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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament
Romans 12

 

 

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Verse 1

Romans 12:1. παρακαλῶ, I exhort) Moses commands: the apostle exhorts. Paul commonly gives exhortations consonant to the doctrines, which had been previously discussed, Ephesians 4 with which comp. ch. 3 So in this passage the general application drawn from the whole discussion is contained in Romans 12:1-2, as the allegations which immediately follow prove. We have shown at Romans 1:16 the special applications from Romans 12:3 up to the conclusion of the epistle.— διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν, by the mercies) The whole sentiment is derived from Chapters 1–5; the word has its origin in the antithesis to wrath, ch. Romans 1:18 : for the whole economy of grace or mercy, exempting us from wrath, and rousing the Gentiles especially to the discharge of duty, is indicated in this passage, ch. Romans 15:9. He who is rightly affected by the mercy of God, enters into the whole will of God. [But the soul exposed to wrath scarcely derives any benefit from exhortations. You are “pouring oil on a stone.”—V. g.]— παραστῆσαι, that ye present) In so large a list of duties, Paul has none of those things, which in the present day among the followers of the Church of Rome, generally make up both sides of the account. παραστῆσαι is repeated from ch. Romans 6:13; Romans 6:16; Romans 6:19, to yield, to present. The oblation is presented alive, not sacrificed.— σώματα, bodies) antithetic to the abominable abuse of their bodies among the Gentiles, ch. Romans 1:24. For more antitheses presently follow in respect of this same topic. The body is generally an impediment to the soul: present the body to God, and the soul will not be wanting, ch. Romans 6:12. See also ch. Romans 7:4; Hebrews 10:5. Vice versa, the soul, when subject to the magistrate, will be obedient with the body also, ch. Romans 13:1.— σώματα, λατρείαν, bodies, [worship] service) We have here the apposition of these two words by metonymy,(127) indicating body and soul.— θυσόαν, sacrifice) Sin having become dead: comp. on this sacrifice, ch. Romans 15:16.— ζῶσαν, living) That life, which is mentioned in ch. Romans 1:17, Romans 6:4, etc. It is an abomination to offer a dead carcase.— ἁγίαν, holy) such as the holy law demands, ch. Romans 7:12.— εὐάρεστον, acceptable, well-pleasing) ch. 8 especially Romans 12:8.— τῷ θεῷ, to God) construed with παραστῆσαι, to present.— λογικὴν, reasonable) sincere (1 Peter 2:2) in respect of understanding and will: the verb δοκιμάζειν, Romans 12:2, is in consonance with this; and φρονεῖν, κ. τ. λ., Romans 12:3. The service [worship], λατρέια, of the Gentiles is unreasonable, ἄλογος, ch. Romans 1:18-25, the confidence of the Jews is unreasonable, ἄλογος, Romans 2:3, but the Christian considers all things rightly, and collects [infers] his duty from the kindness of a merciful God. The epithet λογικὴν now corresponds to that verb, λογίζεσθαι, which is often used, ch. Romans 3:28, Romans 6:11, Romans 8:18. λογικὸν γάλα, 1 Peter 2:2, is a periphrasis for the Word itself,—the Milk of the word; but here λογικὴ, reasonable, is an epithet of λατρέια, service [worship]. Peter uses the word, ἄδολον. The Word is sincere, and the Service [worship] in accordance with [resulting from] the word is sincere.


Verse 2

Romans 12:2. ΄ὴ συσχηματίζεσθεἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε) μορφὴ, form, conformation, denotes something more inward and thoroughly finished, than σχῆμα, fashion or external appearance [habitus].—Comp. Philippians 2:6; Philippians 2:8; Philippians 3:21. The external appearance of the saints should not be inconsistent with the internal form [conformation].— αἰῶνι, to the world) which neglects the will of God, and is entirely devoted to selfish pursuits.— δοκιμάζειν, to prove [approve by testing]) This also refers to that new μορφὴν, form. The antithesis is in ch. Romans 1:28. [While a man’s mind continues in its original condition (the old man), how sagacious soever he may be, he cannot prove the will of God. He will endeavour to defend at one time this, and at another that (objectionable thing), thinking that God is such a one as himself.—V. g.]—(128) και τέλειον, and perfect) He, who presents [his body] an oblation, living, holy, acceptable, knows the will of God as good, requiring what is living and holy, acceptable, and, with the progress of believers [in course of time, as believers make progress] perfect. [They by unworthy means shun this perfect will, who are continually seeking after such things as they are at liberty still to engage in without sin (as they think). The conduct of such men as these resembles that of the traveller, who takes a delight in walking, not in the safe path, but without necessity on the extreme verge of the bank.—V. g.]


