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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Romans 12:21

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Be not overcome of evil - Do not, by giving place to evil, become precisely the same character which thou condemnest in another. Overcome evil with good - however frequently he may grieve and injure thee, always repay him with kindness; thy good-will, in the end, may overcome his evil.

  1. Thomas Aquinas has properly said: Vincitur a malo qui vult peccare in alium, quia ille peccavit in ipsum. "He is overcome of evil who sins against another, because he sins against him." A moral enemy is more easily overcome by kindness than by hostility. Against the latter he arms himself; and all the evil passions of his heart concentrate themselves in opposition to him who is striving to retaliate, by violence, the injurious acts which he has received from him. But where the injured man is labouring to do him good for his evil - to repay his curses with blessings and prayers, his evil passions have no longer any motive, any incentive; his mind relaxes; the turbulence of his passions is calmed; reason and conscience are permitted to speak; he is disarmed, or, in other words, he finds that he has no use for his weapons; he beholds in the injured man a magnanimous friend whose mind is superior to all the insults and injuries which he has received, and who is determined never to permit the heavenly principle that influences his soul to bow itself before the miserable, mean, and wretched spirit of revenge. This amiable man views in his enemy a spirit which he beholds with horror, and he cannot consent to receive into his own bosom a disposition which he sees to be so destructive to another; and he knows that as soon as he begins to avenge himself, he places himself on a par with the unprincipled man whose conduct he has so much reason to blame, and whose spirit he has so much cause to abominate. He who avenges himself receives into his own heart all the evil and disgraceful passions by which his enemy is rendered both wretched and contemptible. There is the voice of eternal reason in "Avenge not yourselves: - overcome evil with good;" as well as the high authority and command of the living God.
  • The reader will, no doubt, have observed with pleasure the skill and address, as well as the Divine wisdom, with which the apostle has handled the important subjects which he has brought forth to view in the preceding chapters. Nothing can be more regular or judicious than his plan of proceeding. He first shows the miserable, wretched, fallen, degraded state of man; next, the merciful provision which God has made for his salvation, and lastly, the use which man should make of the mercies of his God. He shows us, in a most pointed manner, the connection that subsists between the doctrines of the Gospel and practical piety. From the beginning of the first to the end of the eleventh chapter he states and defends the grand truths of Christianity, and from the beginning of the twelfth to the end of the epistle he shows the practical use of these doctrines. This is a point which is rarely considered by professors; multitudes run to the Epistle to the Romans for texts to prop up their peculiar system of doctrine, but how few go to this sacred book for rules relative to holy life! They abound in quotations from the doctrinal parts, but seldom make that use of them which the apostle makes in this chapter. "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, and be not conformed to this world, etc." Now we learn from the use which the apostle makes of his doctrines, that whatsoever teaching comes from God leads to a holy and useful life. And if we hold any doctrine that does not excite us to labor after the strictest conformity to the will of God in all our tempers, spirit, and actions, we may rest assured that either that doctrine is not of God, or we make an improper use of it. He that knows God best, loves and resembles him most.

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    Bibliography
    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/romans-12.html. 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    Be not overcome of evil - Be not “vanquished” or “subdued” by injury received from others. Do not suffer your temper to be excited; your Christian principles to be abandoned; your mild, amiable, kind, and benevolent temper to be ruffled by any opposition or injury which you may experience. Maintain your Christian principles amidst all opposition, and thus show the power of the gospel. They are overcome by evil who suffer their temper to be excited, who become enraged and revengeful and who engage in contention with those who injure them; Proverbs 16:22.

    But overcome evil with good - That is, subdue or vanquish evil by doing good to others. Show them the loveliness of a better spirit; the power of kindness and benevolence; the value of an amiable, Christian deportment. So doing, you may disarm them of their rage, and be the means of bringing them to better minds.

    This is the noble and grand sentiment of the Christian religion. Nothing like this is to be found in the pagan classics; and nothing like it ever existed among pagan nations. Christianity alone has brought forth this lovely and mighty principle; and one design of it is to advance the welfare of man by promoting peace, harmony, and love. The idea of “overcoming evil with good” never occurred to people until the gospel was preached. It never has been acted on except under the influences of the gospel. On this principle God shows kindness; on this principle the Saviour came, and bled, and died; and on this principle all Christians should act in treating their enemies, and in bringing a world to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. If Christians will show benevolence, if they will send forth proofs of love to the ends of the earth, the evils of the world will be overcome. Nor can the nations be converted until Christians act on this great and most important principle of their religion, “on the largest scale possible,” to “overcome evil with good.”


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    Bibliography
    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/romans-12.html. 1870.

    Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans

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

    Be not overcome of evil. — Christians are here exhorted not to suffer themselves to indulge a spirit of wrath or resentment from the provocations of their enemies. In the world they will experience evil on the part of others, but they ought never to allow themselves to be drawn into the commission of evil and to be overcome by it. To yield to anger is to be conquered by an enemy. Men in general suppose that to resent an injury is only to show a proper spirit. But in the estimation of God it is the opposite, and manifests defeat. He acts as the Christian, who yields not to anger, but remains without wrath under insult and ill treatment. When the Lord commanded the disciples to forgive their offending brethren, perceiving the difficulty of acting in this manner, they immediately prayed, ‘Lord, increase our faith.’ No prayer could be more suitable, and nothing more necessary for the performance of this duty. Overcome evil with good. — This implies that the injurious person may, by repeated acts of kindness, be won over from his enmity. This, indeed, frequently happens, and there is hardly a case in which it will not have some effect. But whatever may be the success, we ought always to make the trial. If our efforts shall be lost on our enemy, they will not be lost with respect to ourselves. Our Christian character will be more perfected, our happiness will be increased, our ways will be pleasing to the Lord, and our reward will be sure. Persons who cannot be overcome with good must be in the most awful state of hardened wickedness, and their punishment will be dreadful.

