Rom 12--16: There is a distinct break in the train of thought
at this point. The theological exposition, centering around the problem as to
how sinful man can be put into right relationship with God, is over. But there
is more to be said, because when man is made right with his Maker, he needs to
know what difference this makes in his relations with his fellowmen. He needs to
know what is expected of him and how to apply his new resources to all the
situations confronting him. This last main section of the letter is designed to
meet these needs (cf Eph 4:1). The first part (Rom 1-11) is more information for
belief whereas the last part (Rom 12-16) is more exhortation for action. The
first part stresses right relations with God and the last part right relations
with other people.
Vv 1,2: The charge rises out of humankind's universal
condemnation by God (Rom 3:20), the justification that God has freely provided
(Rom 5:1), and the assurance of acceptance that the believing sinner can have
(Rom 8:1). Because of all this, it is only reasonable to present our lives to
God as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). In particular the exhortation to present
ourselves to God in Rom 6:13-19 is in view.
THEREFORE: Forming a link with what went before, ie all
of Rom 1-11.
I URGE YOU: The apostle begins now to "urge" his
readers instead of simply instructing them. His choice of this word "urge" (Gr
"parakaleo") is discriminating, seeing that its force lies between commanding
and beseeching. It possesses something of the element of authority that is more
forcefully expressed by "command", and has in it something of the element of
appeal that attaches to "beseech".
IN VIEW OF GOD'S MERCY: Mercy is that quality in God
that moves Him to deliver man from his state of sin and misery and therefore
underlies His saving activity in Christ. Here "mercy" is the leverage for the
appeal that follows. Pagans are prone to sacrifice in order to obtain mercy, but
the Bible teaches that this is the wrong way round: God's mercy provides the
basis for sacrifice as the fitting response. Or, as Paul makes plain in Eph
2:8-10, we do not do good works so as to be saved, but rather we are saved by
grace, and THEN we do good works as our grateful response.
The Gr "eleos" is plural in form, but need not be translated
by the plural (as does the KJV here), since this already is the common
expression in Greek. If "mercy" (singular) is used, then we should think of the
overflowing greatness of God's mercy; if "mercies" (plural) is used, then we may
think of the "sure mercies" (plural) of the many promises embodied in God's
covenants, as in Isa 55:3.
TO OFFER YOUR BODIES: Paul is NOT urging the dedication
of the body (the "outer shell", so to speak) as an entity distinct from the
inner man. Rather, he views the body as the vehicle that implements the desires
and choices of the redeemed spirit -- the man himself. It is essential for
making contact with the society in which the believer lives. Through the body we
OFFER: A technical term for presenting a sacrifice or
offering to God, as in Luk 2:22. Cp sw Rom 6:13,16,19.
LIVING SACRIFICES: Allusion to the scapegoat, the only
living sacrifice under the Law (cp Lev 16:10 with Act 1:3). As Christ bore away
our iniquities (Isa 53:11), so we ought to bear the infirmities of the weak (Rom
15:1). See Article, Living sacrifice, a.
LIVING: The term suggests how unusual is the
"sacrifice" that believers can now offer, since OT sacrifices were dead.
Being a dead sacrifice is RELATIVELY easy: it means dying
once, and that's it. Even for Jesus, it might be said -- with all due reverence
-- that the death on the cross was the "easy part" -- terrible and painful
though it was. It was easy enough to do: thousands upon thousands of Jewish men
died on crosses, helped along by Roman soldiers.
The difficult part was what Jesus had done, for years and
years earlier -- living a perfect and blameless life. Of course, that's what
made the last act of his life meaningful to all the rest of us.
