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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Romans 12

 

 

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Verse 1

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.

Ver. 1. I beseech] Volumus et iubemus we wish and we order, became the pope’s style, A. D. 606.

By the mercies of God] His manifold mercies, δια των οικτιρμων. Per miserationes amplificationis causa. (Beza.) We that have received so many mercies, must not only servire Deo, sed et adulate, serve God but even worship him, saith Tertullian. Mercy calls for duty; deliverance commands obedience, and there is so milch disingenuity in the contrary, that holy Ezra thinks heaven and earth would be ashamed of it, Ezra 9:13-14. The cords of kindness are called "the cords of a man," Hosea 11:4; rational motives befitting the nature of a man. So that to sin against mercy is to sin against humanity; it is bestial, and fits a man for destruction, Romans 9:22; like as when medicine which should remove the disease, doth co-operate with it, then death comes with the more pain and speed. No excess more dangerous than that of bread: no judgment more terrible than that of mercy despised and abused. Abused mercy turns into fury. Patientia laesa fit furor.

That ye present] As they of old did their sacrifices at the altar. With the burnt offering, which signified the sacrificing of the flesh, was joined the sin offering, that is, Christ. Faith applies Christ to the believer, and the believer to Christ.

Your bodies] That is, your whole person. Cainistce sunt, saith Luther, offerentes non persoham, sed opus personae. They are Cainists that offer to God the work done, but do not offer themselves to God.

A living sacrifice] In the old law they had many kinds of sacrifices killed and offered. Now, saith Origen, instead of a ram we kill our ireful passions; instead of a goat our unclean affections; instead of flying fowls our idle thoughts, &c.


Verse 2

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.

Ver. 2. To this world] To the corrupt customs and courses of wicked worldings. See them set forth, Romans 13:13; Ephesians 4:18-20, 1 Peter 4:3, and shun them. Erasmus rendereth it, Ne accommodetis vos ad figuram, Accommodate not yourselves to the figure and fashion of the world; do not impersonate and act the part of such; as a player doth, when he playeth the drunkard or wanton on the scaffold or stage (so μη συσχηματιζεσθε signifies). St Paul writeth to his Corinthians, not to company with fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or with extortioners, or idolaters, lest they should conform to them, 1 Corinthians 5:9-10. For as the creatures living in the several elements are commonly of the temperature of the element they live in (as the fishes, cold and moist like the water; the worms, cold and dry as the earth, &c.), so are we apt to conform to the company we converse with. It is both hard and happy not to do as the rest do; but to be like fishes, that retain their sweetness in the salt sea; like salamanders, that remain unscorched in the fire; like pearls, that growing in the sea, have the colour and brightness of heaven; like oil, that will easily overtop all other liquors, and not commingle; ever holding constant a countermotion to the course of the world and corruptions of the times; that amidst all, a good conscience may be kept, that richest treasure and dearest jewel that ever the heart of man was acquainted with.

But be ye transformed] Gr. metamorphosed, the old frame being dissolved, and a new form acquired.

That ye may prove] so. By your practice.


Verse 3

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.

Ver. 3. But to think soberly] Gr. φρονειν εις το σωφρονειν, to be wise to sobriety. Socrates made no distinction between wisdom and sobriety, σοφιαν και σωφροσυνην non distinguebat. (Xenoph.) We shall be sober, if we take not that upon us that we have not, nor brag of that which we have. There is an elegancy in the original that cannot be rendered.


Verse 4

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

Ver. 4. For as we have, &e.] See 1 Corinthians 12:12, which is a commentary on this text.


Verse 5

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

Ver. 5. One body in Christ] {See Trapp on "1 Corinthians 12:12"} {See Trapp on "1 Corinthians 12:13"}

And every one members] Try thy membership, if, 1. Sociable with Christ and Christians. 2. Useful and serviceable to the body. 3. Compassionate, as Paul; "Who is afflicted," saith he, "and I burn not?" I feel twinges when others are hurt; and I hold myself a debtor (as a member) to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and unwise, be they but of the body, Romans 1:14.


