Romans 12:21
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) Be not overcome of evil, but . . .—A fine sentiment. The infliction of vengeance is not a sign of strength, but of weakness. To repress the desire for revenge is to gain a victory over self, which is not only nobler in itself, but will also be much more effectual. It will disarm the enemy, and turn him into a friend.

Romans 12:21. Be not overcome of evil — As all are who avenge themselves; but — Even if you see no present fruit, yet persevere; and overcome evil with good — Conquer your enemies with kindness and patience, which is the most glorious victory, and a victory which may certainly be obtained, if you have the courage to adhere to that which, being good, is always in its own nature, on the whole, invincible, to whatever present disadvantage it may seem obnoxious. Blackwall, after having praised the language in which this precept is delivered, adds, “This is a noble strain of Christian courage, prudence, and goodness, that nothing in Epictetus, Plutarch, or Antonine, can vie with. The moralists and heroes of paganism could not write and act to the height of this.” 12:17-21 Since men became enemies to God, they have been very ready to be enemies one to another. And those that embrace religion, must expect to meet with enemies in a world whose smiles seldom agree with Christ's. Recompense to no man evil for evil. That is a brutish recompence, befitting only animals, which are not conscious of any being above them, or of any existence hereafter. And not only do, but study and take care to do, that which is amiable and creditable, and recommends religion to all with whom you converse. Study the things that make for peace; if it be possible, without offending God and wounding conscience. Avenge not yourselves. This is a hard lesson to corrupt nature, therefore a remedy against it is added. Give place unto wrath. When a man's passion is up, and the stream is strong, let it pass off; lest it be made to rage the more against us. The line of our duty is clearly marked out, and if our enemies are not melted by persevering kindness, we are not to seek vengeance; they will be consumed by the fiery wrath of that God to whom vengeance belongeth. The last verse suggests what is not easily understood by the world; that in all strife and contention, those that revenge are conquered, and those that forgive are conquerors. Be not overcome of evil. Learn to defeat ill designs against you, either to change them, or to preserve your own peace. He that has this rule over his spirit, is better than the mighty. God's children may be asked whether it is not more sweet unto them than all earthly good, that God so enables them by his Spirit, thus to feel and act.Be not overcome of evil - Be not "vanquished" or "subdued" by injury received from others. Do not suffer your temper to be excited; your Christian principles to be abandoned; your mild, amiable, kind, and benevolent temper to be ruffled by any opposition or injury which you may experience. Maintain your Christian principles amidst all opposition, and thus show the power of the gospel. They are overcome by evil who suffer their temper to be excited, who become enraged and revengeful and who engage in contention with those who injure them; Proverbs 16:22.

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

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

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

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

Note, (1) The redeeming mercy of God in Christ is, in the souls of believers, the living spring of all holy obedience (Ro 12:1). (2) As redemption under the Gospel is not by irrational victims, as under the law, but "by the precious blood of Christ" (1Pe 1:18, 19), and, consequently, is not ritual but real, so the sacrifices which believers are now called to offer are all "living sacrifices"; and these—summed up in self-consecration to the service of God—are "holy and acceptable to God," making up together "our rational service" (Ro 12:1). (3) In this light, what are we to think of the so-called "unbloody sacrifice of the mass, continually offered to God as a propitiation for the sins both of the living and the dead," which the adherents of Rome's corrupt faith have been taught for ages to believe is the highest and holiest act of Christian worship—in direct opposition to the sublimely simple teaching which the Christians of Rome first received (Ro 12:1)—(4) Christians should not feel themselves at liberty to be conformed to the world, if only they avoid what is manifestly sinful; but rather, yielding themselves to the transforming power of the truth as it is in Jesus, they should strive to exhibit before the world an entire renovation of heart and life (Ro 12:2). (5) What God would have men to be, in all its beauty and grandeur, is for the first time really apprehended, when "written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tables of stone, but on the fleshy tables of the heart," 2Co 3:3 (Ro 12:2). (6) Self-sufficiency and lust of power are peculiarly unlovely in the vessels of mercy, whose respective graces and gifts are all a divine trust for the benefit of the common body and of mankind at large (Ro 12:3, 4). (7) As forgetfulness of this has been the source of innumerable and unspeakable evils in the Church of Christ, so the faithful exercise by every Christian of his own peculiar office and gifts, and the loving recognition of those of his brethren, as all of equal importance in their own place, would put a new face upon the visible Church, to the vast benefit and comfort of Christians themselves and to the admiration of the world around them (Ro 12:6-8). (8) What would the world be, if it were filled with Christians having but one object in life, high above every other—to "serve the Lord"—and throwing into this service "alacrity" in the discharge of all duties, and abiding "warmth of spirit" (Ro 12:11)! (9) Oh, how far is even the living Church from exhibiting the whole character and spirit, so beautifully portrayed in the latter verses of this chapter (Ro 12:12-21)! What need of a fresh baptism of the Spirit in order to this! And how "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners," will the Church become, when at length instinct with this Spirit! The Lord hasten it in its time!