    In the above remarkable portion of Scripture, we learn the true tendency of the doctrine of salvation wholly by grace, established in a manner so powerful in the preceding part of this Epistle, by which men are created in Christ Jesus unto good works. How beautiful is it, and how sublime when displayed in all its practical effects in the duties which flow from it, as here described! We may search all the works of the most admired writers, and, so far as they have not borrowed from the fountain of inspired truth, we shall find in them nothing comparable to the elevated maxims contained in this chapter. Especially we shall not discover the faintest shadow of resemblance to the motives by which these duties are here inculcated. If the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth forth His handiworks, — if the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that the heathen are without excuse, — how much more clearly do the Scriptures proclaim their Divine origin, and the majesty of their Author! God hath magnified His word above all His name, <19D802> Psalm 138:2.


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    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hal/romans-12.html. 1835.

    Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

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

    Here appears the real reason for extending kindness to enemies. If the child of God should retaliate in kind for all acts of enmity against himself, he would shortly find himself engaging in all kinds of shameful and wicked conduct. To prevent such an unwholesome development, the servant of the Lord must launch a counter-attack, returning good for evil, and deploying good actions against the evil actions of the enemy.

    Here in Romans 12:21 is the grand strategy of God with regard to human evil. The natural man finds himself living and operating in a world where one rotten apple can make a barrel of good apples rotten; but the spiritual man, having the mind of the Spirit, proceeds upon the premise that one good apple might make a barrel of rotten apples sound! The divine nature of this priceless precept has elicited the most extravagant praise, as well it should. Macknight wrote:

    Blackwell, after praising the language in which this precept is delivered, adds, "This is a noble strain of Christian courage, prudence, and goodness, that nothing in Epictetus, Plutarch, or Antonine can vie with. The moralists and heroes of paganism could not write and act to the height of this."[20]

    Greathouse has this:

    Dodd considers the last sentence of this chapter "an admirable summary of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, about what is called non-resistance"; and it expresses, he thinks, "the most creative element in Christian ethics."[21]

    Thus, in view of the foregoing consideration, the spiritual instinct of the humble Christian, as represented by such congregations as the one mentioned at the head of this chapter, is demonstrated to be correct by focusing upon this magnificent chapter of practical Christian living.

    [20] James Macknight, Apostolic Epistles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1960), p. 121.

    [21] William M. Greathouse, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1968), p. 248.


    Copyright Statement
    James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

    Bibliography
    Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/romans-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    Be not overcome of evil,.... Neither of the evil one, Satan, who is very busy to stir up the corruption of nature to an hatred of enemies, and to seek revenge; but give no place nor heed unto him, resist him, and he will flee from you, James 4:7; "put on the whole armour of God", Ephesians 6:11, whereby you may defend yourselves, that he cannot touch you: nor of the evil of sin that dwells in you; "for whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage", 2 Peter 2:19; nor of the evil of the man that has done you an injury, as you will be, if you return evil for evil, or take any steps and measures to avenge yourselves; for then not you, but he that has done you the wrong, will be the conqueror:

    but overcome evil with good; overcome the evil man, and the evil he has done you, by doing good to him, by feeding him when hungry, by giving him drink when thirsty, by clothing him when naked, and by doing other offices of kindness and humanity to him; which is most likely to win upon him, and of an enemy to make him your friend: and if not, however it will show that you are conquerors, yea, "more than conquerors", Romans 8:37, through the grace and strength of him that has loved you, over Satan, over the corruptions of your own hearts, and over the malice and wickedness of your enemies.


    Copyright Statement
    The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
    A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

    Bibliography
    Gill, John. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-12.html. 1999.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

    Be not overcome of evil — for then you are the conquered party.

    but overcome evil with good — and then the victory is yours; you have subdued your enemy in the noblest sense.

    Note,

    (1) The redeeming mercy of God in Christ is, in the souls of believers, the living spring of all holy obedience (Romans 12:1).

    (2) As redemption under the Gospel is not by irrational victims, as under the law, but “by the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19), and, consequently, is not ritual but real, so the sacrifices which believers are now called to offer are all “living sacrifices”; and these - summed up in self-consecration to the service of God - are “holy and acceptable to God,” making up together “our rational service” (Romans 12:1).

    (3) In this light, what are we to think of the so-called “unbloody sacrifice of the mass, continually offered to God as a propitiation for the sins both of the living and the dead,” which the adherents of Rome‘s corrupt faith have been taught for ages to believe is the highest and holiest act of Christian worship - in direct opposition to the sublimely simple teaching which the Christians of Rome first received (Romans 12:1) -

    (4) Christians should not feel themselves at liberty to be conformed to the world, if only they avoid what is manifestly sinful; but rather, yielding themselves to the transforming power of the truth as it is in Jesus, they should strive to exhibit before the world an entire renovation of heart and life (Romans 12:2).

    (5) What God would have men to be, in all its beauty and grandeur, is for the first time really apprehended, when “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tables of stone, but on the fleshy tables of the heart,” 2 Corinthians 3:3 (Romans 12:2).

    (6) Self-sufficiency and lust of power are peculiarly unlovely in the vessels of mercy, whose respective graces and gifts are all a divine trust for the benefit of the common body and of mankind at large (Romans 12:3, Romans 12:4).

    (7) As forgetfulness of this has been the source of innumerable and unspeakable evils in the Church of Christ, so the faithful exercise by every Christian of his own peculiar office and gifts, and the loving recognition of those of his brethren, as all of equal importance in their own place, would put a new face upon the visible Church, to the vast benefit and comfort of Christians themselves and to the admiration of the world around them (Romans 12:6-8).

    (8) What would the world be, if it were filled with Christians having but one object in life, high above every other - to “serve the Lord” - and throwing into this service “alacrity” in the discharge of all duties, and abiding “warmth of spirit” (Romans 12:11)!

    (9) Oh, how far is even the living Church from exhibiting the whole character and spirit, so beautifully portrayed in the latter verses of this chapter (Romans 12:12-21)! What need of a fresh baptism of the Spirit in order to this! And how “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners,” will the Church become, when at length instinct with this Spirit! The Lord hasten it in its time!


    Copyright Statement
    These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
    This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

    Bibliography
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/romans-12.html. 1871-8.

    Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

    Be not overcome of evil (μη νικω υπο του κακουmē nikō hupo tou kakou). Present passive imperative of νικαωnikaō to conquer. “Stop being conquered by the evil (thing or man),”

    But overcome evil with good (αλλα νικα εν τωι αγατωι το κακονalla nika en tōi agathōi to kakon). “But keep on conquering the evil in the good.” Drown the evil in the good. Seneca: Vincit malos pertinax bonitas.


