Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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.PART SECOND
The Practical Theme: The calling of the Roman Christians, on the ground of their accomplished redemption, or the UNIVERSAL MERCY of God (which will be extended to all), to represent the living worship of God in the completion of the real burnt-offering, and to form a universal Christian church-life for the realization of the call of all nations to PRAISE AND GLORIFY GOD, so that they too may recognize and sustain the universal call of the Apostle. In correspondence with this is the recommendation of his companions, assistants, and friends, in sending his greetings to them; in contrast with which is his warning against Judaizing and paganizing false teachers; Romans 12:1–16. 20.—Conclusion. Salutations of friends. Amen (Romans 12:21–27).
LITERATURE.—BORGER, Dissertatio de parte epistolœ ad Romanos parœnetica. Lugd. Bat., 1810.
THE CALLING OF THE ROMAN CHURCH TO A UNIVERSAL CHRISTIAN DEPORTMENT
FIRST SECTION.—The practical theme (Romans 12:1, 2). The proper conduct of Christians toward the fellowship of the brethren for the establishment of a harmonious church-life (Romans 12:3–8).
1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye [to]1 present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable [well-pleasing] unto God, which is your reasonable [rational] service. [,] 2And be not [And not to be]2 conformed to this world: but be ye transformed [but to be transfigured]3 by the renewing of your4 mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God [or, what is the will of God, what is good, and well-pleasing, and perfect].5
3For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly [or, not to be high-minded above what he ought to be minded, but to be so minded as to be sober-minded],6 according as God hath dealt to every manthe measure of faith. 4For as we have many members in one body, and all5members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ,and every one7 members one of another. 6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy8 according7to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Summary.—The practical theme controlling the whole of the second part. The proper conduct of Christians, or the calling of (Roman) Christians to the living worship (service) of God,9 Romans 12:1, 2; a. The proper conduct toward the fellowship of believing brethren, the Church (ecclesiastical duties), Romans 12:3–8; b. The proper conduct of Christians in all personal relations, Romans 12:9–21; c. Toward civil authorities (duties toward the government), Romans 13:1–6; d. Toward the world in general. Recognition of the rights of the world, and of legal fellowship with it. Separation, on the contrary, from the ungodliness of the world, Romans 12:7–14; e. The proper practice of the living worship of God, and its universality in the removing of the differences between the “weak” and the “strong,” Romans 14:1–15: 4; f. Exhortation to unanimity of all the members of the Church to the praise of God, on the ground of God’s grace, for realizing the destination of all nations to glorify God, Romans 15:5–13.
See also the headings of the sections. Meyer: “General exhortation to holiness.” But this “general” exhortation is very characteristically defined according to the characteristic, fundamental thought of the whole Epistle, in its essential as well as in its personal reference. According to the essential reference, the Apostle has shown, in the first part, that the corruption of the world consists in its having fallen from the living worship of God, and that therefore redemption is a restoration of the fundamental principles of this living worship. The entire holiness of Christians is, accordingly, portrayed as the development of a living spiritual worship. But in the personal reference, the Apostle shows how the Roman Christian congregation should be developed into a congregation of living worship, in order to be the instrument of its extension to all the world, to serve as a central organ for the Apostle, who has perceived his calling in the extension of this worship into all the world.
1. The practical theme (Romans 12:1, 2). A summons to develop the service restored by redemption. [Comp. here the third part of the Heidelberg Catechism, On Thankfulness to God for Redemption.—P. S.]
Romans 12:1. I beseech you therefore, brethren[Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί]. According to Meyer and Tholuck, the οὖν does not introduce an inference from the whole of the previous didactic part (as Calvin, Bengel, De Wette, Philippi, and others, would have it), but from Romans 11:35, 36. But it must be observed, that the conclusion of chap. 11. constitutes the organic apex of the entire doctrinal division; this is especially true of Romans 12:32, with which Rückert, and others, would connect this verse. Tholuck fails to perceive the Apostle’s practical theme, in saying: “The Apostle was accustomed to make some exhortations follow the chief, and therefore the didactic, contents.”
By the mercies of God [διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ] (Romans 15:30; 1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 10:1). The objective ground of Divine mercy in their experience of salvation, is made the subjective ground of his admonition. He refers to the experience of Divine mercy, its consequence, and its light and right, as if he said, by the name of Divine mercy. The only difference is, that, in the asseveration διά, by, the speaker allows the subject of his asseveration itself to speak as motive and motor. The plural οἰκτιρμοί corresponds to the Hebrew רַחֲמִים; but the Apostle has also instituted, in the foregoing, a threefold gradation of the Divine demonstration of grace.
To present, παραστῆσαι. The expression, which was used of placing the sacrificial beast before the altar, conveys the thought of the complete resignation and readiness which, on the one hand, does not in the least hesitate, but, on the other, makes no intrusion by an arbitrary slaying of the offering.
Your bodies [τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν]. The holding of the body in readiness for an offering well-pleasing to God, is the expression for the highest measure of the renunciation of every thing earthly and temporal. Explanations:
1. Figurative designation of personality itself, according to the figure of the offering (Beza, De Wette, and Philippi [Stuart, Hodge]).
2. The bodies in the real sense, as the holiness of the νοῦς is added in the second verse (Fritzsche, Meyer).
3. The sensuous nature of man, which leads him to sin (Köllner, and others).
Against (1): The Apostle speaks, according to the apostolic standard, to believers, who, according to Romans 6:, have already given their personal life to death. But the body is the organ and symbol of all the individual parts, which must be offered in consequence of this principial offering. Against (2), Cocceius: Non possumus offerre corpus sine anima. The real service performed in making the offering is, indeed, finished with the shedding of blood, or with the resignation of the body. But the heart, or the life of the spirit, is given to God as an expression that the body is offered. Against (3) Whatever is sinful is not fit, as such, for an offering.—The body is the organ and symbol of the present life in all its relations and parts. Comp. Romans 6:12, 13, where the question under consideration is the active consecration of all the members of the body.10
Sacrifice. Θυσίαν. We hold that the Apostle has in mind the symbol of the central offering—that is, of the burnt-offering (comp. Tholuck, p. 651). But the burnt-offering was a symbol that the whole life, with all its powers, should be consumed in the fire of God’s sovereignty, for His service and glory. The predicates, living, ζῶσαν, &c., particularly the first, which the Apostle ascribes to this θυσία, are thought, by Meyer, to denote the antithesis of this New Testament offering to that of the Old Testament: “as an offering which lives (antithesis to the real offerings which lose their life).” Tholuck, on the other hand, says with propriety: “the thought that in the Old Testament only dead offerings were brought to God, is neither Jewish nor Pauline; to present not only dead offerings, but even sick ones, was an abomination before the Lord; Mai. 1:8.” Yet this applies only to Meyer’s expression; his distinction in itself is well founded. The predicates, holy [ἁγίαν] and well-pleasing to God [εὐάρεστον τῷ Θεῷ], do not in themselves fully constitute an antithesis to the Old Testament. The antithesis is comprised: (1) In the designation, your bodies, human bodies; which is necessary to the idea of a spiritual offering; (2) In the emphasis on the presenting and holding in readiness for the Lord, as the Finisher of the real offering; in which all their own external self-offering on the part of the Roman Christians is absolutely precluded. By this means the predicates acquire a stronger meaning. The higher and real newness of life, the holiness of, and Divine pleasure in, the life of faith given up to the service of God, take the place of the symbolical newness of life, holiness of, and legal Divine pleasure in, the offering of the beast. Estius, Bengel, and others, have connected the τῷ Θεῷ with παραστῆσαι; this is correctly opposed by Meyer and Tholuck (see Phil. 4:18; comp. Rom. 6:13; 1 Peter 2:5).
Which is your rational service. [Dr. Lange: Euer vernünftiger (geistiger) Gottesdienst.] The accusative τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν is in apposition with the foregoing clause, characterizing more specifically what has been said, according to the New Testament conception of offering, in antithesis to that of the Old Testament. The λατρεία, service, worship, which, in its central idea, is everywhere an offering (see John 16:2). But this sacrificial worship of believers should be λογική (see John 4:21; Rom. 1:9; 1 Peter 2:5). The λογικόν denotes that which is inspired by reason, in harmony with real reason, and consequently spiritual, real; in antithesis to merely external symbolical service (Melanchthon, cultus mentis),11 but not in antithesis to the ζῶα ἄλογα (Theodoret, Grotius, and others); for, as Meyer observes, the question here is λατρεία, but not θυσία. Indirectly, indeed, the λογικὴ λατρεία is also an antithesis to the cultus commentitii; for if the symbolical service would establish itself beyond its time, against the real service, it would then become cultus commentitius.
Romans 12:2. And not to be conformed. On the difference of the readings, see Textual Note2. The infinitives must be referred to the παρακαλῶ. The συνσχηματίζεσθαι is passive, with a reflexive meaning, in eandem formam redigi, se conformare. Philippi: “The original difference between σχῆμα and μορφή may be, that the latter denotes rather the organic form, while the former denotes more the mechanical form, the external and adventitious habitus (σχῆμα from ἔχω, σκεῖν); comp. 1 Cor. 7:31. Hence σκῆμα is also the external semblance, the pompa, and σκηματίζεσθαι, synonymous with προσποιεῖσθαι, to assume a form, a seeming shape, to appear, to take the shape of; comp. the passages cited by Wetstein; μορφή also the beautiful form, forma; comp. formosus. Thus μορφή more fitly designates the real inward form, while σχῆμα denotes rather the external and accidental appearance.” Comp. Phil. 2:6–8. See also Tholuck, p. 652. Meyer holds [as the E. V. assumes], that the antithesis of both verbs is comprised only in the prepositions; these, indeed, increase it. The σύν denotes the torpidity of the external form of the Church by uniformity with the world, worldliness; the μετά denotes the organic change and transformation of the organic shape, according to the new inward form. Meyer: “The present infinitives denote a continued action, while παραστῆσαι represents the presenting of the offering as a completed act.”
To this world [τῶ αἰῶνι τούτῳ]. הַוֶּה עוֹלָם . The pre-messianic and relatively anti-messianic form of the world in its perverted course. [Comp. Lange’s Comm., Gal. 1:4, p. 13.—R.]
But to be transfigured [ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθαι. The difference in preposition and verb is better preserved by transfigured, which also conveys the distinctions suggested above. See Five Anglican Clergymen.—R.] The μεταμ. is reflexive, as συνσχ.
By the renewing of your mind; Romans 7:24; Eph. 4:23. The καινότης πνεύματος (Rom. 7:6; comp. Romans 6:4), as an impelling principle, results in the ἀνακαίνωσις of the νοῦς; for the νοῦς, the conscious, thoughtful, or reflective moral and religious spiritual life (disposition) is constantly renewed, in part restored, and in part developed, in its mastery over the natural part of life. The transformation and shaping of the life of the Christian are determined not by external worldly forms, but by this inward renewing, or renewing ascending to the whole of the external life (ἀνακαίνωσις) through the productive power of the Spirit. The νοῦς, as such, does not then receive the new μορφή (Tholuck), but rather the whole Christian life from the νοῦς outward.12
That ye may prove. Literally: εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν. [Infinitive clause of design (Meyer).—R.] The Christian life should not receive its development by means of an external legislation, but by the inward one, which is directed by spiritual proving and self-determination (see Gal. 6:4; Eph. 5:10; Phil. 1:10, and other passages). Meyer appropriately says: “In the unrenewed man this proving is altogether foreign to the activity of his conscience. Comp. Eph. 5:10.” But with this there is also connected the being able to prove (Rückert, Köllner [Hodge, apparently]), although the actual proving is conjoined with it. Meyer: “The regenerate one proves by the verdict of his conscience, aroused and illuminated by the Spirit.” The νόμος of the Spirit, the Christian principle of life, is an infinitude, whose explanation and concrete application to life is committed to the proving of Christian illumination and wisdom.13
The will of God [τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ]. That which is willed by God in every relation of life. The reference of the definitions τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον, as adjectives, to God’s will (Vulgate, Chrysostom, the most of the early expositors, Luther, Rückert, &c.), is opposed, first of all, by the εὐάρεστον, but, in general, by the tautology that would be contained in the expression. Therefore Erasmus, Castalio, Tholuck, Meyer, and the most of the early commentators, have regarded the additions as a substantive apposition.
