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far as it
depends on you, be at
possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Amplified
Bible - Lockman)
KJV: If it
be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with
Wuest: If it is possible so far as it depends upon you, with all men
be living at peace. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: If possible -- so far as in you -- with all men
being in peace;
Jew and Gentile
Restored to Israel
Slaves to Sin
Slaves to God
Life by Faith
Modified from Irving L.
Jensen's excellent work Jensen's
Survey of the NT
POSSIBLE SO FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU: ei dunaton to ex humon:
(Ro 14:17,19; 2 Samuel 20:19; Psalms 34:14; 120:5, 6, 7; Proverbs 12:20;
Matthew 5:5,9; Mark 9:50; 1 Corinthians 7:15; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Galatians
5:22; Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 3:14,15; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; 2 Timothy 2:22;
Hebrews 12:14; James 3:16, 17, 18; 1 Peter 3:11)
If possible - it may not always be possible!
We all want a word that always
works, an easy solution, a quick fix. But some things in this broken world can't
be fixed no matter what we do. And then there are some situations clearly when you may be forced to
defend yourself in an abusive situation.
Spurgeon writes that...
Some people will quarrel, and it is barely
possible to keep upon good terms with them. In their case we must do our best,
and if after all, we cannot live peaceably with them, it will be fortunate for
us if we can move off and live without them.
dunamai = referring to
power one has by virtue of inherent ability and resources; see study of
dunamis [word study]) means powerful, able, strong.
Able describes that which has sufficient or necessary power, means, skill,
or resources to accomplish an objective.
Dunatos - 32x in 32v - Matt. 19:26; 24:24; 26:39; Mk. 9:23; 10:27; 13:22; 14:35f; Lk. 1:49;
14:31; 18:27; 24:19; Acts 2:24; 7:22; 11:17; 18:24; 20:16; 25:5; Rom. 4:21;
9:22; 11:23; 12:18; 15:1; 1Co. 1:26; 2Co. 10:4; 12:10; 13:9; Gal. 4:15; 2Tim.
1:12; Titus 1:9; Heb. 11:19; James. 3:2. NAS = able(6), could(1),
impossible*(1), influential men(1), man of power(1), mighty(3), mighty one(1),
possible(12), power(1), powerful(1), strong(3), strong enough(1).
Someone has said that "I
could live this Christian life with no problem if it weren't for people!"
Someone else has said,
The more I get to know the human race, the more I love my dog.
Dogs are loyal, dependable, eager to please, and quick to forgive and forget.
Don't you wish people were more like that? But sometimes no matter how hard we
try to have a good relationship with someone, it doesn't work.
Note the qualifying phrase "as much as depends on you." Some people problems may never be
resolved, for just as it takes two to quarrel, it also takes two to reconcile. If we do our part and the
"irreconcilable difference" remains, there is still a plan to follow.
For the surrendered (Spirit filled and enabled) believer it is important not
to hold on to resentment and not to try to retaliate with the "weapon of silence"
(I call it "pouting" or passive aggressive behavior, the "silent treatment" - you know
exactly what I mean don't you! As a non-born again husband, I mastered this
exercise to a fine art form!).
Believers have a new power supply, the
indwelling Holy Spirit and a new, regenerate nature [2Cor 5:17-note]
(cp Ezek 36:27, Note that his is our responsibility = Php 2:12-note,
but it is only possible because of God's motivation and enablement = Php 2:13-note).
Our responsibility is to make a conscious effort (a choice of our wills, this
choice enabled by God's Spirit)
to seek to overcome evil with good, and let the
God work out the problem.
need to continually follow the "steps" given in the following verses in this chapter
(Ro 12:9-21) until our people problems are resolved. But regardless of whether
they resolve, we must still continue the practices Paul lays out for
See related topic:
List of links related to
Multiple illustrations and quotes
related to forgiveness/unforgiveness
Exposition of "Forgiveness" in
Exposition of "Forgiveness" in
Exposition of "Forgiveness" in
Paul gives us some
excellent advice in Romans 12 on how to handle "people problems"
affectionate (Ro 12:10-note)
Be prayerfully patient
persecutors (Ro 12:14-note)
revenge (Ro 12:19-note)
evil with good (Ro 12:21-note)
As Solomon wisely advised when we
encounter a hard situation, try
a soft answer...