    Copyright Statement
    The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

    Bibliography
    Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/romans-12.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

    Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

    And if you see no present fruit, yet persevere.

    Be not overcome with evil — As all are who avenge themselves. But overcome evil with good. Conquer your enemies by kindness and patience.


    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

    Bibliography
    Wesley, John. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/romans-12.html. 1765.

    Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

    21.Be not overcome by evil, etc. This sentence is laid down as a confirmation; for in this case our contest is altogether with perverseness, if we try to retaliate it, we confess that we are overcome by it; if, on the contrary, we return good for evil, by that very deed we show the invincible firmness of our mind. This is truly a most glorious kind of victory, the fruit of which is not only apprehended by the mind, but really perceived, while the Lord is giving success to their patience, than which they can wish nothing better. On the other hand, he who attempts to overcome evil with evil, may perhaps surpass his enemy in doing injury, but it is to his own ruin; for by acting thus he carries on war for the devil.


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    Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-12.html. 1840-57.

    Vv. 21. To render evil for evil, is to let evil have the victory; to confine oneself to not rendering evil is, if it may be so said, neither to be conqueror nor conquered, though in reality this also is to be conquered. The true victory over evil consists in transforming a hostile relation into one of love by the magnanimity of the benefits bestowed. Thereby it is that good has the last word, that evil itself serves it as an instrument: such is the masterpiece of love.


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    Bibliography
    Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsc/romans-12.html.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    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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    Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/romans-12.html. 1865-1868.

    Sermon Bible Commentary

    Romans 12:21

    Retaliation.

    I. We must read this verse first in direct contrast with the prohibition, "Be not overcome of evil." The immediate subject of both is that of injuries and their treatment. As to be overcome of evil is to let evil master us, so that it shall subdue and lead captive, instead of merely oppressing and overwhelming us; so to overcome that evil with good is to bring into conflict with injury, not anger, not sullenness, not revenge, but the very opposites and contraries of all these—patience, and meekness, and forbearance, and charity—and this so earnestly, so skilfully, so persistently, that they shall vanquish the evil, shall make it ashamed of itself, and repentant and reconciled, insomuch that the saying shall be verified, Whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Darkness shone upon is darkness no more; evil kindled by a coal from the altar becomes the good which it sought to overbear.

    II. Evil, St. Paul says, is never vanquished by evil. Satan casts not out Satan, nor does the wrath of man ever work out God's righteousness. Evil must be conquered by good. View the saying in two aspects. (1) In reference to truth and error. Not in a spirit of strife and debate, not in a spirit of disdain or defiance, not in a spirit of superiority or self-confidence—in none of these tones ought any earnest believer to address himself to the separatist from his faith. That were indeed to assail evil with evil. There is one way and but one to the mind of the unbeliever, and that way is through the heart. Not by negatives, but by positives; not by meeting this evil in hand-to-hand warfare, but by bringing into the field a wholly new and unexpected ally, by appealing to his sense of want, and then by showing how Christ has in Him the very food and remedy and rest wanted. It is thus, if at all, that the unbelief will find itself believing. (2) Sin and holiness. No might is really equal to the might of evil save the one mightier than the mightiest, which is the love of Christ constraining. Bring this good into the war with thine evil, and thou shalt overcome yet.

    C. J. Vaughan, Sundays in the Temple, p. 212.


    I. The most important and deepest part of the truths that are wrapped up in this great maxim of St. Paul is that the very genius of Christianity itself is a positive, not a negative. It is a life, not a code; a spirit, not a set of rules; a new impulse, not a mass of prohibitions. It is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. It is, above all, the spirit of life and of freedom, not of death and bondage. Now religion very often presents itself to the young in a very opposite light. Its commands appear to be exclusively "Thou shalt not." And this aspect of Christianity is of course a necessary one; but it is very far from complete. It is preparatory; it is the law, not the gospel; it is the schoolmaster that brings men to Christ, not Christ Himself. "I am come," says Jesus Christ, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." It was not to destroy and stunt and cripple energies, not to discourage action, not to repeat the old commands, Touch not, taste not, handle not, but to inspire new energy and new life, to give a new direction to the burning desire for action that flames in young souls; in a word, to give life. Fill your soul with new life, give it vent in action, and thou shalt not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. It is not only by avoiding sin, it is by actively doing what is good, that we make progress in holiness. Sin is not fought, it is expelled.

    II. Surely there is a lesson here for all who have eyes to see Who are they who are ever ready with unhelpful grumbling, with pessimism and self-righteousness? Is it not those who have as yet no notion of the positive method of the Christian life, who have no other idea of dealing with the ever-existing evil of the world, except to proclaim that it is the duty of some one else to repress it, and to hug themselves in blind Pharisaism? How far this is from the spirit of Christ! His was the spirit of inspiration to positive action. His life was not one of self-denial so much as of activity; not of repression, but of expression. It was not His sinlessness, it was His holiness that was the example to the world; and holiness is not merely absence of sin, but the presence of an abounding, overflowing goodness; and here lies its power and its contagiousness.

    J. M. Wilson, Sermons in Clifton College Chapel, p. 311.


    Sometimes it has been said that Christianity is deficient in what are called the masculine virtues. The world would give it credit for meekness, for gentleness, for purity; but the world finds fault with it because it lacks that energetic force which is seen in a strong antagonism and in a power of combat with the difficulties of life. They are inclined to say, "Such courage is of a passive order. You can suffer, but you cannot contend." Our answer would be that in this twelfth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans you have a catalogue of Christian virtues, and amongst them is given one virtue which, I imagine, does not find a place even in the catalogue of the virtues of the world. It is the virtue of hatred. We are to abhor what is evil. Christianity will link her lot with goodness, and as in happy wedlock she will live in her sweet home where goodness dwells; but when she goes forth to the world she can put on the armour of entire abhorrence and determined antagonism; she can abhor that which is evil, or, precisely because she loves the Lord, she has learned to hate evil. And hence it follows that the spirit of undying antagonism to evil is indeed a Christian spirit, and is surely one of the masculine order.