What is good, &c. We may ask whether a climax of three members is designed [Meyer], or whether we should render explicit that double relation of the good, by which, on the one hand, it is that which is well-pleasing to God, and, on the other, that which is perfect in itself, because it arises from the righteousness of faith, the principle of perfection. We prefer the latter rendering. The repetition of the article would, of course, not be necessary with the first interpretation.14
2. The proper conduct of Christians toward the community of brethren for the establishment of a harmonious church-life (Romans 12:3–8). Tholuck is correct in finding, in what follows, a reference to the different spheres of activity in the Church. Meyer speaks only of an exhortation to individual duties.15
Romans 12:3. For I say (say definitely). The γάρ is rendered namely, by Tholuck and Meyer. [Alford also takes it as resumptive.] First of all, namely appears as inappropriate as for. If it is the matter of the self-proving and self-determination of believers, how they should act toward each other, how can the Apostle lay down his precepts immediately afterward? The answer lies in the fact, that their subjective judgment should be subordinated to the known objective will of God. This requirement, that they should be certain as to whether their conduct corresponds to God’s perfect will, is so great, that it causes the Apostle to lay down regulations for it. Therefore we may also translate the γάρ by for. The λέγειν is used in the sense of injunction.
Through the grace, &c. [διὰ τῆς χάριτος, κ.τ.λ.] Even here διά. He will not prescribe for them by virtue of his subjective opinion or authority, but by virtue of the grace which is given to him (see Romans 1:5), which establishes his office, and is at the same time the element of life common to his office and their church-life (see Romans 15:15; 1 Cor. 3:10; Eph. 3:7, 8).
To every man that is among you [παντὶ τῶ ὄντι ἐν ὑμῖν. Alford: “A strong bringing out of the individual application of the precept.”—R.] This would therefore have applied to Peter also, if he had been in Rome, or Paul would not have spoken thus, or, indeed, would not have written to them at all.
Not to think of himself [μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν. See the text, and Textual Note6.—R.] Tholuck: φρονεῖν is here not “to strive after,” and also not “to be disposed, to think,” but “to think (of himself)” (see p. 654).
Soberly, σωφρονεῖν. It is wise conduct or good behavior, especially as moderation.—Proper self-knowledge and esteem, apart from over-estimation, should, by modesty, come to proper and wise moderation in the reciprocity of the personal life with the society. Meyer understands φρονεῖν as to be disposed, and explains the details accordingly; the Vulgate, Calvin, and others, interpret in the same way. The mode of thinking and feeling is undoubtedly connected here with the holding and demeaning, which is proved by the σωφρονεῖν.
According as God hath dealt to every man [ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἐμέρισεν]. The ἑκάστῳ is dependent on ἑμέρισε: According as God hath dealt to every man, &c., is therefore made antecedent by inversion (see 1 Cor. 3:5).—The idea of a different distribution of the measure of faith leads to the idea of the gift (Romans 12:6). No one should apply more than the gift of grace, for what lies beyond this is presumption; but the whole of the gift of grace should be applied, for if this be not done, something would be withheld from the society which is designed for it. Comp. 1 Cor. 12:4–6, 11; Heb. 2:4.
The measure of faith [μέτρον πίστεως]. When Meyer maintains that faith here means only faith in the ordinary sense, he overlooks the fact that the measure of faith is spoken of in concrete unity; or rather, he interprets this measure erroneously, by understanding only different degrees of the strength of faith, and, accordingly, he not only rejects the reference of the expression to Christian knowledge (Beza, and others), or to the power of working miracles (Theophylact), but also to the gift of grace (Chrysostom, and most other commentators). The purely Divine element in the gift is undoubtedly emphasized here, for what is not of faith is sin. [Alford explains the phrase: “The receptivity of χαρίσματα, itself no inherent congruity. It is, in fact, the subjective designation of ‘the grace that is given unto us;’ Romans 12:6.” He rightly distinguishes it from the gifts and graces themselves. So Philippi in substance. The objective sense of “faith,” which is implied in the view of Beza, is open to decided objection.—R.]
Romans 12:4. For as we have many members in one body [καθάπερ γάρ ἐν ἑνὶ σώματδ πολλὰ μέλη ἔχομεν]. Establishment of the foregoing. The individual Christian is only a member of Christ’s body, and should conduct himself as a member, avow himself as a member, and should permit himself to be strengthened as a member; Christ alone is the Head.16 “On the commonness of the parallels between a human body and a corpus sociale (1 Cor. 12), even among the ancients, see Grotius and Wetstein in loco;” Meyer.
Romans 12:5. So we, being many. In antithesis to the unity of the body.
In Christ. The head is the organic vital centre of the whole, in which (not to which) every thing in respect to dominion and glory is comprised (Eph. 1:22, and other passages).
And every one. Τὸ δὲ καθ̓ εἷς is a solecism of the later Greek, instead of τὸ δὲ καθ̓ ἕνα; Mark 14:19; John 8:9, and other passages.
Romans 12:6. Having then gifts differing according to the grace [ἕχοντες δὲ χαρίσματα κατὰ τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσαν ἡμῖν διάφορα]. Different constructions here enter into consideration.
1. With ἔχοντες a new sentence begins, which continues in a succession of elliptical exhortations (Beza, Olshausen, Philippi, and others). Meyer: “The elliptical expression after κατὰ τὴν ἀναλ. τ. πίστ. may be supplied by προφητεύωμε; by ὦμεν after ἐν τῇ διακονίᾳ by ἔστω after ἐν τῆ διδασκαλίᾳ; by the same after ἐν τῇ παρακήσει; and, finally, by the imperatives of the corresponding verbs (μεταδιδότω, &c.) after the three following parts, ἐν ἁπλότητι, &c. [So E. V., Hodge, &c.] Comp. the analogous mode of expression in 1 Peter 4:10 f.
2. The ἔχοντες is connected with the foregoing, but in such a way that the following clauses are, according to Meyer, all ellipses (Erasmus, and others). Meyer also places Tholuck here, but Tholuck declares now for (1).
3. The ἔχοντες δὲ is joined with ἐσμεν (Romans 12:5), in appositional meaning, and the following clauses are, at the outset, not hortatory, but descriptive, yet pass over into the hortatory (Reiche, Rückert, De Wette, Lachmann). We accept this construction with the modification, that we construe the ἔχειν emphatically in the meaning of to have and to hold fast, to put into practice, to exercise. Comp. Rom. 1:28. With the gifts, as with every thing spiritual, we must bear especially in mind that they cannot be possessed aright without exercising them. Thus the hortatory character under the descriptive form lies in the force of the ἔχειν, and in the added δέ. [This δέ is rendered by Alford: “and not only so, but.”—R.]
As for the apparent fluctuations in the construction, they resolve themselves into regular forms, if we observe the subdivisions,17 The Apostle distinguishes, first of all, two principal categories: a. προφητεία; b. διακονία. The διακονία is then divided into the διδάσκων and the πραικαλῶν; this latter is again divided into the μεταδιδούς, the προϊστάμενος, and the ἐλεῶν. This is proved by the forms:
1. The antithesis of the abstract nouns, προφητεία and διακονία. The latter, in its broader meaning, was evidently a church office; while, on the other hand, the προφητεία was, in the fullest sense, also an office.
2. εἴτε ὁ διδάσκων, εἴτε ὁ παρακαλῶν. This παρακαλῶν must, at all events, be regarded as a superintendent of the society, presbyter, or man having the gifts of the presbyter, whether, as ὁ μεταδιδούς, he devoted himself to the care of the poor; as ὁ προϊστάμενος, to the κυβέρνησις, in the narrower sense; or, as ὁ ἐλεῶν, to the healing of the sick and casting out of devils.18—Gifts differing according to the grace. Gifts; that is, modifications of the one Divine grace in the differences of the human individual talent (see 1 Cor. 12:4 ff.).
Whether prophecy. Prophecy, in the Old Testament as well as in the New, is the gift and calling to declare, by the prompting and communication of God’s Spirit, what is new—that which concerns the future, and the development of God’s kingdom; in order, like the compass, to direct aright, in the present, the ship of the kingdom. The reason why it appears more in the foreground in the Old Testament than in the New, is, that the former was the time of expectation and longing, and the latter the time of fulfilment and satisfaction.19
According to the proportion (harmony) of faith [κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως]. The expression defines exactly: according to the relation, the proportion, or harmony of faith; that is, according to the proportion defined by faith. Explanations:
1. Subjective faith, including the measure of faith, is meant (the early commentators; Origen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, and others; Bengel and Meyer [Alford, De Wette]. Tholuck: “The prophet keeps within the limits of his prophetical gift, assigned him by his individuality ”).
2. The objective rule of faith (Abelard, Aquinas, Hervæus, &c.; Flatt, Klee, Philippi, and others). Tholuck, on the contrary, observes, that we may ask whether Paul could have appealed already to such a regula fidei. But, in reality, Moses has already established the features of the analogia fidei, Deut. 18:18 ff. It is well known that the Jews crucified Christ by a false application of this rule; but it is equally well known that the New Testament proofs of faith from the Old Testament, which first introduced Christianity into the Jewish world, have only been a living application of this rule. At all events, Paul could not yet appeal to ecclesiastical confessions, but he could appeal to a fundamental canon of truth; see Gal. 1:8; 6:16; Phil. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:15, 16, &c. However, Tholuck has other grounds for preferring the explanation, that the prophet keeps within the sphere of his calling; namely, because the deacon should remain within the sphere of his diaconate, &c. But is the sphere of the prophet described by the measure of his subjective faith, or would not this be here rather a nugatory generality?20 The sphere of the prophet, who reveals what is new for the enlargement of the old revelation, is just the real character of the revelation itself, harmonizing with itself through all the stages of development. Yet the Apostle does not say ἀποκαλύψεως, but πίστεως, because the faith of the Church is also called to the office of watchman, in order that the development of the truth be not corrupted by false prophets. The application of this rule to the exposition of the Scriptures in the early period (see Tholuck, p. 664) is not explicatio, but applicatio; but it cannot be denied that this applicatio itself is made κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως.
Romans 12:7. Or ministry [εἴτε διακονίαν, das Dienstamt (Lange). Governed by ἔχοντες, like the preceding accusative]. A threefold idea of the διακονία can be distinguished in the New Testament. 1. The most comprehensive idea understands by διακονία the ecclesiastical office in general; see 1 Cor. 12:5. There, prophecy is designated as a diaconate; here, it is distinguished from it. 2. Therefore, the special office for a definite congregation. So here. [Dr. Lange apparently includes here all the permanent offices in a single church, as he makes διακονία a category, under which the five following terms fall. If, however, it be considered as coördinate with what follows, then the still more restricted view must be adopted.—R.] 3. The diaconate, in distinction from the presbyterial episcopacy, 1 Tim. 3:8. At the time when this Epistle was written, the ecclesiastical distinctions were less developed than when the First Epistle to Timothy was written, but yet more so than in the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
Let us wait on our ministering [ἐν τῇ διακονίᾳ. We must supply an imperative, either let us be in, remain in, or wait on (as E. V.). The sense is the same.—R.] Meyer thus explains the ἐν: The one who was “diaconally endowed” shall not wish to be of authority beyond the sphere assigned him by this endowment, but to be active within it. But it is not necessary to understand the εἶναι ἐν quantitatively; it can also be understood qualitatively. And since all the apostolic functions of the Church were diaconal, qualitative ministering is undoubtedly the meaning. The proof of the true office is, that it consists simply in service; just as, inversely, pure divine service becomes the true office, even if it had no human official seal. With the positive filling of his sphere, it is always supposed that he does not commit improprieties beyond his sphere.
Or he that teacheth, on teaching [εἴτε ὁ διδάσκων, ἐν τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ]. According to Meyer, Paul should have continued uniformly, εἴτε διδασκαλίαν (sc. ἔχοντες), “as [Cod.] A. actually has.” We have seen, in the arrangement of the gifts (see above), what grounds he had for not thus continuing.21 Thus he has his gift in his labors as teacher. This appears self-evident; but how many, who would be deemed teachers, are mere babblers!