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

overcome evil with good; that is a noble victory indeed: this is the way, not to be even with him that wrongs us, but to be above him. Thus David overcame Saul, and Elisha the bands of Syria. This is the way to overcome ourselves, and our adversaries too: ourselves, in denying our lusts that egg us on to revenge; our adversaries, in winning them to relent and acknowledge their miscarriages. Be not overcome of evil,.... Neither of the evil one, Satan, who is very busy to stir up the corruption of nature to an hatred of enemies, and to seek revenge; but give no place nor heed unto him, resist him, and he will flee from you, James 4:7; "put on the whole armour of God", Ephesians 6:11, whereby you may defend yourselves, that he cannot touch you: nor of the evil of sin that dwells in you; "for whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage", 2 Peter 2:19; nor of the evil of the man that has done you an injury, as you will be, if you return evil for evil, or take any steps and measures to avenge yourselves; for then not you, but he that has done you the wrong, will be the conqueror:

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

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 12:21. Comprehensive summary of Romans 12:19-20.—“Be not overcome (carried away to revenge and retaliation) by evil (which is committed against thee), but overcome by the good (which thou showest to thine enemy) the evil” bringing about the result that the enemy, put to shame by thy noble spirit, ceases to act malignantly against thee and becomes thy friend. “Vincit malos pertinax bonitas,” Seneca, de benef. vii. 31. Comp. de ira, ii. 32; Valer. Max. iv. 2, 4. On the other hand, Soph. El. 308 f.: ἐν τοῖς κακοῖς " Πολλήʼ στʼ ἀνάγκη κἀπιτηδεύειν κακά. We may add the appropriate remark of Erasmus on the style of expression throughout the chapter: “Comparibus membris et incisis, similiter cadentibus ac desinentibus sic totus sermo modulatus est, ut nulla cantio possit esse jucundior.”Romans 12:21. μὴ νικῶ: the absence of any connecting particle gives the last verse the character of a summary: in a word, be not overcome by evil. ὑπὸ τοῦ κακοῦ = by the evil your enemy inflicts. The Christian would be overcome by evil if it were able to compel him to avenge himself by repaying it in kind. Wrong is not defeated but doubly victorious when it is repelled with its own weapons; we can only overcome it ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ through the good we do to our adversary, turning him so from an enemy into a friend. Vincit malos, says Seneca, pertinax bonitas: Wetst. accumulates similar examples from classical writers. The ἐν in ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ is probably = בְּ: it might be explained as instrumental, or rendered “at the cost of”.21. Be not overcome, &c.] The verbs are in the singular; individualizing the appeal. The verse runs, lit., Be not thou overcome by the evil, but overcome the evil in the good.—“The evil,” “the good;”—that of the evil-doer and the sufferer respectively. Q. d., “Do not let his evil principles and acts conquer the better mind that is in thee by grace, but use ‘the good’ given to thee—the good of Divine peace and love shed abroad in thy heart—to subdue the evil in him.”—“In the good:” = under its influence.

Out of countless examples in Christian history we quote a recent one, from the Native Church in China. In 1878 a small and new Christian community was severely persecuted, and some of the converts, grownup men, were cruelly ill-used by a petty official, without the least resistance on their part. Some time after, this official was summoned before a superior officer, and sentenced to severe punishment. But one of his former victims, who meanwhile had not been his accusers, interposed and procured his pardon; and their enemy was turned forthwith into a grateful and cordial friend. (A. E. Moule’s Story of the Chehkiang Mission, ed. 2, p. 120.)Romans 12:21. Μὴ νικῶ, be not overcome) νικῶ in the middle voice. They, whom the world consider to be conquerors, are in reality conquered.—κακοῦ) by the evil, of your enemy, and of your own nature.—νίκα, overcome) He is a brave man, who can endure.—ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ τὸ κακὸν, evil with good) So also ch. Romans 13:3-4, with which there is a charming connection.
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