    I. The consent of all our experience may lead us to believe that we can overcome evil with good. Are you trying to overcome your children's faults in the spirit of fault-finding? You know it is not the way to success. The spirit of approbation, the spirit of appreciation, the spirit of imitation—these are the secrets of power. The spirit of Christianity carries us to things that are noble. It raises us to the stature of the fulness of Christ: that is to say, we shall be able to give expression to our nature, and that expression will reflect the image of God. To deal with it otherwise is simply suicidal; it is looking at the work and the energies of God's creation as though it were less than He meant it to be.

    II. It is irrational to suppose that we can overcome evil in any other way. The laws that govern the world are the laws of righteousness—the laws of good; and you and I, if we believe in them, must believe that it is never worth while to do evil that good may come; it is never worth while to sacrifice a great moral principle, even to achieve a great good.

    Bishop Boyd Carpenter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 17.


    I. Evil in its root is simply unregulated desire. Desire is that quality in us men which corresponds to gravitation in the physical bodies, which, while all is well with us, keeps us moving around our true centre, the Being of beings—God. Sin is the free concentration of desire upon some other centre than God—that is, upon some created being; and just as if, in the heavenly spheres, a planet could get detached from its true orbit, from loyal revolutions round its proper sun, and could thus come within the range of other and counteracting attractions, the effect would be vast and irretrievable disaster, so is it in the moral world. Sin is this disorder in the governing desires of the soul, followed by a corresponding disorder in its outward action; and in this disordered desire there lies something beyond, namely, a contradiction of the moral nature or essence of the one necessary being of God. Moral truth is in its principles as distinct from their application, just as eternal and just as necessary as mathematical truth. It is like mathematical truth, eternal, and therefore it is a law of the life of the one eternal Being Himself, since, otherwise, it would be a co-eternal principle independent of Him. And sin is thus the contradiction of God arising from disorder in those governing desires of the soul which were intended by Him to keep us men in our true relationship and dependence upon Him.

    II. "Be not overcome of evil." It is not then a resistless invader, it is not invincible; for it is not the work of an eternal being or principle. Strong as it is, it is strictly a product of created wills. As Christians, we know evil to be both hateful, and not invincible. It is our duty to abhor it; yet it is also our duty, and within our power, to overcome it. Simple decision, perfectly courteous but unswervingly determined will, will carry the day. Evil may talk loudly, it may bluster; but at heart it is always a coward, and it skulks away at the show of a strong resistance. It may be hard work at first; but in the end purity and straightforwardness and charity and reverence will win the battle; opposition will die gradually away into silence, silence into respect, respect into sympathy, and even into imitation. "Thou art of more honour and might than the hills of the robbers."

    H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 504.

    References: Romans 12:21.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. viii., p. 161; H. P. Liddon, Christmastide Sermons, p. 397; Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v., p. 50.




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    Bibliography
    Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/romans-12.html.

    Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

    Learn hence, That every Christian should not only take heed that he be not overcome of evil; but also labour and endeavour what in him lieth to overcome evil with good.

    Question What are we to understand here by evil?

    Answer Any unkind or injurious dealings from others, any mischief or ill turn which our neighbour has done us.

    Question What is it to be overcome of evil?

    Answer 1. When we dwell in our thoughts too much, too often, and too long, upon the injuries and unkindnesses we have met with. This is, as if a man that was to take down a bitter pill should be continually chomping of it, and rolling it under his tongue.

    2. We are overcome of evil, when we are brought over to commit the same evil, by studying to make spiteful returns by way of revenge for the injuries we have received.

    Question Wherein consists the duty and excellency of overcoming evil with good?

    Answer It renders us like to God, who does good to us daily, though we do evil against him continually, hereby we imitate God in one of the choicest perfections of his divine nature; hereby we overcome ourselves; hereby we overcome our enemies; and make them become our friends.

    Question How should we overcome evil with good?

    Answer By doing good for evil, by returning courtesies for injuries, speaking well of others, although they speak hardly, yea, very ill of us.


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    Bibliography
    Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/romans-12.html. 1700-1703.

    Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

    21.] If you suffered yourselves to be provoked to revenge, you would be yielding to the enemy,—overcome by that which is evil: do not thus,—but in this, and in all things, overcome the evil (in others) by your good.


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    Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/romans-12.html. 1863-1878.

    Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

    REFLECTIONS

    Precious Lord Jesus! in the unceasing view of thee, and thy living sacrifice, through the mercies of Covenant-love, oh! may I be enabled to come daily, hourly, to the throne of grace, and present myself in thy holiness, for acceptance before God, as the reasonably service of thy redeemed. And do thou Lord, grant me grace, to be daily, hourly, weaning from a world, from which I am momently departing, that I may no longer be conformed to it, but transformed, by the renewing of my mind, in the unceasing renewings of the Holy Ghost. Yes! thou dear Lord! through thee I shall prove my membership in Christ, and with his Church, in the exercise of all those sweet graces thy servant Apostle hath enumerated. And do thou, my honored Lord, so help me on by thy gracious, unceasing manifestations, through the whole of my walk and conversation while here below, that I may daily feel my need of thee, and daily act every grace upon thee, and by thee. Surely, Lord! grace is kept alive by grace received from my Lord. And, if my Lord will give my poor soul out of his rich fulness, grace for grace, then will his grace be manifested in all my life and conversation. Living upon Christ, walking with Christ, and receiving from Christ, then will all the fruits and effects of his grace be holiness, and Christ my portion forever.


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    Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/romans-12.html. 1828.

    Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

    DISCOURSE: 1910

    OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD

    Romans 12:21. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

    THE writings of the Old Testament exhibit a system of morals incomparably superior to any that was ever promulgated by the wisest philosophers. In extent it equals the New Testament. It is quite a mistake to say that our Lord inculcated sublimer morals than ever had been revealed before: he only removed the false glosses by which the commands of God had been obscured, and enforced the observance of those commands by motives of a higher nature. Still however it must be confessed, that the New Testament brings the sublimer precepts more clearly into view, and expatiates upon them in a more authoritative and convincing manner. This appears in the injunction before us, which is as concise, as comprehensive, as forcible, as words could express it.