A gentle (soft, tender, not harsh or negative) answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word (lit = "words of toil" = critical, cruel & meant
to cause mental anguish) stirs up anger
If you answer a man with a harsh,
negative, critical word, it stirs up the hearer's fleshly nature (including
the old flesh nature latent and present in believers), and soon you have a
quarrel on your hands.
The duty to which he exhorts in this verse,
is a peaceable and quiet behaviour towards all men, as well infidels as
Christians; those who are bad, as well as those who are good. The like
exhortations we have, Heb 12:14-note. And to the discharge of this duty he annexeth
a double limitation; first: If it be possible; secondly: As much as lieth in
you: q. d. It may so fall out, that some men are of such froward and
unpeaceable tempers, that it is impossible to live peaceably with them, or by
them: or such conditions of peace may be offered as are not lawful for you to
accept; it will not stand with the truth and glory of God, and with a good
conscience, to agree with them. But, however, do your part, let there be no
default in you why you should not live in peace with all men whatsoever.
Paul himself did cause trouble everywhere,
as did our Lord, who said, “Think not that I came to send peace on the earth:
I came not to send peace, but a sword.” But neither Paul nor his Lord was ever
the selfish cause of trouble. It is not always possible for a Christian to be
at peace with all men, but he can be a peace-lover; a peace-liver; and often a
peace-maker, among men. As James says, “The fruit of righteousness is sown in
peace by them that make peace.” (James 3:18)
Perhaps the most fruitful cause of trouble
for a Christian is his claiming “his rights,” forgetting Paul’s description of
us Christians throughout this dispensation:
“For Thy sake we are killed all the day
long (Ro 8:36-note)
We were accounted as sheep for the
slaughter.”One who had visited the Chicago stock yards on a slaughter-day
said to me, “Our guide took us to where the swine were being slaughtered. Here
there was squealing and grunting everywhere, and the moment the men laid hold
of one for slaughter, it gave a wild shriek, and the uproar was terrible. By
and by we approached another building and heard no sounds; and we found that
here the sheep were being slaughtered, without complaining—in silence!”
Murray writes that...
This must be as inclusive in its scope as
the preceding clause; there is no restrictive use of the expression "all men".
It is obvious, however, that a reservation is made in this instance respecting
the obligation to be at peace. "If it be possible" indicates that it may not
always be possible. We may not suppose that the implied impossibility has in
view any inability arising from our weakness as, for example, inability to
restrain our own impulses of anger or resentment. The impossibility is that of
another character; it is "a case of the objective impossibility... chiefly
where truth, right, and duty command resistance". It would violate the witness
of Jesus to demand peace at the expense of these priorities (cf. Matt.
10:34, 35, 36, 36; Luke 12:51, 52, 53, 53). "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then
peaceable" (James 3:17) and we are to follow peace and holiness (cf. Heb
As Philippi again observes, "by the side of speaking the truth in love must
ever stand loving in truth".
"As much as in you lieth." If the preceding
clause alludes to the impossibility proceeding from considerations objective
to ourselves, this bears upon the exercise of every means within our power to
maintain peace with our fellowmen. The responsibility for discord must to no
extent be traceable to failure on our part to do all that is compatible with
holiness, truth, and right.
This exhortation as a whole underlines the
evil of indulging discord for its own sake or when necessity does not demand
it. Peaceableness of disposition and behaviour is a virtue to be cultivated in
our relations with all men; there is no circumstance in which our efforts to
preserve and promote peace may be suspended. This is the force of "as much as
in you lieth". On the other hand, we may never be at peace with sin and error.
