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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Romans 12



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Verse 1

I beseech ( παρακαλῶ )

See on consolation, Luke 6:24.

By the mercies ( διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν )

By, not as an adjuration, but as presenting the motive for obedience. I use the compassion of God to move you to present, etc.


See on Romans 6:13. It is the technical term for presenting the Levitical victims and offerings. See Luke 2:22. In the Levitical sacrifices the offerer placed his offering so as to face the Most Holy Place, thus bringing it before the Lord.


Literally, but regarded as the outward organ of the will. So, expressly, Romans 6:13, Romans 6:19; 2 Corinthians 5:10. Compare Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23. Hence the exhortation to glorify God in the body (1 Corinthians 6:20; compare Philemon 1:20; 2 Corinthians 4:10). So the body is called the body of sin (Romans 6:6; compare Colossians 2:11). In later Greek usage slaves were called σώματα bodiesSee Revelation 18:13.

A living sacrifice ( θυσίαν ζῶσαν )

Living, in contrast with the slain Levitical offerings. Compare Romans 6:8, Romans 6:11. “How can the body become a sacrifice? Let the eye look on no evil, and it is a sacrifice. Let the tongue utter nothing base, and it is an offering. Let the hand work no sin, and it is a holocaust. But more, this suffices not, but besides we must actively exert ourselves for good; the hand giving alms, the mouth blessing them that curse us, the ear ever at leisure for listening to God” (Chrysostom).

Acceptable ( εὐάρεστον )

Lit., well-pleasing.

Which is your reasonable service ( τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν )

Explaining the whole previous clause. Service, see on Romans 9:4. The special word for the service rendered by the Israelites as the peculiar people of God is very significant here. Reasonable, not in the popular sense of the term, as a thing befitting or proper, but rational, as distinguished from merely external or material. Hence nearly equivalent to spiritual. So Rev., in margin. It is in harmony with the highest reason.

Verse 2

Conformed - transformed ( συσχηματίζεσθε - μεταμορφοῦσθε ).

See on was transfigured, Matthew 17:2. For conformed to, Rev., correctly, fashioned according to.

Mind ( νοός )

See on Romans 7:23. Agreeing with reasonable service.

That good and acceptable and perfect will

Better to render the three adjectives as appositional. “May prove what is the will of God, what is good,” etc. The other rendering compels us to take well-pleasing in the sense of agreeable to men.

Verse 3

Not to think, etc.

The play upon φρονεῖν tothink and its compounds is very noticeable. “Not to be high-minded (hyperphronein ) above what he ought to be minded (phronein ), but to be minded (phronein ) unto the being sober-minded (sophronein ). See on 1 Peter 4:7.

The measure of faith ( μέτρον πίστεως )

An expression which it is not easy to define accurately. It is to be noted: 1. That the point of the passage is a warning against an undue self-estimate, and a corresponding exhortation to estimate one's self with discrimination and sober judgment. 2. That Paul has a standard by which self-estimate is to be regulated. This is expressed by ὡς asaccording as. 3. That this scale or measure is different in different persons, so that the line between conceit and sober thinking is not the same for all. This is expressed by ἐμέρισεν hathimparted, distributed, and ἑκάστῳ toeach one. 4. The character of this measure or standard is determined by faith. It must be observed that the general exhortation to a proper self-estimate is shaped by, and foreshadows, the subsequent words respecting differences of gifts. It was at this point that the tendency to self-conceit and spiritual arrogance would develop itself. Hence the precise definition of faith here will be affected by its relation to the differing gifts in Romans 12:6. Its meaning, therefore, must not be strictly limited to the conception of justifying faith in Christ, though that conception includes and is really the basis of every wider conception. It is faith as the condition of the powers and offices of believers, faith regarded as spiritual insight, which, according to its degree, qualifies a man to be a prophet, a teacher, a minister, etc.; faith in its relation to character, as the only principle which develops a man's true character, and which, therefore, is the determining principle of the renewed man's tendencies, whether they lead him to meditation and research, or to practical activity. As faith is the sphere and subjective condition of the powers and functions of believers, so it furnishes a test or regulative standard of their respective endowments and functions. Thus the measure applied is distinctively a measure of faith. With faith the believer receives a power of discernment as to the actual limitations of his gifts. Faith, in introducing him into God's kingdom, introduces him to new standards of measurement, according to which he accurately determines the nature and extent of his powers, and so does not think of himself too highly. This measure is different in different individuals, but in every case faith is the determining element of the measure. Paul, then, does not mean precisely to say that a man is to think more or less soberly of himself according to the quantity of faith which he has, though that is true as a fact; but that sound and correct views as to the character and extent of spiritual gifts and functions are fixed by a measure, the determining element of which, in each particular case, is faith.

Verse 4

Office ( πρᾶξιν )

Lit., mode of acting.