So we don't -- or shouldn't -- just offer a dead sacrifice: we
don't just throw ourselves down at the foot of the cross, or the "altar", and
say: "Take me, Lord, and kill me!" Absolute as such a sacrifice would be, it
would be relatively easy compared to what we are called to do. We are called to
be "living sacrifices", every day -- making mistakes, falling into sin again and
again, but standing up, being forgiven, and going forward again... seeking to
exemplify, in our lives every day, something of the perfect character of Jesus
The sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac is a perfect example of
that: God doesn't accept the slaying of Isaac -- he gives him back his life. As
if to say: "Thanks for the offer; now I know that you want to serve me; but here
is how I want you to serve me... by LIVING. Now go and do it."
But the "go and do likewise" part is... really HARD! It goes
on and on, and -- inevitably, and many times over -- we fail. So we are taught
the lesson of our own fallibility, our own weakness, our own childishness, and
our pride is shredded, and we know how little we are worth! In this we learn the
need for forgiveness of sins, even as we strive to be the "living sacrifice".
And still we must get up and pull ourselves together, and try again, and again,
and again -- and go on.
And that's what is meant by a living sacrifice. But as one
observant (and probably rueful) fellow once wrote, "The trouble with 'living'
sacrifices is they keep climbing down off the altar!"
So we pray, "Lord, bring me back to your altar!" And we keep
praying that prayer.
HOLY: Cp 1Pe 1:16; 2:5.
THIS IS YOUR SPIRITUAL ACT OF WORSHIP: Instead of
"spiritual", the AV has "reasonable". The sacrifice we render is intelligent and
deliberate, perhaps to be understood in contrast to the sacrifices of the
tabernacle and temple, in which the animals had no part in determining what was
to be done with them.
V 1 deals with making the commitment and v 2 with maintaining
it. "The first verse calls for an explicit act; the second commands a resultant
lifelong process. These verses are a call for an act of presentation and the
resultant duty of transformation" (Const). Both activities are important: the
single decision and the ongoing effort. The present tense in the Greek text of v
2 indicates our continuing responsibility in contrast to the aorist tense in v 1
that stresses a decisive act.
DO NOT CONFORM ANY LONGER TO THE PATTERN OF THIS WORLD:
Cp 1Pe 1:14. "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold" (JBP). "It has a
bad look when a courtier is too intimate with his king's enemies. Even small
inconsistencies are dangerous. Little thorns make great blisters, little moths
destroy fine garments, and little frivolities and little rogueries will rob
religion of a thousand joys. O professor, too little separated from sinners, you
know not what you lose by your conformity to the world. It cuts the tendons of
your strength, and makes you creep where you ought to run. Then, for your own
comfort's sake, and for the sake of your growth in grace, if you be a Christian,
be a Christian, and be a marked and distinct one" (CHS).
"When you blame others, you give up your power to change"
BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND: The Gr is
the basis for the English "metamorphosis": to be transformed from within, into a
drastically different creature. It is used of the Transformation of Jesus in Mat
17:2; Mar 9:2. Also in 2Co 3:18: "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect
the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing
glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
"We must be able to feel, when we go to bed each night, that
we have that day done our most and best: that all we have done was necessary and
useful, and the most important thing to be done at the time, and that we have
done it with all our heart, unto the Lord. We must not be satisfied with what we
have done, but we must be reasonably satisfied that we have tried our best, and
that we have noted, and learned something by, our slips and failures. We must be
able to feel we are slowly overcoming, growing, deepening, becoming more
naturally spiritual -- that is less as duty and effort, more as pleasure and
desire. We must be able to see ourselves passing some tangible milestones of
progress: a steady transformation of the mind Godwards -- less and less interest
in passing, worldly, animal things of any kind" (GVG).
THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND: Through the knowledge of the
Word of God, imprinted upon the mind, or heart: see Col 3:10; 2Co 4:16; Rom
8:6,13. This re-programming of the mind does not take place overnight, but is a
lifelong process by which our way of thinking is to resemble more and more the
way God wants us to think.