If peace means complicity with sin or error or if it encourages these, then
peace must be sacrificed. We are to love our neighbour as ourselves and we may
not refrain from the rebuke and dissent which may evoke his displeasure but
which his highest interest requires. (The
Epistle to the Romans)
The retaliation of injuries necessarily
leads to contention and strife, while peace is the natural result of a
forgiving disposition. The command in this verse, therefore, is naturally
connected with that contained in Ro 12:17. So far from resenting every
offense, we should do all we can to live at peace with all men. As the
preservation of peace is not always within our control, Paul limits his
command by saying, if it be possible, so far as lieth in you, as to what
is of you. The cause of conflict must not arise from you. Your duty is to
preserve peace. From the wickedness of others, this is often impossible; and
Paul’s own example shows that he was far from thinking that either truth or
principle was to be sacrificed for the preservation of peace. His whole life
was an active and ardent contention against error and sin. The precept,
however, is plain, and the duty important. As far as it can be done
consistently with higher obligations and more important interests, we must
endeavor to promote peace, and for this end avoid giving offense and avenging
Spurgeon gives the following illustration:
I once lived where my neighbor’s garden
was divided from me only by a very imperfect hedge. He kept a dog, and his dog
was a shockingly bad gardener, and did not improve my plants. So, one evening,
while I walked alone, I saw this dog doing mischief and being a long way off,
I threw a stick at him, with some earnest advice as to his going home. This
dog, instead of going home, picked up my stick, and came to me with it in his
mouth, wagging his tail. He dropped the stick at my feet and looked up to me
most kindly. What could I do but pat him and call him a good dog, and regret
that I had ever spoken roughly to him? (Ed: Would it be so that
humans responded more like dogs to harsh words!)
While it's true that a humble response
to wrath will normally cause it to subside, it's equally true that some people
will never be pacified. Because of long-term bitterness and resentment, the
tide of their wrath runs too high. Calm, quiet words may not always turn away
another's wrath. You may be grieved because they go unheeded, but you can
never go wrong with a soft answer.
Read the following illustration from
From Our Daily Bread:
My neighbor seemed upset with me. Apparently I had done something that
bothered her. When I asked if I had offended her, she responded with a curt
"No!" I told her, "I don't want any bad feelings between us. If I've done
something to offend you, I apologize." Since then the climate has remained
cool. Someone has said, "The more I get to know the human race, the more I
love my dog." Dogs are loyal, dependable, eager to please, and quick to
forgive and forget. Don't you wish people were more like that? But sometimes
no matter how hard we try to have a good relationship with someone, it
doesn't work. The apostle Paul addressed that situation in Ro 12:18. Notice
the phrase "as much as depends on you." He knew that some people problems
may never be resolved. It takes two to quarrel; it takes two to reconcile.
If you do your part and the problem remains, there is still a plan to
follow. Don't harbor resentment or retaliate with the weapon of silence.
Work at overcoming evil with good (Ro 12:21), and let God work out the problem.
We need to keep following the steps given in Romans 12:9-21 until our people
problems are resolved--but especially if they're not. --D J De Haan (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
The best way to conquer
an enemy is with the weapon of love.
BE AT PEACE WITH ALL MEN: meta panton anthropon eireneuontes
Cor 13:11; 1 Thes 5:13)
John MacArthur writes that...
Short of compromising God’s truth and
standards, we should be willing to go to great lengths to build peaceful
bridges to those who hate us and harm us. We must forsake any grudge or
settled bitterness and fully forgive from the heart all who harm us. Having
done that, we can seek reconciliation honestly.
J: Romans 9-16. Chicago: Moody Press
Be at peace
is the verb form of the Greek word for peace,
eirene (word study), which in turn is
derived from the verb eiro which means to join or bind together
that which has been separated. This word therefore literally depicts the
binding or joining together again of that which had been separated or divided.