Romans 12:8. Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation [ὁ παρακλῶν, ἐν τῇ παρακλήσει]. As the παρακαλῶν here is definitely distinguished from the διδάσκων, nothing else can be understood by it than a fraction within the more general presbyterate. Evidently the more definite distinction, in 1 Tim. 5:17, between presbyters who devote themselves to teaching, and ruling presbyters, thus begins to take shape; while, on the other hand, the diaconate is developed in a presbyterate from the date of Acts 11:30, and has not yet positively been separated from it. The exhorter, according to what follows, comprises the different sides of the subsequently developed presbyterial office; he is undoubtedly synonymous with the pastors, Eph. 4:11. The division of his office appears in the following statements.22
He that giveth [ὁ μεταδιδούς]. According to Meyer, the official functions to the Church cease with the εἴτε. We have, on the contrary, laid down further subdivisions here. Every Christian is indeed a μεταδιδδος, and not less an ἐλεῶν; but as here there stands midway between the two a προϊστάμενος, which not every one can be, special functions recognized by the Church are evidently meant. Meyer argues against such functions, by observing: a. The diaconal gift could not be thus analyzed; b. The position of the προϊστάμενος as the presbyter between two deaconal employments, would be inappropriate. Instead, therefore, of bearing in mind the growing relations, he does violence to them by preconceived opinions; a presbyter is a presbyter, a deacon is a deacon, &c.; and then, according to him, Paul casts the presbyter right in the midst of the membership.23
With simplicity. This term is characteristic of the penetration of the Apostle, since accessory views might be easily connected with all exercise of beneficence.24
He that ruleth, προϊστάμενος. According to Meyer, the presbyter, but not the presbyter exclusively. See 1 Cor. 12:28. The order there laid down by the apostles is as follows: 1. Prophets; 2. Teachers; 3. Miraculous powers; then healing of the sick, then bestowals of help, then κυβερνήσεις, and finally γένη γλωσσῶν. Therefore the bestowals of help would thus fall under the rubric of the present παρακαλῶν, and especially of the μεταδιδούς. Undoubtedly the κυβερνήσεις there stands in the same line with the προϊστάμενος here. The ones concerned as having care of the external affairs of the Church, had, at the beginning, no great things to manage. We then find the parallel of the ἐλεῶν in the gift of specific miracles: the healing of those possessed with devils, and the restoration of the sick.25
With diligence. Σπουδή may mean haste, zeal, or diligence. But the latter idea is most definite; zeal was a common duty of all.
With cheerfulness [ἐν ἱλαρότητν, i. e., hilarity]. “With gladness and friendliness,” says Meyer, “the opposite of unwilling and ill-humored behavior.” But the question here is not a conventional good conduct, but that cheerfulness from heaven which, in a despondent world, among other duties, must conquer and banish the demons of sadness.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. On Romans 12:1 ff. As man’s ideal destination was to perceive God aright in His works, and to praise and glorify Him, and, accordingly, the fall consisted in the omission of this living worship, according to Rom. 1:20, 21; then, as human corruption consisted fundamentally in the false worship of heathen idolatry and of Jewish zeal for the letter, according to chaps. 1. and 2.; as, further, redemption was instituted that God might effect and manifest the real atonement in Christ as the mercy-seat of the Holy of Holies sprinkled with His own blood, according to Romans 3:25; as then, consequently, also Christian saving faith consisted (according to Romans 5:1, 2) of free access to God into the Holy of Holies, and is developed in the most varied features of a New Testament call to worship; so, according to the practical part of this Epistle, should believers begin the development of their worship (Romans 12:1), by finishing the real burnt-offering by the pure presentation of their own bodily life to God’s service. On the passages of heathen and Jewish wise men relating to the moral consecration to God as a self-offering, quoted in Wetstein and Koppe, see Meyer, p. 453. See the same author on the “rational service,” p. 453; Tholuck, p. 651 ff.; Philippi, p. 500. It is noteworthy that the “rational service” is recommended to the Roman Church. On the συσχηματίζσθαι and μεταμορφοῦσθαι, see the Exeg. Notes. On αἰὼν οὗτος, see Philippi, p. 202.
2. Just as the First Epistle of Peter appears as an evangelical prophecy, in opposition to the later false image of Peter, so is it with the Epistle to the Romans; and especially does the expression of the living offering and the reasonable service stand in opposition to the later picture of the life of the Romish Church. The same assertion holds good of the expression with which Paul prescribes for all Christians in Rome, that every one should not think too highly of himself, that we are all members one of another, &c.
3. The first application which the Christian has to make of the principle of his new life is, that he should not arrogantly abuse his charism [gift] in a hierarchical or sectarian way, but should exercise it purely for the service of the Church, by adapting himself to the requirements of the community, and yet preserve his evangelical freedom. The rule is: (1) The whole gift for the Church; (2) Nothing but the gift; see 1 Cor. 12. On the idea of the charism, see the Exeg. Notes; also Tholuck, p. 655 ff.; p. 661.—The difference between the ἐλεῶν and him that giveth, applies to an early period in the Church. The support of the poor brethren in the first period was not the alms of charity. On the disposition and character of the increasing offices in the Church, see the Exeg. Notes. For fuller information on the gifts, see my Gesch. des apostol. Zeitalters, p. 555 ff.; and on the offices, p. 535 ff.
4. The defective understanding, which is still apparent in many ways, in reference to the rule that prophecy is according to the measure of faith, arises from the want of perception of the lawfulness of organic development in the department of spiritual as well as of natural life. With the lawfulness of development there is combined the development of lawfulness in all the spheres of life. But in the ecclesiastical department of faith, many will know nothing of the development expressed in prophecy, and, in contrast to them, many will know nothing of the lawfulness expressed by the measure of faith. Hence arise such foolish, noisy decisions of the day as this: The confessions of the Church are no longer obligatory! Every one must know what is obligatory for him, according to his own conscience and calling. But no one has any right to deny the validity of what the Church of God, in its real development of life, regards as its duty. At all events, it follows most from the Apostle’s rule, that the meaning of confessions is thoroughly dependent on the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. But then it may be asked, whether a legal development has been committed to the Church in its essential and substantial life, or whether the custom of declaiming against the boundless culpability of the Church, now in doctrine and now in life, has arisen because the tradition of bishops’ caps and doctors’ hats is regarded as the most exact history of the Church.
[5. On church polity, as taught in this section. The most remarkable fact is, that so little is said. The doctrines of grace are fully treated; the practical theme is distinctly announced. Then, after an exhortation to humility, comes an exhortation apparently to church officers, yet so indistinct in its distinctions that nothing definite as to the usages of the Roman Church can be based upon it. A warning against the hierarchy of Rome can readily be found in it; but is it not also suggestive of a certain “freedom of adaptation” in the external polity of Christ’s Church? To one who has puzzled over this and parallel passages with the honest purpose of finding out what is the form of church government given jure divino, and failed to discover, in any present form, the counterpart of the apostolic Church, it gives a happy relief from perplexity to conclude that church polity was purposely sketched by the apostles only in “silhouette;” that the details are to be of ecclesiastical rather than of Divine enactment; that, while despotism and anarchy are excluded, both by the nature of the case and the hints given in the New Testament, the external form of the Church of the future may be as different from any organization at present existing, as its spirit will transcend that of mere ecclesiasticism. Mayhap, when the Church shall return to the apostolical spirit, it will find in its outward form the true exegesis of these disputed passages. He who reads prelacy here, reads through colored glasses; and he who finds ruling elders alluded to, must first derive his knowledge of their existence from other sources, and then make his exegesis correspond. If, however, any will not be satisfied until a jure divino form is found, a search into later Epistles will be more profitable; yet that fact of itself admits development in the apostolic age, and who shall say when that development shall cease? Comp. Schaff, History of the Christian Church, i. pp. 130 ff., and the list of authors there referred to; also a discussion on Lay and Primitive Eldership, in the Amer. Presbyterian Review, Drs. R. D. Hitchcock and E. F. Hatfield, vol. vi. pp. 253–268, 506–531.—R.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
[In the original, the Homiletical Notes are inserted at the close of the chapter.—R.]
Romans 12:1, 2. Our thank-offering for God’s mercy. 1. What sort of a sacrifice should it be? a. Living; b. Holy; c. Well-pleasing to God. 2. With what disposition should it be presented? a. Not so that we should conform to the world, and therefore not with unconverted hearts; but, b. That our minds should be renewed, that we may continually perceive God’s will aright.—Our rational service. 1. The sacrifice which is presented, is not the sacrifice of slain beasts, but the living sacrifice of our bodies. 2. The sanctuary is not the tabernacle or temple, but the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. 3. The priests are not Levites, but all believing Christians whose mind is renewed.—The restoration of rational service was a prime advantage conferred by our Reformers.—How rational service, in conformity with its nature, should not be limited to the celebration of Sundays and holy days, but should embrace the whole life.—The exhortation to rational service is still necessary. 1. In opposition to the Catholic Church; 2. In opposition to certain sects.—Paul exhorts to reasonable worship, but not to the worship of reason.—Reasonable service is not subtilizing service. 1. The former is living and inspiring; 2. The latter, dead and cold.
LUTHER: St. Paul here calls all offerings, works, and worship, unreasonable, when performed without faith and the knowledge of God.—The law has a sacrifice of many kinds of irrational beasts, all of which are combined in one sacrifice, in order that we ourselves may become reasonable men.
STARKE: Nothing so urges us to what is good as the sense of God’s sweet grace and mercy.—The death of the old man is the life of the new man; where Adam’s wrath ceases, Christ’s meekness begins; and where Adam’s pride goes down, Christ’s humility rises.—CRAMER: The Christians of the New Testament are spiritual priests, and bound to sacrifices, but they should sacrifice themselves: laying their obedience (1 Sam. 15:22), their lips (Hosea 14:3), faith (Phil. 2:17), alms (Phil. 4:18), mercy (Hosea 6:6), and all such things, on Jesus Christ, the golden altar, God will accept them.
SPENER: It is not enough to do good and leave evil undone, but the Christian must present himself a complete sacrifice to God.—If, in short, we would know at what we should aim in Christianity, it is the Divine will, and therefore the Divine word. Whatever this forbids must be evil, though even the whole world should permit and praise it; and whatever it enjoins is good, though it should be displeasing to every one.—BENGEL: They very improperly shirk from this perfect will who are always in search of what they, as they think, are at liberty to do without sin. But their course is just like that of a voyager, who, having lost his reckoning, is constantly in search of the most distant shore (Romans 12:2).
ROOS: God wills every thing that is good, every thing that is well-pleasing to Him, and every thing that is perfect. That is good which harmonizes with God’s commandments; and it is good (καλόν) in so far as it is well-pleasing to Him; and it is perfect if presented to the extent of our capacity (Romans 12:2).
GERLACH: The Apostle compares the worship of Christians in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), which he accordingly calls reasonable (comp. 1 Peter 2:2), with the typical and figurative sacrificial worship of the Old Testament (Romans 12:1, 2).
HEUBNER: The love and mercy of God should be the incentive and source of the Christian sense. This constitutes the characteristic difference between Christian piety and every other kind: it flows from faith and the experience of Divine love in Christ.—The mutual devotedness of God and pious people.—The holiness of the first commandment.—Christian faith is the foundation of Christian piety (Romans 12:1).—Mastery over the fashion of the world: love for God, and the wish to have only His grace, conquers.—Proper and improper accommodation to circumstances.—Christian life must be something in motion, otherwise it will stink. Accipiunt vitium, ni moveantur, aquœ.
BESSER: A Christian man presents his body as a daily offering, when he, 1. Crucifies that which impedes the spirit willing for God’s service; 2. When he offers all the powers of his body and soul for God’s honor and his neighbor’s good (Romans 12:1).—Our service is reasonable (“logical”) when it consists in Christian self-sacrifice, because this service is worthy of God, and well-pleasing to Him; just as the pure milk of the gospel (1 Peter 2:2) is called reasonable (sincere) because it is the proper nourishment for God’s children.—PAUL SPERATUS preached at Vienna, from this apostolical text, his powerful Reformation sermon on “The Glory of the reasonable Gospel Worship, and the Punishment of the unreasonable Popish Worship” (Romans 12:1).—We should flee from conformity to the world (Romans 12:2).