TO TEST AND APPROVE: That is, to put to the test (as in
a scientific experiment), and thus to judge and discern and discriminate among
various modes of behavior... so as to finally arrive at the best way of
BY THE GRACE GIVEN ME: The grace whereby Paul, once a
blasphemer and a murderer, was shown mercy and made an apostle of Jesus Christ
DO NOT THINK OF YOURSELF MORE HIGHLY THAN YOU OUGHT:
Paul had had experiences with Christians, who were proud because of their
spiritual gifts, in Corinth where he wrote this epistle (cf 1Co 12:14-31; 13:4;
"Get your mind off yourself! You are totally unimportant. You
can become important -- eternally important to God -- but it will never be by
thinking about yourself. It will only be forgetting yourself, and setting your
mind totally on God and on others. Thinking of yourself shrinks your mind
smaller and smaller until at last it shrivels and dies. Thinking about God and
others expands your mind more and more until at last it bursts into glorious,
eternal Life and Beauty. God's Way is the only way. Beware of the great
diabolos-deceiver: your own desires" (GVG).
IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE MEASURE OF FAITH GOD HAS GIVEN
YOU: The "measuring standard" by which we should evaluate ourselves is our
faith. And when our faith reveals to us that we, along with other believers, are
dependent on the saving mercy of God in Christ, then we learn not to think of
ourselves too highly -- for we have no "works" in which we may boast before
Tom Brokaw was wandering through Bloomingdales' New York store
one day, shortly after earning a promotion to the co-host spot on the Today
Show. Brokaw's new position was another peak in a rapidly-rising career in
television journalism after plodding faithfully up the ranks, first in Omaha,
then for NBC in Los Angeles and Washington. It wouldn't be lying to say he was
feeling pretty good about himself. As he browsed through the store, he noticed a
man watching him intently. The man continued to stare, and finally, when the man
approached him, Brokaw prepared himself to reap the first fruits of television
stardom in New York.
The man pointed at him and asked, "Tom Brokaw, right?"
"Right," said Brokaw.
"You used to do the morning news on KMTV in Omaha, right?"
"That's right," said Brokaw, getting ready for the warm
praises destined to follow.
"I knew it the minute I spotted you," the fellow said. Then he
paused and added, "Whatever happened to you?"
JUST AS EACH OF US HAS ONE BODY WITH MANY MEMBERS, AND
THESE MEMBERS DO NOT ALL HAVE THE SAME FUNCTION: This verse and the next are
a repeat of 1Co 12:12-27 in miniature. To offset the danger of individualistic
thinking with its resulting danger of pride, Paul refers to the human body. Two
truths are set forth in this verse: the unity of the body; the diversity of its
members, with corresponding diversity in function.
EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ALL THE OTHERS: Paul adds a
third truth to go with the two in the previous verse: the mutuality of the
various members. The members of the body cannot work independently. Furthermore,
each member profits from what the other members contribute to the whole.
Reflection on these truths reduces preoccupation with one's own gift and makes
room for appreciation of other people and the gifts they exercise.
"A man's reaction to the needs of the body to which he has
supposedly given allegiance is often a measure of the true character of the man
himself. Self-seeking, opportunism and disregard for the lasting well-being of
the corporate fellowship can cause untold unhappiness both to the individual and
to the higher cause of the association and community spirit by which his fellows
live. This is especially true of our relationship as individuals to the ecclesia
and community to which we belong. Our attitude to the body is our attitude to
Christ. The ecclesia is his body. If we are superior to it, we lack humility; if
we are divisive within it, we deny the atonement by which we were reconciled and
made one" (TMD 182).
WE HAVE DIFFERENT GIFTS: Paul is not referring to gifts
in the natural realm, but to those functions made possible by a specific
empowerment of the Holy Spirit granted to certain believers. These gifts do not
contradict what God has bestowed in the natural order and, though they may even
build on the natural gifts of individuals, they ought not to be confused with
Variety in the gifts should be understood from the standpoint
of the needs of the Christian community, which are many, as well as from the
desirability of giving many different believers shares in the work.
