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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Romans 12



Other Authors
Verse 1-2


CHS. 12:1-15:13


CH. 12:1, 2

I exhort you then, brethren, by the compassions of God, to present your bodies a sacrifice, living, holy, well-pleasing to God: your rational service. And be not fashioned like this age; but be transformed by the renewal of the mind, in order that ye may prove what is the will of God, the good, and well-pleasing, and mature.

Romans 12:1. Practical application of the foregoing exposition, and especially of its last words.

Then, or therefore: since God is the Source, Agent, and Object of all we have and are.

Exhort: to speak words prompting action or endurance: so Romans 12:8; Romans 15:30; Romans 16:17. Exhortation amid difficulty or sorrow assumes the forms of encouragement or comfort: same Greek word in this sense in Romans 1:12; 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 7:6-7; 2 Corinthians 7:13.

Compassions: cognate word in Romans 9:15 : the various manifestations of God’s pity for mankind, including specially the mercy of Romans 11:32.

Present: see under Romans 6:13.

Your bodies: including hands, feet, lips: parallel to “your members” in Romans 6:13. We present our bodies when we resolve henceforth to use our bodily powers only to work out the purposes of God. This is practically the same as presenting ourselves to God: for only through our bodies does the world act upon us and we upon the world. But the mode of thought is different. This verse looks upon the man within as the priest who lays upon the altar, not the body of a dead sheep, but his own living body.

Sacrifice: so Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5. Our bodies have now the sacredness associated in the mind of a Jew with the animals laid on the brazen altar.

Living: in contrast to the dead animal sacrifices. While our feet and lips can run and speak, we give them to God that they may run and speak for Him. This presentation makes our bodies holy, as it did the sacrificial animals: Exodus 29:37. Henceforth they exist only to work out His purposes: a close parallel in Romans 6:19.

Well-pleasing to God: so Romans 14:18; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Ephesians 5:10; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:16; Hebrews 13:21. Although their bodies had been defiled by sin, yet when laid upon the altar they were acceptable to God, acceptable because a man’s own body is the noblest sacrifice he has to offer.

Service: as in Romans 1:9; Romans 1:25; Romans 9:4; Hebrews 9:1; Hebrews 9:6. It keeps up the reference to Jewish ritual. To present our bodies, is the worship prescribed for us.

Rational: a service rendered by the reasoning spirit within. The temple sacrifices might be merely outward and mechanical. These words are a comment on the foregoing exhortation.

Romans 12:2. Another general exhortation in addition to that in Romans 12:1 : and be not etc. Fashioned-like, or along-with: to share the same outward appearance: same word in 1 Peter 1:14, a close parallel. Simpler cognate form in 1 Corinthians 7:31, Philippians 2:8.

This age: the whole current of life and influence around us, except so far as it is controlled by Christ: same words in 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 2:2, etc. Cp. the word ages in Romans 1:25; Romans 9:5; Romans 11:36; Romans 16:27. This current, unless we pull against it, will carry us along in its own direction, a direction always wrong: and will thus gradually fill us with its own spirit, and fashion us like itself, i.e. give to us an outward guise like its own. The following words show that Paul refers to a conformity of thought and purpose. The change required will affect the details of outward life only so far as these express the mind within. All attempts to distinguish the servants of God by external trifles have utterly failed. We must and ought to do, to a large extent, as those around us do. But God requires in us a total change of purpose; and of outward life only so far as it is a natural outworking of the inward change.

Transformed: same word in Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18 : an altered outward appearance resulting usually from inward change. On the word form, see under Romans 2:20.

Be transformed: a change progressing day by day.

Renewal: same or cognate word in Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 3:10; Hebrews 6:6. God gives up to blindness the mind of those who forget Him, so that moral objects no longer appear in their true colours. Depravity of the whole man is the result. Cp. Romans 1:24; Romans 1:28. But to those who believe God gradually gives back the power of correct moral vision. And, since a man’s character is formed by his estimate of what is good or bad, the restoration of moral vision gradually changes the whole man. Thus by the renewal of the mind, we are ourselves day by day transformed. The two present imperatives denote gradual and opposite changes.