    In discoursing upon this precept we shall endeavour to mark,

    I. Its import—

    The “evil” here spoken of does not relate to sin, but to suffering; and comprehends all those injuries, whether real or imaginary, which we are called to endure. In reference to this, two questions arise:

    1. When may we be said to be overcome by it?

    [We are not overcome by evil merely because we are crushed by it; for St. Paul, when “pressed out of measure by his troubles in Asia,” “thanks God for enabling him always to triumph in Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 2:14.]:” and declares that while “we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter, we may be more than conquerors [Note: Romans 8:36-37.].” But we are then vanquished by it, when we are diverted by it from the path of duty.

    Suppose on account of the trial being exceeding heavy, we are tempted to doubt whether it can, or will, be overruled for our good: then we are vanquished; because we question the truth of God, who has said, that “all things should work together for his people’s good:” our faith has failed, and we are overcome.

    Suppose the injury done to us has irritated and inflamed our minds, so that we give way to anger and impatience: then also we are overcome; because we ought to “possess out souls in patience [Note: Luke 21:19.],” and to “let patience have its perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing [Note: James 1:4.].”

    Suppose, though no particular vehemence shew itself at the time, we yet are induced to harbour secret resentment in our minds against our enemy: then we are overcome; because we should love our enemies [Note: Luke 6:35.], and be more concerned for the evil which they do to their own souls, than for any thing which they do, or can do, to us.

    Suppose, either through the fear of evil, or through actual distress, we are induced to relax our zeal in the Lord’s service, or to make any sinful concessions, then also we are vanquished: for we submit to sin rather than to suffering; we have failed in our integrity; we are overcome. We should value a good conscience more than life itself [Note: John 12:25.]; and when we make shipwreck of it, we shew that our enemy has gained the victory over us.

    If we hold fast our faith, our patience, our love, our integrity, then are we conquerors, even though we die in the conflict: but if in any of these respects we fail, then are we overcome, even though we crush our adversary, and defeat his more immediate projects.]

    2. How are we to overcome it—

    [We gain a victory over it in part, when we do not suffer it to injure our souls. But we must not be contented with such a negative triumph; we should endeavour to overcome the hostility of our enemy; and this can be effected only by returns of good. “If he curse, we must bless; if he despitefully use us and persecute us, we must pity him and pray for him [Note: Matthew 5:44.].” “If he hunger, we must feed him; if he thirst, we must give him drink;” with all the tenderness and compassion that we would to a querulous and untoward infant [Note: ψώμιζεmeans, ‘Feed him as an infant.’ Romans 12:20.]. We shall in this way “heap coals of fire upon his head,” to melt him into love [Note: Romans 12:20.]. It is true, many are so obdurate, that no returns of good can ever dissolve their hearts: yet the effect of such persevering kindness, is inconceivably great, and will sometimes extort confessions of our innocence, even from the most infuriated enemies. We can scarcely find in the annals of the world a more cruel or inverate enemy than Saul; yet David’s repeated exercises of forbearance and kindness towards him constrained him to confess his own wickedness, and the distinguished excellence of the person whom he persecuted [Note: 1 Samuel 24:10-11; 1 Samuel 24:16-18; 1 Samuel 26:21.]. Such a victory as that is greater than the most successful warrior could ever boast: and we should aim at similar conquests: we should strive, not to crush our enemy by force, but to overcome his enmity by love.]

    We cannot dismiss such an important precept as this without endeavouring more distinctly to set before you,

    II. Its excellence—

    The moment that the precept is presented to the mind we cannot fail of admiring its simplicity, and, at the same time, its depth. But that our views of it may be more distinct, we observe,

    1. It counteracts all our evil propensities—

    [When we are injured or insulted, what a tumult of passion is apt to arise in our breast; and how ready are we to render evil for evil! If we forbear avenging ourselves at the time either by word or deed, we still feel a disposition to retaliate, and are ready to wreak our vengeance upon our adversary by private complaints of his conduct, though from prudence or timidity we do not maintain a contest with him to his face. Long and bitter are the resentments of many, even while they appear to be reconciled, and perhaps delude themselves with the confidence that they have forgiven their enemy. But this precept lays the axe to the root of all secret animosity as well as open hostility. It goes not to the act merely, but to the principle; it requires that all the enmity that is in our hearts should be slain; and that love alone should reign there. Were this once effected, there is not an evil in the soul which would not have received its death wound: for “love is the fulfilling of the law.”]

    2. It assimilates us to Jesus Christ—

    [To what an extent has our blessed Lord carried this principle! When we were his enemies, yea, when the whole universe were up in arms against him, he did not execute upon us the vengeance we deserved, but came down from heaven to convert and save us. And by what means did he propose to save us? Was it by a mere act of power? No: it was by bearing our sins, and dying in our stead. What astonishing love was this! But further, when he had come into the world, and his people with one voice had put him to death, still, so far from bearing resentment against them in his heart, he, after he had risen from the dead, commanded that his Gospel should he preached first of all in that city where he had been crucified, and that the offers of salvation should be first made to the very people who had imbrued their hands in his blood [Note: Luke 24:47.]. And how glorious were the triumphs of his love! By the very first sermon that was preached in his name, three thousand of his enemies were convinced of their wickedness, and brought to repentance. Similar to this was the mercy he vouchsafed to the persecuting, blaspheming Saul: he appeared to him in the midst of his mad career, and, by this transcendent act of love, changed a bitter and cruel enemy into a holy and active Apostle. Thus he overcame evil with good; and in proportion as we imitate his conduct we shall be transformed into his likeness.]

    3. It would make a very heaven upon earth—

    [What a very hell is this world, where the passions are let loose, and men are left to perpetrate all that is in their hearts! Even under the restraint of wholesome laws there are so many quarrels generated, and so many resentments harboured, that there is scarcely a society or a family in which real harmony prevails. But if this precept were universally obeyed, how different a world would this appear? From the combating of evil with love, there would soon be no evil to contend with: for certainly they who rendered nothing but good unto their enemies, would never render evil to their friends; or if any unintentional evil were done, the very remembrance of it would be quickly lost in returns of love. O blessed state! When shall the happy time arrive, when “the wolf and the lamb shall thus dwell together, and the child shall have no ill to fear when playing on the hole of the asp, or of the cockatrice den?” Surely this may well be called, “The reign of Christ upon earth;” for it will be the brightest image of heaven, or rather heaven itself come down on earth.]

