸς ἐπίδειξιν�

18. εἰ δυνατόν, ‘if it be possible, live peaceably with all men, at any rate as far as concerns your part (τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν).’ Over what others will do you can have no control, and if they break the peace it is not your fault. ‘Love seeketh not its own’ (1 Corinthians 13:5).


δότε τόπον τῇ ὀργῇ, ‘give room or place to the wrath of God.’ Let God’s wrath punish. Euthym.-Zig.�Ephesians 4:27 μηδὲ δίδοτε τόπον τῷ διαβόλῳ, do not give scope or place to the devil; ἡ ὀργή means the wrath of God: cf. Romans 5:9. That this is the right interpretation of the word is shown by the quotation which follows.

But other interpretations have been often held: δότε τόπον is translated by some, ‘allow space, interpose delay,’ i.e. check and restrain your wrath; by others, ‘yield to the anger of your opponent’: neither of these interpretations suits the context or the Greek.

γέγραπται γάρ. The quotation which follows comes from Deuteronomy 32:35, and resembles the Hebrew ‘Vengeance is mine and recompense,’ rather than the LXX ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐκδικήσεως�Hebrews 10:30.

20.Proverbs 25:21, Proverbs 25:22, agreeing exactly with the text of B, but varying somewhat from that of A א. The term ἄνθρακες πυρός clearly means ‘terrible pangs or pains,’ cf. Psalms 139:11 (140:11).(LXX); 4 (5) Ezra 16:54 Non dicat peccator se non peccasse, quoniam carbones ignis comburet super caput eius qui dicit: Non peccavi coram domino et gloria ipsius. But with what purpose are we to ‘heap coals of fire on his head’? Is it (1) that we may be consoled for our kind act by knowing that he will be punished for his misdeeds? This is impossible, for it attributes a malicious motive, which is quite inconsistent with the context both here and in the O. T. In the latter the passage proceeds, ‘And the Lord shall reward thee,’ implying that the deed is a good one; here we are immediately told that we are not to be ‘overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good,’ which clearly implies that we are to do what is for our enemies’ benefit. (2) Coals of fire must, therefore, mean, as most commentators since Augustine have said, ‘the burning pangs of shame,’ which a man will feel when good is returned for evil, and which may produce remorse and penitence and contrition. Potest enim fieri ut animus ferus ac barbarus inimici, si sentiat beneficium nostrum, si humanitatem, si affectum, si pietatem videat, compunctionem cordis capiat, commissi poenitudinem gerat, et ex hoc ignis in eo quidem succendatur, qui eum pro commissi conscientia torqueat et adurat: et isti erunt carbones ignis, qui super caput eius ex nostro misericordiae et pietatis opere congregantur, Origen.

21. μὴ νικῶ ὑπὸ τοῦ κακοῦ κ.τ.λ., ‘do not allow yourself to be overcome by the evil done to you and be led on to revenge and injury, but conquer your enemies’ evil spirit by your own good disposition.’ A remark which applies to the passage just concluded and shows St. Paul’s object, but is also of more general application.

Tert. Tertullian.

Jos. Josephus.

B Cod. Vaticanus

D Cod. Claromontanus

E Cod. Sangermanensis

F Cod. Augiensis

G Cod. Boernerianus

L Cod. Angelicus

Syrr. Syriac.

Boh. Bohairic.

Sah. Sahidic.

Vulg. Vulgate.

Chrys. Chrysostom.

Latt. Latin.

Eus. Eusebius.

&c. always qualify the word which precedes, not that which follows:

Mey. Meyer.

Go. Godet.

Va. Vaughan.

Gif. Gifford.

Euthym.-Zig. Euthymius Zigabenus.

RV. Revised Version.

AV. Authorized Version.

אԠCod. Sinaiticus

A Cod. Alexandrinus

P Cod. Porphyrianus

Orig.-lat. Latin Version of Origen

Theod.-Mops. Theodore of Mopsuessia.

Ambrstr. Ambrosiaster.

Aug. Augustine.

WH. Westcott and Hort.

Wic. Wiclif.

Tyn. Tyndale.

Cov. Coverdale.

Genev. Geneva.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Romans 12". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/romans-12.html. 1896-1924.
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