In order that etc.: purpose to be attained by the renewal and transformation, viz. that they may day by day (infinitive present) so test the actions possible to them as to find out the will of God concerning them. This we are better able to do as we grow in spiritual life: and this ability to discriminate is one of God’s best gifts.

The will of God is good (Romans 7:12) in its effect upon us and others, and well-pleasing to God.

Mature: worthy of full-grown men in Christ: see under 1 Corinthians 2:6. This is more accurate than the rendering perfect, which is very liable to be misunderstood. Paul desires that God may give to his readers clear moral insight; because only thus can they rightly estimate conduct and find out what God wills them to do, i.e. what is really for their good, pleasing to God, and worthy of Christian manhood. Thus the moral change resulting from mental renewal reacts on the mind and increases its power of discerning right and wrong. Notice here the first mention, except Romans 8:13, of the gradual development of the Christian life.

These verses describe the effect of the Gospel on the entire man. The body is to be laid on the altar of God, the mind to be restored to primal clearness of vision, and the whole man to be transformed: in spite of influences tending to fashion him like the current of things around.

We have now entered the school of Christian morals. Its portal is a doctrine already taught in Romans 6:13. Thus the Gospel leads to morality, this last beginning with spiritual worship.

Verses 1-7


CH. 13:1-7

Let every soul submit to the superior authorities. For there is no authority except ordained by God: and those that exist have been ordained by God. So that he who sets himself against the authority withstands the ordinance of God. But they who withstand will receive for themselves judgment. For the rulers are not a fear to the good work but to the evil. But dost thou wish not to fear the authority? Do the good; and thou wilt have praise from it. For he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou dost the evil, be afraid: for not in vain he bears the sword: for he is a minister of God, a minister of justice for anger to him who does the evil. For which cause it is necessary to submit, not only because of his anger but also because of conscience. For it is because of this that ye pay tribute. For they are public ministers of God, to this very thing: continually devoting themselves. Repay to all what ye owe; tribute, to whom ye owe tribute; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honour, to whom honour.

Romans 12:1. Every soul: the submission must be inward, reaching down to the seat of life: cp. Romans 2:9; Acts 2:43; Ephesians 6:6; Matthew 22:37.

Superior authorities: another topic, the Christian’s duty to the civil power, specially important at Rome, the seat of empire. We must submit because civil rule is ordained by God, who has so constituted society that men are compelled to appoint rulers and thus create authority.

And those that exist etc.: a more definite statement. Not only is civil authority in the abstract a work of God, but the existing rulers have been put by God in their place of power. These unproved assertions will be discussed below.

Romans 12:2-4. Practical consequence of the foregoing.

Sets-himself-against: cognate to ordained and ordinance.

The authority has been set up by God: consequently he who sets himself against it withstands that which God has set up.

They who do this will receive judgment: sentence will be passed upon them, evidently a sentence of condemnation: same words in James 3:1.

For themselves: emphatic, as in Romans 2:5. A reason for this judgment is stated in Romans 13:3, viz. because the rulers are on the side of right and opposed to wrong.

A fear: an object inspiring fear, as in all languages: cp. Genesis 31:53; 1 Timothy 1:1.

To the good work: action personified as if capable of fear.

Minister: see under Romans 12:7. In his office of civil ruler, he is doing the work of God.

To thee: set up by God to do thee good: cp. Romans 8:28. Dost the evil: other side of the alternative in Romans 13:3 a. Not in vain: the sword which he bears is no mere ornament.

For he is a minister of God: emphatic repetition word for word. Because the ruler is an officer appointed by God, as asserted in Romans 13:1, they who do right may expect from him praise and they who do wrong have reason for fear.