It pictures a setting at one again, a meaning conveyed by the common
expression “having it all together”. It follows that peace is the opposite of
division or dissension. Peace as a state of concord and harmony is the
opposite of war. Peace was used as a greeting or farewell corresponding to the
Hebrew word shalom - "peace to you".
is a condition of freedom from disturbance, whether outwardly, as of a nation
from war or enemies or inwardly, as in the current context, within the soul. Peace
implies health, well-being, and prosperity.
4x in 4v - Mk 9:50; Ro 12:18; 2Co
13:11; 1Th 5:13
There are 10 uses
of eireneuo in the non-apocryphal
1Ki. 22:44; 2Chr. 14:5, 6; 20:30 (Quiet = peace -- note the Source of
rest which led to peace! He is the same source for us beloved); Job
3:26; 5:23, 24; 15:21; 16:12; Da 4:4
Be at peace sounds
like a command but in the Greek is not in the form of a command.
Nevertheless it is still an exhortation which should be obeyed by the
Spirit controlled believer. The
calls for this attitude
to be our continual mindset or lifestyle. Try to do this in your own
natural, Adamic (flesh)
strength! What's the secret? (see Gal 5:16-note;
cp Col 3:16-note)
not be needlessly provocative or contentious. The righteousness of God
is not worked out by belligerence and wrath (James 1:19-note;
We should love peace,
make peace, and
be at peace.
When we have offended others, or when
someone has offended us, we should work tirelessly for a peaceful resolution of
Don't be like the dad who when ask by his son "How do wars begin?"
replied "Well, World War I began because Germany invaded Belgium." At
this point his wife interrupted, "Tell him the truth. It began because
somebody was murdered." To which the husband quickly retorted "Are you
answering his question or am I?" At which the wife stormed out of the room,
slamming the door as hard as she could. When the room stopped vibrating, an
uneasy silence was broken by the son's comment "Daddy, you don't need to tell
me how wars begin. Now I know!"
Are you quick to
Have you laid it "ALL"
on the altar
so that now you are cultivating a peaceable spirit?
Remember Jesus prayed for His enemies - Do you?
Remember that getting even
takes you down to the level of your offender.
When anger lingers in our heart,
It poisons all we think & do.
But faith seeks ways to show God's love
An keeps our spirit strong & true.
-D J De Haan
leave room for the
wrath of God, for it is
MINE, I WILL
Amplified: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for
[God's] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite),
says the Lord. [Deut. 32:35.] (Amplified
Bible - Lockman)
beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for
it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends:
stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: 'Vengeance is
mine. I will repay'. (Phillips:
Wuest: Do not be avenging yourselves, beloved ones, but give place at
once to the wrath, for it stands written, To me belongs punishment, I will
repay, says the Lord. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: not avenging yourselves, beloved, but give place to
the wrath, for it hath been written, 'Vengeance is Mine,
NEVER TAKE YOUR
OWN REVENGE BELOVED: me heautous ekdikountes
agaphetoi: (Ro 14,17;
Leviticus 19:18; 1 Samuel 25:26,33; Proverbs 24:17, 18, 19,29; Ezekiel 25:12)
agape) means beloved, dear, very much
loved. Agapetos is love called out of one’s heart by preciousness
of the object loved. In Scripture agapetos is used only of
Christians as united with God or with each other in love. God the Father
uses this same word describing Jesus declaring that
This is My beloved Son, in whom
I am well-pleased. (Mt
In fact the first 9
uses in the NT are of God the Father speaking of Christ, His beloved Son.
This gives you some idea of the preciousness of the word beloved!
