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MAN’S GRATITUDE FOR FREE SALVATION.
The theme of this part of the Epistle is given in chap. Romans 12:1: The believer saved by Christ through faith is to present himself a thank-offering to God; all Christian duty is praise for deliverance. For convenience we may divide this portion as follows:
I. GENERAL EXHORTATIONS; based directly upon the theme; chaps, 12, 13 (Strictly speaking, chap. Romans 13:1-7 forms a special discussion, see the Romans Book Comments and in loco.)
II. SPECIAL DISCUSSION regarding the scruples of certain weak brethren, who abstain from eating meat, etc.: Romans 14:1 to Romans 15:13.
III. CONCLUDING PORTION; personal explanations, greetings to and from various persons, with a closing doxology: chaps, Romans 15:14 to Romans 16:27.
1. GENERAL EXHORTATIONS.
In these two chapters the Apostle gives exhortations respecting Christian duties, based upon the controlling obligation to present ourselves a living thank-offering to God. Godet distinguishes these precepts as pertaining respectively to the religious (chap. 12) and to the civil sphere (chap. 13). We prefer to divide into sections as follows: (1.) Practical theme: duties according to special gifts; chap. Romans 12:1-8. (2.) Duties for all Christians in personal relations, springing from brotherly love and extending to returning good for evil; chap. Romans 12:8-21. (3.) The Christian’s duty to earthly rulers; chap. Romans 13:1-7. (4.) General exhortation to love, and to a Christian walk; chap. Romans 13:8-14. The thoughts are linked to each other rather than arranged by a formal method. Other divisions readily suggest themselves, but this will prove as convenient as any other.
Romans 12:1. I beseech (or, ‘exhort’) you therefore, brethren. The connection is undoubtedly with the conclusion of chap. 11; but for this very reason the practical inference is from the entire doctrinal part which culminated in that passage. ‘Beseech’ is not a word of legal command, but an appeal addressed to Christians whose hearts, it is assumed, will respond to the motives on which the appeal is based. ‘Brethren,’ as frequently before. The notion that Paul would not thus exhort the Christians of a church he had not founded, is altogether unsupported. Renan and others, by disputing the place of chaps. 12, 13 (and 14) in this Epistle, reveal an entire misapprehension of the Apostle’s character. The man who really believes what is contained in chaps. 1-11 could not fail to exhort thus.
By (lit., ‘through’) the mercies (or, ‘compassions’) of God; as summed up in chap. Romans 11:35-36, but expounded in the former part of the Epistle. These are called to mind to furnish the motive for obedience to the exhortation; ‘as if any one wishing to make an impression on one who had received great benefits, were to bring his Benefactor himself to supplicate him’ (Chrysostom). ‘He who is rightly moved by the mercy of God, enters into the entire will of God’ (Bengel).
To present. The word is used of bringing for sacrifice. It points to a single act, not to a continued process, to the thankful bringing once for all of the offering, not to sacrificing it.
Your bodies. This cannot be referred to the body as the seat of sin. It is either a designation of the entire personality, chosen to suit the figure of a sacrificial thank-offering, or the body is specially referred to as the organ of practical activity, the instrument by which the living to God is to manifest itself. There is no objection to the view that this is ‘an indication that the sanctification of Christian life is to extend to that part of man’s nature which is most completely under the bondage of sin’ (Alford). Meyer takes the term literally here, finding in Romans 12:2 another reference, ‘so that the two verses together contain the sanctification of the whole man distributed into its parts, that of the outer man (set forth as the offering of a sacrifice), and that of the inner (as a renewing transformation).’ But the phrase ‘rational service’ seems to oppose this distinction, and there are other objections.
A living sacrifice; over against the Levitical offerings, which were to be slain. We indeed die to sin, but live unto God (comp. chap. 6 throughout).