Romans 12:3-8. Humility as the fundamental law of reasonable service in the Church. 1. It should show itself in no one’s thinking too highly of himself, but in every one’s thinking soberly of himself. 2. It should be manifested by patient consecration of gifts to the service of the Church (Romans 12:3–8).—True Christian humility: 1. Its nature; 2. Its source (Romans 12:3).—The figure of the body and the members; comp. 1 Cor. 12. (Romans 12:4, 5).—Healthy church-life. To this belong two things: 1. Unity in Christ; 2. Diversity of gifts (Romans 12:4–8).—Proof of the necessary connection of unity and diversity in the Church. 1. Unity without diversity is death; 2. Diversity without unity is disorder (Romans 12:4–8).—The gift of prophecy. 1. In what does it consist? 2. What purpose should it serve? Comp. 1 Cor. 14:3 (Romans 12:7).—Has any one an office, let him wait on his office. This is said, first of all, of the special care of the poor (διακονία); but then it applies to every office (Romans 12:7).—What belongs to waiting on our teaching? 1. The appropriation of the material for teaching. 2. Observation of the proper mode of teaching (method). 3. The consecration of our own persons (Romans 12:7).—We should give with simplicity—that is: 1. From an unselfish heart; 2. With a single eye (Matt. 6:22); 3. With a pure hand (Romans 12:8).—Proper care in government. 1. It protects order; 2. It regards freedom (Romans 12:8).—Christian mercy. 1. Its nature; 2. Its exercise (Romans 12:8).
LUTHER: However precious be all prophecy which leads to works, and not simply to Christ, as our comfort, it is nevertheless not like faith; since those who practise it seek the revelation of hobgoblins, and masses, pilgrimages, fasts, and the worship of saints (Romans 12:7).—Let those be taught who do not know it, and those be admonished who know it already (Romans 12:7, 8).
STARKE: Man—a little world; such a glorious, artistic masterpiece of the Almighty Creator, that it cannot be too much contemplated and wondered at (Romans 12:4).—If you are appointed to the office of preacher, take your hand from the oxen, from the plough, and from your worldly business! Every one to the work to which God has assigned him! Sirach 38:25 (Romans 12:8).—CRAMER: Let no one think that he knows, and can do, every thing alone. If that had been designed, God would only have created one member to the body; Prov. 22:2 (Romans 12:4).—The proper touchstone of all exposition of the Holy Scriptures, is the constant and impregnable harmony of the writings of the prophets and apostles; Acts 26:22 (Romans 12:7).—HEDINGER: Not out of the nest! How will you fly without feathers, judge without understanding, boast without a reason, be called pious without proof, be skilful without God? God does every thing, and you nothing. Therefore glorify Him, but not yourself. Be still and humble (Romans 12:3).—Listen! You are your neighbor’s servant. Happy he, who, as the servant of his neighbor, lives in love (Romans 12:4).—Many rules, little work. What may it be? Great cry, little wool. Perform your office well, and regard yourself as unworthy of praise and reward (Romans 12:7).—MÜLLER: Teaching instructs and lays the foundation, exhortation builds upon the foundation (Romans 12:8).
SPENER: God has given one kind of faith to all—that is, as far as the matter itself is concerned. Therefore Peter says: They who have obtained like (ἰσότιμον) precious faith with us (2 Peter 1:1). Therefore we must regard ourselves, mutually, as members of one body (Romans 12:3).—On Romans 12:7: Here belong preaching and catechetical instruction (characteristic of SPENER).
ROOS: Every one should act according to the proportion of his faith, and especially deliver Divine truths—that is, prophesy. That which is beyond them is the work of nature, and is worth nothing (Romans 12:4).—To the words, “he that teacheth,” and “he that exhorteth,” &c., we must mentally add, “because he has received his gift to do it from the Lord.” Now he should exercise himself in this employment (Romans 12:7—9).
GERLACH: True humility is, to be conscious of what God gives to it; and it is not a self-acquired possession, but a free gift, and therefore is most intimately one with sobriety and clearness of spirit; while false patience, with an apparently deep self-humiliation, gives man a sullen look at his own heart, and in his gloom it increases the dark spirit of selfishness and pride (Romans 12:3).—The gift of prophecy should not draw the Christian into the sphere of obscure feelings, where he can no longer distinguish the truth revealed by God from the imaginations of his own mind, but should have a guiding star and rule of conduct for common Christian faith (Romans 12:7).
HEUBNER: God has given us, in the human body, an eloquent picture of human society, and of the inward union of all men. [Comp. the address of Menenius Agrippa to the people in monte sacro, Livy 2:32] (Romans 12:4–6).—The sense of Romans 12:7 is: Let no one manifest or affect more fervency or enthusiasm than he has, according to the measure of his faith, according to the degree of his strength and religious conviction. How common it is for one to wish to appear more than he is, or can be! Even religion is brought out for a show, and perverted to a desire to please (Romans 12:7).—Nothing beyond the Christian’s office is required of him; that is the first thing for him.—Christian fidelity to office as the fruit of faith (Romans 12:7).
BESSER: It is very important to distinguish the measure of faith, and yet not to separate from the measure of gifts (Romans 12:3).—To prophesy, means to declare God’s mysteries, impelled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:7).—The prophecy of an unbelieving preacher and expositor can, indeed, resemble faith; but we pray the Lord for prophets whose measure of faith holds the rule of faith alive within them, who preach, with hearts believing according to the received measure of faith, the faith which the Church confesses (Romans 12:7).
THE PERICOPES. Romans 12:1-6 for the first Sunday after Epiphany. HEUBNER: The sacred obligations of the Christian as a member of a holy community.—Every Christian should be a minister. 1. Proof; 2. Blessing.—Christian piety. 1. Its nature; 2. Its effects.—BUDDEUS: The real fruits of faith. They are shown: 1. In true service, or proper conduct toward God; 2. In proper conduct toward the world; and, 3. In proper conduct toward ourselves.—KAPFF: What is necessary for the offering of a sacrifice well-pleasing to God? 1. That we should no longer seek salvation in ourselves or in the world; 2. That we should fully appropriate Christ as the perfect sacrifice; 3. That we should wholly surrender ourselves to the perfect will of God.—STANDT: How far a true Christian must alienate himself from the world. 1. As a sacrifice on the Lord’s altar; 2. As a work of the Lord’s hand; 3. As a member of the Lord’s body.—BURK: The Christian’s life a daily priestly service. 1. In the feeling which pervades him; 2. In the denial which he exercises; 3. In the service which he renders.
[BISHOP HALL, on Romans 12:2: Sermon on the fashions of the world. Outline: I. The world. II. The forbidden fashions. 1. The head. 2. The eyes: (1) The adulterous eye; (2). The covetous eye; (3) The proud eye; (4) The envious eye. 3. The forehead—the seat of impudence. 4. The ear: (1) The deaf ear; (2) The itching ear. 5. The tongue: (1) The false tongue; (2) The malicious tongue; (3) The ribaldrous tongue. 6. The palate, or belly. 7. The back. 8. The neck and shoulders. 9. The heart. 10. The hands and feet. III. The ugliness and disgustiveness of worldly fashions in God’s sight.
[FARINDON, on Romans 12:6: On the proportion of faith. Plato, when asked what God does in heaven, how He busies and employs himself there, how He passes away eternity, answered: “He works geometrically.” So is the “proportion of faith6,” as St. Paul calls it, also geometrical; where we must not compare sum with sum, as they do in a market, or value the gift more or less by telling it; but argue thus: “As what He bestows is in proportion to his estate, so is what I bestow unto mine.” And in this sense, the widow’s two mites were recorded as a more bountiful and a larger present than if Solomon had thrown the wealth of his kingdom into the treasury. It was the faith, therefore, from which their liberality proceeded, which cheered the Apostle in all his distresses; not the gift itself.
[LEIGHTON, on Romans 12:1: On the sacrifice of the godly. The children of God delight in offering sacrifices to Him; but if they might not know that they were well taken at their hands, it would discourage them much. How often do the godly find it their experience, that, when they come to pray, He welcomes them, and gives them such evidence of His love as they would not exchange for all worldly pleasures! And when this doth not appear as at other times, they ought to believe it. He accepts themselves and their ways when offered in sincerity, though never so mean; though they sometimes have no more than a sigh or a groan, it is most properly a spiritual sacrifice.
[JEREMY TAYLOR: Religion teaches us to present to God our bodies as well as our souls; for God is the Lord of both; and if the body serves the soul in actions natural, and civil, and intellectual, it must not be eased in the only offices of religion, unless the body shall expect no portion of the rewards of religion, such as are resurrection, reunion, and glorification.
[CHARNOCK, on Romans 12:1: God, who requires of us a reasonable service, would work upon us by a reasonable operation. God therefore works by way of a spiritual illumination of the understanding, in propounding the creature’s happiness by arguments and reasons, and in a way of a spiritual impression upon the will, moving it sweetly to the embracing that happiness, and the means to it, which He proposes; and, indeed, without this work preceding, the motion of the will could never be regular.
[J. HOWE, on Romans 12:1: Sermon on self-dedication. I. Explanation of the terms in the text. II. How the act enjoined must be performed. 1. With knowledge and understanding; 2. With serious consideration; 3. With a determined judgment that it ought to be done; 4. With liberty of spirit; 5. With full bent of heart and will; 6. With concomitant acceptance of God; 7. With explicit reference to Christ; 8. With deep humility and self-abasement; 9. With joy and gladness of heart; 10. With candor and simplicity; 11. With full surrender to God; 12. With solemnity. III. Inducements to self-dedication.
[BISHOP HOPKINS, on Romans 12:2: On God’s will. This is all contained in the Holy Scriptures, which are a perfect system of precepts given us for the government of our lives here, and for the attaining of eternal life hereafter; and therefore it is likewise called His revealed will; whereas the other, namely, the will of purpose, is God’s secret will, until it be manifested unto us by the events and effects of it.—To be governed by our own or other men’s wills, is usually to be led by passion, and blind, headlong affections; but to give up ourselves wholly to the will of God, is to be governed by the highest reason in the world; for His will cannot but be good, since it is the measure and rule of goodness itself; for things are said to be good because God wills them. And whatsoever He requires of us is pure and equitable, and most agreeable to the dictates of right and illuminated reason; so that we act most like men when we act most like Christians, and show ourselves most rational when we show ourselves most religious.—J. F. H.]
Romans 12:1.—[The infinitive should be retained in the English rendering, for the sake of convenience in connecting the infinitives, which are to be accepted as the correct readings in Romans 12:2.
Romans 12:2.—[The Rec. (with א. B1. L., many versions and fathers) reads: συσχηματιζεσθε, which is adopted by Wordsworth and Tregelles. The majority of modern editors and commentators (Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tholuck, De Wette, Meyer, Alford, Lange) accept the infinitive; so A. B2. D. F. Most of these support συνσχηματίζεσθαι, rather than συσχ. Meyer says: “It is quite as likely that the imperative was written, to make Romans 12:2 an independent sentence, as that the infinitive, was substituted for the sake of conformity with Romans 12:1.” Accepting the infinitive, we place a comma at the close of Romans 12:1, and emend as above.
Romans 12:2.—[Here the infinitive μεταμορφοῦσθαι receives the additional support of א.—The E. V. is more euphonious than exact in rendering these verbs: conformed, transformed. Transfigured (Five Ang. Clergymen) is more accurate, and reproduces, in a measure, the variety in the form of the Greek.
Romans 12:2.—[After νοός, the Rec. (א. D3. L.) inserts ὑμῶν. It is omitted in A. B. D1. F.; rejected by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford, Tregelles, Lange; probably a mechanical repetition from Romans 12:1.
Romans 12:2.—[This emendation accords with Dr. Lange’s exegesis. It is taken from Noyes; the Amer. Bible Union gives a similar rendering.
Romans 12:3.—[The bracketted rendering is that of Alford, Wordsworth, &c.; but is, at best, a chumsy attempt to reproduce the play on the words ὑπερφρονεῖν, φρονεῖν, σωφρονεῖν.
Ver 5.—[The reading of the Rec. (ò) is very poorly supported, though defended by Philippi on exegetical grounds. א. A. B. D1. F. read τό; which is adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, and most. The clause contains a solecism, and means: what (is true) as regards individuals, (they are) members of one another.
Romans 12:6.—[The difficulties of construction are discussed fully in the Exeg. Notes. The E. V. has so happily filled out the elliptical clauses, and preserved the force of the original, that it is not necessary to make any alterations. The clause: let us wait on our ministering (Romans 12:7), might perhaps be improved; yet, on the whole, it presents the correct meaning.—R.]
[The word Gottesdienst, used here, and frequently throughout this section, means, literally: Service of God; but, technically: public service, Divine service, public worship. Dr. Lange seems to combine both meanings, for he implies that all the duties here set forth form not only a service of God, but the best, truest worship, the real liturgy of the New Testament Church.—R.]