(see all of Paul's uses of agapetos - Ro 1:7; 11:28; 12:19; 16:5,
8,9, 12; 1Co 4:14, 17; 10:14; 15:58; 2Co 7:1; 12:19; Eph. 5:1; 6:21; Phil
2:12; 4:1; Col 1:7; 4:7, 9, 14; 1Th 2:8; 1Ti 6:2; 2Ti 1:2; Philemon 1:1,
1:16) In short, by addressing the saints at Rome as beloved, Paul
is conveying the deep feeling he has in his heart towards them.
Never - The English definition of
never is not ever; not at any time; at no time. It refers to the past or
the future. This gives a clear picture of the behavior Paul is calling for in
a believer and emphasizes the need for us to have made a presentation of our
whole self to God as a wholly holy sacrifice (Ro 12:1-note)
continually refusing the world's advice to "get even" and instead continually
being transformed by the renewing of our mind to God's way and will (Ro
holding back instead of paying back!
Alexander Maclaren writes...
THE natural instinct is to answer enmity
with enmity, and kindliness with kindliness. There are many people of whom we
think well and like, for no other reason than because we believe that they
think well of and like us. Such a love is really selfishness. In the same
fashion, dislike, and alienation on the part of another naturally reproduce
themselves in our own minds. A dog will stretch its neck to be patted, and
snap at a stick raised to strike it. It requires a strong effort to master
this instinctive tendency, and that effort the plainest principles of
Christian morality require from us all. The precepts in our text are in
twofold form, negative and positive; and they are closed with a general
principle, which includes both these forms, and much more besides. There are
two pillars, and a great lintel coping them, like the trilithons of
Do not take the law into your own hands,
but leave God’s way of retribution to work itself out. By avenging, the
Apostle means a passionate redress of private wrongs at the bidding of
personal resentment. We must note how deep this precept goes. It prohibits not
merely external acts which, in civilised times are restrained by law, but, as
with Christian morality, it deals with thoughts and feelings, and not only
with deeds. It forbids such natural and common thoughts as ‘I owe him an in
turn for that’; ‘I should like to pay him off.’ A great deal of what is
popularly called ‘a proper spirit’ becomes extremely improper if tested by
this precept. There is an eloquent word in German which we can only clumsily
reproduce, which christens the ugly pleasure at seeing misfortune and calls it
‘joy in others’ disasters.’ We have not the word; would that we had not the
thing? (Still Another Triplet - Romans 12:19-21)
Take revenge (1556)
(ekdikeo from ek = out or from + dike
= justice) is literally that which proceeds from justice. The idea is to
vindicate one's right or to do one justice.
There are 6 uses of ekdikeo in
the NT -- Lk 18:3, 5; Ro 12:19; 2Co 10:6; Re 6:10-note;
There are 91 uses of ekdikeo in
- Ge 4:15, 24; Ex 21:20, 21; Lev 26:25; Nu 31:2; Dt 18:19; 32:43; Jdg
15:7; 1Sa 3:13; 14:24; 15:2; 18:25; 24:12; 2Ki 9:7; 2Chr 22:8; Ps 99:8; Is
57:16; Je 5:9, 29; 9:9; 15:3; 23:2, 34; 25:12; 46:10, 25; 50:15, 18, 21;
51:36, 44, 52; Ezek 7:3, 27; 16:38; 19:12; 20:4; 23:24, 45; 24:8; 25:12;
Ho 1:4; 2:13; 4:9; 8:13; 9:9; 12:2; Joel 3:21; Amos 3:2, 14; Obad 1:21;
Nah 1:2, 9; Zeph. 1:8, 9, 12; 3:7; Zech 5:3. For example the prophet Nahum
Nahum 1:2 A jealous and avenging
God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes
vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies.
Using a term from the "wild wild west"
we might say don't be a vigilante - a member of a volunteer committee
organized to suppress and punish crime summarily as when the processes of
law appear inadequate and in this present verse a self-appointed
doer of justice.
The Christian must be free from
the desire to “get even.” Instead choose to view personal insults and
injuries as momentary light
afflictions producing an eternal weight of glory, and thus (supernaturally) viewing these
negative experiences from an eternal perspective rather than from a temporal perspective.