    As a further improvement of this precept, we shall.

    1. Guard it—

    [We are not to imagine that this precept requires us to renounce our civil rights; for St. Paul, on proper occasions, asserted his rights as a Roman citizen [Note: Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25; Acts 25:10-11.]: nor does an obedience to it preclude the exercise of legitimate authority; for the magistrate would have been invested with power to no purpose, if he were not allowed to exercise it in the support of virtue and the punishment of vice [Note: Romans 13:4.]. Parents, masters, ministers, must exercise the authority committed to them. It is the vindictive disposition that is forbidden, and the unwearied exercise of love that is inculcated — — —]

    2. Enforce it—

    [Many arguments will arise in our corrupt minds against the discharge of this sublime and self-denying duty. ‘The persons who have used us ill, do not deserve kind treatment; and the exercise of continued kindness to them will only encourage them to proceed in their injurious conduct; whereas a proper display of spirit on our part will tend to intimidate and restrain them.’ This may appear to be just reasoning; but it is directly contrary to God’s command. We are not to consider what others deserve to suffer, but what we are required to do. As to the use that others will make of our kindness, that is no concern of ours; we have only to obey God, and leave all events to him. To yield, to turn the left cheek to him that smites us on the right, and to return good for evil, may sound to us as “hard sayings;” but they are the path of duty, of honour, and of happiness — — —]

    3. Give directions for the performance of it—

    [Get a deep sense of your own vileness.—When you are thoroughly sensible how many talents you owe to your Heavenly Master, you will not very readily take your fellow-servant by the throat for the few pence that he may owe to you.

    Contemplate frequently the mercy which Christ has vouchsafed, and is daily vouchsafing, to you.—How will this put you to shame, when you feel the risings of anger or revenge against even your bitterest enemy! Surely you will fall upon your knees before God, and pray for grace to “forgive others even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you:” and that not thrice, or “seven times, but seventy times seven.”

    Be much in prayer to God for the assistance of his Holy Spirit.—Without his aid you can do nothing: but there is nothing so great, which you shall not be able to do through Christ strengthening you [Note: Philippians 4:13.].]


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    Bibliography
    Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/romans-12.html. 1832.

    Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

    Romans 12:21. Comprehensive summary of Romans 12:19-20.—“Be not overcome (carried away to revenge and retaliation) by evil (which is committed against thee), but overcome by the good (which thou showest to thine enemy) the evil” bringing about the result that the enemy, put to shame by thy noble spirit, ceases to act malignantly against thee and becomes thy friend. “Vincit malos pertinax bonitas,” Seneca, de benef. vii. 31. Comp. de ira, ii. 32; Valer. Max. iv. 2, 4. On the other hand, Soph. El. 308 f.: ἐν τοῖς κακοῖς | πολλήʼ στʼ ἀνάγκη κἀπιτηδεύειν κακά. We may add the appropriate remark of Erasmus on the style of expression throughout the chapter: “Comparibus membris et incisis, similiter cadentibus ac desinentibus sic totus sermo modulatus est, ut nulla cantio possit esse jucundior.”


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    Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/romans-12.html. 1832.

    Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

    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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    Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/romans-12.html. 1897.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    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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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Romans 12:21". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/romans-12.html. 1685.

    Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

    Be not overcome of evil; let not evil conquer you, but do you with kindness conquer it. Kindness towards enemies is a most likely means of making them friends; and if it does not have this effect, but they continue obstinately and wickedly to be enemies to their benefactors, they will ripen for aggravated ruin.


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    Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Family Bible New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/romans-12.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

    Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

    21. μὴ νικῶ κ.τ.λ. sums up 17–20. Comm. qu. Sen. de benef., VII. 31, vincit malos pertinax bonitas. Wetst. gives a long catena of |[256].


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    "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/romans-12.html. 1896.

    William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

    21. “Be not overcome of evil, but conquer evil with good.” Your enemy has nothing but an old wooden sword that would break if he were to hit you with it; while you have a Jerusalem blade of shining steel, sharp as lightning and potent as dynamite. So you have nothing to do but use your own weapon, God’s blessed word, truth, grace, love and philanthropy, and you knock your enemy into smithereens, and transform him into a friend ready to die for you. I have seen this wonderfully verified a thousand times.


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    Godbey, William. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/romans-12.html.

    Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

    ‘Do not become overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’

    If a Christian responds to evil by doing evil, he has been ‘overcome by evil’. It has brought him down to the level of the other person. He has been defeated. But if he responds by doing good then he overcomes evil. And not only does he then triumph over evil, he might also triumph over his enemy by bringing him to repentance. There are few who, having a kindness shown to them, do not respond by being ashamed.


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    Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/romans-12.html. 2013.

    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    21. Overcome evil with good—And so you will not only become a true Christian avenger, but a true Christian conqueror. It is wonderful how often love is wiser than wisdom or cunning; disarming its foes and winning its way by animating every body with the spirit to give it its way. We doubt not that Paul, with all the severity which his love sometimes wore, especially in the present epistle, often triumphed by the blessed sorcery of love.

    Paul has now in this chapter organized the unity of his Roman Church, with faith in Christ for its basis, and love for its central and vital principle. How shall it deal with the powers of the world? The next chapter will show.


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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-12.html. 1874-1909.

    Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

    Paul again concluded with a summary. Being overcome by evil means giving in to the temptation to pay back evil for evil. When people do wrong, they expect to receive evil from those they have wronged. When they receive kindness instead, their hard hearts often become softer. The best way to get rid of an enemy is to turn him or her into a friend. [Note: Bruce, p218.]

    There is a progression in Romans 12:9-21. Paul moved from the Christian"s duty to his fellow believers to action that would affect non-Christians as well. However all that Paul wrote in Romans 12:3-21 is directly applicable to life within the body of Christ. The believer may encounter enemies there as well as in the world.

    The general nature of the commands in this pericope illustrates the essentially gracious character of the new covenant Law of Christ ( Galatians 6:2) under which Christians now live. Compare this with the legal nature of the commands in the Mosaic Law (cf. Romans 10:4). God gave the Israelites many explicit commands about how they were to behave in a multitude of specific situations. The commands in Romans 12:9-21, as well as in all the New Testament, are much more general and are similar to principles. This is one reason the New Testament writers said the Israelites lived under "law" and we live under "grace."