Verse 3

Romans 12:3. λέγω) Flacius explains; I distinctly declare [edico]. This word adds the meaning of an imperative, to the subsequent affectionate [moratæ, i.e., having ἦθος. end.] exhortation.— γὰρ, for) He shows what the will of God intends.— διὰ τῆς χάριτος, through the grace) Paul himself affords an example, σωφροσύνης, of the sobriety, which he commends; lest, by this form of expression, λέγω, I distinctly declare [ordain], which Christ alone could have used absolutely, he should seem rashly to prescribe things so difficult to others, comp. Romans 12:6.— ὄντι) to each one, who is among you, of your rank, a believer.— ἐν ὑμῖν, among you) there were many reasons, why the Romans might think that they might exalt themselves, and they afterwards did so.— δεῖ) ought, according to truth and duty.— φρονεῖν) to think, and thence, to act.— εἰς) the particle limits.(129)ἑκάστῳ, to every man) No man ought to hold himself up as the only rule, according to which he tries others, and he ought not to think that others should be entirely such as he is, and should do the same things and in the same way as he does.— ὡς) as, and not more, Romans 12:5; but yet not less, Romans 12:6-7; therefore δὲ, but [and on the other hand: not then, as Engl. Vers.] is used, Romans 12:6.— μέτρον, measure) Both faith and the measure [proportion given] of faith is the gift of God.— πίστεως, of faith) from which the rest of the gifts flow (Cluverus); and that, too, those gifts that sanctify and do service [even sanctifying and administrative gifts flow from faith]. Faith is the source of them all, and the rule to regulate us in their very use. Of faith, which has been treated of ch. 1, and following chap. [Love follows, Romans 12:9.—V. g.]


Verse 5

Romans 12:5. δὲ καθεὶς) see Mark 14:19, note.— μέλη, members, Ephesians 4:25.


