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Romans 12

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Verse 1

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

The strictly Doctrinal teaching of this great Epistle being now concluded, the apostle, as a wise master-builder, follows it up in this and the remaining chapters by impressing on believers the holy obligations which their new standing and life in Christ imposed upon them. In doing this he first puts clearly before them, in a couple of verses, the general character of all Christian service, and then goes at some length into a variety of details.

The General Character of All Christian Service-SELF-CONSECRATION, in our Whole Spirit and Soul and Body, to Him who hath called us into the Fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1-2)

I beseech you therefore, brethren - in view of all that has been advanced in the foregoing part of this Epistle,

By the mercies of God, [ dia (G1223) = pros (G4314) toon (G3588) oiktirmoon (G3628) = raachªmiym (H7356)] - those mercies whose free and unmerited nature, glorious channel, and saving fruits have been opened up at such length,

That ye present, [ parasteesai (G3936)] - see the note at Romans 6:13, where (as also in Romans 12:16; Romans 12:19) the same word is used, and there rendered "yield:"

Your bodies - that is, 'yourselves in the body,' considered as the organ of the inner life (see the note at Romans 6:12). As it is through the body that all the evil that is in the unrenewed heart comes forth into palpable manifestation and action, so it is through the body that all the gracious principles and affections of believers reveal themselves in the outward life. The Christian must never forget that as corruption extends to the whole man, so does sanctification (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

A living sacrifice - a glorious contrast to the legal sacrifices, which, except as they were slain, were no sacrifices at all. The death of the one, 'Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world,' has swept all dead victims from off the altar of God, to make room for the redeemed themselves, as 'living sacrifices' to Him who made "Him to be sin for us;" while every outgoing of their grateful hearts in praise, and every act prompted by the love of Christ, is itself a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Holy. As the Levitical victims, when offered without blemish to God, were regarded as holy, so believers, 'yielding themselves to God as those that are alive from the dead, and their members as instruments of righteousness unto God,' are, in His estimation, not ritually but really "holy," and so

Acceptable, [ euareston (G2101 ), 'well pleasing'] unto God - not as the Levitical offerings were pleasing to God, merely as appointed symbols of spiritual ideas, but which, when offered by those who were void of the character which they represented, were hateful to God, (Isaiah 1:13-15; Isaiah 66:3; etc.): believers in their renewed character and endeared relationship to God through His Son Jesus Christ are objects of divine complacency intrinsically, when presenting to Him their bodies a living and holy sacrifice.

[Which is] your reasonable service, [ teen (G3588) logikeen (G3050) latreian (G2999) humoon (G5216)] - rather, 'your rational worship;' not as opposed to a superstitious worship (as Calvin), or to the senselessness of idol-worship (as others), but in contrast with the ceremonial character of the Levitical worship (as most interpreters agree): cf. 1 Peter 2:2, the only other place where the same word [ logikos (G3050)] is used to express "the milk of the word," or 'the rational milk,' in contrast with the material substance on which babes are nourished. This presentation of ourselves as living monuments of redeeming mercy, and as divine property in the highest sense, is here called 'worship' [ latreia (G2999)]. "Service," indeed, it is, as our version renders it; yet not that of a 'servant' [ diakonia (G1248)], but of a 'priest.' For as all believers are "priests unto God" (Revelation 1:6), so their whole Christian life is just a continuous exercise of this exalted priesthood-`their rational worship.' So 1 Peter 2:5, "Ye are ... a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (compare John 4:24).

In the next verse the same great worship of self-consecration is inculcated under another aspect. The apostle had bidden us present our bodies a living sacrifice to God. But since it is by our bodies that we move about, and mix in society, and come in contact with all the various phases of life, how are we to carry out our Christianity in the evil and bewitching world around us? The next verse gives both a negative and positive answer to this question.

Verse 2

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

And be not conformed to this world, [ mee (G3361) suscheematizesthe (G4964) too (G3588) aiooni (G165) toutoo (G5129). With Tischendorf and Tregelles, the imperative of this verb, and the following one, is, for the reasons given by him, to be preferred to the infinitive - suscheematizesthai (G4964) and - metamorfousthai (G3339) which, on very weighty external evidence certainly, Lachmann adopts] - 'fashion not yourselves according to [the pattern of] this world;'

But be ye transformed. See Matthew 17:2, where this word is rendered "transfigured;" and in 2 Corinthians 3:18, "changed:"

By the renewing of your mind - [ humoon (G5216) is probably not genuine; nor is it needed, for without it the sense is the same.] The thing enjoined is not a mere outward disconformity to the ungodly world, many of whose actions in themselves may be virtuous and praiseworthy, but such an inward spiritual transformation as makes the whole life new-new in its motives and ends, even where the actions differ in nothing from those of the world-new, considered as a whole, and in such a sense as to be wholly unattainable except through the constraining power of the love of Christ.