Holy and well-pleasing to God; these terms qualify ‘sacrifice.’ This offering is ‘holy,’ morally pure over against the ceremonial purity of the Levitical offerings, as well as in opposition to the previous devotion to sin; it is ‘well-pleasing to God,’ as ‘a savor of a sweet smell’ (comp. Ephesians 5:2), since such an offering is not only based upon the expiatory offering of Christ, but is well-pleasing to God, whose will is our sanctification, as the Apostle declares in his earliest Epistle (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Which is your rational service. This explains the whole clause: ‘to present,’ etc. ‘Service’ is used of religious service, or worship. The contrast undoubtedly is with the Old Testament ritual service. That of the new covenant, just described, is characterized as ‘rational,’ which seems to be nearly equivalent to ‘spiritual’ (1 Peter 2:5), over against the external, fleshly service ( opus operatum). The term ‘rational’ brings out this contrast better than ‘spiritual,’ which might improperly suggest that the Old Testament service was in itself fleshly, in the ethical sense. Some, however, prefer the sense ‘reasonable,’ explaining the phrase, ‘the service which answers in a rational manner to the moral premises established in the faith you profess’ (Godet). In any case the true Christian service is one of self-dedication to God; only this is well pleasing to Him.
1. Practical Theme; Duties according to special Gifts.
The theme is fully stated in Romans 12:1-2; then follows an exhortation to humility (Romans 12:3-5), which introduces the special reference to various gifts, mainly but not exclusively official in their nature (Romans 12:6-8)
Romans 12:2. And not to be. The best authorities give the infinitive (not the imperative) form in this verse, which must therefore be connected closely with ‘beseech’ (Romans 12:1). The tense used points to continued action.
Fashioned after. The words rendered ‘conformed’ and ‘transformed’ have different derivations; the former refers more to the outward form (the noun is usually rendered ‘fashion’), the latter to the organic form. Some deny such a distinction in this instance, but it is well to reproduce the verbal variation in English.
This world, or, ‘age;’ comp. Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 2:2. The phrase is used in a bad sense.
But to be transformed, or, ‘transfigured,’ as in Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2 (the same word occurs in 2 Corinthians 3:18). Here also a continuous process is indicated.
By the renewing of your mind. This is the instrument of the transformation. The ‘mind’ (comp. chap. Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25, and Excursus), or, practical reason, is naturally under the dominion of the flesh; it needs renewal, which is wrought by the Holy Spirit, faith being the subjective element of its operation. Through this renewed mind there results the transformation in the whole man. The passive suggests the agency of the Holy Spirit, while the exhortation implies moral freedom.
That ye may prove, or, ‘in order to prove,’ to put to the practical test, what is the will of God. Not simply to be able to do this, but actually to do so, the conscience being continually educated by the Holy Ghost. The inward renewal has as its result an increasing delicacy of judgment in Christian ethics, the will of God respecting our conduct in the world. The practical portion of this Epistle is designed to help this judgment
What is (lit, ‘the’) good and well-pleasing (to God) and perfect. This is in apposition with what precedes, and not a qualification of it as the E. V. indicates. The latter view compels us to take ‘well-pleasing’ in the sense of agreeable to men. What God wills is that which is ‘good,’ in its end, ‘well-pleasing’ to Him, and ‘perfect’ as uniting these two. As a practical matter, what is God’s will in our particular circumstances is determined by the renewed mind prayerfully seeking what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:3. For I say, ‘The special requirement which he is now to make serves in fact by way of confirmation to the general exhortation of Romans 12:2 ’ (Meyer).
Through the grace that was given to me. He thus refers to his apostleship (see marginal references); humbly making an appeal for the humility he enjoins.
To every man that is among you; applying the precept to each and all without exception.
Not to think of himself, etc. There is a play upon words in the original which it is difficult to reproduce in English: Alford renders ‘not to be highminded, above that which he ought to be minded, but to be so minded as to be sober-minded.’
But to think so as to think soberly, or, ‘so as to be sober-minded.’ Some would render, ‘but to be so disposed as to be sober minded;’ but the reference to thought of one’s self is preferable. The aim of one’s self-knowledge should be wise discretion. Practically self-esteem leads to indiscretion.