Verse 5

Being many ( οἱ πολλοὶ )

Lit., the many. Rev., better, who are many.

Every one ( τὸ δὲ καθ ' εἶς )

The literal phrase can only be rendered awkwardly: and as to what is true according to one; i.e., individually, severally. Compare, for a similar phrase, Mark 14:19; John 8:9.

Verse 6


See on prophet, Luke 7:26. In the New Testament, as in the Old, the prominent idea is not prediction, but the inspired delivery of warning, exhortation, instruction, judging, and making manifest the secrets of the heart. See 1 Corinthians 14:3, 1 Corinthians 14:24, 1 Corinthians 14:25. The New-Testament prophets are distinguished from teachers, by speaking under direct divine inspiration.

Let us prophesy

Not in the Greek.

According to the proportion of faith ( κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως )

Ἁναλογία proportionoccurs only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek it is used as a mathematical term. Thus Plato: “The fairest bond is that which most completely fuses and is fused into the things which are bound; and proportion ( ἀναλογία ) is best adapted to effect such a fusion” (“Timaeus,” 31). “Out of such elements, which are in number four, the body of the world was created in harmony and proportion” (“Timaeus,” 32). Compare “Politicus,” 257. The phrase here is related to the measure of faith (Romans 12:3). It signifies, according to the proportion defined by faith. The meaning is not the technical meaning expressed by the theological phrase analogy of faith, sometimes called analogy of scripture, i.e., the correspondence of the several parts of divine revelation in one consistent whole. This would require ἡ πίστις thefaith, to be taken as the objective rule of faith, or system of doctrine (see on Acts 6:7), and is not in harmony with Romans 12:3, nor with according to the grace given. Those who prophesy are to interpret the divine revelation “according to the strength, clearness, fervor, and other qualities of the faith bestowed upon them; so that the character and mode of their speaking is conformed to the rules and limits which are implied in the proportion of their individual degree of faith” (Meyer).

Verse 7

Ministering ( διακονίᾳ )

Let us wait on is supplied. Lit., or ministry in our ministry. The word appears in the New Testament always in connection with the service of the Christian Church, except Luke 10:40, of Martha's serving; Hebrews 1:14, of the ministry of angels, and 2 Corinthians 3:7, of the ministry of Moses. Within this limit it is used, 1. Of service in general, including all forms of christian ministration tending to the good of the christian body (1 Corinthians 12:5; Ephesians 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:11). Hence, 2. Of the apostolic office and its administration; (a) generally (Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Timothy 1:12); or (b) defined as a ministry of reconciliation, of the word, of the Spirit, of righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:18; Acts 6:4; 2 Corinthians 3:8, 2 Corinthians 3:9). It is not used of the specific office of a deacon; but the kindred word διάκονος occurs in that sense (Philemon 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 3:12). As the word is employed in connection with both the higher and lower ministrations in the Church (see Acts 6:1, Acts 6:4), it is difficult to fix its precise meaning here; yet as it is distinguished here from prophecy, exhortation, and teaching, it may refer to some more practical, and, possibly, minor form of ministry. Moule says: “Almost any work other than that of inspired utterance or miracle-working may be included in it here.” So Godet: “An activity of a practical nature exerted in action, not in word.” Some limit it to the office of deacon.


Aimed at the understanding.

Verse 8


Aimed at the heart and will. See on consolation, Luke 6:24. Compare 1 Corinthians 14:3; Acts 4:36, where Rev. gives son of exhortation.

He that giveth ( ὁ μεταδιδοὺς )

Earthly possessions. The preposition μετά indicates sharing with. He that imparteth. Compare Ephesians 4:28; Luke 3:11.

Simplicity ( ἁπλότητι )

See on single, Matthew 6:22, and compare James 1:5, where it is said that God gives ἁπλῶς simplySee note there. In 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:13, the A.V. gives liberality; and in James 1:5, liberally. Rev. accepts this in the last-named passage, but gives singleness in margin. In all the others liberality is, at best, very doubtful. The sense is unusual, and the rendering simplicity or singleness is defensible in all the passages.

He that ruleth ( ὁ προΐ́στάμενος )

Lit., he that is placed in front. The reference is to any position involving superintendence. No special ecclesiastical office is meant. Compare Titus 3:8, to maintain good works; the idea of presiding over running into that of carrying on or practicing. See note there. Compare also προστάτις succorer Romans 16:2, and see note.

With diligence ( ἐν σπουδῇ )

See on Judges 1:3. In Mark 6:25; Luke 1:39, it is rendered haste. In 2 Corinthians 7:11, carefulness (Rev., earnest care ). In 2 Corinthians 7:12, care (Rev., earnest care ). In 2 Corinthians 8:8, forwardness (Rev., earnestness ). In 2 Corinthians 8:16, earnest care.