ACCORDING TO THE GRACE GIVEN US: With his eye still on
the danger of pride, Paul reminds his readers that these new capacities for
service are not inherent in those who exercise them but come from divine grace.
Every time he goes into this subject Paul is careful to make this clear (1Co
12:6; Eph 4:7; cf 1Pe 4:10).
"Spiritual gifts are tools to build with, not toys to play
with or weapons to fight with" (Wiersbe).
PROPHESYING: Not primarily a gift of predicting the
future, but rather the communication of revealed truth that will both convict
and build up the hearers (cp 1Co 14:3,31). This gift is prominent in the other
listings of gifts (1Co 12:28; Eph 4:11), where prophets are second only to
apostles in the enumeration.
IN PROPORTION TO HIS FAITH: As in v 3, one who
possesses a Holy Spirit gift should use it carefully, having in mind what his
"faith" teaches him: that he has no inherent self-worth, and that he is utterly
dependent upon the grace of God. A prophet is not to be governed by his pride,
or his emotions (1Co 14:32), or by his love of attention, or by the sound of his
own voice (1Co 14:30).
The list that follows is not exhaustive but only illustrative
(cf 1 Co 12:27,28).
SERVING: The KJV has "ministry", but this is -- of
course -- not referring to orders of "clergy" or "priesthood"! Gr "diakonia"
probably refers to ministering to the material needs of other believers. The NEB
translates it as "administration", perhaps hinting that the term should be taken
as referring to the supervision of the giving of aid to the needy, which was
specifically the province of the "deacons". Even so, it should be recognized
that others also could engage in a variety of helpful ministries to the needs of
the saints (1Co 16:15). In fact, Paul inserts in the midst of a catalog of
restricted terms dealing with gifts this very broad designation, "those able to
help others" (1Co 12:28).
TEACHING: In 1Co 14:6 teaching is paired with
knowledge, whereas prophecy is coupled with revelation. Probably the aim in
teaching was to give help in the area of Christian living rather than formal
instruction in doctrine, even though it must be granted that the latter is
needed as a foundation for the former.
ENCOURAGING: "Paraklesis": to encourage, comfort, or
exhort. Whereas "teaching" (v 7) appeals to the mind, "exhortation" appeals to
CONTRIBUTING TO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS: "Giving" is
capable of broad application within the body.
GENEROUSLY: Gr "hapiotes", with singleness, or
sincerity. The AV has "simplicity". We should practice giving with singleness of
heart and free of mixed motives (cf Acts 5). The idea is not so much giving
lavishly as giving single-mindedly.
LEADERSHIP: Gr "proistemi": to stand before, ie, in
rank; to preside, to lead (sw in 1Th 5:12; 1Ti 3:4,5; 5:17). Leaders experience
temptation simply to enjoy the benefits of their positions rather than really
SHOWING MERCY: This relates to ministering to the sick
and specially to the needy. A cheerful rather than a grudging attitude is an
important part of such ministry. "If you come with sympathy to sorrow, bring
God's sunlight in your face" (AS Way).
LOVE MUST BE SINCERE: Love is primary (Lev 19:18; Mat
22:39), but if it is not sincere, it is not real love but only pretense. Paul
paused in his discussion of spiritual gifts to inject a chapter on love (1Co
13); it is altogether fitting, therefore, that he should follow his presentation
of spiritual gifts here in Romans with the same emphasis. The whole of the
believer's conduct, in fact, should be bathed in love. If he fails to love his
brother, doubt is cast on his professed love for God (1Jo 4:19-21).
HATE WHAT IS EVIL; CLING TO WHAT IS GOOD: What God
seeks in the believer is not so much a single worthy act as it is a continuing
quality of life. Love readily suggests purity. The two are found together in
God, who is of too pure eyes to behold evil (Hab 1:13) and cannot be tempted by
it (Jam 1:13). Hatred readily follows love -- hatred, that is, of what is evil.