That ye may prove - that is, prove experimentally, or learn by proof (see the note on the word "experience," in Romans 5:4),

What is that good, and acceptable ('the good and well-pleasing,') and perfect will of God. Most modern critics render the words thus: 'that ye may prove (or 'discern') the will of God, [even], what is good, 'and acceptable, and perfect.' (So Erasmus, Tholuck, Fritzsche, Meyer, DeWette, Alford, Philippi, Hodge, Lange, etc.) But we think it yields but doubtful sense to say 'that ye may prove what is the will of God, even what is acceptable;' for who could doubt that what is the will of God is acceptable to Him? The rendering of our own version, which we think decidedly preferable, is that of the Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Estius, Reiche, etc. In this view the "will of God," which believers are experimentally to prove, is said to have three characteristics to recommend it: It is "good," as it demands only what is essentially and unchangeably good (see Romans 7:10); it is 'well-pleasing,' in contrast with all that is arbitrary, as demanding only what God has eternal complacency in (compare Micah 6:8 with Jeremiah 9:24); and it is "perfect," as it requires nothing else than the perfection of God's reasonable creature, who, in proportion as he attains to it, reflects God's own perfection.

But what, it may be asked, is that 'conformity to the world' which Christians are to avoid? Not, surely, its expressly sinful practices; for when these are meant, they are branded with their own names. Clearly the thing meant is, that general course or way of life which characterizes "the children of this world," who "mind earthly things." Not being spiritual themselves, they can have no sympathy with anything spiritual-their ambitions, interests, and affections are all bounded by and centerd in "the world," which "passeth away, and the lust thereof." The "children of light," on the contrary, "being risen with Christ," have a life of their own-the life of pardoned and reconciled believers: renewed in the spirit of their mind, they breathe a new air, they have new interests and affections, and their sympathies are all spiritual and heavenly. Since, then, these two classes of mankind are, religiously, so contrary the one to the other, what real fellowship can either have with the other? As the former cannot possibly have conformity in spirit with the latter, so the latter cannot cultivate conformity with the former, without grieving the Holy Spirit of God, wherewith they have been sealed unto the day of redemption, blunting badly the edge of their spirituality, and at length "forgetting that they were purged from their old sins." (See the note on 'the thorny ground,' in the Parable of the Sower, p.

146.) But after all, the true preservative of believers against 'conformity to the world,' is to 'be renewed in the spirit of their mind.' It is the lively presence and ruling power of the positive element that will alone effectually keep out of the heart the negative one. Such, then, is the great general work of the Christian life-the comprehensive business of the redeemed. But to rest in generalities, however precious, is not our apostle's way in writing to the churches. He hastens, as usual, to the details of Christian duty; those specified being almost exclusively.

Relative Duties-a Modest Estimate and Loving Exercise of our own Gifts, relative to Those of other Believers (Romans 12:3-8)

Verse 3

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

For I say (with divine authority), through the grace given unto me - as an apostle of Jesus Christ; thus exemplifying his own precept by modestly falling back on that office which both warranted and required such plainness toward all classes:

To every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, [ mee (G3361) huperfronein (G5252) par' (G3844) ho (G3588) dei (G1163) fronein (G5426) alla (G235) fronein (G5426) eis (G1519) to (G3588) soofronein (G4993)]. It is impossible to convey in good English the emphatic play which each word here has upon another-`not to be high minded above what he ought to be minded, but so to be minded as to be sober-minded.' To be 'high-minded above what he ought to be minded' is merely a strong way of characterizing all undue self-elevation.

According as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Faith is here viewed as the inlet to, or seed-bed of, all the other graces, and so as the receptive faculty of the renewed soul-q.d., 'As God hath given to each his particular capacity to take in the gifts and graces which He designs for the general good.'

Verse 4

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office;

Verse 5

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one - [ ho (G3588) de (G1161) kath' (G2596) eis (G1519), a solecism of later Greek for kath' (G2596) hena (G1520). Lachmann and Tregelles have to (G3588) de (G1161) etc.; so Tischendorf before; but the evidence is undoubtedly for the Received Text; and Tischendorf in his last edition returns to it, considering to (G3588) de (G1161) more like a correction than the other.]