ROOM FOR THE WRATH OF GOD: alla
(Mt 5:39; Lk 6:27, 28, 29; 9:55,56 )
But - Here Paul presents the
Spirit enabled, supernatural
room - Literally give place. Give some territory or space! It is a command in the
conveys the sense of "Do this
now. Do it effectively. Don't delay!" The aorist imperative is like a sharp
command from the general to his troops engaged in battle (cp spiritual
battle!) and can even convey a sense of urgency. Do it with with expediency
and resolution. Do it without hesitation.
Literally it could be read "give (didomi)
or "grant territory".
Paul's use of the
further suggests that there is a moment in most
confrontations in which we have to make the critical decision to "give it
over" to God (recall that the verb here is actually
meaning "to give"!) and "back off"
as we would say in today's language.
active voice of
signifies that this action is not one
that God will force us to take but it is a choice of our will & if we have
indeed presented our bodies to Him in Romans 12:1
than we will choose not to be conformed to the world (the world wants to
"get even" and do it now!) but as we make the choice not to retaliate (by
the power of His Spirit, in the grace in which we stand, possessing the
"mind of Christ"), we will be transformed by the renewing of our mind. The
one who trusts in God will not think it necessary to avenge themselves; they
will leave the issue of vengeance to God. They will be giving no place to
their own wrath, and a wide place to God’s wrath.
Paul's point is that God's timing is
perfect and His wrath will come (Col 3:6-note)
so that sooner or later He will right all unjust wrongs that have been
committed against us.
from orgaô = to teem, to swell) conveys the picture of a
swelling which eventually bursts, and thus describes an anger that proceeds
from one’s settled nature. Orge does not refer to uncontrollable
anger to which men are so prone but to God's settled indignation and
controlled passionate hostile feeling toward sin in all its various
manifestations. Settled indignation means that God’s holiness cannot and
will not coexist with sin in any form whatsoever. Orge is not the momentary,
emotional, and often uncontrolled anger (thumos -
2372) to which human
beings are prone. Orge is used primarily of God's holy, righteous
wrath but occasionally refers to the wrath of men (see Ephesians 4:31-note)
to to an inner, deep resentment that seethes and smolders. Orge as used
of God refers to His constant and controlled indignation toward sin,
while thumos (which originally referred to violent movements of
air, water, etc., and consequently came to mean “well up” or “boil up”)
refers more to a passionate outburst of rage. Thumos type anger
represents an agitated, vehement anger that rushes along relentlessly.
The root meaning has to do with moving rapidly and was used of a man’s
breathing violently while pursuing an enemy in great rage!
settled opposition to
and displeasure with sin
God’s wrath is his
holy hatred of all that is unholy. It is His righteous indignation at
everything that is unrighteous. It is the temper of God towards sin. It
is not God's uncontrollable rage, vindictive bitterness or a losing of
His temper, but the wrath of righteous reason and holy law.
Warren Wiersbe tells the following story...
friend of mine once heard a preacher criticize him over the radio and
tell things that were not only unkind, but also untrue. My friend became
very angry and was planning to fight back, when a godly preacher said,
"Don't do it. If you defend yourself, then the Lord can't defend you.
Leave it in His hands." My friend followed that wise counsel, and the
Lord vindicated him.