Verse 6

Romans 12:6. ἔχοντες, having) This word also depends on ἐσμέν [Romans 12:5]: for there is an apodosis at the end of Romans 12:4; but ἐσμὲν denotes we are, and at the same time inclines to [borders on] a gentle exhortation [let us be, by implication], as Galatians 4:28, note. Hence in the several parts of this enumeration, the imperative ought to be understood, comp. Romans 12:14; but it is Paul’s characteristic ἦθος, not to express the imperative often, after it has been once put at the beginning, as in Romans 12:3.— χαρίσματα, gifts) these are of different kinds, χάρις, grace is one.— προφητείαν, prophecy) This stands first among the gifts. Acts 2:17-18; Acts 11:27; Acts 13:1; Acts 15:32; Acts 19:6; Acts 21:9-10; 1 Corinthians 11:4, etc., 12, etc.; Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:20; 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 4:14; Revelation 1:3, etc. When these passages are compared together, it is evident, that prophecy is the gift, by which the heavenly mysteries, sometimes also future events, are brought under the notice of men, especially believers, with an explanation of Scripture prophecies, which could not be elicited by the ordinary rules of interpretation. But the other gifts, which we find in the first epistle to the Corinthians, are not added in this epistle, which is otherwise so copious. See ch. Romans 1:11; 1 Corinthians 9:2, notes.— κατὰ, according to) Repeat, we having, viz., the gift, prophecy, and so in succession. So just before, according to the grace, [as here, “according to the proportion of faith]. As it is given to a man, so ought a man to be of service to others.— τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως, the proportion [analogy of faith]) i.e., as God distributes (to every prophet) the measure of faith, Romans 12:3 : for there already Paul slightly touched upon this point, and he now returns to it, after some other topics had been introduced in the intervening verses. Prophecy and faith are closely connected, 1 Corinthians 12:9-10; 1 Corinthians 13:2. Peter treating of the same subject, first epistle Romans 4:11, says, ὡς λόγια θεοῦ, as the oracles of God. It is much the same as if Paul were to say, whether it be prophecy, [let it be restricted within the limits of, or] in prophecy; with which compare what follows: let it not be carried outside of and beyond the bounds of faith; nor let any one prophesy from the promptings of his own heart, beyond what he has seen; and again, on the other hand, let him not conceal or bury the truth; let him only speak so far as he has seen, and knows, and believes,(130) see Colossians 2:18; Revelation 1:2. Paul himself affords an example of such a proportion [analogy], 1 Corinthians 7:25. Erasmus says, The phrase, ACCORDING TO THE PROPORTION, gives one to understand, that the gifts are the greater [are bestowed in the greater number], in proportion as one’s faith shall have [hath] been the more perfect; so also, Corn. a Lapide, Piscator, Peter Martyr. Basilius M. on the Holy Spirit, He fills all things with His powerful working, and they, who are worthy, can alone receive Him, nor is He merely received in one, μέτρῳ, measure, but, κατὰ ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως, according to the proportion of faith, He distributes his operations, c. 9. Chrysostom: for although it is grace, yet it is not poured out uniformly, but taking the several measures [the various proportions in which it is poured out] from the [several states] of those who receive it, it flows in proportionally to what it has found the size of the vessel of faith presented to it. Lichtscheid discusses this point at great length in Tr. Germ. vom ewigen evangelio (of the everlasting Gospel), p. 60, etc. As with Paul here, so with Mark the Hermit, the measure, μέτρον, and the proportion, ἀναλογία, are one and the same thing: see his book, περὶ τῶν οἰο΄ένων ἐξ ἔργων δικαιωθῆναι (concerning those who think that they are justified by works), a little past the middle. The knowledge of a man’s affairs (business, conduct) depends on the proportion in which he puts in practice the precepts of the law, but the knowledge of the truth (of the doctrine of salvation) depends on the measure of faith in Christ; and this same writer often uses the word, ἀναλογίαν, in this sense. In the writings of Paul, however, the word ΄έτρον is used in the sense of limiting, in reference to moderation or the avoiding of excess; whereas ἀναλογία has a fuller meaning (if we compare it with what follows) in reference to the avoiding of deficiency [the full proportion]. In what theologians call the creed, all the heads agree together in an admirable analogy [completeness of proportion], and each article, respecting which a question occurs, should be decided according to the articles already certainly known, the interpretation of the rest should be adjusted according to the declaration [the dictum] of Scripture clearly explained; and this is the analogy of Scripture itself, and of the articles of faith, which form the creed. But every man does not know all things; and, of what he does know, he does not know all with equal certainty; and yet he holds the things, which he certainly knows, by that very faith, by which the creed is formed; wherefore both he himself, in prophesying, should determine all things according to the analogy of the faith, by which he believes, and others, in hearing [also ought to determine all points] according to the analogy of the faith, whereby they believe [and form their creed]. 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Hebrews 13:8-9; 1 John 2:20, and the following verses.


Verse 7

Romans 12:7. εἴτε, or) This word is thrice repeated by the figure Ploce [end.] Do, what thou art doing, in earnest, in order that the reality may correspond to [keep] its own name [that what you do, may correspond to what you profess to do], Ecclesiastes 9:10. The principle of the subsequent sentiments is the same.(131)


Verse 8

Romans 12:8. ΄εταδιδούς) διδόναι signifies to give; μεταδιδόναι to impart, [to give a share,] so that, he who gives, may not strip himself of all, that he has.— ἐν ἁπλότητι) as God gives, James 1:5, ‘liberally,’ abundantly, 2 Corinthians 8:2, [neither prevented by the desire of private advantage, nor by anxious deliberation, whether or not another may be worthy of the favour given, and whether proper moderation be observed in giving.—V. g.]— προϊστάμενος) one who has the care of [rules, Engl. V.] others, and has them under his patronage.— ἐν σπουδῇ, with diligence) The force of this word is very extensive; Romans 12:11; 2 Corinthians 7:11, note.


Verse 9

Romans 12:9. ἀγάπη, love) He treated of faith from Romans 12:3; he is now to treat of love. Verses 9, 10, 11 have respect to ch. 7; Romans 12:12 to ch. 8; Romans 12:13 to ch. 9 and the following chapters, concerning the communion of believers whether Jews or Greeks. The third clause of the sixteenth verse is repeated from ch. Romans 11:25.— ἀποστυγοῦντεςκολλώμενοι, abhorring—cleaving) both in the mind and in the outward manifestation of it, even when at the risk of incurring danger and ill-will. The ἀνυπόκριτος, the man without dissimulation, is shown in Proverbs 8:7, Let my lips HATE wickedness; wickedness is an ABOMINATION to my lips. This is rightly connected with love, 1 Corinthians 13:6. Very emphatic words. He, who is without hatred of evil, does not really love good. From this passage, the discourse moves forward in pairs of sentences. [There are men 1) who patronise evil and assail good: 2) who love good, but do not abhor evil with that indignation which it deserves: 3) who disdain evil, but cherish good more coldly than is proper: 4) who so abhor evil and cleave to good, as that in their case no one can be ignorant of it.—V. g.]