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    Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/romans-12.html. 2012.

    Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

    Romans 12:21. Be not overcome by evil, i.e., injury done you, but overcome evil with good. This sums up the entire matter respecting the treatment of adversaries: When we requite evil for evil, we are overcome, when we return good for evil, we overcome it. So Christ did on the cross. When we do this, we achieve the greatest victory of love: we win by yielding; we gain by giving; we avenge by forgiving; we conquer by forgetting ourselves so as to return good for evil. ‘Men whose minds can withstand argument, and whose hearts rebel against threats, are not proof against the persuasive influence of unfeigned love; there is, therefore, no more important collateral reason for being good, than that it increases our power to do good.’ (Hodge.)


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    Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/romans-12.html. 1879-90.

    The Expositor's Greek Testament

    Romans 12:21. μὴ νικῶ: the absence of any connecting particle gives the last verse the character of a summary: in a word, be not overcome by evil. ὑπὸ τοῦ κακοῦ = by the evil your enemy inflicts. The Christian would be overcome by evil if it were able to compel him to avenge himself by repaying it in kind. Wrong is not defeated but doubly victorious when it is repelled with its own weapons; we can only overcome it ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ through the good we do to our adversary, turning him so from an enemy into a friend. Vincit malos, says Seneca, pertinax bonitas: Wetst. accumulates similar examples from classical writers. The ἐν in ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ is probably = בְּ: it might be explained as instrumental, or rendered “at the cost of”.


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    Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-12.html. 1897-1910.

    Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

    Romans 12:21. Be not overcome of evil — As all are who avenge themselves; but — Even if you see no present fruit, yet persevere; and overcome evil with good — Conquer your enemies with kindness and patience, which is the most glorious victory, and a victory which may certainly be obtained, if you have the courage to adhere to that which, being good, is always in its own nature, on the whole, invincible, to whatever present disadvantage it may seem obnoxious. Blackwall, after having praised the language in which this precept is delivered, adds, “This is a noble strain of Christian courage, prudence, and goodness, that nothing in Epictetus, Plutarch, or Antonine, can vie with. The moralists and heroes of paganism could not write and act to the height of this.”


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    Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/romans-12.html. 1857.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    is the apostle's conclusion of the foregoing instructions. Be not overcome by the malice of thy enemy, so as to wish to revenge thyself, without leaving all to the just judgment of God; but overcome his malice by thy kindness. This is complied with, when upon occasion of injuries received we always return a kindness, and in proportion as the malice of our enemies increases, our spirit of benevolence should also increase. (Estius)


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    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/romans-12.html. 1859.

    Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

    Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

    These are the only two choices we have. Either be conquered by evil, or conquer evil with good. In the context, "returning evil for evil and becoming vindictive and bitter", IS BEING OVERCOME BY EVIL!

    Points to Note:

    Clearly, the end doesn"t justify the means. Even in a context involving persecution, Christians are not at liberty to use "evil resources", in fighting against evil. We are not at liberty in our struggle against evil to speak falsehood about or slander people, or to bomb abortion clinics, or execute sinners. No, the church wasn"t intended to be the "hit squad" for God. Evil has gotten the best of us, when we react to sin, in a sinful way.

    "When we meet evil with good, we have at least overcome the evil in ourselves, if not in our enemy." (McGarvey p. 505)

    In looking back on the last 21 verses. This is the life that comes from a renewed mind. Well, how are you doing? What changes do you need to start making today?


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    Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/romans-12.html. 1999-2014.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

    Be not overcome of evil - for then you are the conquered party,

    But overcome evil with good - and then the victory is yours; you have subdued your enemy in the noblest sense.

    Remarks:

    (1) Let it never be forgotten that the redeeming mercy of God in Christ is, in the souls of believers, the living spring of all holy obedience (Romans 12:1).

    (2) As redemption under the Gospel is not by the sacrifice of irrational victims, as under the law-when redemption was only in promise, and could only be held forth in type-but "by the precious blood of Christ," by which now "once in the end of the world" sin hath been put completely and forever away (1 Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 9:26), so all the sacrifices which believers are now called to offer are "living sacrifices;" and summed up, as they all are, in self-consecration to the service of God, they are "holy," they are "acceptable unto God," and they together make up 'our rational service.' In this light, what are we to think of the so-called 'unbloody sacrifice of the mass, continually offered to God as a propitiation for the sins both of the living and the dead,' which the adherents of Rome's corrupt faith have for ages been taught to believe is the highest and holiest act of Christian worship? The least that can be said of it is, that it is in flat contradiction to the teaching of this Epistle to the first Christians of Rome.

    (3) There is no snare against which Christians have more need to be on their guard than that of supposing that they are at liberty to be conformed to the world to any extent short of what is positively sinful. If nothing else will convince them of this, the gradual sapping and mining of their own spirituality, which inevitably results from such a course, to all who have ever tasted that the Lord is gracious, cannot fail to inspire them with the suspicion that all is not right; and if any tenderness is left to them, they must sooner or later come to see that, in their vain attempt to serve two masters, they are reaping the fruit of neither service-laying up for themselves a store of varied disappointment, and strewing the pathway of return to their first Husband with thorns and briers. As it is by "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" that we first come to apprehend, in all its reality, breadth, and grandeur, "what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God," so it is only by "living in the Spirit" and "walking in the Spirit" - and so ever afresh "transformed by the renewing of our mind" - that we are able to discern clearly what is the proper carriage before the world which Christians should maintain, and thus steer safely between the extremes of ascetic seclusion from it and sinful conformity to it.

    (4) Self-sufficiency and lust of power are peculiarly unlovely in the vessels of mercy, whose respective graces and gifts are all a divine trust for behoof of the common body, and of mankind at large. As forgetfulness of this has been the source of innumerable and unspeakable evils in the Church of Christ, so the faithful exercise by every Christian of his own special office and gifts, and the loving recognition of those of his brethren as all of equal importance in their own place, would put a new face upon the visible Church, to the vast benefit and comfort of Christians themselves, and to the admiration of the world around them.

    (5) What would the world be if it were filled with Christians having but one object in life, high above every other-to "serve the Lord" - and throwing into this service 'alacrity' in the discharge of all duties, and abiding 'warmth of spirit!' (Romans 12:11.)

