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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
Romans 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

ROMANS CHAPTER 12

Romans 12:1-3 Paul exhorteth to holiness and conformity to God’s

will; and to think soberly of the gifts allotted every

man respectively.

Romans 12:4,5 We are all members of one body in Christ,

Romans 12:6-8 and should diligently exercise our several gifts for

the common benefit.

Romans 12:9-18 Sundry practical duties recommended,

Romans 12:19-21 Revenge is specially forbidden, and to do good for

evil enjoined.

Hitherto the apostle hath discoursed of matters of faith; in this and the following chapters he sets down precepts of holy life.

By the mercies of God: he useth the word in the plural number, to amplify and set forth the manifold mercies of God, in election, justification, adoption, &c.: q.d. Seeing you Gentiles have received so many and so great mercies from God; seeing he hath preferred you to his ancient people the Jews, and hath chosen and called you, when he hath rejected them; as you value these mercies, let the consideration of them engage you to all manner of holiness and new obedience.

That ye present; that you give, dedicate, and offer up, as spiritual priests.

Your bodies; yourselves, or, your whole man; a part is put for the whole; the body is named, because it is the soul’s instrument in the service of God.

A living sacrifice; the sacrifices of old were presented alive to God, and their blood was shed at the feet of the altar: a beast that died of itself, or was torn by wild beasts, was not so much as to be eaten, Exodus 22:31 Leviticus 22:8. Conformable hereunto, God will have us offer up ourselves

a living sacrifice; i.e. we must be quickened and alive to God, and not dead in sins and trespasses.

Holy; as the sacrifices under the law were to be without blemish or defect, Exodus 12:5 Leviticus 1:10 Deuteronomy 15:21.

Acceptable unto God; or, well pleasing uuto God. So were the appointed sacrifices under the law, Leviticus 1:9; so was the sacrifice of Christ the Lamb of God, Ephesians 5:2; and so are all spiritual sacrifices under the gospel, Philippians 4:18 Hebrews 13:16.

Which is your reasonable service; or, which is agreeable to reason; nothing is more reasonable, than that you should devote yourselves to God in this manner. Some think this is added, to show a difference between the sacrifice here required, and that of the Jews, which was of unreasonable beasts. Others, by reasonable service, understand spiritual service, and expound this place by 1 Peter 2:5, where you read of spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Others think, that by reasonable you must understand such service as is according to the word of God; and this suits best with the Greek phrase in the text, logikhn latreian. The same word is used, 1 Peter 2:2, and there it is rendered the milk of the word, and not reasonable milk. And so the service or worship here spoken of is opposed to that will worship, of which you read in Colossians 2:23.


Verse 2

Be not conformed to this world; do not fashion or accommodate yourselves to the corrupt principles, customs, or courses of worldly and wicked men; and what they are, you will find in Romans 13:13 Ephesians 4:18,19 1 Peter 4:3. You have somewhat the like counsel, Exodus 23:2 1 Peter 1:14.

Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind: q.d. Be you regenerated, and changed in your whole man; beginning at the mind, by which the Spirit of God worketh upon the inferior faculties of the soul: see Ephesians 4:23.

That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God: by prove, understand discerning: by the will of God, his revealed will in his word; and so it best accords with the reasonable service, spoken of Romans 12:1, and with the scope of the text itself; which is, to exhort unto holiness and obedience, which is according to the rule of the word. He annexeth three adjuncts to the will or word of God: it is good; revealed only for our benefit. It is acceptable; i.e. by obedience thereunto we shall be accepted. It is perfect, and the observance thereof will make us so too, 2 Timothy 3:17. There are different readings of these words, but all to the same sense. Some thus, that you may prove the will of God, which to do, is good, acceptable, and perfect. Others thus, that you may prove what the will of God is, and what is good, acceptable, and perfect.


Verse 3

Before he exhorted to a holy life in general, now he comes to more particular exhortations.

I say; i.e. I enjoin and command; see Galatians 5:16. I do not only beseech you, as Romans 12:1, but I also require you, as one that hath authority.

Through the grace given unto me:. {see Romans 1:5} See Poole on "Romans 1:5".

To every man that is among you; more particularly, to him that hath any particular gift or office in the church.

Not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; i.e. not to be drunk with a proud and overweening conceit of himself, his own wisdom, ability, &c.

But to think soberly, or modestly; let him contain himself within bounds, and not take upon him what doth not belong to him; let him not contemn others, and pretend to more than he hath. There is an elegant paronomasia in the Greek, which our language cannot reach.

According as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith: faith here is put for the knowledge of God and Christ, and all other spiritual gifts and graces bestowed upon the faithful; these are called faith, because they are given with faith, and exercised by faith: of these, God deals to every man his measure or portion; not all gifts to one, nor the same gift to every one in the same measure or proportion: see Romans 12:6 Ephesians 4:7.