Members one of another. The same diversity in unity obtains in the body of Christ, whereof all believers are the several members, as in the natural body.

Verse 6

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us. Observe here how all the gifts of believers alike are viewed as communications of mere "grace."

Whether (we have the gift of) prophecy - that is, of inspired teaching (as in Acts 15:32). Any one speaking with divine authority-whether with reference to the past, the present, or the future-was termed a prophet, (Exodus 7:1, etc.)

[Let us prophesy] according to the proportion of faith, [ kata (G2596) teen (G3588) analogian (G356) tees (G3588) pisteoos (G4102)] - rather, 'the proportion of our faith.' Mary Romish expositors, and some Protestant (as Calvin, Bengel, Hodge, and, though hesitatingly, Beza), render this 'the analogy of faith,' understanding by it 'the general tenor' or 'rule of faith,' divinely delivered to men for their guidance. But this is against the context, whose object is to show that, as all the gifts of believers are according to their respective capacity for them, they are not to be puffed up on account of them, but to use them purely for their proper ends.

Verse 7

Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

Or ministry [let us wait] on (or 'be occupied with') our ministering [ diakonia (G1248)] The familiar Or ministry [let us wait] on (or 'be occupied with') our ministering, [ diakonia (G1248)]. The familiar word here used imports any kind of service from the dispensing of the word of life (Acts 6:4) to the administering of the temporal affairs of the Church (Acts 6:1-3). The latter seems intended here, being distinguished from 'prophesying,' 'teaching,' and 'exhorting.'

He that teacheth. Teachers are expressly distinguished in the New Testament from prophets, and put after them, as exercising a lower function (Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29). Probably it consisted mainly in opening up the evangelical bearings of Old Testament Scripture; and it was in this department apparently that Apollos showed his power and eloquence (Acts 17:24).

Verse 8

Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Or he that exhorteth. Since all preaching-whether by apostles, prophets, or teachers-was followed up by exhortation (Acts 11:23; Acts 14:22; Acts 15:32, etc.), many think that no specific class is here in view. But if liberty was given to others to exercise themselves occasionally in exhorting either the brethren generally or small parties of the less instructed, the reference may be to them.

He that giveth - in the exercise of private benevolence, probably rather than in the discharge of diaconal duty.

[Let him do it] with simplicity, [ haploteeti (G572)]. So the word probably means. But, as simplicity seems enjoined in the next clause but one of this same verse, perhaps the meaning here is, 'with liberality,' as the same word is rendered in 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11.

He that ruleth, [ proistamenos (G4291)] - whether in the Church or his own household (see 1 Timothy 3:4-5), where the same word is applied to both,

With diligence, [ en (G1722) spoudee (G4710)] - with earnest purpose;

He that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness - not only without grudging either trouble or pecuniary relief, but feeling it to be "more blessed to give than to receive, and to help than be helped.

Various other Modes of Manifesting Love to the Brethren (Romans 12:9-10)

Verse 9

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. [Let] love be without dissimulation - `Let your love be unfeigned' (as in 2 Corinthians 6:6; 1 Peter 2:22; and see 1 John 3:18).

Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. What a lofty tone of moral principle and feeling is here inculcated! It is not, Abstain from the one, and do the other; nor, Turn away from the one, and draw to the other; but, Abhor the one, and cling, with deepest sympathy, to the other. Probably Calvin and others are right in thinking that, as this precept both follows and precedes an injunction to pure affection, the "evil' to be abhorred here specially refers to whatever is unkind or injurious to a brother, and that the "good" to be clung to points to the reverse of this.

Verse 10

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

Be ... - better, 'In brotherly love be affectionate one to another; in [giving or showing] honour outdoing each other.' The word rendered 'prefer' [ proeegoumenoi (G4285)] means, rather, 'to go before,' 'take the lead' -

i.e., 'show an example.' How opposite is this to the reigning morality of the pagan world; and though Christianity has so changed the spirit of society that a certain beautiful disinterestedness and self-sacrifice shines in the character of not a few who are but partially, if at all, under the transforming power of the Gospel, it is only those whom "the love of Christ constrains to live not unto themselves," who are capable of habitually acting in the spirit of this precept.