Verse 10

Romans 12:10. φιλόστοργοι, kindly affectioned) στοργὴ, the spiritual love of brethren.— προηγούμενοι, [Engl. V. preferring] anticipating, or leading the way in doing honour to one another) if not always in gesture and actions, at least always in the judgment of the mind. That will be so, if we rather consider the good qualities of others and our own faults. These are the social virtues of the saints [homileticæ. Or perhaps, “their virtues are a kind of living sermon to the world.”] The Talmudists say: whosoever knows, that his neighbour has been in the habit of saluting him, should anticipate him by saluting him first.


Verse 11

Romans 12:11. τῇ σπουδῇτῷ πνεύματι, in diligence [business, Engl. Vers.]—in spirit) The external or active, and the internal or contemplative life is thus set in due order.— τῷ κυρίῳ δουλεύοντες, serving the Lord) We ought to serve Christ and God, Romans 12:1, ch. Romans 7:6, Romans 14:18, Romans 16:18; Acts 20:19; Philippians 3:3; Psalms 2:11, where serving and rejoicing are parallel, as in this passage. [See Appendix. Crit. Ed. II. on this passage, which shows that the reading καιρῷ(132) is quite unsupported and unworthy of the apostle. Not. crit.]


Verse 12

Romans 12:12. ἐλπίδι, in hope) So far respecting faith and love, now also concerning hope, comp. ch. 5 and 8. Then concerning our duties to others, to the saints, Romans 12:13, to persecutors, Romans 12:14, to friends, strangers, enemies, Romans 12:15, etc.— χαίροντες, rejoicing) True joy is not only an emotion of the mind and a benefit [privilege], but also a Christian duty, Romans 12:15. It is the highest complaisance in God. He wishes us to rejoice and to spend our spiritual life joyously.


Verse 13

Romans 12:13. ταῖς χρείαις) τῇ θλίψει, Philippians 4:14. There was much occasion for this especially at Rome. It is particularly remarkable, that Paul, when he is expressly treating of duties arising from the communion of saints, nowhere gives any charge concerning the dead.— διώκοντες, following after) so that you not only are to receive to your house strangers, but are to seek them out.


Verse 14

Romans 12:14. διώκοντας, persecuting) for the sake of Christ.— καὶ μὴ καταρᾶσθε, curse not) not even in thought.


Verse 15

Romans 12:15. χαίρειν, rejoice) the infinitive for the imperative, a thing not unfrequent among the Greeks, and here a gentle mode of expression [moratus, indicative of ἦθος, a feeling, viz. here the avoidance of the authoritative Imperative]. I exhort is understood, taken from Romans 12:1. Laughter is properly opposed to weeping, but in this passage as in 1 Corinthians 7:30, joy is used, not laughter, which is less suitable to Christians in the world.


Verse 16

Romans 12:16. τοῖς ταπεινοῖς, to lowly things [Engl. V. “to men of low estate”]) Neuter, for the phrase high things precedes.— συναπαγόμενοι, being [suffering yourselves to be] carried along with) the verb has the force of the middle voice, by which voluntary συγκατάβασις, condescension, is denoted. The proud think, that he, who is humble, is led away, but it is a good thing to be led away in this manner; so it was with David.— μὴ γίνεσθε φρόνιμοι παρʼ ἑαυτοῖς) Proverbs 3:7, LXX, μὴ ἴσθι φρόνιμος παρὰ σεαυτῷ [comp. Romans 11:25.]


Verse 17

Romans 12:17. προνοούμενοι καλὰ ἐνώπιον πάντων ἀνθρώπων) Providing things honest in the sight of all men. Proverbs 3:4, LXX., προνοοῦ καλὰ ἐνώπιον κυρίου καὶ ἀνθρώπων.— καλὰ, becoming) A precious stone should not merely be a precious stone, but it should also be properly set in a ring, so that its splendour may meet [attract] the eye.— πάντων, of all) For many are suspicious and unjust. See the following verse.