[So Tholuck. While it must be admitted that we are bidden to present our entire selves, the choice of the word “bodies” is probably “an indication that the sanctification of Christian life is to extend to that part of man’s nature which is most completely under the bondage of sin” (Alford). This view is not open to the objection urged above by Dr. Lange, and accords with Paul’s use of σῶμα.—R.]
[So Hodge, Stuart, and most. Rational is preferable to reasonable, because the latter conveys ordinarily the idea of something for which a good reason can be given, rather than the exact idea of λογικόν, rational, vernünftig.—R.]
[The mind is renewed in the newness of the Spirit, and from within the transforming impulse proceeds to transfigure the whole life. This seems to be Dr. Lange’s meaning.—R.]
[The verb occurring here is rendered discern (Amer. Bible Union), approve (Erasmus, and others); but prove, test by actual experience, is to be preferred (so Meyer, De Wette, Alford, and others). Wordsworth: assay the value of.—R.]
[The non-repetition of the article, which is urged against the “substantive apposition,” is readily explained. It shows that all three refer to one thing. See Winer, p. 120.—R.]
[So Alford. Meyer subdivides these verses thus: Romans 12:3–5, exhortation to humility in general; Romans 12:6–8, with special reference to official charisms.—R.]
[Alford: “γάρ, elucidating the fact that God apportions variously to various persons: because the Christian community is like a body, with many members, having various duties.”—R.]
[Tholuck: “The first two accusatives are grammatically dependent on ἒχοντες: by degrees the Apostle loses sight of this construction, and continues with the concrete ὀ διδάσκων, which he still binds on to the foregoing with εἲτε; but, at ὁ μεταδιδούς, omits this also, and, at Romans 12:9, introduces the abstract ἠ ἀγάπη.” This view or that of Dr. Lange will be preferred, as one does or does not seek definiteness of arrangement in the verses.—R.]
[Dr. Lange’s classification is ingenious, and perhaps the most satisfactory one, if all seven terms be referred to official positions. Meyer, Alford, and others, refer the last three (in Romans 12:8) to persons endowed with certain charisms, without any special official position. The reason for this change in application is found in the omission of εἲτε, the difficulty of referring these to official persons and functions, the change in the admonitions, which do not define the sphere, as before, but the mode. Besides, as the Apostle (Romans 12:4) has been speaking of “all members,” he would naturally allude to others than official persons. See further in the notes on the separate clauses.—R.]
[“Prophecy” undoubtedly includes more than the prediction of future events, yet the tendency has been to identify the. New Testament prophet with the preacher. Dr. Hodge remarks: “The gift of which Paul here speaks, is … that of immediate occasional inspiration, leading the recipient to deliver, as the mouth of God, the particular communication which be had received.” This view, which is undoubtedly correct, removes this office out of the discussions respecting Church polity and offices at the present day. It belongs to the extraordinary gifts of the apostolic age.—R.]
[Alford (with most modern commentators) defends the subjective view of “faith,” from the context, “which aims at showing that the measure of faith, itself the gift of God, is the receptive faculty for all spiritual gifts, which are therefore not to be boasted of, nor pushed beyond their provinces, but humbly exercised within their own limits.” Besides, there is very little warrant for the objective sense of πίστις; it was unknown to the early Greek fathers (Meyer), and cannot be established as a New Testament usus; comp. Lange’s Comm. Gal. 1:23, p. 27; Lightfoot. Galatians, pp. 152 ff. It would seem, then, that the technical theological phrase: analogy of faith, has a meaning not strictly in accordance with Paul’s use of the phrase. Certainly the application is quite different—here, to the extraordinary gift of prophecy; theologically, to a regula fidei. Dr. Lange seems to take middle ground.—R.]
[The change to the nominative is deemed by Dr. Lange a sufficient warrant for taking this, and the corresponding participle which follows, as directly subordinate to the idea expressed in διακονίαν. If a reason must be found for the irregularities of the Apostle’s syntax, this is the simplest and most satisfactory explanation.—R.]
[Meyer confines the charisms of exclusively official significance to the four terms already discussed, though he thinks these four are examples chosen out of a larger number: (1) The gift of theopneustic discourse, prophecy. (2) The gift of oversight of the external affairs of the Church, diaconate. (3) The gift of teaching by ordinary methods, not yet limited to any special office. (4) The gift of exhortation, i. e., of encouraging or admonitory remarks upon the passage of Scripture read after the usage of the synagogue. This last differs from the teaching, in being directed to the heart and will; while teaching was directed to the understanding. Philippi, whose notes are very full and valuable, agrees with him in the main, but differs from him in regard to what follows.—R.]
[Meyer guards against this position, by making the gift a general one, not exclusively that of presbyter or ἐπίσκωπος. Hodge and Philippi, however, refer the first and third to Christians generally, and the second to the ecclesiastical rulers. The latter defends such a promiscuous arrangement as warranted by the Apostle’s purpose. It may be observed, that διαδούς would better express official beneficence, while μεταδούς, it is claimed by many, refers to private giving of one’s own substance.—R.]
[Tholuck and Alford render: with liberality; but this seems to be but poorly supported. Dr. Hodge retains the common meaning in the case of the deacons, and adds: “Considered in reference to private Christians, this clause may be rendered, he that giveth, with liberality.” But this is only an inference. The Apostle says: with simplicity, which is as difficult in the case of private as of official beneficence.—R.]
[It is evident how difficult it is to deduce from the hints given in these Epistles, written to different Churches at different times, any consistent theory of Church government during the apostolic age. In regard to this particular word, most commentators refer it to “the rulers”—i. e., the ruling elders; but the great objection is, that so important an office would scarcely be put in the position it here occupies. Meyer formerly held that it meant those who entertained stranger (so Stuart, in an excursus on this passage), but he has abandoned this view. Alford refers it to ruling in the household, &c. In favor of the common view, it may well be urged, however, that the Churches grafted on the synagogue did have such officers, and we might expect a reference to them here. If referred to at all, it must be by this word.—R.]
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.SECOND SECTION.—The proper conduct of Christians in all their personal relations: to the brethren; in their own life; to the needy; to guests; to every body, even toward enemies.
9Let love be without dissimulation [your love be unfeigned]. Abhor26 that 10which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love [In brotherly love27 be affectionate one to another, literally, be as blood relatives]; in honour preferring one another; 11Not slothful in business [In diligence, not slothful]; fervent in spirit [in spirit, fervent]; serving the Lord [or, the time];28 12Rejoicing in hope [in hope, rejoicing]; patient in tribulation [in tribulation, patient]; continuing instant in prayer [in prayer, 13persevering]; Distributing [Communicating] to the necessity [necessities]29 of saints; given to hospitality. 14Bless them which [those who] persecute you:bless, and curse not. 15Rejoice with them that do [those who] rejoice, and weep 16with them that [those who] weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate [or, lowly things].30 Be not wise in your own conceits. 17Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide [Have a care for] things honest [honorable] in the sight of all men.31 18If it be possible, as much as lieth in [dependeth on] you, live peaceably [be at peace] with all men. 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves [Avenge not yourselves, dearly beloved], but rather give place unto wrath [to the wrath, sc., of God]: for it is written,32 Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20Therefore33
If thine enemy hunger, feed him;
If he thirst, give him drink:
For in [by] so doing
Thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21Be not overcome of [by] evil, but overcome evil with good.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Summary.—The remark, that the expression ἡ ἀγάπη ἀνυπόκριτος serves as an inscription to all the following participles, has induced us, after the example of Meyer, and others, to begin the new section with Romans 12:9.34 It may be doubted whether the Apostle has mentally supplied ἔστε or ἐστί. The latter view is favored by the idea of Christian love, not merely “toward others,” but in a universal relation; see Romans 12:11. The first construction is favored by the hortatory form appearing more strongly toward the end. Our earlier division was based on the fact that Romans 12:9 and 10 treat of conduct toward companions in faith within the Church. The Apostle, however, makes use of a long series of participles, as if he would urge not so much a Christian course of conduct, as to set up a typical rule of conduct for believers, according to unfeigned love.
[De Wette, Olshausen, and others, supply ἐστί, thus making these verses descriptive, not hortatory. They urge that the use of the participle for the imperative is very rare. That is true; but in Romans 12:14 we have the imperative, followed by an infinitive in Romans 12:15, and then by participles, Romans 12:16–19; all of these latter clauses being of a hortatory character. With most commentators (so E. V.), we prefer to supply ἐστω with the first clause of Romans 12:9, and ἐστέ with the following participles, since Romans 12:8 is of a hortatory character. Meyer, Philippi, Tischendorf, Lachmann, larger edition, declare for this; the editors by their punctuation, which is the same in the main as that of the E. V. Lachmann also favors (smaller edition) joining the participles with the imperative in Romans 12:14, and thus obtaining the hortatory force; this, however, is not only singular, but contrary to the thought, which will not permit these participles to modify the imperative, bless. Fritzsche takes the participles as corresponding to the personal subjects of “love unfeigned,” as 2 Cor. 1:7; but this is unnecessary.—R.]
Romans 12:9. Let your love be unfeigned] ἡ ἀγάπη ἀνυπόκριτος. We are justified in strengthening ἡ ἀγάπη into your love, in English. But the Apostle means love absolutely, not merely love to the brethren (which is spoken of afterwards), nor love to God. The adjective need not be paraphrased, as in E. V.—R.] See 2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Peter 1:22. Meyer well says: “As love, so also must faith, its root, be;” 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:8. Undissembled love is therefore the inscription for the whole series of prescriptions which the Apostle lays down in parallelisms of two and of three members.
Abhor that which is evil. ἀποστυγοῦντες. Strictly, repelling with repugnance. This first grand antithesis says, that believers should turn away with utter abhorrence from that which is evil, in order to cleave to the good with inseparable attachment, as with bridal affection. This antithesis constitutes the practice of heaven and heavenly life, and its realization is the life of our Lord. Its breaking off and turning away, as well as its connecting and uniting, constitute the fundamental moral law of God’s kingdom. The second antithesis unites with this.
Romans 12:10. In brotherly love. φιλαδελφία. [The dative is that of reference: as respects brotherly love.—R.] Specific brotherly love for fellow-Christians; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7.—[Be affectionate one to another, εἰς ἀλλήους] φιλόστοργοι. Be lovers as toward those related in blood.
In honour. Τιμή, esteem. The antithesis here is the equalization in confiding brotherly love, and the subordination of our own personality to our esteem for others.
Preferring one another. Προηγούμενοι. The explanations: excelling (Chrysostom, and others), obliging (Theophylact, Luther, and others), and esteeming higher (Theodoret, Grotius; see Tholuck), are intimately connected therewith. [Stuart: “In giving honor, anticipating one another.” Meyer: “Going before as guides; i. e., with conduct inciting others to follow.” These explanations, however, do not seem to suit τιμή; hence Alford, and most, prefer the meaning given in the Vulgate: invicem prœvenientes. Hodge: “Instead of waiting for others to honor us, we should be beforehand with them in the manifestation of respect.”—R.]
Romans 12:11. In diligence, not slothful, &c. [τῆ σπουδῇ μὴ ὀχνηροί, κ.τ.λ] This clause, which has three members, defines proper activity in reference to temporal affairs, just as the following clause, which also has three members, defines proper passivity in these affairs. Both verses define the personal conduct of the Christian in relation to himself, according to his situation in time.35 The principal rule of the first clause is: not to shrink halfheartedly from the whole work of time, but to work with persevering enthusiasm. To this belongs the polar conduct of remaining warm in spirit (seething and boiling like a hot spring), and overcoming the time (see Acts 18:25), while in one’s daily task adapting one’s self to the moment, to the will of the χύριος in the χαιρός, so that He is served by observing its full meaning. Δουλ. τῷ χαιρῷ, tempori servire (Cicero), and similar expressions; see Meyer, p. 463. The expression was usual in the bad sense (of unprincipled accommodation), as in the good (to accommodate one’s self to the time). But here it reads: controlling the time by serving the Lord; Eph. 5:16; see Tholuck, pp. 669 ff., who gives the reference to the reading κυρίῳ.