Personal Duties (Romans 12:11-12)

As all the duties inculcated in this chapter, from Romans 12:3 to the end, are relative, one can hardly suppose that the six personal duties (as they are usually termed) were intended as a formal statement of all belonging to that class. They seem, therefore, to have been suggested to the apostle's mind rather as a necessary balance to the relative duties which he had just been inculcating, They are laid down in the form of two triplets-one in each of the two verses.

Verse 11

Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

(Be) Not slothful in business, [ tee (G3588) spoudee (G4710)]. The word here rendered "business" means 'zeal,' 'diligence,' 'purpose;' denoting energy of action.

Fervent (or 'burning') in spirit. This is precisely what is said of Apollos, Acts 18:25, that he was "fervent in spirit" (the same phrase as here); of evil times to come on the Christian world our Lord predicted, that "because iniquity should abound, the love of many would wax cold" (Matthew 24:12); the glorified Head of all the churches had this against the church of Ephesus, that they had "left their first love" (Leviticus 2:4); and of the Laodicean Church He says, "I would thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16). As the zeal of God's house consumed Himself, the Lord Jesus cannot abide a lukewarm spirit. A "fervent" or burning "spirit" is what He must seek in all who would be like Him.

Serving the Lord - that is, the Lord Jesus: cf. Ephesians 6:5-8. (It is one of the strangest facts in the textual criticism of the New Testament, that 'serving the time,' 'occasion,' 'opportunity'-a reading which, in the ancient manuscripts, would hardly differ, if at all, from the reading of our version [contracted thus: K-OO or K-R-OO, which might be intended either for kurioo (G2962) or kairoo (G2540)] - should have found its way into the Received Text, in the Stephanic form of it, though not the Elzevir text, and been adopted in Luther's version. There is, indeed, respectable manuscript authority for it. [Scrivener, in his collation of 'Aleph, says that the Greek word koo stands for kairoo (G2540), and that it is found in D * F G, two copies of the Old Latin and copies of it mentioned by Jerome and Rufinus.] But the external evidence for the reading adopted in our version is decisive [A B D ** and ***-two correctors of D, of the seventh and of the 9th or 10th centuries-E L, and nearly all the cursives; three copies of the Old Latin, the Vulgate, and nearly all versions; of the Greek fathers, Athanasius and Chrysostom].

It may be difficult to account for the introduction of the ungenuine reading; but since both words, in their contracted form, were written alike, some transcribers, or those who dictated to them, might think that this was what the apostle meant to express. Nor need we wonder at this, when we find Fritzsche, Olshausen, Meyer, and Lange still defending it. But the sense which this reading yields, if defensible at all, seems exceedingly flat in such a triplet as that of this verse; and the ground on which it is defended shows a misapprehension of the apostle's object in this clause. It is said that to exhort Christians to serve the Lord-the most general of all Christian duties-in the midst of a set of specific details, is not what the apostle would likely do. But the sense of serving the Lord here is itself specific and restricted, intended to qualify the 'diligence' and the 'fervency' of the preceding clause, requiring that "serving" or 'pleasing' the Lord should ever be present and uppermost as the ruling spirit of all else that they did as Christians-the atmosphere they were to breathe, whatever they were about. Nearly all critics agree in this; and DeWette's remark is not amiss, that the other reading savours more of worldly shrewdness than of Christian morality; adding, that while the Christian may and should avail himself of time and opportunity (Ephesians 5:16), he may not serve it.

Verse 12

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

Rejoicing ... In this second triplet; it is more lively to retain the order and the verbs of the original: 'In hope, rejoicing; in tribulation, enduring; in prayer, persevering' Each of these exercises helps the other. If our "hope" of glory is so assured that it is a rejoicing hope, we shall find the spirit of 'endurance in tribulation' natural and easy; but since it is "prayer" which strengthens the faith that begets hope, and lifts it up into an assured and joyful expectancy, and since our patience in tribulation is fed by this, it will be seen that all depends on our 'perseverance in prayer.' The apostle now returns to the other class of duties, the enumeration of which had but for a moment been interrupted in order to inculcate the personal ones just specified.