According as God, etc. This clause qualifies the last one: ‘to think so as,’ etc.
To each one the measure of faith. The article is wanting before ‘measure,’ but as it refers to the particular measure in each case, we must supply it, or strengthen it into ‘his measure.’ ‘Faith’ is here subjective, as usual; and the entire phrase points to the individual Christian’s ‘receptivity of grace of the Spirit, itself no inherent congruity, but the gift and apportionment of God. It is in fact the subjective designation of the grace which is given us; Romans 12:6 ’ (Alford). This clause prepares the way for the specifications which follow (Romans 12:6-8) which show that the ‘measure of faith’ is different in degree in different cases, and adapted to peculiarities of character. Since this standard is ‘ as God hath dealt to each one,’ there is no room for thinking too highly of ourselves.
Romans 12:4. For as we have many members in one body. The parallel here set forth (Romans 12:4-5) is more fully carried out in 1 Corinthians 12:12, etc. In Ephesians (throughout) the unity is emphasized, here the variety. This variety is introduced as an explanation of the variety in the measure of faith, and hence as a motive for the humility enjoined.
Have not the same office, or, ‘activity,’ e. g., eyes, ears, hands, etc.
Romans 12:5. So we, the many, not, ‘ being many,’ but ‘the many,’ like the many members of the body, are one body in Christ (see marginal references).
And severally, etc. The phrase is very unusual; it is literally: ‘and what (is true) as to individuals, (they are) members of one another.’ Christ is the Head, and fellowship with Him makes us one body, and in consequence the individual relation is that of fellow-member with every other.
Romans 12:6. But having gifts, or, ‘having, however,’ etc. Some would connect this verse grammatically with ‘we are’ (Romans 12:5), but it seems better to begin a new sentence here, and to supply the proper imperatives, as is done in the E. V. The construction of the Greek is irregular, whatever explanation be given. ‘But’ makes an advance in thought: ‘and not only so, but’ (Alford). ‘Then’ is misleading.
Gifts differing, etc. The ‘charisms’ are different, but all having one origin, according to the grace that was given to us. This is the same thought as that of Romans 12:3: ‘according as God hath dealt,’ etc. Seven of these differing ‘gifts’ are named, and made the basis of a corresponding exhortation. Four of these seem to be official gifts (though not pointing to four distinct and permanent orders in the ministry), the last three probably being ‘charisms,’ with which no special official position was connected. The reasons for making this distinction are: omission of ‘or’ with the fifth clause; the difficulty of referring the remaining gifts to official persons; the change in the admonitions, which do not define the sphere, as before, but the mode. Furthermore, we might expect exhortations to private Christians after the reference to ‘all the members’ in Romans 12:4-5. (See below, on the several clauses).
Whether prophecy. This is the first ‘gift’ named. In the Bible ‘prophecy’ on the one hand, includes more than the prediction of future events, it is a speaking for God not merely beforehand; on the other hand, it is not identical with preaching. In the New Testament the reference is to the gift of immediate inspiration, for the occasion, ‘leading the recipient to deliver, as the mouth of God, the particular communication which he had received’ (Hodge). It would appear from the statements in the Book of Acts and in 1 Corinthians (see marginal references), that the gift was not unusual, and that the possessor of it had an official position. The office of the Old Testament prophet became more prominent in the later period of the Old Dispensation, but in the New, which presents a gospel of fact, the gift was not permanent, though needful in the Apostolic times and held in the highest esteem (comp. 1 Corinthians 14:1). It differed from the ecstatic speaking with tongues. This view of the gift opposes any attempt to introduce it into modern discussions about church offices.