A minister-of justice: one who will inflict due punishment: cognate to words in Romans 12:19; see note.

For anger: in contrast to for good.

Romans 12:5. Practical result of the truth just stated. It is necessary to submit not only for fear of punishment but because of conscience: i.e. in order to have an inward assurance that we are doing right: cp. 1 Corinthians 10:25; 1 Corinthians 10:29; 1 Peter 2:19.

Romans 12:6. Proof that our conscience binds us to submission. We actually pay tribute. Paul assumes, and all will admit, that we are under moral obligation to do so; and asserts that this admitted obligation involves submission.

Tribute: a tax on persons or subject states: same word in Luke 20:22; Luke 23:2; 1 Maccabees 8:4; 1 Maccabees 8:7.

Public minister: different from, and stronger than, minister in Romans 13:4, and denoting a public and sacred officer: e.g. in Exodus 28:35; Exodus 28:43, etc. for Aaron’s ministry at the altar. Same word in Romans 15:16; Romans 15:27; 2 Corinthians 9:12; Philippians 2:17; Philippians 2:25; Philippians 2:30; Hebrews 1:7; Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:21; Hebrews 10:11; Luke 1:23; Acts 13:2. Whether they know it or not, civil rulers, in proportion as they rule well, are performing and continually-devoting-themselves (same word in Romans 12:12) to a sacred ministration laid upon them by God. Paul argues that this admitted moral obligation proves that civil rulers are ordained by God.

Romans 12:7. Practical application of the foregoing.

Custom: a tax on goods: same word in Matthew 17:25; 1 Maccabees 10:31; 1 Maccabees 11:35.

Fear: the reverence due to a ruler: cp. Ephesians 6:5; 1 Peter 2:18.

Honour: outward recognition of worth of any kind: as in Romans 12:10; 1 Timothy 6:1; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 3:7. Appreciation of the dignity of office is independent of our estimate of the man who holds the office.

A very close parallel to Romans 13:1-7 is found in 1 Peter 2:13-17.

We will now examine the unproved assertions on which the above argument rests, viz. that the abstract principle of government is from God and that the existing rulers have been put by God in their place of power.

Human society is so constituted that the instinct of self-preservation compels men to set up a form of government, i.e. to commit to some men power over the rest. Everyone knows that a bad government is almost always better than no government: and this proves that God wills men to live under rule. But God has not prescribed a definite form of rule: consequently the universal principle of government assumes an infinite variety of forms. We also notice that, nearly always, opposition to the men actually in power tends to weaken and destroy the principle of government and leads towards anarchy. How frequently the murder even of a bad ruler has been followed by utter lawlessness and by infinite injury to the nation! Consequently, opposition to the individuals in power is practically in most cases opposition to the divine principle of government. Observing this, and remembering that nothing takes place without the foresight and permission of God, we may say, as Paul does, that the existing rulers, by whatever steps they mounted the throne, have been put on it by God. For God created the felt necessity for government which was their real stepping-stone to power: and He did so in full view of the persons into whose hands, throughout all ages, the power would fall. Cp. Daniel 2:37-38; 2 Samuel 12:8; Isaiah 37:26; Isaiah 45:1-5. We notice further that all bad conduct tends to weaken, and good conduct to strengthen, a government. Consequently, rulers are compelled, for the maintenance of their position, to favour the good and oppose the bad. This necessity must be from the Ruler of the world. We infer therefore that God, who has laid on men the necessity of appointing rulers, has laid on rulers the necessity of rewarding the good and punishing the bad; and has done this in order to make rulers instruments to accomplish His own purpose of kindness to the good and of punishment to the wicked. Thus rulers are, perhaps unconsciously, ministers of God.