Relative Duties resumed (Romans 12:13-21)

Verse 13

Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

Distributing ('imparting') to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality, [ filoxenian (G5381)] - that is, the entertainment of strangers. 'During times of persecution (as Hodge remarks), and before the general institution of houses of entertainment, there was special necessity for Christians to entertain strangers. As such houses are still rarely to be met with in the East, this duty continues to be there regarded as one of the most sacred character. [A corrupt and absurd reading - mneiais (G3417) for chreiais (G5532), 'imparting to the memories of the saints'-is actually found in D*FG, in one copy of the Old Latin (but that the best, the Codex Amiat.), and some of the fathers. It is even defended by Mill. But, as Meyer says, it no doubt owes its existence to the reverence into which the martyrs had grown at the thee when those manuscripts were written. The authority of all other manuscripts and versions is against it-and common sense.]

Verse 14

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

Bless (that is, Wish and call down by prayer a blessing on) them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. This precept is taken from the Sermon on the Mount, which, from the numerous allusions to it, more or less direct, in different parts of the New Testament, seems to have been the storehouse of Christian morality among the churches.

Verse 15

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Rejoice with them that rejoice, [and] weep with them that weep, [ Chairein (G5463) ... klaiein (G2799). On the infinitive as imperative, see Kuhner, section 306, Rem. 11; and Donaldson, section 526. For other examples of the same usage, see Luke 9:3; Philippians 3:16 ]. The copulative "and" is probably not genuine. What a beautiful spirit of sympathy with the joys and sorrows of others is here inculcated! But it is only one charming phase of the unselfish character which belongs to all living Christianity. What a world will ours be when this shall become its reigning spirit! Of the two, however, it is more easy to sympathize with another's sorrows than his joys, because in the one case he needs us; in the other not. But just for this reason the latter is the more disinterested, and so the nobler.

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 one toward another - literally, 'Being of the same mind.' But this is not to be understood merely as part of the preceding sentence: it is merely a resumption of the participial construction of most of these exhortations (as Romans 12:12-13), and is to be regarded as a distinct and independent counsel to cherish and manifest a lively feeling of the common bond which binds all Christians to each other, whatever diversity of station, cultivation, temperament, or gifts may obtain among them. This is finely enlarged on in the two following clauses:

Mind ('Minding') not high things - Cherish not ambitious or aspiring purposes and desires, which, as they spring from selfish severance of our own interests and objects from these of our brethren, are quite incompatible with the spirit inculcated in the preceding clause:

But condescend ('condescending') to men of low estate, [ tois (G3588) tapeinois (G5011) sunapagomenoi (G4879)]. As the noun here may be either masculine or neuter, some critics prefer the neuter, thinking it forms a more natural contrast to the preceding clause, thus: 'Minding not high things, but inclining unto the things that be lowly' (so Calvin, Fritzsche, DeWette, Meyer, and Philippi). But the verb-which signifies to 'be drawn away along with,' and is used sometimes in a bad sense (as Galatians 2:13 and 2 Peter 3:17) - agrees best with the masculine sense of our own version. (In this sense it is taken here generally by the Greek fathers, and by Erasmus, Beza, Grotius, Estius, Bengel, Tholuck, Alford).

Be not wise in your own conceits. This is just the application of the caution against high-mindedness to the estimate we form of our own mental character.

Verse 17

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

Recompense ('Recompensing') to no man evil for evil (see the note at Romans 12:14).

Provide ('Providing') things honest, [ kala (G2570 ), that is, 'honourable,'] in the sight of all men. The idea here-taken from Proverbs 3:4 - is the care which Christians should take so to demean themselves as to command the respect of all men.

Verse 18

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

If it be possible (i:e., If others will let you), as much as lieth in you, [ to (G3588 ) ex (G1537 ) humoon (G5216 ), 'on your part,' or, 'so far as dependeth on you,'] live peaceably, [ eireeneuontes (G1514 ), or 'keep peace'] with all men. The impossibility of this in some cases is hinted at, to keep up the hearts of those who, having done their utmost unsuccessfully to live in peace, might be tempted to think the failure was necessarily owing to themselves. But how emphatically expressed is the injunction to let nothing on our part prevent it! Would that Christians were guiltless in this respect! The next precept is evidently suggested by this one. Peace is broken, in spite of all that the Christian has done to preserve it, and wrong will be inflicted on him, which he will find it hard to bear. What then?

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, avenge not yourselves (see the note at Romans 12:14 ), but [rather] give place unto wrath, [ dote (G1325) topon (G5117) tee (G3588) orgee (G3709)]. Ordinary readers take this to mean, 'give room,' or 'space to wrath' to spend itself; and our translators must have so understood the precept. But besides that the phrase "give place" suggests rather the sense of 'give scope to' the exercise of, and might seem to imply the stimulating of an enemy's wrath, the following context clearly shows that the "wrath" referred to is God's avenging wrath, which, instead of taking into our own hands, we are here enjoined to give room for or await. So nearly every interpreter, ancient and modern, explains the injunction.