Verse 6

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;

Ver. 6. According to the proportion] That form of sound words, 2 Timothy 1:13, those principles of the doctrine of Christ, Hebrews 6:1, with which all interpretations of Scripture must bear due proportion.


Verse 7

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

Ver. 7. Or ministry] Take it either largely for the whole ministry, as 1 Corinthians 12:5; Acts 1:24-26; or more strictly for the office of a deacon, as Acts 6:1-6.


Verse 8

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.

Ver. 8. Or he that exhorteth] The pastor properly so called. {See Trapp on "Ephesians 4:11"}


Verse 9

9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

Ver. 9. Abhor that which is evil] Hate it as hell itself, αποστυγουντες, so the word signifies; Mihi certe Auxentius nunquam aliud quam diabolus erit, quia Arianus, saith Hilary, I shall look upon Auxentius no otherwise than as upon a devil, so long as he is an Arian.


Verse 10

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

Ver. 10. Be kindly affectioned] As natural brethren and more. Arctior eat copula cordis quam corporis. We are brethren in Adam according to the flesh, in and by Christ according to the Spirit.


Verse 11

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

Ver. 11. Not slothful] Or, not driving off till it be too late ( ακνηρος, cunctator the delayer). Charles, the son of Charles Duke of Anjou, who was king of Sicily and Jerusalem, was called Carolus Cunctator, not in the sense as Fabius, because he stayed till opportunity came, but because he stayed till opportunity was lost.

Fervent in spirit] Gr. ζεοντες, seething hot. God, who is himself a pure act, loveth activeness in men; the very rest of heavenly bodies is in motion in their proper places.


Verse 12

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

Ver. 12. Rejoicing in hope] Hope makes absent joys present, wants, plenitudes, and beguiles calamity as good company doth the time. But without hope, patience is cold almost in the fourth degree, and that is but a little from poison. It was a dotage of the Stoics, that a wise man should be free, as from fear, so from hope too. How much better the Elpistici, another sort of philosophers, who held hope to be the only stay and staff of man’s life, without which to live were but to lie dying! This life would be little better than hell, saith Bernard, were it not for the hopes of heaven. Sed superest sperare salutem, and this holds head above water, this keeps the heart aloft all floods of afflictions, as the cork doth the line, as bladders do the body in swimming. Ibat ovans animis et spe sua damna levabat, He was going with a rejoicing spirit and hope of being released from his corruptions, saith Bembus concerning St Stephen going to his death. ( Vivere spe vidi qui moriturus erat. Ovid.) I look to live by hope who was about to die. He that seeth visions of glory, and hath sure hopes of heaven, will not matter a shower of stones; he that is to take possession of a kingdom will not stand upon a foul day. Hope unfailable is grounded upon faith unfeigned, which is seldom without its joy unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8.

Patient in tribulation] Bearing up under pressures, as among many other martyrs Nicholas Burton, who by the way to the stake, and in the flame, was so patient and cheerful, that the tormentors said, the devil had his soul before he came to the fire, and therefore his senses of feeling were past. (Acts and Mon.)

Continuing instant in prayer] Constant and instant, προσκαρτερουντες. A metaphor from hunting dogs, that give not over the game till they have got it. Nazianzen saith of his sister Gorgonia, that she was so given to prayer, that her knees seemed to grow to the very ground. Of Trasilla, it is reported, that being dead she was found to have her elbows as hard as horn, by leaning to a desk at which she used to pray. St James is said to have had knees as hard as camel’s knees, by his continual kneeling in prayer. And Paul the Eremite was found dead kneeling upon his knees, holding up his hands, lifting up his eyes; so that the very dead corpse seemed yet to live and to pray to God. (Jerome.)


Verse 13

13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

Ver. 13. To the necessity] Gr. χρειαις, to the uses of the saints, not staying till they be in necessity.


Verse 14

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

Ver. 14. Bless them] {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:44"}


Verse 15

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

Ver. 15. Weep with them that weep] St Cyprian’s compassion is remarkable, Cum singulis pectus meum copulo, maeroris et funeris pondera luctuosa participo: cum plangentibus plango, cum deflentibus defleo, &c. I partake in every man’s grief, and am as much affected and afflicted as if it were mine own case.