These considerations are abundant reason for loyal obedience to civil authority. Since rulers are compelled by their position to favour the good and punish the bad, resistance to them generally proves that we are in the wrong; and will be followed by the punishment which they cannot but inflict on evil-doers. Hence the motive of fear should prompt obedience. And, since resistance to existing rulers tends to weaken and destroy that principle of government which God has set up for the good of the race, we ought to submit to them for conscience’ sake. That we feel ourselves morally bound to pay taxes imposed without our consent or in opposition to our judgment, and that all admit the right of the ruler to enforce payment, confirms further the divine origin of his authority.

The only case in which resistance to a ruler does not weaken the divine ordinance of government is that in which overthrow of one government is quickly followed by establishment of a better. The teaching of Romans 13:1-7 will make us very cautious in joining an attempt to effect such change, lest in overturning a bad ruler we overturn all rule. But where a government so far forgets its mission as to be no longer a praise to the good and a terror to the bad, and where its subjects are able to replace it by a better, Paul’s words do not forbid them to do so, even by force of arms. By so doing, they do not overthrow, but defend from desecration, the ordinance of God. Such rulers cannot appeal to Paul’s teaching: for they have put themselves outside the class he describes.

A similar exception occurs sometimes in the obligation (Colossians 3:20) of children to obey their parents. A child is sometimes bound to disobey and even resist a parent; but only when he fails to act a parent’s part. Such exceptions do not lessen the universal obligation to obedience. Nor does the occasional necessity to resist a government lessen our obligation to obey in all ordinary cases.

This section must have been written before the civil power began deliberately to oppose Christianity, as it did in the later years of Nero and at intervals afterwards. For, although the opposition of the State to Christianity did not altogether destroy the obligation to obedience, it introduced into the question difficulties which no writer on the subject could pass over in silence. This section is therefore a mark of the early date of the epistle, and thus confirms its genuineness.

This reference to the civil power may have been suggested to Paul by his readers’ nearness to the seat of imperial rule. But the immense importance of the subject sufficiently explains its mention in a letter which deals generally with the Gospel of Christ and the Christian life. It was needful to state clearly that loyalty to Christ involves loyalty to social order.

Verses 3-8


CH. 12:3-8

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone there is among you, not to think extravagantly, beyond what one must needs think, but so to think as to think soberly, as to each one God has divided a measure of faith. For, just as in one body we have many members but the members have not all the same action, so we, the many, are one body in Christ; but individually members one of another. Moreover, having gifts of grace different according to the grace given to us, whether prophecy, let it be according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, let us be found in our ministry; or he that teaches, in his teaching; or he that exhorts, in his exhortation; he that gives away, let him do it with singleness of heart; he that takes the lead, with earnestness; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Romans 12:3. A reason for seeking to know “the will of God,” viz. that we may thus obtain a correct and humble estimate of ourselves.

The grace given to me: Romans 12:6; Romans 15:15; Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:7-8 : cp. Romans 1:5; 1 Corinthians 15:10. All good in Paul is through God’s undeserved favour: consequently His grace is the channel through which he speaks to his readers.

I say… to everyone: an emphatic warning, needed by all.

Think: same word as mind in Romans 8:5-7.

Think-extravagantly: cp. Romans 12:16; Romans 11:20.

One must needs think: not surpassing the estimate which facts compel us to make. All beyond this is extravagant thought.

So as to think-soberly: our aim being to form a reasonable estimate of what we are and can do. Notice the word think, denoting mental activity, and its compounds, four times in this verse.

As to each one etc.: a standard of self-measurement.

Faith: assurance that God’s words will come true: see note under Romans 4:25. A man’s faith determines his spiritual rank. Paul reminds his readers that each one has a measure of faith. That God has divided it to each, implies that faith in its various degrees is His gift. It is so because evoked in us by His promise and by influences leading us to accept it. Yet faith is none the less man’s own free surrender to these influences. It is therefore both our own mental act and God’s gift. The measure of faith includes both the strength of our assurance and the amount of truth embraced by it. Paul thinks here, as Romans 12:4-8 prove, of faith as producing various capacities for Christian service, in part supernatural capacities. Probably God first revealed to a man His purpose to give him some special endowment, and made the endowment conditional on his belief of this special revelation. By these special revelations and influences leading men to believe them God allotted to each a degree of faith. This special belief was but a particular development of the faith by which each one accepted the general Gospel preached to all. Any self-conceit prompted by special capacity for usefulness is destroyed by remembrance that our spiritual stature is measured simply by the degree of our faith; and that this faith is God’s gift to us, a gift possessed in some degree by all Christians.