[Serving the Lord, τῶ χυρίῳ δουλεύοντες. On the readings, see Textual Note3. The adoption of the reading καιρῷ, which is not so well sustained as that of the Rec., has influenced the exegesis of Dr. Lange throughout the verse. Philippi urges against καιρῷ its equivocal meaning, and the fact that Paul always represents the Christian as free, a servant only to God, or Christ, or righteousness—never of the time. In fact, the injunction seems scarcely to differ from one of worldly wisdom, if that reading be accepted. Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5, will not justify the expression. Fritzsche in loco admits an interchange of κυρίος and καιρός in other places.—Dr. Hodge explains: “Influenced in our activity and zeal by a desire to serve Christ. This member of the sentence, thus understood, describes the motive from which zeal and diligence should proceed.” The common interpretation, derived from the E. V., is: not slothful in temporal affairs, yet of an earnest religious spirit, because all is done in the service of the Lord. If the first clause be extended so as to include “whatever our hand finds to do,” this is sufficiently correct. The second member derives its appropriateness from the fact—never more noticeable than in these bustling days, when even religious duty partakes somewhat of the spirit of the age—that zeal and diligence may become a habit and passion, a mere activity, lacking the genuine fervor of the spirit. The last term does not, indeed, refer to the Holy Spirit, but, in an exhortation to Christians, may well be taken as meaning the human spirit under the influence of the Holy Spirit.—R.] This is followed by a trichotomy as the proper passivity in temporal relations.
Romans 12:12. In hope, rejoicing [τῆ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες. Stuart thinks the datives in this verse also are datives of reference: as respects hope, rejoicing, &c. But the regularity has been broken in upon by the τῶ κυρίῳ of the preceding verse; we are therefore warranted in adopting a different view here, especially as the datives in this verse seem not to be parallel to each other. The verb χαίρειν may indeed govern the dative, but the hope is rather the ground than the object of rejoicing, (so Meyer, Alford). De Wette, Philippi: vermöge der Hoffnung; Hodge: on account of hope. The hope is objective, and to be taken more generally than Dr. Lange suggests. His view results from reading καιρῷ above.—R.] The antithesis shows that here the ἐλπίς, as formerly the σπουͅδή, must be regarded as prevalently objective. In the time bestowing hope. It is in harmony with the childlike character of faith to rejoice gratefully over every good token; but it is also in harmony with manliness to be patient in tribulation.
In tribulation, patient; in prayer, persevering [τῇ θλίφει ῦπομένοντες τῇ προσευχῇ προζκαρτεροῦντες. Alford: τῇ θλίφει, the state in which the ὑπομονή is found. Philippi, De Wette, Meyer, &c., think ἐν was omitted on account of the parallelism of construction, though the verb governs the dative (more usually the accusative, however). On the second clause, comp. Col. 4:2; Acts 1:14.—R.] The harmonization of the great contrasts of life lies in the persevering life of prayer. Similar harmonizations, see James 1:9, 10 Romans 5:13. Bengel: Gaudium non modo est affectus, sed etiam officium christianorum. Tholuck and Meyer would regard the hope here quite universally, as the foundation of Christian joy. This is not favored by the antithesis τῇ θλίψει. Meyer here reads the dative: standing out against tribulation. But Paul will not consider tribulation as an adversary. We also prefer being patient to being steadfast, as continued steadfastness is placed here finally in the life of prayer.36
Romans 12:13. Communicating to the necessities of saints [ταῖς χρείαις τῶν ἁγίων χοινωνοῦντες. See Textual Note4.—R.] The believer naturally comes from his own necessity to the necessity of his brethren. Ταῖς χρείαις. The meaning of the verb κοιν.: distributing to, is opposed by Meyer and Tholuck. It is sufficient here that holding fellowship with is the fuller and stronger expression, yet not fellowship “in the necessities” of fellow-Christians, but with them; or, in other words: to participate in their necessities (Chrysostom, Theodoret).37—Given to hospitality [τὴν φιλοξενίαν διώκοντες, literally, pursuing hospitality.—R.] In ancient times, hospitality was also a highly important work of love, for the relief of necessity; Heb. 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9.
Romans 12:14. Bless those who persecute you, &c. [εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς διώχοντας ὑμᾶς χ.τ.λ.] Here the hortatory form becomes distinct; see Matt. 5:44. Probably the expression of Jesus has reached Paul by the tradition of the Church. Tholuck: “It is just from the Sermon on the Mount that we find the most reminiscences; 1 Cor. 7:10; James 4:9; 5:12; 1 Peter 3:9; 4:14.” Tholuck, very strangely, supposes here a so-called lexical connection—i. e., that Romans 12:14 is accidentally called forth by the word διώκοντες.38 But it is incorrect to suppose that the exhortation of Romans 12:14 interrupts such exhortations as Romans 12:13 and 15, which relate to the mutual conduct of Christians; Romans 12:15 has been too generally regarded as favoring this view.
Romans 12:15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, &c. [χαίρειν μετὰ χαιρόντων, κ.τ.λ. On the infinitive as imperative, see Winer, p. 296. Meyer fills out the sentence thus: χαίρειν ὑμᾶς δεῖ.—R.] Χαίρειν, the infinitive as an imperative, to be supplemented mentally by a corresponding verb; see Sirach 7:33, 34. Romans 12:14 defines the proper conduct in relation to personal antipathy; Romans 12:15, the proper conduct in relation to personal sympathy.
Romans 12:16. Be of the same mind one toward another [τὸ αὐτὸ εἰς ἀλλήλους φρονοῦντες]. The participles in Romans 12:16 have been variously construed; now with the preceding imperative χαίρειν, κλαίειν, Romans 12:16, and now with the following μὴ γίνεσθε; see Philippi. Because of the great difficulties of such connections, commentators prefer to supply ἔστε (Philippi, Meyer).39 The attempt at the proper construction would be best favored by returning to Romans 12:15, and reading this injunction as a fundamental thought, controlling what follows, clothed in figurative expression and made explicit by the beginning of Romans 12:16. On this wise:
First trichotomy: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them, that weep: being of the same mind one toward another.
Second trichotomy: Mind not high things, but condescend to the lowly. Addition: Be not wise in your own conceits (in seclusion).
Third trichotomy: Recompense to no man evil for evil; provide things honest in the sight of all men; if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Fourth trichotomy: Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, &c. All this follows from the conduct of Christians toward each other. But then the whole glory of this reciprocal feeling is elaborated in the Christian love of enemies, which conquers evil by good; Romans 12:20, 21.
The same. Τὸ αὐτό; see Romans 15:5; Phil. 2:2; 4:2; 2 Cor. 13:7. They should adhere to the same, what is equal, what is common, in their intercourse with each other, or in the intercourse of one toward others; reminder of the Golden Rule. According to Phil. 2:4, τὸ αὺτὸ φρονεῖν proceeds from the τὸ ἓ φρονεῖν. Adherence to one results in adhering to the same; then, this results in unity, which, however, is only a special fruit of that general conduct. Likewise Tholuck. [Dr. Hodge thinks concord of feeling is the prominent thought.] Chrysostom’s view is different: not to regard one’s self better than others, and similarly.
Mind not high things [μὴ τὰ ὑφηλὰ φρονοῦντες]. Not merely “high-aspiring selfishness,” but also self-complacent fancies; for example, Novatian, puritanic, aristocratic, or humanistic fancies injure, or even tear asunder, the bond of communion, of Christian fellowship with the Church, and of humane fellowship with the world.
But condescend to men of low estate. Τοῖς ταπεινοῖς. Construed as masculine by Chrysostom, Erasmus, Luther [Alford, Wordsworth], and others. (Various definitions: Christians should count themselves among the lowly; should suffer with the oppressed; should remain in fellowship with the lowly, with publicans and sinners.) But Fritzsche, Reiche, De Wette [Stuart], and many others, have declared in favor of the neuter. Meyer: Subjecting yourselves to the lower situations and occupations of life. The antithesis τὰ ὑφηλά is urged. But the antithesis is modified by the change of the verb into συναπαγόμενοι. The latter verb denotes, to be carried off, to be taken along with, or, to allow one’s self to be carried off, to be misled, to be taken along with (see Tholuck, p. 673). This may apply as a duty toward the brethren in low estate, who, in opposition to high things, represent the real essence of humanity in the form of a servant; but it cannot apply to trivial and low things. We should take small things into consideration in the light of duties, but not to permit ourselves to be carried off by them. But of small men, who are great in God’s eyes, it is said with propriety: that we should devote ourselves to them through suffering to glory. Imprisoned and hung with the lowly, but not with the bad!
The neuter construction is thus explained by Calvin, and others: humilibus rebus obsecundantes (about: to be true in small things); while Grotius, and others, thus explain the masculine construction: modestissimorum exempla sectantes.
[On the whole, the masculine is preferable; for in no other case in the New Testament is the adjective ταπεινός used of things. Nor does the Apostle’s antithesis require the neuter meaning. Alford: “In τὰ ὑφηλὰ φρονοῦντες, the ὑφηλὰ are necessarily subjective—the lofty thoughts of the man. But in τοῖς ταπεινοῖς συναπ. the adjective is necessarily objective—some outward objects, with which the persons exhorted are συναπάγεσθαι. And those outward objects are defined, if I mistake not, by the εἰς ἀλλήλους.” Dr. Hodge, and many others, do not decide between the two views.—R.]
Be not wise, &c. Μὴ γίνεσθε, χ.τ.λ. See Romans 11:25. But there the conceit of one’s own wisdom constitutes an antithesis to God’s revelation, while here it constitutes an antithesis to the fellowship of men (not merely of Christians in a good sense).
Romans 12:17. Recompense to no man evil for evil [μηδενὶ κακὸν ἀντὶ χαχοῦ ἀποδιδόντες. Alford: “The Apostle now proceeds to exhort respecting conduct to those without.” There is, however, no warrant for this limitation in the language, and certainly the temptation to render evil for evil to Christians is frequent enough.—R.] Meyer: “The principle itself, and how it stood opposed to heathendom and pharisaism!”
[Have a care for things honourable, προνοούμενοι καλά. Lange: Seid auf das Edle bedacht. Have careful regard to what is noble, &c. Dr. Hodge finds here a motive for the injunction which precedes, and objects to the period after “evil” in the E. V., as well as to the translation “honest,” which undoubtedly conveys to the ordinary reader the thought that we are bidden to provide for ourselves and families in an honest way. The clause much resembles Prov. 3:4 (LXX.), hence the variations.—R.]
In the sight of all men [ἐνώπιον πάντων ἀνθρώπων. See Textual Note6.] Meyer: Before the eyes of all men. We regard the term as an expression of the relation to the most diverse men. However, the other construction also makes good sense; for Christians could often expose individuals to danger, by giving them cause for offence; Prov. 3:4; 2 Cor. 8:21.
Romans 12:18. If it be possible, &c. Εἰ δυνατόν is referred by Erasmus, Bengel, and others, to what precedes [but this is objectionable]. The clause: as much as dependeth on you, explains the εἰ δυνατόν. It may be outwardly impossible to us to live at peace with every body; but inwardly we should be peaceably disposed, prepared for peace, toward every body. [The εἰ δυνατόν is objective (Tholuck, De Wette, Meyer, Alford), not, “if you can,” but, if it be possible, if others will allow it. “All YOUR part is to be peace: whether you actually live peaceably or not, will depend, then, solely on how others behave toward you” (Alford). That this is often impossible, the Apostle’s life plainly shows.—R.]
Romans 12:19. Avenge not yourselves, dearly beloved. The additional ἀγαπητοί, loving pressure. [The address becomes more affectionate as the duty becomes more difficult (so Tholuck).—R.]
Give place unto the wrath [δύτε τόπον τῆ ὀργῆ]. Make way for Divine wrath; do not anticipate it; do not get in its way; let it rule. This is the explanation of most commentators, from Chrysostom and Augustine down to Tholuck, De Wette, Meyer, and Philippi. [So Hodge.]—Second explanation: Let not your own wrath break forth (Du Dieu, Semler [Stuart], and others). Meyer, on the contrary: The Latin usage of non irœ spatium dare harmonizes very well with this, but the Greek usage of τόπον διδόναι does not. [Jowett says this explanation “is equally indefensible on grounds of language and sense. It is only as a translation of a Latinism we can suppose the phrase to have any meaning at all; and the meaning thus obtained, ‘defer your wrath,’ is out of place.” See his remarks in defence of the next explanation.—R.]—Third explanation: To give place to the wrath of your enemy (Schöttgen, Morus, and others). Meyer: This would be only a prudential measure.40 The first explanation is raised above all doubt by the addition: Vengeance is mine.41
For it is written, Deut. 32:35.—Addition: λέηει χύριος; see Heb. 10:30.