According to the proportion of faith, lit., ‘the faith,’ But the term is not equivalent to a body of doctrine; comp. chap. Romans 1:5. There is not an instance in the New Testament usage up to the time when the Apostle wrote which requires such a sense. ‘Faith’ here means the subjective ‘believing,’ and ‘our faith’ would be as appropriate as ‘our ministry’ in Romans 12:7. The entire phrase, with which ‘let us prophesy’ is properly supplied, is equivalent to ‘the measure of faith.’ This view is favored by the context, ‘which aims at showing that the measure of faith, itself the gift of God, is the receptive faculty for all spiritual gifts, which are therefore not to be boasted of, nor pushed beyond their provinces, but humbly exercised within their own limits’ (Alford). The technical theological sense, ‘the analogy of faith,’ seems quite inappropriate here, where an extraordinary gift of prophecy is referred to, and has been abandoned on lexical grounds by the vast majority of more recent commentators (except Philippi, Hodge, and Shedd). That this sense has been used against grammatical exegesis is a matter of history. The simple meaning is: even when a man is thus occasionally inspired, let him use his gift, as he has faith; the gift of faith limits the gift of prophecy.
Romans 12:7. Or ministry. The second gift. Some refer this to all the permanent offices of a single church, taking the five following terms as included under it. The change of construction in the next clause slightly favors this view, but it cannot be positively established. The usual view refers it to the diaconate (which the Greek term may mean), namely, the gift of oversight of the external affairs of the church.
Let us wait on our ministry, lit., ‘in the ministry,’ just spoken of. We might supply, ‘let us be,’ since the exhortation means let us render service in our appointed sphere, therein ‘be instant’ (comp. 1 Timothy 4:15). It has happened ever since those who had a gift, and a corresponding office, for the external affairs of the church, have not been content to limit their efforts to their proper sphere.
Or he that teacheth, on teaching, lit., ‘the teaching,’ his sphere. This refers to the gift of teaching by ordinary methods and need not be limited to any special office. Paul was himself a teacher. This gift is a permanent one, and cannot be too highly prized; the danger now as then, is the possessor’s mistaking his gift, or stepping outside of it to exercise functions for which he is not adapted.
Romans 12:8. Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation, lit., ‘the exhortation,’ which is his sphere. ‘Teaching’ was directed to the understanding; ‘exhortation,’ rather to the heart and will. The exhorter might also be a prophet, but the habit seems to have been to base the exhortation on a passage of Scripture, as in the synagogue (comp. Acts 13:15). It is impossible to find here any permanent office in the church, though these four were probably the basis of a subsequent development into more permanent official positions.
He that giveth, or, ‘imparteth,’ let him do it with simplicity, or, ‘liberality.’ This should be referred to all who have the ‘gift’ of imparting, private Christians as well as the official almoners of the Church. It does not mean the imparting of spiritual benefit, but of earthly goods. This is a ‘charism’ which many may have, who can do little else for Christ’s cause. He who thus gives should do it ‘with simplicity,’ i.e., ‘without any selfishness, without boasting, without secondary designs, etc., but in plain sincerity of disposition’ (Meyer). Many explain ‘with liberality,’ because the other qualifications referred to outward character, rather than to the frame of mind. But this sense of the Greek word is very unusual, and the exhortation to simplicity seems both appropriate and needful. Liberal giving is far easier than simple giving.
He that ruleth, or, ‘presideth,’ with diligence. That this ‘gift’ was necessary for the presbyter (the ruler, or, bishop) of the church, is quite evident. But since the preceding and subsequent clauses point, either to private Christians, or to the deacons, an exclusive reference to the office of presbyter seems out of place. ‘Diligence’ should characterize the performance of duty of all those who have the gift of leadership. The explanation: ‘he that entertaineth strangers,’ is unsustained by good evidence.
He that showeth mercy, with cheerful-ness. This also refers to all Christians who administer help and comfort to the suffering. Here there is great danger of rendering perfunctory service, hence the appropriate exhortation ‘with cheerfulness.’
The three ‘gifts’ which private Christians also have might far more frequently be exercised. Too many who could do great service by giving, presiding (or, performing other executive duty), and showing mercy, waste their energies by attempting to exhort and teach, or even to prophesy. Let each prayerfully consider what his special gift is.