Romans 12:4-5. Further exposition of the foregoing words, as a reason against high thoughts, and especially of the emphasis word to-each-one.

In one body: an all-important metaphor, peculiar in the Bible to Paul: see note under 1 Corinthians 12:30.

Members: as in Romans 6:13, a passage already recalled by Romans 12:1.

The same action: the eye, ear, hand, work in totally different ways.

The many: as in Romans 5:15; Romans 5:19.

In Christ: in consequence of our inward union with Christ, we stand in a relation to each other similar to that of the various members of a human body. All high thoughts of self imply under-estimate of others: but we shall not under-estimate those bound to us by a tie of common interest similar to that of the various members of a living body. Same argument in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.

Members one of another: same word and similar argument in Ephesians 4:25.

Romans 12:6-8. Practical application of the foregoing metaphor.

Gifts-of-grace: same word in Romans 1:11; Romans 5:15-16; Romans 6:23; Romans 11:29. It is used here and in 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 12:4-31; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Peter 4:10 as a technical term for capacities for various kinds of Christian work analogous to the various capacities of the different parts of the human body, viewing these as given to us by the undeserved favour of God.

Grace given: as in Romans 12:3.

Different: cp. 1 Corinthians 12:4. That I have one faculty and my neighbour has another, is a gift to him and to me of the undeserved favour and infinite wisdom of God. Therefore, to boast over the less brilliant faculties of others, is to question the wisdom of Him who chose for, and gave to, each the powers he possesses.

Romans 12:6-8. Practical and detailed application of the foregoing general statement.

Prophecy: an extraordinary gift which made a man the mouthpiece of God: so Exodus 4:16; Exodus 7:1. See note under 1 Corinthians 14:40.

Proportion: literally analogy, one thing answering to another: cognate verb in Hebrews 12:3. The prophet must make his words to the people correspond to God’s word to him, so far as by faith he comprehends it. He must say no more and no less than he believes that God has said to him. If he speak thus, the strength and compass of the prophet’s faith will be the measure of his prophecy.

Ministry: honourable service by one man for another, like that of the Prime Minister and ministers of religion. Same word in Romans 11:13; Romans 15:31; Luke 10:40; Acts 1:17; Acts 1:25; Acts 6:1; Acts 6:4; 1 Corinthians 12:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15, etc. Cognate noun in Romans 13:4; Romans 15:8; Romans 16:1; Matthew 20:26; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 23:11; John 2:5; John 2:9 : cognate verb in Romans 15:25; Matthew 4:11; Matthew 8:15; Matthew 20:28; Matthew 25:44; John 12:26. The same word is also a technical term for the lower of the two kinds of regular church-officers mentioned in the New Testament: Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:13. As thus used, we transliterate it deacon. It is unfortunate that the same Greek word requires the two English renderings minister and deacon. In Romans 12:7, the mention of other kinds of work suggests that the word denotes the regular office of a deacon, i.e.

apparently one who attended to the material interests of the Church. A close parallel in 1 Peter 4:11.

He that teaches: see under 1 Corinthians 12:28.

Exhorts: same word in Romans 12:1; see note. It is distinct from teaching: so 1 Timothy 6:2; 1 Timothy 4:13. Many can rouse to action and endurance those to whom they cannot impart knowledge.

Money to give away is a gift of God’s grace, and a capacity for usefulness. Paul warns us against the great danger in all generosity, a mixed motive.