With cheerfulness ( ἐν ἱλαρότητι )

Only here in the New Testament. It reappears in the Latin hilaritas; English, hilarity, exhilarate. “The joyful eagerness, the amiable grace, the affability going the length of gayety, which make the visitor a sunbeam penetrating into the sick-chamber, and to the heart of the afflicted.”

Verse 9

Love ( ἡ ἀγάπη )

The article has the force of your. See on loveth, John 5:20.

Without dissimulation ( ἀνυπόκριτος )

Rev., without hypocrisy. See on hypocrites, Matthew 23:13.

Abhor ( ἀποστυγοῦντες )

Lit., abhorring. The only simple verb for hate in the New Testament is μισέω . Στυγέω , quite frequent in the classics, does not occur except in this compound, which is found only here. The kindred adjective στυγητός hatefulis found 1 Timothy 3:3. The original distinction between μισέω and στυγέω is that the former denotes concealed and cherished hatred, and the latter hatred expressed. The preposition ἀπό awayfrom, may either denote separation or be merely intensive. An intense sentiment is meant: loathing.

Cleave ( κολλώμενοι )

See on joined himself, Luke 15:15. Compare Acts 17:34; 1 Corinthians 6:16.

Verse 10

Be kindly affectioned ( φιλόστοργοι )

Only here in the New Testament. From στέργω tolove, which denotes peculiarly a natural affection, a sentiment innate and peculiar to men as men, as distinguished from the love of desire, called out by circumstance. Hence of the natural love of kindred, of people and king (the relation being regarded as founded in nature), of a tutelary God for a people. The word here represents Christians as bound by a family tie. It is intended to define more specifically the character of φιλαδελφία brotherlylove, which follows, so that the exhortation is “love the brethren in the faith as though they were brethren in blood” (Farrar). Rev., be tenderly affectioned; but the A.V., in the word kindly gives the real sense, since kind is originally kinned; and kindly affectioned is having the affection of kindred.

In honor preferring one another ( τῇ τιμῇ ἀλλήλους προηγούμενοι ).

The verb occurs only here. It means to go before as a guide. Honor is the honor due from each to all. Compare Philemon 2:3; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 5:5. Hence, leading the way in showing the honor that is due. Others render antcipating and excelling.

Verse 11

Slothful ( ὀκνηροί )

From ὀκνέω todelay.

In business ( τῇ σπουδῇ )

Wrong. Render, as Rev., in diligence; see on Romans 12:8. Luther, “in regard to zeal be not lazy.”

Fervent ( ζέοντες )

See on Acts 18:25.

The Lord ( τῷ Κυρίῳ )

Some texts read καιρῷ thetime or opportunity, but the best authorities give Lord.

Verse 12

Continuing instant ( προσκαρτεροῦντες )

Compare Acts 1:4; Acts 6:4. Rev., steadfastly for instant, which has lost its original sense of urgent (Latin, instare to press upon ). Thus Latimer: “I preached at the instant request of a curate.” Compare A.V., Luke 7:4; Acts 26:7.

Verse 13

Distributing ( κοινωνοῦντες )

Rev., communicating to. The meaning is sharing in the necessities; taking part in them as one's own. So Romans 15:27; 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 John 1:11; Hebrews 2:14; 1 Peter 4:13. See on partners, Luke 5:10; see on fellowship, Acts 2:42; see on 1 John 1:3; see on 2 John 1:11.

Given to hospitality ( φιλοξενίαν διώκοντες )

Lit., pursuing hospitality. For a similar use of the verb compare 1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:11. A necessary injunction when so many Christians were banished and persecuted. The verb indicates not only that hospitality is to be furnished when sought, but that Christians are to seek opportunities of exercising it.

Verse 14

Bless ( εὐλογεῖτε )

See on blessed, 1 Peter 1:3.

Them that persecute ( τοὺς διώκοντας )

See on John 5:16. It has been suggested that the verb pursuing in Romans 12:13may have suggested the persecutors here. Pursue hospitality toward the brethren as the wicked pursue them.

Curse not

Plutarch relates that when a decree was issued that Alcibiades should be solemnly cursed by all the priests and priestesses, one of the latter declared that her holy office obliged her to make prayers, but not execrations (“Alcibiades”).