Verse 4

Ver. 4,5. These verses are a reason against arrogancy. All Christians are

members of one and the same body; therefore, they should not pride themselves in their gifts, but employ them for the common good. It is with the church, the mystical body of Christ, as with a natural body that hath many members, and all these

have not the same office, or the same action or operation (as the word signifieth); the eye hath one office, the ear another, the hand a third, &c. So the church of Christ, though one body in him who is the Head, hath many members; many in regard of their persons, and many in regard of their offices, which are various and diverse; and which is more, the members are every one members one of another; i.e. they are joint and fellow members; as they have a common relation to the same Head, so a mutual relation to one another. Therefore Christians, especially church officers. should not contemn one another, or intrude upon the office of each other; but all should use their gifts to the good and edification of others.


Verse 5

Ver. 5. See Poole on "Ro 12:4"


Verse 6

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us; or, seeing we have different gifts and offices, according as the grace of God hath bestowed them upon us, let us use them aright. This is added to prevent pride and envy: none should be proud of that he hath himself or envy what another hath, seeing all is of grace.

Whether prophecy, let us prophesy; the words, let us prophesy, are not in the text; but they are put in by our translators, to fill up the sense. There is an ellipsis in the words, and something must be inserted. Some make the supply from the last words in the foregoing verse: Let us be one another’s members in prophesying, teaching, exhorting, &c. Others think it ought to be supplied out of Romans 12:3: q.d. Whether we have prophecy, let us be wise unto sobriety in prophesying; and so in all the rest that follow: in all the several gifts and offices, he showeth how they should behave themselves. The Greek scholiast will have supplied in them all, let us persevere. By prophesying, in this place, you may understand an extraordinary gift that some had in understanding Divine mysteries and Old Testament prophecies, with a wonderful dexterity in applying the same; to which was joined sometimes the revelation of secret and future things: see Acts 11:27 21:9.

According to the proportion of faith; i.e. they that have this gift of prophesying, must exercise it according to the measure of knowledge, in heavenly mysteries, that God hath given them; or else, in their prophesying they must have regard to the articles of Christian faith, and see that they regulate themselves according thereunto. Some think he calls the Holy Scripture in general, an analogy or proportion of faith; by these, the false prophets of old were discerned, if they delivered anything contrary thereunto, Deuteronomy 13:1, &c. Others think he speaks of certain principles, or heads of Christian religion, see Hebrews 6:1 from which the prophets and others were not to swerve; yea, some think he aims at the symbol and creed, called the Apostles’, which, from the beginning, was called the analogy of faith.


Verse 7

Ministry; under this word are comprehended all ordinary ecclesiastical functions, which afterwards divideth into two sorts; the first relating to the word; the second, to other pious works.

Let us wait on our ministering: the words, let us wait, are not in the text, but fitly supplied: q.d. Let all that be called to the office of the ministry be diligent in it, and attend to it: see Acts 20:28 1 Peter 5:2.

Teaching, in the latter end of this verse, and exhortation, in the beginning of the next, are mentioned as the two great works of those that minister and labour in the word and doctrine. Some think they are distinct offices; see Ephesians 4:11; and that in the primitive church, where they had variety of ministers, some had the office of teachers, and chiefly exercised themselves in instructing their hearers in the principles of religion, in laying down sound doctrine and confuting of errors: others had the office of pastors, and attended chiefly to exhortation and admonition; pressing points of practice, and making application thereof. Others think that they are distinct gifts, but not diverse offices; some have a gift to teach that have none to exhort, and e contra. The apostle, Romans 12:6, calls them differing gifts: sometimes these two are found in the same persons, and they are excellently gifted both for teaching and exhorting.


Verse 8

Exhortation: see the notes on the foregoing verse.

He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; i.e. he that hath the office of collecting and distributing the church alms, (which was the deacons’ work or charge, Acts 6:1, &c.), let him discharge it with simplicity, or with singleness of heart; ( so the word is rendered, Ephesians 6:5); let him do it faithfully and impartially, and without favour or affection.

He that ruleth; or he that is a president, and set over others. There is great difference amongst expositors, who is meant by this ruler. It is not meant of state rulers, (of them he treats in the next chapter), but of church rulers. Some understand, all church officers in general. Others think, such are meant as were not properly pastors and teachers, put together with them had the oversight of the church, to rule the same; to regulate misdemeanors, to pacify differences, to administer discipline in admonition and censures: these they call seniors or elders, or the censors of manners; and are the same the apostle calls governments, or governors, 1 Corinthians 12:28; see 1 Timothy 5:17.