He that takes the lead: either as a regular church-officer or in some special Christian enterprise. The success of any combined effort depends so much on the energy of its leaders that a special obligation to earnestness rests upon them.

Mercy: any kind of help to those in distress: so Romans 9:15-16; Romans 9:18; Romans 11:30-32.

With cheerfulness: making the objects of our kindness feel that it is a pleasure to us to help them.

Verses 9-21


CH. 12:9-21

Love, let it be without hypocrisy; detesting the bad, joining yourselves to the good. In brotherly love, affectionate one towards another; in giving honour, one leading the other on; in earnestness, not backward; in spirit, fervent; serving the Lord: rejoicing in hope; enduring affliction; continually devoting yourselves to prayer: sharing the needs of the saints; pursuing hospitality. Bless them that persecute you: bless and curse not. Rejoice with them that rejoice: weep with them that weep. Having the same mind, one toward another; not minding the high things, but being led along with the humble things. Become not prudent in your own eyes. To no one giving back evil in return for evil; taking forethought to do things excellent before all men. If possible, so far as in you lies, with all men keeping peace; not inflicting justice for yourselves, but give place for the anger. For it is written, “To inflict justice is Mine, I will pay back again,” says the Lord. But, “If thy enemy is hungry, give him food; if he is thirsty, give him drink: for, in doing this, coals of fire thou will heap upon his head.” Be not conquered by the evil; but conquer the evil with the good.

After exhortations to men specially endowed, we have now exhortations for all.

Romans 12:9-11. Love: to fellow-men. For the whole section deals with our treatment of those around: cp. Romans 13:10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Without-hypocrisy: same word in 2 Corinthians 6:6; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:5; James 3:17. The prominence given in the Bible (e.g. Romans 13:8-10) to love toward our neighbour creates a danger of hollow profession of such love: and, than this, nothing is more hurtful.

Bad: hurtful. This word is neuter, as is probably the good. The masculine form is found in Matthew 13:19; 1 Corinthians 5:13; 1 John 2:13-14.

To detest that which is bad, is an essential element of genuine love to our neighbour.

Joining-yourselves: same word in Matthew 19:5; Luke 15:15; Acts 5:13; Acts 10:28 : to make common cause with, and put oneself on the side of, the good. Without this, detestation of the bad becomes mere censoriousness.

Brotherly-love: 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22 : to brethren in Christ.

Affectionate: as members of one family. To our fellow-Christians, we owe special affection. Let one set the other an example in showing honour where it is due.

Earnestness: as in Romans 12:8 : in reference here both to Christian enterprise and to our daily work: cp. Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Spirit: our own spirit, the animating principle in man: as in Romans 1:9; Romans 8:16; John 11:33; 1 Corinthians 14:14-16.

Fervent: boiling, a frequent metaphor for earnestness: a close parallel in Acts 18:25.

Instead of the Lord: some Greek-Latin copies read the opportunity. It is more likely that a copyist would change this last, which perhaps he did not understand, into the Lord, than the converse. But this reading is found in so large a majority of MSS., versions, and fathers, in east and west, that we may accept it with confidence. The more intense our earnestness, the more need we remember that we act at the bidding of Christ and are doing His work. Our earnestness must be under His direction.

Romans 12:12-13. Rejoicing in hope: Romans 5:2.

Enduring affliction: Romans 5:3-4. When the burden is heavy, we must pursue our path in spite of it.

Continually-devoting: same word in Acts 1:14; Colossians 4:2, close parallels; also Romans 13:6. Continuance in prayer and in expectation of an answer is a true test of our confidence in the value of prayer: Matthew 15:21-28.

Sharing etc.: see under Romans 15:26 : by helping them in their necessities, we take these in some measure on ourselves and thus become partners with those who suffer.

Pursuing: same word in Romans 9:30-31; Romans 14:19 : eager for opportunities for Christian hospitality. Cp. 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; 1 John 3:17; Matthew 10:42.