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.

Therefore - or, 'But' (according to a well-supported reading)

If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. This is taken from Proverbs 25:21-22, which, without doubt, supplied the basis of those lofty precepts on that subject which form the culminating point of the Sermon on the Mount.

For in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. The sense of this clause is much disputed. In Jerome's time, and by the Greek interpreters, it was generally understood in the unfavourable sense of aggravating our enemy's guilt-q.d., 'That will be the most effectual vengeance, as effectual as if you heaped coals of fire on his head.' And so, among modern interpreters, Beza, Estius, Grotius, Tholuck, Alford. But Jerome, Augustine, and other Latin fathers, Erasmus, Luther, Bengel, Reiche, Tholuck, Meyer, DeWette, Olshausen, Fritzsche, Philippi, Lange, Hodge (last edition), take the expression in the good sense, in which now it is almost universally quoted-namely, that by returning good for our enemy's evil we may expect at length to subdue and overpower him-as burning coals consume all that is inflammable-into shame and repentance. And though we formerly judged otherwise, we are now constrained to regard this as the true sense. The next verse would seem to confirm this.

Verse 21

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Be not overcome of evil - for then you are the conquered party,

But overcome evil with good - and then the victory is yours; you have subdued your enemy in the noblest sense.


(1) Let it never be forgotten that the redeeming mercy of God in Christ is, in the souls of believers, the living spring of all holy obedience (Romans 12:1).

(2) As redemption under the Gospel is not by the sacrifice of irrational victims, as under the law-when redemption was only in promise, and could only be held forth in type-but "by the precious blood of Christ," by which now "once in the end of the world" sin hath been put completely and forever away (1 Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 9:26), so all the sacrifices which believers are now called to offer are "living sacrifices;" and summed up, as they all are, in self-consecration to the service of God, they are "holy," they are "acceptable unto God," and they together make up 'our rational service.' In this light, what are we to think of the so-called 'unbloody sacrifice of the mass, continually offered to God as a propitiation for the sins both of the living and the dead,' which the adherents of Rome's corrupt faith have for ages been taught to believe is the highest and holiest act of Christian worship? The least that can be said of it is, that it is in flat contradiction to the teaching of this Epistle to the first Christians of Rome.

(3) There is no snare against which Christians have more need to be on their guard than that of supposing that they are at liberty to be conformed to the world to any extent short of what is positively sinful. If nothing else will convince them of this, the gradual sapping and mining of their own spirituality, which inevitably results from such a course, to all who have ever tasted that the Lord is gracious, cannot fail to inspire them with the suspicion that all is not right; and if any tenderness is left to them, they must sooner or later come to see that, in their vain attempt to serve two masters, they are reaping the fruit of neither service-laying up for themselves a store of varied disappointment, and strewing the pathway of return to their first Husband with thorns and briers. As it is by "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" that we first come to apprehend, in all its reality, breadth, and grandeur, "what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God," so it is only by "living in the Spirit" and "walking in the Spirit" - and so ever afresh "transformed by the renewing of our mind" - that we are able to discern clearly what is the proper carriage before the world which Christians should maintain, and thus steer safely between the extremes of ascetic seclusion from it and sinful conformity to it.

(4) Self-sufficiency and lust of power are peculiarly unlovely in the vessels of mercy, whose respective graces and gifts are all a divine trust for behoof of the common body, and of mankind at large. As forgetfulness of this has been the source of innumerable and unspeakable evils in the Church of Christ, so the faithful exercise by every Christian of his own special office and gifts, and the loving recognition of those of his brethren as all of equal importance in their own place, would put a new face upon the visible Church, to the vast benefit and comfort of Christians themselves, and to the admiration of the world around them.

(5) What would the world be if it were filled with Christians having but one object in life, high above every other-to "serve the Lord" - and throwing into this service 'alacrity' in the discharge of all duties, and abiding 'warmth of spirit!' (Romans 12:11.)

(6) Oh how far is even the living Church from exhibiting the whole character and spirit so beautifully portrayed in the latter verses of this chapter! (Romans 12:12-21.) What need of a fresh baptism of the Spirit in order to this! And how "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners," will the Church become, when at length instinct with this Spirit! The Lord hasten it in its time!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/romans-12.html. 1871-8.
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