Romans 12:20. Therefore if thine enemy, &c. [ἐὰς οὖν πεινᾷ, κ.τ.λ. See Textual Note8.] The οὖν, which is omitted by most Codd., probably on account of difficulty, follows from the antithesis. One cannot conform to the negative: not to hate an enemy, without obeying the affirmative, [Hodge: “The expressions are obviously not to be confined to their literal meaning, nor even to the discharge of the common offices of humanity; they are figurative expressions for all the duties of benevolence. It is not enough, therefore, that we preserve an enemy from perishing; we must treat him with all affection and kindness.”—R.] The words are from the LXX. of Prov. 25:21.
Thou shalt heap coals of fire, &c. [ἄνθρακας πυρὸς σωρεύσεις, κ.τ.λ.] The burning of fiery coals is an Oriental figure of constantly burning pain. Explanations:
1. Thou wilt draw down upon him severe Divine wrath (with reference to 4 Ezra 16:54: Chrysostom, Theodoret, &c., Zwingli, Beza, &c., Stolz, Hengstenberg, &c.).
2. Thou wilt prepare him for the pain of penitence (Augustine, Jerome [Tholuck, De Wette, Meyer], Luther, and many others). Origen has opposed the former view, which was continually under the necessity of being established in the Church, because of the propensity to wrath. On Hengstenberg’s explanation of Prov. 24:18, see Tholuck, p. 675 ff. Romans 12:21, as well as the spirit of the passage, pronounces in favor of explanation (2). No one could gladly requite evil with good, if he knew of a certainty that he would thereby be exposed to Divine wrath. Finally, this explanation is favored by the whole spirit of Christianity. Yet it must be observed, that penitence cannot be designated as an infallible effect of the love of enemies, and of its expressions. The most immediate effect of such expressions is burning shame, a religious and moral crisis. He will bend his head as if fiery coals lay on it. The rule, as well as the purpose, of this crisis, is penitence and conversion; but there are frequent instances of false adversaries, like Judas, becoming hardened by kindness.
[3. Slightly different from (2) is that adopted by Hodge: “You will take the most effectual means of subduing him.” Kindness is as effectual as coals of fire. So Alford: “You will be taking the most effectual vengeance.” Similarly Jowett. This view, which excludes even the pain of penitence, is favored by the connection with Romans 12:21.—R.] For other unimportant explanations, see the Note in Meyer, p. 468.42 On the figure of fiery coals, see Tholuck, p. 675.
Romans 12:21. [Be not overcome, &c. μὴ νιχῶ, κ.τ.λ. “A comprehensive summary of Romans 12:19, 20. Be not overcome (led to revenge) by evil (which is done to you), but overcome by the good (which you show to your enemy) evil (by causing your enemy, ashamed by your noble spirit, to cease doing evil to you, and to become your friend);” Meyer. Seneca, De Benef., 7, 31: Vincit malos pertinax bonitas.—R.] The purpose of all these manifestations of love is that of Christ on the cross: to overcome evil with good.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The proper conduct in personal intercourse, particularly with the brethren, is love without dissimulation; as the proper conduct toward the Church, previously described, is love without self-boasting. The conduct toward civil authorities (which follows in chap. 13) is love without fear; and, finally, the proper conduct toward the world is love without despising the rights of the world, and without mingling with the immorality of the world.
2. The root of brotherly love is reverence for the appearing image of Christ; and its development and consummation are types of the most inward consanguinity.
3. The proper conduct toward different individuals begins with proper conduct toward ourselves; portrayed in Romans 12:11. To this there belongs, first of all, fresh spiritual life; zealous and enthusiastic work, embracing eternity as the blessing of the Spirit; calm ardor in communion with God, and in the consciousness of its being sent by God; but regarding the moment of time as the moment of eternity in time. In this place belongs Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, this much-mistaken pearl of the Old Testament—a writing whose fundamental thought is, that every thing is regarded vain in consequence of despising eternity in time.
4. The Apostle’s pen gives a festive expression even to Christian ethics; as is proved by the beautiful parallelisms, mostly in the form of trilogies, in this chapter, together with 1 Cor. 13. [Comp. Erasmus on this chapter: “Comparibus membris et incisis, similiter cadentibus ac desinentibus sic totus sermo modulatus est, ut nulla cautio possit esse jucundior.”—R.] Christian life should also be a worship. But the worship is festive, free from common weariness.
5. All Christianity is a conquest of evil by good, which Christ has established, and already decided in principle, on His cross. All the single rules of conduct toward individuals concentrate in this last and highest one.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Romans 12:9-21. The sincerity of love. It is manifested in: 1. Our abhorring that which is evil; and, 2. In cleaving to that which is good (Romans 12:9)—Let not love be false. 1. What is it to love in this way? 2. How is it possible? (Romans 12:9.)—What belongs to true brotherly love? 1. Sincere heartiness; 2. Obliging respect (Romans 12:10).—Universal love and brotherly love. 1. How far related? 2. How far different? Comp. 2 Peter 1:7 (Romans 12:9, 10).—Christian joy in labor. 1. Its nature; 2. Its origin; 3. Its limit (Romans 12:11).—Be not indolent in doing what you should! (Romans 12:11).—Be fervent in spirit! A pentecostal sentiment (Romans 12:11).—Adapt yourselves to the time! A word of comfort in times of need and tribulation (Romans 12:11).—Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, continue instant in prayer—an inexhaustible text, and one that can be always applied afresh on marriage occasions, in harvest sermons in years of failure, or in New Years’ sermons in troublous times (Romans 12:12).—Distribute to the necessity of saints! 1. Description of it (with special references similar to those in Romans 12:11). 2. A summons to energetic assistance (Romans 12:13).—The forgiving Christian spirit. 1. A beautiful virtue; but, 2. One very difficult to exercise; and therefore, 3. Proper to be implored from God (Romans 12:14).—Christian sympathy: 1. In joy; 2. In sorrow (Romans 12:15).—Christian unanimity (Romans 12:16).—Christian humility (Romans 12:16).—Christian honesty (Romans 12:17).—Christian peacefulness (Romans 12:18).—Christian love of enemies. 1. It desists from revenge; 2. It overcomes evil with good (Romans 12:19–21).—Fiery coals on the head of an enemy: 1. They cause pain; but, 2. Healing pain, because it is the pain of shame Romans 12:19–21).
LUTHER: To heap coals of fire on the head is, that, by kindness, our enemy grows angry with himself for having acted so wickedly toward us.
STARKE: True Christianity does not make lazy people and sluggards, but industrious ones; for the more pious the Christian is, the more industrious laborer he is (Romans 12:11).—Dear Christian, you present a gift to strange beggars, though you do not know whether they are holy or not—indeed, the most are without holiness; should you not rather do good to the poor who live among us, who prove by their deeds that they are holy and God’s children? (Romans 12:13.)—He who rises high, falls all the lower; such conduct is always dangerous. High trees are shaken most violently by the winds; high towers are most frequently struck by the thunder-storm; what is high is easily moved, and likely to fall. Rather remain low, and then you will not fall, Sirach 3:19 (Romans 12:16).—If you have wisdom, it is not your own, but God’s; let it not be observed that you know your wisdom. There are others also who are not fools; and there are many superior to you (Romans 12:16).—Every one should be ruler of his own spirit, Prov. 16:32 (Romans 12:21).—It is most glorious to show good for evil, and to make a friend out of an enemy, Prov. 16:6 (Romans 12:21).—As fire is not quenched by fire, so is evil not quenched by evil, not invective by invective.—HEDINGER: Christianity is not absurd selfishness and incivility. Love and patience teach quite different things toward our neighbor (Romans 12:10).—MÜLLER: The richer and higher in God, the poorer and more like nothing in our own eyes, 2 Sam. 7:18 (Romans 12:10).—God sends His cross to us that it may press from our hearts many fervent sighs, from our mouth many a glorious little prayer, and from our eyes many hot tears (Romans 12:12).—Christian souls are one soul in Christ, and therefore one feels the sorrow and joy of another (Romans 12:15).—To do good is natural; to do evil is carnal; to do evil for good is devilish; to do good for evil is divine (Romans 12:17).
SPENER: Love is the principal virtue required by Christ of His disciples (Romans 12:9).—Brotherly love should be as hearty as natural love between parents, children, and brethren (the στοργή), and should not be lukewarm, but zealous (Romans 12:10).—The Spirit of God is a holy fire, which inflames hearts wherever it is. Where things go very sleepily, we may well apprehend that, because there is no fire, there is no zeal, and that there is also no work of the Spirit, but only of nature. Yet there should be a fervency and zeal of the spirit. For the flesh has also its blind zeal, which is the more dangerous the greater it is (Romans 12:11).—Accommodate yourselves to the time. But this must not be in such a way as to join in with the world, as every period brings with it that which the Apostle (Romans 12:2) has already forbidden—conformity to this world. But Christians should not lose the opportunity of doing good which God constantly presents to them; and they should always give due care to all circumstances—to what is best now to be done according to the Divine rule. Moreover, they should always give due attention to the condition in which they are situated, so that they may act just as God now requires of them (Romans 12:11).—In prosperity and adversity, prayer is the best means for our support (Romans 12:12).
ROOS: Christians should be refined and polite people (Romans 12:17).
GERLACH: The most glowing love should not lose sobriety and discretion, by virtue of which it chooses and performs just what the circumstances require; comp. Matt. 10:16 (Romans 12:11).—“It is well,’ says one, ‘that he has very properly commanded weeping with those who weep; but for what end did he command us to do the other part, that which is not great?’ And yet, rejoicing with them that rejoice is a far more self-denying state of mind than weeping with those who weep;” Chrysostom (Romans 12:15).—By fiery coals we must understand that we lead the one who injures us to repentance of his deed, by doing good to him (Romans 12:20).
LISCO: How the love of the believer, arising from humility, is manifested toward other belieRomans 12:1. Its peculiarity (Romans 12:9–12); 2. Its manifestations amid very different external circumstances (Romans 12:13–16).—Relation of the believer to the unbelieving world. He is even animated with love toward it (Romans 12:17–21).
HEUBNER: Love should be tender and delicate; it should avoid every thing that can offend another’s sense of modesty or honor. Indelicacy is always a want of respect (Romans 12:10).—Christianity teaches the real art of being always happy.—The Christian must keep in a good humor. Hope is the source of the Christian’s cheerfulness; the condition of it is patience. Prayer strengthens both faith and hope (Romans 12:12).
BESSER: The works of Christians in love (Romans 12:9–21).—Paul calls upon us to oppose two special enemies of unity: 1. Pride; 2. Self-conceits of wisdom (Romans 12:16).—Saul felt most painfully the burning coals from David’s hand, 1 Sam. 24:17 ff.
SCHLEIERMACHER: The Apostle’s injunction: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 1. What is the scope of it—what are the limits which he has assigned to it? 2. Its connection with our spiritual life in God’s kingdom (Romans 12:15).—Perseverance against the evil sorely afflicting us. It consists in: 1. Our taking care lest evil prostrate our spirit; 2. In being careful not to lose our sobriety, when engaged in work, by surprise; 3. And in being on our guard lest our pleasure in life be destroyed by the pressure of evil (Romans 12:21).
Romans 12:7-16. THE PERICOPE for the Second Sunday after Epiphany.—HEUBNER: The fruits of Christian faith in human life.—The connection of the Christian virtues.—The real life as a practical school of Christianity.—HARLESS: True fidelity to calling. 1. Good Christian deportment is always likewise fidelity to calling; 2. The discharge of one’s calling is true when it is done with simplicity, with care, and with pleasure; 3. This fidelity to calling arises alone from true love; 4. But true love arises alone from the humility of Christian faith.—JASPIS: True Christians are also the most faithful laborers. 1. They regard their lifetime as a very gracious gift; 2. They act continually from holy motives; 3. They feel inwardly united with their fellow-men; 4. They have too serious a reverence for their Eternal Judge to discharge their calling unconscientiously.—KREHL: Strengthening of patience in tribulation by: 1. Wise hope; 2. Pious reflection; 3. Steadfast prayer; 4. Joyous hope.
Romans 12:17-21. THE PERICOPE for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.—HEUBNER: The Christian amid the afflicting relations of the world. 1. He uses them for opposing his own self-love; 2. He uses them for greater severity toward himself; 3. For the practice of a peaceful disposition; 4. For the exhibition of love toward enemies; 5. For increasing his stability and steadfastness.—The dignity of Christian peacefulness: 1. Its source; 2. Its limits; 3. Its strength.—BECK: Direction for the art of genuine Christian peacefulness. 1. Stop up the fountain of disquietude in your own heart; 2. Give place to the external occasion to disquietude by conscientious and blameless deportment toward every body; 3. Amid external temptations, direct your heart to the highest Requiter; 4. Strive to overcome the hatred of enemies by good deeds, and to turn away the punishment impending over them.—F. A. WOLF: Avenge not yourselves! 1. The meaning of this declaration of the Apostle; 2. How it should be observed.