Romans 12:14-16. The construction now changes from a series of unconnected participial clauses, each beginning with a conspicuous substantive, to a direct imperative.

Bless: see under Romans 1:25.

Persecute: same word as pursue in Romans 12:13. Same word in same sense in 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Galatians 1:23. The persecutor pursues his victim.

To rejoice etc.: the infinitive mood states tersely the disposition which Paul desires. Our joy in the success and joy of others is a very accurate measure of our spiritual stature. To rejoice at their joy, is more difficult than to pity them in sorrow.

The same mind: same word as in Romans 12:3 : cp. 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 4:2. “Let there be, in the breast of each, one thought and purpose touching all the others.” The context implies that this must be according to Christ: cp. Romans 15:5. This oneness of purpose is the true and only source of real Christian harmony.

Not minding: suggested by the same word foregoing. Do not make it your aim to have to do with great matters; but be led along (or carried away) with the humble things, allowing them to have influence over you.

Prudent in your own eyes: same words in Romans 11:25 : they recall Proverbs 3:7, LXX. To take to ourselves credit for prudence. i.e. mental alertness in common affairs, is to betray ignorance: for we are wise only so long as we are guided by the wisdom of God.

Romans 12:17-21. Evil in return for evil: cp. Matthew 5:39-45.

Taking forethought etc.: from Proverbs 3:4, LXX. Be careful so to act as to have the respect of all.

If possible, so far as etc.: admitting that cases may arise in which we cannot be at peace with all men. But this must be our constant aim.

Not inflicting-justice-for yourselves: not taking the law into your own hands and inflicting what seems to you just punishment and thus defending yourselves. Same verb in 2 Corinthians 10:6; Luke 18:3; Luke 18:5; Revelation 6:10; Revelation 19:2 : cognate nouns in Romans 12:19; Luke 18:7-8; Luke 21:22; Acts 7:24; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 10:30; 1 Peter 2:14; and in Romans 13:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:6. Its root-idea is justice, and especially just punishment: a simpler form of the same word in 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Judges 1:7; Acts 28:4. The rendering avenge and vengeance (A.V. and R.V.) brings in associations of thought unworthy of a ruler.

Give place (cp. Luke 14:9; Ephesians 4:27) for the anger: leave the case to God, who is angry with and will punish, all sin, especially in His servants.

To-inflict-justice, is Mine: from Deuteronomy 32:35; quoted also in the same form as here, a form differing from both Heb. and LXX., in Hebrews 10:30. To injure others because they have injured us, is to put ourselves in the place of the great Judge.

But if etc.: instead of punishing those who injure us, we must give place for God’s anger, and treat then with kindness. This whole verse (Romans 12:20) is taken word for word (LXX.) from Proverbs 25:21.

Coals of fire: an Eastern metaphor for severe and overwhelming punishment. We cannot punish a man who is doing us harm more severely than by trying to do him good: and this kind of punishment is the most likely to lead him to repentance and salvation: cp. 1 Samuel 24:17.

Be not conquered etc.: a concluding epigrammatical precept. If we retaliate we do wrong; and thus evil gains a victory over us. But, if the injury be met with kindness it develops our moral character, and thus does us good. In this way, by doing good, we gain a victory over evil. And, if our kindness lead the adversary to repentance, goodness gains a double victory. The alternative here mentioned is the only one. If a man do us wrong, we must always either conquer, or be conquered by, the evil.

Notice that in this section, which treats of Christian morals, Paul refers three times to the Book of Proverbs: another example of his respect, in every point, for the Old Testament.

Each verse of this section will repay most careful study. Observe the easy and natural flow, and the intense reality, of the whole. There are no formal divisions, and no natural order. But each thought suggests some other suitable thought: and the whole sets before us, with wonderful completeness, the principles which ought to regulate our dealings one with another.


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Bibliography Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 12:4". Joseph Beet's Commentary. 1877-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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