    (6) Oh how far is even the living Church from exhibiting the whole character and spirit so beautifully portrayed in the latter verses of this chapter! (Romans 12:12-21.) What need of a fresh baptism of the Spirit in order to this! And how "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners," will the Church become, when at length instinct with this Spirit! The Lord hasten it in its time!


    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/romans-12.html. 1871-8.

    Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

    (21) Be not overcome of evil, but . . .—A fine sentiment. The infliction of vengeance is not a sign of strength, but of weakness. To repress the desire for revenge is to gain a victory over self, which is not only nobler in itself, but will also be much more effectual. It will disarm the enemy, and turn him into a friend.


    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/romans-12.html. 1905.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
    Proverbs 16:32; Luke 6:27-30; 1 Peter 3:9

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/romans-12.html.

    Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

    Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. It is only by disconnecting this verse from the preceding, and considering it as nearly independent of it, that any plausibility can be given to the first interpretation mentioned above, of Romans 12:20. That it is not thus independent of it, almost every reader must feel. ‘We are not to conquer evil by evil, but to treat our enemies with kindness. Thus we shall most effectually subdue them. Do not therefore allow yourself to be overcome of evil, (i.e., to be provoked to the indulgence of a spirit of retaliation,) but overcome evil with good; subdue your enemies by kindness, not by injuries.'

    Doctrine

    1. Love is the fulfilling of the law; it leads to the avoiding of everything injurious to our neighbor, and to sedulous attention to everything adapted to promote his welfare, Romans 12:9.

    2. The relation in which Christians stand to each other, is that of members of the same family. As, however, it is not a relation constituted by birth, nor secured by the adoption of a name, there is no evidence of its existence but that which consists in the exercise of that ‘brotherly affection' (that spiritual στοργή) which brethren in Christ feel for each other, Romans 12:10.

    3. Religion is the soul of morality, without which it is but a lovely corpse. Our moral duties we must perform as "serving the Lord." The religious affections and emotions do not supersede those of a simply benevolent or social character, but mingle with them, and elevate all social and relative duties into acts of religion and genuine morality, Romans 12:11.

    4. The source of our life is in God; without intercourse with him, therefore, we cannot derive those supplies of grace which are requisite to preserve the spirit of piety in our hearts, and to send a vital influence through the various duties and avocations of life. Hence the absolute necessity of being "instant in prayer," Romans 12:12.

    5. God has made of one blood all men that dwell upon the face of the earth. There is in this fact of a common origin, and the possession of a common nature, a sufficient ground for the inculcation of an universal sympathy with all our fellow men. As he is no true Christian who is destitute of a genuine sympathy for his fellow Christians, so he is very far from being a man such as God approves, who does not "rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep," Romans 12:15.

    6. A wrong estimate of ourselves is a fruitful source of evil. Viewed in relation to God, and in our own absolute insignificance, we have little reason to be wise or important in our own conceits. A proper self-knowledge will preserve us from pride, ambition, and contempt of others, Romans 12:16.

    7. Abstaining from evil is but one half of duty. It is not enough to avoid imprecating evil upon our enemies; we must sincerely desire and pray for their welfare. Nor is it sufficient not to recompense evil for evil; we must return good for evil, Romans 12:17-21.

    8. The prerogatives of judgment and vengeance belong to God, we have no right, therefore, to arrogate them to ourselves, except in those cases in which, for his glory and the good of society, he has given us authority. All condemnation of others for self-gratification, and all private revenge is inconsistent with the gospel, Romans 12:11-21.

    Remarks

    1. Christians should never forget that faith without works is dead. It is not more important to believe what God has revealed, than to do what he has commanded. A faith, therefore, which does not produce love, kindness, sympathy, humility, the forgiveness of injuries, etc., can do us little good, Romans 12:9-21.

    2. It is peculiarly characteristic of the spirit of the gospel that it turns the heart towards others, and away from our own interests. Self is not the Christian's center; men are loved because they are men, Christians because they are Christians; the former with sincere sympathy and benevolence, the latter with brotherly affection. The happiness and feelings of others, the gospel teaches us to consult in small, as well as in great matters, anticipating each other in all acts of kindness and attention, Romans 12:9-13.

    3. The benevolence of the gospel is active and religious; it leads to constant efforts, and is imbued with the spirit of piety, Romans 12:11.

    4. We must remember that without Christ we can do nothing; that it is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us. If, therefore, we attempt to discharge the duties here enjoined apart from him, we shall be as a branch severed from the vine; and unless we are "instant in prayer," this union with Christ cannot be kept up, Romans 12:12.

    5. Alms-giving and hospitality, in some ages of the church, have been unduly exalted, as though they were the whole of benevolence, and the greater part of piety. While we avoid this extreme, we should remember that we are stewards of God, and that "Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, hath not the love of God dwelling in him," Romans 12:13. 1 John 3:17.

    6. One of the most beautiful exhibitions of the character of our Savior was afforded by his conduct under persecution. "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter;" "when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not." Even martyrs dying for the truth have not always been able to avoid the prediction of evil to their persecutors; so much easier is it to abstain from recompensing evil for evil, than really to love and pray for the good of our enemies. This, however, is Christian duty; such is the spirit of the gospel. Just so far, therefore, as we find our hearts indisposed to bless those who curse us, or inclined to indulge even a secret satisfaction when evil comes upon them, are we unchristian in our temper, Romans 12:19-21.

    7. Nothing is so powerful as goodness; it is the most efficacious means to subdue enemies, and put down opposition. Men whose minds can withstand argument, and whose hearts rebel against threats, are not proof against the persuasive influence of unfeigned love; there is, therefore, no more important collateral reason for being good, than that it increases our power to do good, Romans 12:20, Romans 12:21.


    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/romans-12.html.

    The Bible Study New Testament

    Do not let evil defeat you. If the Christian takes revenge and returns evil for evil, he has been defeated. This is Paul's point here. Conquer evil with good. This is the only answer. Good is stronger than evil, even though this may not seem true at the time. Taking revenge does not change your enemy, but kindness can make him your friend. This is God's way.


    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.

    Bibliography
    Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Romans 12:21". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/romans-12.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

    Lectionary Calendar
    Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
    the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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