Verse 16

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.

Ver. 16. Be of the same] This verse had been easy had not interpreters obscured it, as Origen observeth.


Verse 17

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

Ver. 17. Recompense to no man] In reason, revenge is but justice; Aristotle commends it, the world calls it manhood; it is doghood rather. The manlier any man is, the milder and more merciful, as David, 2 Samuel 1:12, and Julius Caesar, who wept over Pompey’s head presented to him, and said, Non mihi placet vindicta, sed victoria, I seek not revenge, but victory.


Verse 18

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

Ver. 18. As much as lieth in you] Let it not stick on your part. Give not offence carelessly, take not offence causelessly. {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:9"} It is the first office of justice, saith Cicero, to hurt nobody, unless first provoked by injury. But how true and trim a sentence, saith Lactantius, hath Cicero here marred by adding the last, "unless!" Mahomet’s laws run thus: Avenge yourselves of your enemies; rather do wrong than take wrong; kill the infidels, &c. Profess love to thine enemy, saith Machiavel; and if he fall into the water up to the knees, give him thine hand to help him out; if up to the waist, help him likewise; but if up to the chin, then lay thine hand upon his head and duck him under the water, and never suffer him to rise again. But we "have not so learned Christ." Seneca could say, Immane verbum est ultio, Revenge is a bloody word; and Qui ulciscitur excusatius peccat, He is somewhat excused (but not altogether) from doing evil, that seeketh revenge.


Verse 19

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.

Ver. 19. Avenge not yourselves] Some take the sword into their own hands; and, lest they should seem Anabaptists in taking two blows for one, will give two blows for one.

Give place to wrath] sc. To the wrath and vengeance of God, which he seemeth to prevent that seeks revenge. Or, "give place to wrath." Do nothing in thine heat, but walk into the garden, as Ahasuerus did, when kindled against Haman, Ezra 7:7. Theodosius was advised by Ambrose to say over the Lord’s prayer; Augustus by Athenodoras, to repeat the Greek alphabet, before they determined anything in their anger.

Or, give place to wrath] Currenti cede furori, set not thy wit to his (for anger is a short madness), but bear with his weakness that wrongeth thee.


Verse 20

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.

Ver. 20. Thou shalt heap] Thou shalt melt him, and make him thy friend for ever.


Verse 21

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

Ver. 21. Be not overcome] In rixa is inferior est, qui victor est, saith Basil. In revenge of injuries, he is the loser that gets the better. Hence the apostle disgraceth it, by a word that signifieth disgrace or loss of victory, ηττημα, 1 Corinthians 6:7. When any one provokes us, we use to say, We will be even with him. There is a way whereby we may be, not even with him, but above him; that is, forgive him, feed him with the best morsels, feed him indulgently (so the apostle’s word ψωμιζε in the former verse signifies), feast him, as Elisha did his persecutors; providing a table for them, who had provided a grave for him. "Set bread and water before them," saith he, and mark what followed; "The bands of Syria came no more after that time," by way of ambush or inroad, "into the bounds of Israel," 2 Kings 6:22-23. In doing some good to our enemies (saith a grave divine hereupon) we do most to ourselves: God cannot but love in us that imitation of his mercy, who bids his sun to shine on the wicked and unthankful also; and his love is never fruitless. It is not like the winter sun that gives little heat, but like the sun in his strength, that warms and works effectually upon the rest of the creatures.

But overcome evil] This is the most noble victory. Thus David overcame Saul, and Henry VII, emperor of Germany, overcame the priest that poisoned him at the sacrament; for he pardoned him, and bade him be packing. (Fanc. Chron.) So did not Jacup the Persian king, who perceiving himself poisoned by his adulterous wife, enforced her to drink of the same cup; and because he would be sure she should not escape, with his own hand he struck off her head. (Turkish Hist.) But this (to say truth) was not revenge, but justice. Henry IV of France was wont to say, that he made all the days of those golden, who had most offended him; that so, the lead of their wickedness might be darkened by the gold of his goodness.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/romans-12.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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