KAPFF: What belongs to true culture: 1. Modesty and humility; 2. Universal philanthropy; 3. Truth and purity of heart.—BRANDT: Christianity is the way to a peaceful and blessed life; for it: 1. Opposes our own conceits; 2. Forbids all revenge; 3. Recommends honesty; 4. Loves peace fulness; 5. Enjoins magnanimity; 6. And always desires the conquest of all evil.
[HOPKINS: On revenge (Romans 12:15). Revenge is a wild, untamed passion, that knows no bounds nor measures. And if we were permitted to carve it out for ourselves, we should certainly exceed all limits and moderation; for self-love, which is an immoderate affection, would be made the whole rule of our vengeance: and because we love ourselves abundantly too well, we should revenge every imaginary wrong done us with too much bitterness and severity: and, therefore, God would not trust the righting of ourselves in our own hands, knowing we would be too partial to our own interests and concerns, but hath assumed it to himself as the prerogative of His crown.—On Romans 12:20: On kindness toward enemies. This is all the revenge which the gospel permits; this is that excellent doctrine which our Saviour came to preach, which He hath given us commission to declare and publish to the world, to guide our feet into the way of peace; that we might all be united, as by faith and obedience unto God, so in love and charity one to another.
[BISHOP ATTERBURY: Sermon on the duty of living peaceably (Rom. 12:18). I. In what the duty consists, in relation to public and private men, opinions and practice. II. The extent of it—to all men. III. The difficulty of practising it. IV. The best helps to the practice of this duty: (1) To regulate our passions; (2) To moderate our desires, and shorten our designs, with regard to the good things of life; (3) To have a watchful eye upon ourselves in our first entrance upon any contest; (4) Always to guard against the intemperance of our tongue, especially in relation to that natural proneness it has toward publishing the faults of others; (5) To keep ourselves from embarking in parties and factions; (6) To study to be quiet, by doing our own business in our proper profession or calling; (7) Add prayer to the Author of peace and Lover of concord, for the fruits of His Spirit.
[BURKITT: What it is to be overcome of evil. 1. When we dwell in our thoughts too much, too often, and too long, upon the injuries and unkindness we have met with; this is as if a man that was to take down a bitter pill, should be continually champing 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, in a way of revenge, for the injuries we have received.—Wherein consists the duty and excellency of overcoming evil with good? 1. It renders us like God, who does good to us daily, though we do evil against Him continually; 2. We imitate God in one of the choicest perfections of His divine nature; 3. We overcome ourselves; 4. We overcome our enemies, and make them become our friends.
[HENRY: Bless them who persecute you: 1. Speak well of them. If there be any thing in them commendable and praiseworthy, take notice of it, and mention it to their honor; 2. Speak respectfully to them, according as their place is; 3. Wish well to them, and desire their good, so far from seeking any revenge; 4. Offer up that desire to God, by prayer for them.
[CLARKE, on Romans 12:16: There have not been wanting, in all ages of the Church, persons who, losing the savor of divine things from their own souls by drinking into a worldly spirit, have endeavored to shun the reproach of the cross, by renouncing the company of the godly, speaking evil of the way of life, and, perhaps, sitting down in the chair of the scorner with apostates like themselves. And yet, strange to tell, these men will keep up a form of godliness! for a decent outside is often necessary to enable them to secure the ends of their ambition.
[HODGE, on Romans 12:20, 21: 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.
[BARNES, on Romans 12:11: The tendency of the Christian religion is to promote industry. 1. It teaches the value of time; 2. Presents numerous and important things to be done; 3. It inclines men to be conscientious in the improvement of each moment; 4. And it takes away the mind from those pleasures and pursuits which generate and promote indolence.—J. F. H.]
Romans 12:9.—[The imperatives of the E. V. are retained, since we accept the hortatory view of the participles. It is true, the E. V. itself occasionally retains the participial form (Romans 12:10, 11, 12, 13), but only in such a way as not to disturb the hortatory meaning. See the Exeg. Notes on the construction.
Romans 12:10.—[The E. V. has inverted the Greek order in these brief clauses. The datives stand first, and their equivalents should occupy the same position in English So Five Ang. Clergymen, Amer. Bible Union, &c.
Romans 12:11.—[The Rec., with א. A. B. D2 3. L., most fathers, reads: κυρίω; adopted by Beza, Lachmann, Scholz, Tischendorf, De Wette, Philippi, Alford, Tregelles. Dr. Lange, however, follows Griesbach, Mill, Fritzsche, and Meyer, who adopt καιπῷ, on the authority of D1. F. G., Latin fathers (so Luther). Yet Meyer himself acknowledges that the other reading is better supported; he rejects it on account of the critical difficulty of accounting for the variation, were κυρίω genuine, especially as the phrase: serve the Lord, is so common with Paul. Dr. Lange says: “Such a general summons to serve the Lord, looks like an interruption in the midst of general directions. The reading, as Meyer observes, is readily explained by the fact that a prejudiced moral feeling would easily stumble at the principle: τῷ καιρῷ δουλεύειν.” It would seem that Dr. Lange is governed rather by a desire to preserve certain exegetical correspondences, than by the results of critical investigation. See Alford in favor of the received reading. He contends that, besides the weight of external authorities, the internal probabilities sustain it. “The present subject is, the character of our zeal for God.” “The command, τῷ καιρῷ δουλ., would surely come in very inopportunely in the midst of exhortations to the zealous service of God.” De Wette, indeed, doubts the propriety of the expression, remarking that Christians may employ τὸν καιρόν, but not serve it. On the whole, I feel constrained to differ from Dr. Lange, and to retain the reading of the Rec. See further in the Exeg. Notes.
Romans 12:13.—[Rec., א. A. B. D3.: χρείαις; D1. F.: μνείαις. The former is adopted by all modern editors. The latter was “a corruption introduced, hardly accidentally, in favor of the honor of martyrs by commemoration” (Alford). So Meyer, and most. Dr. Lange admits that the reading μνείαις, which he rejects here, is supported by the same authorities as the reading καιρῷ (Romans 12:11), which he accepts. “But the connection here pronounces in favor of the Recepta.” He intimates that he finds another meaning than “the worship of martyrs” in the rejected reading, but does not state what it is.
Romans 12:16.—[See Exeg. Notes.
Romans 12:17.—[After καλά, A3., Polycarp, &c., insert ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ; F. G., Vulgate, Gothic, many fathers, insert οὐ μόνον ενώπιον τ. θεοῦ ἀλλἀ καί. These additions are rejected by all modern editors, as taken from Prov. 3:4, where the LXX. reads: προνοοῦ καλὰ ἐνώπιον κυρίου καὶ ἀνθρώπων.—Instead of πάντων (Rec., א. B. D3. L., versions and fathers), A2. D1. F. &c., have τῶν, which probably arose from the previous insertion.
Romans 12:19.—[From Deut. 32:35, where the LXX. reads: ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐκδικήσεως ἀνταποδώσω. Heb.: לִי נָקָם וְשׁלֵּם, “mine is revenge and requital.” The same thought is found, Jer. 28:6. Heb. 10:30 quotes precisely as here.
Romans 12:20.—[An exact quotation from the LXX., Prov. 25:21, 22. There is, however, a variation in the opening words. The Rec., with D3. L., some versions and fathers, reads: ἐὰν οὖν (ἐὰν alone is from the LXX.); adopted by De Wette, Philippi, Wordsworth, and Lange (Hodge and Stuart accept it without remark). D1. F., and other authorities, have ἐὰν alone; so Tischendorf. א. A. B.: ἀλλὰ εάν (Lachmann, Meyer, Alford). Other variations occur in the fathers. It is difficult to decide. Probably οὖν was the original reading, then rejected because the inference was not understood, or to conform to the LXX.; then ἀλλὰ substituted, as a connecting particle was deemed necessary. Certainly ἐὰν οὖν is lectio difficilior. Even Alford seems inclined to adopt it.—R.]
[In the first edition, Romans 12:9 and 10 were added to the previous section. The present division has the support of the best modern commentators, and must be deemed a happy alteration.—R.]
[The reading adopted by Dr. Lange in the last clause leads him to this limitation of meaning. While, as Philippi observes, there is no necessity for limiting the diligence to evangelistic efforts, it seems equally uncalled for to refer it exclusively to temporal affairs, as is done by Dr. Lange and the E. V. (“business”). Luther is not literally exact, but gives the correct sense: Seid nicht träge, was ihr thun sollt; Be not slothful in what you ought to do. Thus it is referred to all Christian duty as such (Alford).—R.]
[The idea of ὑπομένειν is patient continuance, or steadfastness, although, at times, the idea of patience may be the prominent one. It may be doubted whether the other thought is not equally prominent here. So Philippi; in der Drangsal beständig.—Accepting the wider reference of the verse, Dr. Hodge says: “This hope of salvation is the most effectual means of producing patience under present afflictions.” “Intercourse with God, however, is necessary to the exercise of this, and all other virtues, and therefore the Apostle immediately adds: continuing instant in prayer.” He finds in this expression two attributes of acceptable prayer—perseverance and favor—both implying faith in God.—R.]
[Meyer paraphrases: “having fellowship in the necessities of the saints; i. e., conducting yourselves as though the necessities of your fellow-Christians were your own, and thus seeking to meet them.” Stuart: “in respect to the wants of the saints, be sympathetic;” but the dative is hardly a dative of reference. The intransitive meaning of the verb must be insisted upon (Tholuck, Meyer, and most). Even in Gal. 6:6, the transitive meaning must be given up. (Comp. Lange’s Comm. in loco, p. 150.)—R.]
[Wordsworth finds a happy play upon the words, διώκοντες (Romans 12:13), διώκοντας (Romans 12:14). “It would seem as if the Apostle’s mind, strained by the pressure of the argument with which it had been laboring, now gracefully and playfully relaxes itself in Christian cheerfulness. In his conciliatory courtesy, he would show his readers what he had said severely concerning them in the former parts of his Epistle, had been spoken in love. So he now says, in a tone of lively affection: Even we Christians, whom the world persecutes, ought to be persecutors; we ought to follow with our blessings and our prayers those who pursue us with rancor and disdain.”—On the spirit of this injunction, see Hodge in loco, especially the extract from Calvin which he gives.—R.]
[We retain the imperative form of the E. V. It might perhaps be changed to the participial, as is done in the revision by Five Ang. Clergymen; but this would render a change in punctuation necessary.—R.]
[Dr. Lange quotes Meyer’s objection to one single phase of this explanation, and that not the one most prominently urged. Ewald, Jowett, Wordsworth, understand by this view, which they defend, not getting out of the way of the wrath of another, but, allowing it to spend itself upon you, “let your enemy have his way.” So far from deeming this a prudential step, Jowett defends it from the objection, that “common prudence requires that we should defend ourselves against our enemies,” by urging that the gospel does not always give “counsels of prudence, but of perfection.” Meyer, however, opposes the real explanation of these authors, by saying that such a meaning has too little positive moral character; and further, that the prohibition of revenge by no means implies that the personal object is an angry one. These objections are valid ones.—R.]
[The first explanation is the most natural one; but Alford suggests another, viz.: “Anger, generally; ‘proceed not to execute it hastily, but leave it for its legitimate time, when He whose it is to avenge will execute it: make not the wrath your own, but leave it for God.” Wordsworth, in defending the third explanation, objects to the first: It could hardly be presented as a Christian duty—to make room for the Divine wrath to work against an enemy.” He furthermore defends the ambiguous rendering of the E. V., as excellent from its ambiguity, from not saying too much, and thus inviting study, using this opportunity for opposing a revision. “I ever held it a kind of honest spiritual thrift, when there are two senses given of one place, both agreeable to the analogy of faith and manners, to make use of both” (Bishop Sanderson). Dr. Wordsworth approves this rule for expositors. His own practice of this “spiritual thrift” may load to spiritual wealth, but certainly seems to tend to exegetical poverty.—R.]
[Among these, the reference to the softening by burning coals (Glöckler), the inflaming to love (Calovius), the red blush of shame live-glowing coals (Sanctius).—R.]