He that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness: some understand this generally of all Christians, that they should be charitable, and that with cheerfulness. But the apostle is yet speaking of the special offices of the church. It cannot be meant of deacons, forasmuch as he had spoken of them before in this very verse. Such therefore may be intended, as had the care assigned them of the sick and impotent, of prisoners and strangers, &c.; see 1 Timothy 5:10; the same, it may be, that he calleth helps in 1 Corinthians 12:28. This charge he directeth them to discharge with cheerfulness; without being weary of that troublesome work, or being sour and froward to those they had to do with.


Verse 9

The former exhortations respect church officers in particular; those that follow concern all Christians in general. He begins with love, because that is a radical grace; other graces, and gracious actions, do spring from it, and must be accompanied with it. By love here, you may understand the love of God, or of our neighbour: the latter seems chiefly to be intended. The great requisite in love is this, that it be without dissimulation, or (as the word is) without hypocrisy; i.e. that it be sincere and unfeigned, 2 Corinthians 6:6 1 Peter 1:22. It must not be in word and in tongue only, but in deed and in truth, 1 John 3:18.

Abhor that which is evil; do not only avoid it, but hate it, and that as hell itself. The simple verb imports extreme detestation, and it is aggravated by the composition: see Psalms 119:104 Amos 5:15.

Cleave to that which is good; be glued to it; so the word signifieth. Things that are glued together are hardly disjoined. The same word is used of the union and conjunction between man and wife: see Matthew 19:5 Ephesians 5:31.


Verse 10

Be kindly affectioned one to another; Christians ought to have such affection one to another, as parents have to their children, and as all creatures have to their young: so much the word here used imports.

In honour preferring one another: this clause is expounded by Philippians 2:3. It is exemplified in Abraham, Genesis 13:9. Most desire preference and honour before others, which is contrary to the good counsel in this text. Some read it, prevent one another; do not tarry till others honour you, but do you go before them in this expression of brotherly love, and be examples to them.


Verse 11

Not slothful in business; this clause may be expounded by Ecclesiastes 9:10: q.d. In all the duties of thy particular and general calling, in every thing that respects the glory of God, thine own or neighbours’ good, take heed of slothfulness: see Matthew 25:26,27 Heb 6:12.

Fervent in spirit; this is added to the former, as the cure of it. Zeal and fervency will drive away sloth. This spiritual warmth is often recommended to us in Scripture; see Galatians 4:18 Revelation 3:19. See examples of it in Psalms 69:9 John 2:17 4:34 Acts 18:25.

Serving the Lord; i.e. diligently performing all things that are required to his service and honour: see Psalms 2:11 Ephesians 6:7. Some copies read it, serving the times, in such a sense as it is in Ephesians 5:16, and Colossians 4:5.


Verse 12

Rejoicing in hope; i.e. in hope of deliverance here in due time, and of eternal salvation hereafter: See Poole on "Romans 5:2".

Continuing instant in prayer; be instant and constant in the duty. A metaphor from hounds, that give not over the game till they have got it: see Luke 18:1 Ephesians 6:18 Colossians 4:2 1 Thessalonians 5:17.


Verse 13

Necessity; the word signifies uses. The saints must be succoured in things useful, as well as necessary. This apostle, in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, spends two whole chapters about this sort of charity, in relieving the poor saints; viz. 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15: see also Galatians 6:10 Hebrews 13:16.

Given to hospitality; or, as the word may be rendered, pursue hospitality; hunt after it, as Abraham and Lot did, Genesis 18:1,2 Ge 19:1,2. Concerning this duty of accommodating strangers, (which is here meant by hospitality), see Deuteronomy 10:18,19 Isa 58:7 1 Timothy 3:2 Titus 1:8 Hebrews 13:2 1 Peter 4:9.


Verse 14

Bless them which persecute you; i.e. pray for them, and wish well to them. This is borrowed from Matthew 5:44 Luke 6:28: see the like in 1 Peter 3:9. This is commended to us by the example of Christ himself, Isaiah 53:12 Luke 23:34 1 Peter 2:23; of Stephen, Acts 7:60; of Paul, and the primitive Christians, 1 Corinthians 4:12.

Bless, and curse not: his doubling the exhortation shows the difficulty of the duty; it is contrary to corrupt nature: and it denotes the constancy of it; we must persevere therein. When he saith, curse not, he means, wish no evil to your enemies.

Objection. The prophets and apostles went contrary to this: see 2 Kings 2:24 Psalms 69:22,23 Ac 8:20 13:10,11 23:3.

Answer. These did it by a special vocation and instinct of the Spirit.