The hints given here and elsewhere in the Epistles do not support any one theory of church polity. This whole matter seems to have been in process of development during the Apostolic age. Of fixed and binding usage there is little trace. The Apostle says little, because so much was to be left to the free enactment of the various bodies of Christians. The true way to unity will doubtless be through liberty, and to liberty the freedom of association is essential; and to freedom of association variety of form seems, for the present at least, to be equally essential.
Romans 12:9. Let your love (lit., ‘the love’) be. The imperative form is to be supplied, there being no verb in the Greek. The participles which follow are to be explained accordingly. This is unusual, but not ungrammatical; since in Romans 12:16-19 this construction recurs. We also supply ‘your,’ since the article points to the Christian grace they already possess.
Unfeigned, lit., ‘ unhypocritical.’ Comp. the use of same adjective in marginal references; in some of these passages ‘faith’ is thus characterized, but faith is the root of love. This brief clause is the title of the entire section.
Abhor that which is evil, etc. Christian love will manifest itself in this abhorrence of what is morally evil and permanent adherence to what is morally good. (It is not necessary to restrict the adjectives to what is injurious and what is kind.) ‘This antithesis constitutes the practice of heaven and heavenly life, and its realization is the life of our Lord’ (Lange).
2. Exhortation for all Christians, in their Personal Relations, from Love of the Brethren to returning Good for Evil.
All the precepts of this section are based upon Christian love (Romans 12:9). After exhorting that this love be without hypocrisy, and noting the moral attitude it produces, the Apostle gives special injunctions respecting its various active manifestations. He begins with tenderness toward the brethren (Romans 12:10), and names many ways in which Christian love outwardly manifests itself (Romans 12:11-13; Romans 12:15-16), culminating in its treatment of those who are opposed to us and have injured us (Romans 12:14; Romans 12:17-21).
Romans 12:10. In brotherly love, lit, ‘the brotherly love,’ implying as before that this is already possessed. ‘In’ is properly supplied, but the exact sense is ‘with respect to.’ The E. V. inverts the emphatic order of the Greek in these clause.
Be affectionate one to another. The word is that applied to family affection, and is properly chosen in view of the new and peculiar relation of Christian brethren.
In honour preferring one another. Meyer explains: ‘going before as guides,’ i.e., with conduct that incites others to follow. Stuart: ‘in giving honor, anticipating one another.’ The former is probably more in accordance with usage; but ‘ in honor going before one another’ would suggest the reverse of humility, hence we do not alter the inexact reading of the E. V. Godet paraphrases: ‘making them in all circumstances pass in advance of yourselves.’
Romans 12:11. In diligence, not slothful. We restore the emphatic order throughout ‘In diligence’ (the same word as in Romans 12:8), not, ‘in business,’ but with respect to zeal;’ in whatever Christian duty requires your diligence, do not be slothful.
In spirit, fervent. The figure is that of seething, boiling like a hot spring; hence the human spirit is meant, but the regenerated human spirit, since Christians are addressed. This clause is opposed to mere animal excitement in our diligence; the spirit itself must be stirred.
Serving the Lord. Many ancient authorities, by a variation of two letters (καιρω for κυριω) read: ‘serving the time,’ i.e., the occasion, or, opportunity. This means: in one’s daily task adapting one’s self to the occasion, to the circumstances of the hour, with the self-denying discretion of true love. The Sinaitic manuscript, however, decides in favor of the other reading. The variation can readily be accounted for. The objection that so general a precept is inappropriate here is invalid. It is characteristically Pauline to insert a distinctively Christian motive in his minute exhortations. In whatever we find to do we are not only to be active, but to have a spiritual enthusiasm, which is prompted by the knowledge that all our doing, however humble, is in the service of Christ.
Romans 12:12. In hope, rejoicing. The hope, i.e., the thing hoped for, is the ground rather than the object of the joy.
In tribulation, patient, i.e., steadfast as usually. This clause follows, probably because the Christian’s joyous hope produces endurance in affliction.