The human attitude must follow the divine in this respect also, because it is
the opposite of the command to love. The two belong together. To "cling to what
is good" is to be wedded to it. Total commitment leaves neither time nor
inclination to court evil.
SINCERE: Gr "anupokritos" = lit, without hypocrisy.
Used Rom 12:9; 2Co 6:6; 1Ti 1:5; 2Ti 1:5; Jam 3:17; 1Pe 1:22. "Genuine"
BE DEVOTED TO ONE ANOTHER IN BROTHERLY LOVE: The
apostle has called for love, but lest this be construed simply as an ideal, he
now puts it in a living context. Love is to be shown to people, not lavished on
a principle. He uses a special term denoting brotherly love ("philadelphia").
"Devoted" is appropriate too, since it customarily denotes the family tie.
Believers are members of the family of God.
HONOR ONE ANOTHER ABOVE YOURSELVES: To honor is to
accord recognition and show appreciation. Presumably, this is based not on some
personal attractiveness nor some supposed usefulness, but rather on a
recognition of the new creation (2Co 5:17) -- that is, God's transforming work
in individual believers. The perfect example of this is the Lord Jesus Christ,
who "made himself nothing, taking upon himself the very status of a servant"
NEVER BE LACKING IN ZEAL, BUT KEEP YOUR SPIRITUAL FERVOR,
SERVING THE LORD: It is natural for Christians to slack off in our diligence
in serving the Lord when we have been Christians for some time. Apollos was a
model of someone who maintained fervent diligence in his service (Acts 18:25; ct
the Laodiceans in Rev 3:15,16).
JOYFUL IN HOPE: Or "joyful in THE hope": "It is because
of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain" (Acts 28:20).
PATIENT IN AFFLICTION: If I can be sure, when the time
finally comes for the Great High Priest to return from the Most Holy Place
bringing the final blessing... that I'll still be here, waiting at my post,
rejoicing in the tribulations which I endure, and having learned patience...
real PATIENCE... enough for a lifetime, of broken hearts and broken dreams
[sounds like a country western song, doesn't it?], of hurt feelings, of
resentments, of disappointments, of bitterness, of ailments and illnesses, of
the gradual and insidious decline of all my human powers, and the frustrations
of coming short time and again of what I would like to be, but can't quite be,
of asking forgiveness for the 490th time for the same sins, of forgiving others
for the same number of times... without throwing up my hands and walking away
from the door of the temple. Out into the howling waste of a wilderness of
snakes and scorpions -- where there is no hope and no life and no love... the
wilderness where Judas went, and Cain, and Saul, and a million others -- who
could not truly believe that the High Priest was coming to bring them the last
great blessing. Yes, if I can only wait... long enough... then "I WILL BE saved"
will turn into "I AM saved"! God give me strength enough to wait... that long.
And I won't even care whether that strength should be called the Holy Spirit or
"In all our troubles and problems and disappointments, let us
never for a moment forget our blessings -- and our obligation of constant
thanksgiving for them. This is what troubles are for: to drive us ever more
deeply into the comfort of our blessings, and to make us all the more diligent
to lay secure hold upon them by righteousness and loving service to God. Our
blessings are always infinitely greater than our troubles ever could be. If we
cannot see this, we are blind indeed. We have seen people calling themselves
Christadelphians reproaching God for their 'undeserved' troubles. It is very
easy and very natural to the flesh. But what folly! What tragedy! We are not
ready for the Kingdom, or God would terminate our probation, and give us sweet
sleep. We have yet labors to accomplish, and lessons to learn. Let us glory in
and profit by the tribulations that are of the loving hand of God to prepare us
frail, erring mortals for eternal joy" (GVG).