Verse 18

Romans 12:18. ἐι, if) if possible. He makes it conditional, and this clause may be construed with the 17th verse, inasmuch as good actions, especially if cirumspection be wanting, may often appear to some not so good as they really are.— τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν, so far as it lieth in you) This is a limitation, for it is not always possible owing to others.— μετὰ πάντων ἀνθρώπων, with all men) of whom there was a very great conflux at Rome. No man is so savage, as not to have the feelings of humanity towards some individuals, but we ought to be peaceful, gentle, meek towards all, Philippians 4:5; 2 Timothy 2:24; Titus 3:2. [Once and again at some time or other in the whole course of our life, we have to transact business with some individual, and according as we behave to him, so he ever after forms his estimate of our character and general conduct.—V. g.]— εἰρηνεύοντες, being at peace) Romans 14:17; Romans 14:19.


Verse 19

Romans 12:19. ἀγαπητοὶ, beloved) By this appellation he soothes those who might feel angry; and he often uses it in the exhortations, that flow from a sense of the Divine grace which had been exercised towards the exhorter and those to be exhorted: comp. Romans 12:1.— δότε τόπον, give place) He who avenges himself, flies upon [seizes unwarrantably] all that appertains to the wrath of God.— τῇ ὀργῇ) that wrath, of which so many things are said in Scripture; that is: the wrath of God, which alone is just and alone deserves to be called wrath [Not as Engl. V. seems to imply, Yield to the wrath of your enemy]. This is an ellipsis, due to a feeling of religious reverence, 2 Chronicles 24:18.— ἐμοὶ, to me) supply, let it be [left to Me, as My Divine prerogative], Deuteronomy 32:35, ἡμέρᾳ ἐκδικήσεως ἀνταποδώσω, I will repay in the day of vengeance.— ἐκδίκησις, vengeance) Hence Paul inferred—not avenging yourselves, ἐκδικεῖν, to exact by law, to prosecute a law-suit to the utmost.— ἐγὼ ἀνταποδώσω, I will repay) i.e. leave this to me. [This consideration easily suppresses all desire of vengeance. Suppose, that your adversary is not better, and that you are not worse than you think of yourself and him: he will either obtain at length the Divine grace, or he will not. If he shall obtain it, he will also acknowledge no doubt the injury, which he did to you, even though you should not be alive; and in this case you will not desire, I hope, in consequence of any grudge of yours, to debar him from access to GOD, but rather would feel delight in assisting him in every way with your prayers. If he shall not obtain it, GOD at least in His own behoof as supreme Judge, will by no means fail to punish him severely for the fault, for which you have granted him pardon.—V. g.]— λέγει κύριος, saith the Lord) A form of expression used by the prophets, which the apostles did not use, but when they quoted the prophets; because, the prophets had one mode [ratio] of inspiration and the apostles another.


Verse 20

Romans 12:20. εὰν οὖν πεινᾷψώμιζεαὐτοῦ) LXX. Proverbs 25:21-22, εὰν πεινᾷτρέφε [ ψώμιζε in LXX. ed. by Holmes and Bos] αὐτοῦ, δὲ κύριος ανταποδωσει σοι ἀγαθά. If he hunger, feed him [his head], and the Lord will repay thy good deeds. The apostles applied the phrase, it is written more to doctrines, than to morals.— ἐχθρὸς, an enemy) This especially holds good of a bitter and violent enemy.— ψώμιζε, feed) with thy hand. So LXX., 2 Samuel 13:5. Thus will even thy iron-hearted enemy be softened.— ἄνθρακας πυρὸς, coals of fire) The end of all vengeance is that an enemy may be brought to repent, and that an enemy may deliver himself into the hands of the avenger. A man will very easily attain both objects, if he treat his enemy with kindness. Both are described in this remarkable phrase; for it is such a repentance as that, which in the greatest degree burns; 4 Esd. 16:53, and an enemy becomes willingly the property of his avenger; you will then have him entirely in your power [ready at your nod to obey].— ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ, upon his head) i.e. upon himself, upon him wholly, in that part too where he will feel it most.


Verse 21

Romans 12:21. ΄ὴ νικῶ, be not overcome) νικῶ in the middle voice. They, whom the world consider to be conquerors, are in reality conquered.— κακοῦ) by the evil, of your enemy, and of your own nature.— νίκα, overcome) He is a brave man, who can endure.— ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ τὸ κακὸν, evil with good) So also ch. Romans 13:3-4, with which there is a charming connection.

 


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Romans 12:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/romans-12.html. 1897.

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