In prayer, persevering (see marginal references). Neither joy nor endurance is abiding without such constant prayer.
Romans 12:13. Being sharers in the necessities of the saints; taking part in these necessities as your own; hence relieving them. ‘Communicating’ is inexact, as also in Galatians 6:6; comp. Romans 15:17, where the verb occurs in the same sense as here. (Some manuscripts present a curious variation in this clause, substituting for ‘necessities’ a word which refers to the days consecrated to the commemoration of martyrs; apparently an intentional corruption of the text.) All Christians are included under the term ‘saints.’
Given to hospitality, lit., ‘pursuing hospitality.’ This virtue is frequently enjoined in the New Testament (see marginal references), and was especially necessary in those days, when Christians were persecuted and banished. The early church responded to the precept. ‘He does not say, practising, but pursuing, teaching us not to wait for those that are in need, but rather to run after them and track them out’ (Chrysostom). While this presses the sense of the word, it is a fair inference.
Romans 12:14. Bless them that persecute you, etc. ‘The saying of Christ, Matthew 5:44, was perhaps known to the Apostle and here came to his recollection’ (Meyer). It is quite unlikely, however, that he had read the gospel of Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount was, doubtless, well known through oral transmission, and there are allusions to it in the Epistles (chap. Rom 2:19 ; 1 Corinthians 7:10; James 4:9; James 5:12; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 4:14). The word rendered ‘persecute’ is the same as that in the last clause of Romans 12:13; an intentional play on words. Probably the change of form to the imperative shows how difficult a duty this was felt to be. ‘How hard this is for corrupt human nature, every one who is acquainted with his own heart well knows. Yet this is the standard of Christian temper and character exhibited in the Scriptures’ (Hodge). Hardest of all is the duty when the persecutor is a professed Christian brother.
Romans 12:15. Rejoice with them, etc. The infinitive occurs in the original, and we may paraphrase: ‘ it is necessary, to rejoice,’ etc. ‘ Romans 12:14 defines the proper conduct in relation to personal antipathy; Romans 12:15, the proper conduct in relation to personal sympathy’ (Lange). The verse is not interjected, nor is the exhortation weaker. Sympathy is not less difficult than forgiveness. The latter is less active than the former, and may exist when the range of Christian feeling is too limited for wide and quick sympathy. But forgetfulness of self is the basis of both virtues.
Romans 12:16. Be of the same mind, etc. The participial form recurs, but the force is still imperative. This precept refers to concord in feeling, though not to the exclusion of corresponding thought and endeavor.
Mind not high things. The verb is the same as in the previous clause (lit, ‘minding the same; minding not the high things’). This may be taken as a general warning against ambition, or ‘high things’ may refer to the distinctions which arise among Christians, whether social or official, and which are so naturally sought after. The latter view accords with the common rendering of the next clause.
But condescend to (be carried along by) men of low estate, or ‘lowly things.’ It is difficult to decide whether the last phrase is masculine or neuter, the same form being used for both genders. Meyer accepts the latter and explains: ‘yielding to that which is humble, to the claims and tasks which are presented to you by the humbler relations of life;’ he cites Paul’s example, as tentmaker and sufferer. The neuter occurs in the previous clause, but the adjective is masculine in all other instances in the New Testament, and the next clause favors the reference to persons.
Be not wise in your own conceits. This is closely connected with the other precepts, for such self-sufficiency in judgment usually attends ambition, and serves to foster the aristocratic feeling, which, as Godet intimates, the Apostle opposes throughout this verse. Nothing destroys Christian fellowship more effectually than this conceit of wisdom.
Romans 12:17. Recompense to no man evil for evil. The proper treatment of those opposed to us was spoken of in Romans 12:14, and from this point is the sole topic of the section. ‘No man’ who injures us, whether Christian brother or one without, so in Romans 12:14. The Apostle ‘knew too well by experience that in the bosom of the Church itself one could encounter malevolence, injustice, jealousy, hate’ (Godet). The principle is plain, but the temptation to disobey is often very strong.