FAITHFUL IN PRAYER: Prayer is our great resource
whenever we feel stress and strain (Phi 4:6,7). Note the same progression from
hope to perseverance to prayer in Rom 8:24-27. Men should always pray and not
give up hope (Luk 18:1).
SHARE WITH GOD'S PEOPLE WHO ARE IN NEED: "Therefore, as
we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who
belong to the family of believers" (Gal 6:10).
PRACTICE HOSPITALITY: "Even under persecution one
should not allow himself to be so preoccupied with his own troubles that he
becomes insensitive to the needs of other believers. Apparently, it is temporal
need that is in view. To share with others is never more meaningful than when
one is hard pressed to find a sufficient supply for himself. When this sharing
takes place under one's own roof, it is labeled 'hospitality'. The Greek term
('philoxenos') is more expressive than the English, for it means 'love for
strangers'. Paul's word for 'practice' ('dioko', 'pursue') is strong (the sw is
used in the sense of 'persecute' in v 14), calling for an undiminished ardor in
extending this courtesy to traveling believers. The Lord had encouraged his
disciples to depend on such kindness during their missions (Mat 10:11). Without
it, the spread of the gospel during the days of the early church would have been
greatly impeded. With it, the 'church in the house' became a reality (Rom 16:23;
cf Rom 16:5). What sanctified this practice above all was the realization that
in receiving and entertaining the traveler, those who opened their doors and
their hearts were receiving and entertaining Christ (Mat 10:40; 25:40)" (EBC).
"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some
people have entertained angels without knowing it" (Heb 13:2).
BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU: Paul's injunction to
bless persecutors rather than curse them undoubtedly goes back to the teaching
of our Lord (Mat 5:44; Luke 6:28). The teaching was clearly manifested during
his trial and his suffering on the cross.
A few years later, Roman Christians were to lose their lives
in great numbers at the hands of Emperor Nero. Persecution in some form or
another was so common in the experience of the early church that Paul is able to
assume as a matter of course that it is a factor in the lives of his readers. If
such treatment is not encountered in our society, we can at least cultivate the
readiness to meet it and so fulfill the injunction in spirit.
The principle of non-retaliation permeates the whole of the
NT. To bless one's persecutors involves praying for their forgiveness and for a
change of outlook regarding the Christian faith. It can be done only by the
grace of Christ: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are
doing" (Luk 23:34).
REJOICE WITH THOSE WHO REJOICE; MOURN WITH THOSE WHO
MOURN: "Friendship divides sorrow and doubles joy." See Lesson, Collyer on One body. Cp 1Co 12:26; Phi 4:13.
LIVE IN HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER: "Have equal regard
for one another" (NEB). Feelings of superiority are neither realistic nor
appropriate for those who owe all to God's grace.
DO NOT BE PROUD: As a means to attaining this harmony,
Paul stresses the necessity of rejecting the temptation to think high thoughts
about oneself, as though one were a superior breed of believer, and of coming
down off the perch of isolation and mingling with people "of low position" or of
a humble frame of mind (the Gr has simply "the lowly").
DO NOT BE CONCEITED: And lest one consent to do this
while still retaining heady notions of his own superiority, Paul puts in a final
thrust: "Don't be conceited!" Conceit has no place in the life ruled by love
Cited from Pro 3:7: "Do not be wise in your own
"We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are
dull; some are pretty, some are not-so-pretty; some are bright, some are dark.
Some have weird names. And every single one is different from all the rest. But
they all have to learn to live in the same box" (MT).
DO NOT REPAY ANYONE EVIL FOR EVIL: "Do not resist an
evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other
also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your
cloak as well" (Mat 5:39,40).
BE CAREFUL TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT IN THE EYES OF
EVERYBODY: Believers are constantly under the scrutiny of unbelievers as
well as of fellow believers, and they must be careful that their conduct does
not betray the high standards of the gospel (cf Col 4:5; 1Ti 3:7). We should not
only be honest, but be seen to be honest (2Co 4:2). The verb "be careful"
("pronoeo") is literally "to think of beforehand", which suggests that the
conduct of believers ought not to be regulated by habit, but rather that each
situation that holds prospect for a witness to the world be weighed so that the
action taken will not bring unfavorable reflection on the gospel.