Verse 16

Condescend to men of low estate ( τοῖς ταπεινοῖς συναπαγόμενοι )

Rev., to things that are lowly. Τοῖς ταπεινοῖς tothe lowly may mean either lowly men or lowly things. The verb literally means being carried off along with; hence yielding or submitting to, and so condescending. Compare Galatians 2:13, and see on 2 Peter 3:17, in which passages it has a bad sense from the context. According to the original sense, the meaning will be, being led away with lowly things or people; i.e. being drawn into sympathy with them. Farrar suggests letting the lowly lead you by the hand. Meyer, who maintains the neuter, explains: “The lowly things ought to have for the Christian a force of attraction, in virtue of which he yields himself to fellowship with them, and allows himself to be guided by them in the determination of his conduct. Thus Paul felt himself compelled to enter into humble situations.” On the other hand, Godet, maintaining the masculine, says: “The reference is to the most indigent and ignorant and least influential in the Church. It is to them the believer ought to feel most drawn. The antipathy felt by the apostle to every sort of spiritual aristocracy, to every caste-distinction within the Church, breaks out again in the last word.” Condescend is a feeble and inferential rendering, open to construction in a patronizing sense; yet it is not easy to furnish a better in a single word. The idea, then, fully expressed is, “set not your mind on lofty things, but be borne away ( ἀπό ) from these by the current of your Christian sympathy along with ( σύν ) things which are humble.”

In your own conceits ( παῤ ἑαυτοῖς )

Lit., with yourselves; in your own opinion. See Romans 11:25, and compare Acts 26:8, “incredible with you,” i.e., in your judgment.

Verse 17

Provide ( προνοούμενοι )

The A.V. uses provide in its earlier and more literal meaning of taking thought in advance. This has been mostly merged in the later meaning of furnish, so that the translation conveys the sense of providing honestly for ourselves and our families. Better, as Rev., take thought for. The citation is from Proverbs 3:4, and varies from both Hebrew and Septuagint. Hebrew: And thou shalt find favor and good understanding in the eyes of God and man. Septuagint: And thou shalt find favor and devise excellent things in the sight of the Lord and of men. Compare 2 Corinthians 8:21. Construe in the sight of all men with the verb, not with honorable. Men's estimate of what is honorable is not the standard.

Verse 18

If it be possible

Not if you can, but if others will allow. The phrase is explained by as much as lieth in you ( τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν ), lit., as to that which proceeds from you, or depends on you. “All your part is to be peace” (Alford).

Verse 19

Give place unto wrath ( δότε τόπον τῇ ὀργῇ )

Wrath has the article: the wrath, referring to the divine wrath. Give place is give room for it to work. Do not get in its way, as you will do by taking vengeance into your own hands. Hence as Rev., in margin, and American Rev., in text, give place unto the wrath of God.

Vengeance is mine ( ἐμοὶ ἐκδίκησις )

Lit., unto Me is vengeance. The Rev. brings out better the force of the original: Vengeance belongeth unto Me. The quotation is from Deuteronomy 32:35. Hebrew, To me belongs vengeance and requital. Septuagint, In the day of vengeance I will requite. The antithesis between vengeance by God and by men is not found in Deuteronomy. Compare Hebrews 10:30. Dante, listening to Peter Damiano, who describes the abuses of the Church, hears a great cry. Beatrice says:

“The cry has startled thee so much,

In which, if thou hadst understood its prayers,

Already would be known to thee the vengeance

Which thou shalt look upon before thou diest.

The sword above here smiteth not in haste,

Nor tardily, howe'er it seem to him

Who, fearing or desiring, waits for it.”

Paradiso,” xxii, 12-18.

Compare Plato: Socrates, “And what of doing evil in return for evil, which is the morality of the many - is that just or not? Crito, Not just. Socrates, For doing evil to another is the same as injuring him? Crito, Very true. Socrates, Then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to any one, whatever evil we may have suffered from him … . This opinion has never been held, and never will be held by any considerable number of persons” (“Crito,” 49). Epictetus, being asked how a man could injure his enemy, replied, “By living the best life himself.” The idea of personal vindictiveness must be eliminated from the word here. It is rather full meting out of justice to all parties.

Verse 20

Feed ( ψώμιζε )

See on sop, John 13:26. The citation from Proverbs 25:21, Proverbs 25:22, closely follows both Hebrew and Septuagint.

Shalt heap ( σωρεύσεις )

Only here and 2 Timothy 3:6.

Coals of fire

Many explain: The memory of the wrong awakened in your enemy by your kindness, shall sting him with penitence. This, however, might be open to the objection that the enemy's pain might gratify the instinct of revenge. Perhaps it is better to take it, that kindness is as effectual as coals of fire. Among the Arabs and Hebrews the figure of “coals of fire” is common as a symbol of divine punishment (Psalm 18:13). “The Arabians call things which cause very acute mental pain, burning coals of the heart and fire in the liver ” (Thayer, “Lexicon”). Thomas De Quincey, referring to an author who calls this “a fiendish idea,” says: “I acknowledge that to myself, in one part of my boyhood, it did seem a refinement of malice. My subtilizing habits, however, even in those days, soon suggested to me that this aggravation of guilt in the object of our forgiveness was not held out as the motive to the forgiveness, but as the result of it; secondly, that perhaps no aggravation of his guilt was the point contemplated, but the salutary stinging into life of his remorse hitherto sleeping” (“Essays on the Poets”).


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Romans 12:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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