Have a care for things honorable in the sight of all men. The E. V. is misleading, conveying to the ordinary reader the thought that we are bidden to provide for ourselves and our families in an honest way. ‘In the sight of all men’ is to be joined with the verb, not with honorable. ‘Man’s estimate of what is ‘honorable’ is not the standard; but all should see that our effort is for what is ‘honorable.’ Hodge finds here the motive for the preceding exhortation: ‘let a regard for the honor of religion and your own character prevent the returning of evil for evil,’ but the connection is not obvious. The care for things honorable might serve to dispossess the desire for retaliation.
Romans 12:18. If it be possible, at much at dependeth on you; not, ‘if you can,’ but if it be possible, if others allow you to do so, be at peace with all men. That this is sometimes impossible, the Apostle’s life shows; but our responsibility extends as far as our ability to keep the peace.
Romans 12:19. Avenge not yourselves, beloved. We restore the Greek order; the address becomes more affectionate, in order to press lovingly the snore difficult duty.
But rather (or, on the contrary) give place unto the wrath of God. This seems to be the only sense consistent with what follows. Let God’s wrath take its course, do not attempt to execute it yourself; comp. our Lord’s conduct, as described in 1 Peter 2:23. So most commentators, but a variety of untenable explanations have been given: ‘defer your own wrath,’ a Latinism, and not the meaning of Paul’s language; give place to the wrath of your enemy, either by letting him have his will, or by getting out of its way, neither of them suited to the context, or in harmony with the tone of the passage. Alford refers it to anger in general, without adding anything to the correct interpretation. ‘The morality of this precept is based on the holiness of God; hence so far as love and wrath are the two poles of holiness, it does not exclude the blessing of our adversaries (Romans 12:14) and intercession for them’ (Meyer).
For it is written (Deuteronomy 32:35), Vengeance is mine ( lit , ‘to me is vengeance’); I will recompense again (a strengthened form of the word used in Romans 12:17), saith the Lord (a formula naturally added by the Apostle). The Hebrew is: ‘Mine is revenge and requital;’ the LXX. reads: ‘in the day of vengeance I will recompense.’ In Hebrews 10:30, the form is the same as here, which suggests that it had become usual, especially as it occurs in the paraphrase of Onkelos.
Romans 12:20. But, i.e., ‘on the contrary,’ ‘nay rather’ (Alford). The authorities present several variations; but the oldest manuscripts and more recent editors accept ‘but.’
If thine enemy, etc. The rest of the verse corresponds exactly with Proverbs 25:21; Proverbs 25:23 (LXX.) and is adopted by the Apostle without a formula of citation. The only difficulty is in the last clause; thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Explanations: (1.) Thou wilt thus leave him to severer divine punishment. This is opposed by the next verse, and contrary to Proverbs 24:17. (2.) Thou wilt prepare for him the glowing shame of penitence; so Augustine, Meyer, Godet, and many others. This is not open to any serious objection, if real penitence be understood. Simply to make him ashamed is not an exalted motive. (3.) Thou wilt by this kindness most readily subdue him, thus taking the most effectual vengeance; so Alford, Hodge, and others. This really includes (2), and is favored by the next verse. Tyndale’s gloss is: ‘This means that thou shalt kindle him and make him to love.’ Besides these, a number of fanciful interpretations have been suggested.
Romans 12:21. Be not overcome by evil, i.e., injury done you, but overcome evil with good. This sums up the entire matter respecting the treatment of adversaries: When we requite evil for evil, we are overcome, when we return good for evil, we overcome it. So Christ did on the cross. When we do this, we achieve the greatest victory of love: we win by yielding; we gain by giving; we avenge by forgiving; we conquer by forgetting ourselves so as to return good for evil. ‘Men whose minds can withstand argument, and whose hearts rebel against threats, are not proof against the persuasive influence of unfeigned love; there is, therefore, no more important collateral reason for being good, than that it increases our power to do good.’ (Hodge.)
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 12". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26