IF IT IS POSSIBLE: By this accumulation of conditions
the difficulty of the precept is admirably brought out. This qualifying clause
suggests that there are instances in human relations when the strongest desire
for concord will not avail. Examples: Jesus with the Pharisees in Mat 23, and
Paul with Peter in Gal 2.
AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU: If disharmony and conflict
should come, let not the responsibility be laid at your feet. The believer may
not be able to persuade the other party, but he can at least refuse to be the
instigator of trouble.
LIVE AT PEACE WITH EVERYONE: Paul strongly advocated
being a peacemaker (cf Mat 5:9), but he did not promote peace at any price -- as
the previous qualifying phrases explain.
DO NOT TAKE REVENGE: This peace-loving attitude may be
costly, however, because some will want to take advantage of it, figuring that
Christian principles will not permit the wronged party to retaliate. In such a
case, what is to be done? The path of duty is clear. We are not to take
"The person who pursues revenge should dig two graves."
"Revenge has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst"
(Walter Weckler). Cp David in 1Sa 24-26.
BUT LEAVE ROOM FOR GOD'S WRATH, FOR IT IS WRITTEN: "IT
IS MINE TO AVENGE; I WILL REPAY," SAYS THE LORD: Trust God to take care of the
situation. He will not do the wrong thing. He will not be too lenient or too
severe. Here Paul quotes Deu 32:35, whose context indicates that the LORD will
intervene to vindicate His people when their enemies abuse them and gloat over
them. God's action will rebuke not only the adversaries but also the false gods
in which they have put their trust (Deu 32:37,38).
This passage is cited also in Luk 18:7,8; Rev
There is no suggestion that the wrath of God (v 19) will be
visited upon the wrongdoer immediately. On the contrary, that wrath is the last
resort, for in the immediate future lies the possibility that the one who has
perpetrated the wrong will have a change of heart and will be convicted of his
sin and won over by the refusal of the Christian to retaliate.
'If you want to take revenge (ie, heap coals on your enemy's
head), then... the best way to take revenge is to do good to him (Mat 5:44]...
and in this way you may make him a friend rather than an enemy [cp Rom 8:37].'
Coals of fire may be a curse (Eze 10:2; Psa 120:2-4), but in
certain instances (with those who recognize their sins?) they may also be a
blessing (Isa 6:6,7: where Isaiah was cleansed and purified).
HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD: Cit Pro 25:21,22.
Another suggestion has been offered for this rather strange figure of speech:
Heaping burning coals on his head figuratively describes doing good that results
in the conviction and shame of the enemy. The expression alludes to the old
custom of carrying burning coals in a pan. When one's fire went out at home, a
person would have to go to a neighbor and request hot coals that he or she would
then carry home on the head. Carrying the coals involved some danger,
discomfort, and uneasiness for the person carrying them. Nevertheless they were
the evidence of the neighbor's love. Likewise the person who receives good for
evil feels uncomfortable because of his neighbor's love. This guilt may convict
the wrongdoer of his or her ways in a gentle manner.
DO NOT BE OVERCOME BY EVIL, BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH
GOOD: In this context, to be "overcome by evil" means to give in to the
temptation to meet evil with evil, ie, to retaliate. To overcome evil with good
has been illustrated in v 20. Many other illustrations could be given, such as
David's sparing the life of Saul, who was pursuing him to snuff out his life.
When Saul realized that David had spared his life, he said, "You have repaid me
good, whereas I have repaid you evil" (1Sa 24:17, RSV). The world's philosophy
leads men to expect retaliation when they have wronged another. To receive
kindness, to see love when it seems uncalled for, can melt the hardest