Verse 15

i.e. Be touched with your neighbour’s good or evil, as if it were your own. The reason of this sympathy, or fellow feeling, is rendered by the apostle, 1 Corinthians 12:26,27; Because we are members one of another, therefore, if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; and if one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Examples hereof we have in Luke 1:58 2 Corinthians 11:29: see Hebrews 13:3.


Verse 16

Be of the same mind one toward another: this exhortation respects not so much unity in judgment, as in affection: q.d. Bear the same good respect to others, as others bear to thee; let there be a mutual agreement in your desires and good wishes one for another: see Romans 15:5 Philippians 2:2 1 Peter 3:8.

Mind not high things; i.e. things above your capacities and callings. Take heed of ambitious aspirings: remember what David said (one every way above you) in Psalms 131:1.

Condescend to men of low estate: the word low only is in the Greek; the other words are put in by our translators: and it may be referred, either to things, and so it answers to high things, in the foregoing clause; or it may be referred to persons, according to our translation; and then the sense is, that we should not despise our poor brethren, but stoop to the lowest offices of Christian kindness.

Be not wise in your own conceits; this seems to be taken from Proverbs 3:7: see Romans 12:3.


Verse 17

Recompense to no man evil for evil; our Saviour teacheth the same doctrine in other words, Matthew 5:39,40: see parallel places in Proverbs 20:22 1 Thessalonians 5:15 1 Peter 3:9. See more against retaliating injuries and private revenge in the three last verses of this chapter. Revenge is so sweet to flesh and blood, that men are very hardly dissuaded from it.

Provide things honest in the sight of all men: q.d. Look carefully, as to your conscience before God, so to your honour and reputation with men. Let all your words and actions be justifiable, and unexceptionable, that evil men may have no occasion to reproach you as evil-doers. See a parallel place, 2 Corinthians 8:21. See also Philippians 4:8 1 Peter 3:16.


Verse 18

The duty to which he exhorts in this verse, is a peaceable and quiet behaviour towards all men, as well infidels as Christians; those who are bad, as well as those who are good. The like exhortations we have, Hebrews 12:14. And to the discharge of this duty he annexeth a double limitation; first:

If it be possible; secondly: As much as lieth in you: q.d. It may so fall out, that some men are of such froward and unpeaceable tempers, that it is impossible to live peaceably with them, or by them: or such conditions of peace may be offered as are not lawful for you to accept; it will not stand with the truth and glory of God, and with a good conscience, to agree with them. But, however, do your part, let there be no default in you why you should not live in peace with all men whatsoever.


Verse 19

Dearly beloved; he useth this friendly compellation, the better to persuade to the following duty, which is so hard to flesh and blood.

Avenge not yourselves: you had an exhortation to this purpose, Romans 12:17; but considering the proneness of corrupt nature to private and personal revenge, he renews his exhortation, and enlargeth upon it. This seems to be borrowed from Leviticus 19:18.

But rather give place unto wrath; i.e. say some, your own wrath: q.d. Be not angry, or suffer not your anger to hurry you to revenge; give way a little, and walk aside, as Ahasuerus did, when his wrath kindled against Haman. Others refer it to the wrath of those who wrong us; decline their wrath, as David did Saul’s; put up wrongs and injuries. But it is better referred to the wrath of God, which they seem to prevent who seek revenge: q.d. Suffer God to vindicate and right you, to avenge you of your adversaries; commit your cause to him, and do not take his work out of his hand. This sense agrees well with what follows.

For it is written; viz. in Deuteronomy 32:35. This is cited also, Psalms 94:1 Nahum 1:2 Hebrews 10:30.


Verse 20

If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: q.d. Instead of rendering evil for evil to thine adversary, do him good for evil: see following verse.

Thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head; i.e. either make him relent, or bring down the greater vengeance from God upon him. This is taken out of Proverbs 25:21,22; See Poole on "Proverbs 25:21". See Poole on "Proverbs 25:22".


Verse 21

This verse is a Divine aphorism: therein the apostle anticipates an objection. Some might be ready to say, If we should follow this advice we should be counted cowards and dastards, &c. To this he answers, that it is the ready way to be triumphers and conquerors. By evil, here, he means, the wrongs and injuries of men; and to be overcome of evil, is to be moved and provoked thereby to impatience or malice. When it is thus with a man, he is overcome, or conquered: in revenge of injuries, he is a loser that gets the better. Therefore he exhorts us, rather to

overcome evil with good; that is a noble victory indeed: this is the way, not to be even with him that wrongs us, but to be above him. Thus David overcame Saul, and Elisha the bands of Syria. This is the way to overcome ourselves, and our adversaries too: ourselves, in denying our lusts that egg us on to revenge; our adversaries, in winning them to relent and acknowledge their miscarriages.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Romans 12:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/romans-12.html. 1685.

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