W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor
FOR IT IS WRITTEN: gegraphtai
(Deut 32:35 Pr 25:21,22 cp Mt 5:43, 44,
45, 46, 47)
It is written - 76
times in the NAS - Joshua 8:31; 2Sa 1:18; 2Ki 23:21; 2Chr 23:18; 25:4;
31:3; 35:12; Ezra 3:2, 4; 6:18; Neh 8:15; 10:34, 36; Ps 40:7; Is 65:6;
Dan. 9:13; Mt 4:4, 6, 7, 10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24, 31; Mk 1:2; 7:6; 9:13;
14:21, 27; Lk. 2:23; 3:4; 4:4, 8, 10; 7:27; 19:46; 24:46; Jn 6:31, 45;
12:14; Acts 1:20; 7:42; 15:15; 23:5; Ro 1:17; 2:24; 3:4, 10; 4:17; 8:36;
9:13, 33; 10:15; 11:8, 26; 12:19; 14:11; 15:3, 9, 21; 1Co. 1:19, 31;
2:9; 3:19; 9:9; 10:7; 14:21; 15:45; 2Co 8:15; 9:9; Ga 3:10, 13; 4:22,
27; Heb. 10:7; 1Pe 1:16
Where is it written?
Paul quoting Moses...
Deuteronomy 32:35 'Vengeance is Mine, and retribution (LXX = I will
recompense) In due time their foot will slip (used by Jonathan Edwards in his
famous sermon =
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God - delivered July 8,
1741); for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending
things are hastening upon them.'
Comment: In the OT context this verse assures even rebellious Israel
that those Gentile nations which God used/allowed to discipline/chasten His
consistently erring Chosen People, will themselves receive divine/just
punishment for their evil actions! The wicked acts of Israel’s enemies were
known to God and are stored up in His storehouse (Dt 32:34). At the proper
time, God will avenge. Only a
God can mete out the correct "amount" of justice at just the
When we were children and our
parents told us to do something and we questioned "Why?", the answer was
usually "Because I said so!". Why are we commanded to be holy? Because
God said so! A popular (actually it may not be that "popular"!) saying is
God said it, I believe
that settles it.
That sounds good but in truth it
is not completely
accurate because God's Word is true, irregardless of whether we believe
it or not. A more accurate "saying" would be
God said it, that settles it,
whether I believe it or not!
It is written should put
a stop to every complaint or excuse. Paul is saying don't judge but
remember you will appear before Me to give an account (as the next verse
clarifies). This sobering thought should motivate us to obey this
from root graph-
= primarily means to scratch on or engrave as on an ornament, reports,
letters, etc; English = graph, graphic, etc) means to engrave or
inscribe with a pen or stylus characters or letters on a surface which
can be wood, wax, metal, leather, stone, parchment, dirt (John ), paper,
emphasizes the lasting and binding authority of that which was written.
It has been written at some point in time in the past
(cf Lv 11:44, 19:2, 20:7 were
originally inscribed with a stylus by Moses probably on clay tablets
under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit circa 1500BC)
and it "stands" written. It
remains on record as the
eternal, unchanging Word of God. In short, the use of the
signifies the permanence of the written word of God. Therefore it is not
surprising that the phrase it is written (in perfect tense) is a
regular "formula" in the New Testament (e.g.,
Mt 4:4, 4:6, 4:7, 4:10, 11:10, etc -
for all uses see
word study on grapho)
and always refers directly or indirectly to an Old Testament
quotation and thus it carries great authority for the believer.
The idea is that this divine
revelation was written down at a specific time in the past and stands
written and effective.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but
My words shall not pass away. (Mt 24:35)
The original sense
of the Greek verb grapho was to carve or to engrave as deduced
from uses in the Septuagint (where grapho occurs some 300 times
usually for the Hebrew
such as the following...
Write (LXX =
grapho) on them (LXX
= lithos = stones) all the words of this law (Deut 27:3)
Then he (Solomon) carved (LXX =
egkolapto = cut or carve) all the walls of the house round about with
carved (Lxx = grapho) engravings of cherubim... (1Kings 6:29)
...You who carve (LXX =
grapho) a resting place for yourself in the rock? (Isaiah 22:16)
a historical note writing that...
grapho is found in its
original sense in Homer, Il. 17, 599. In Herodotus, 4, 36 the word is
used meaning to draw, of lines on maps; and scholars of the 3rd cent.
B.C. used it of drawing of mathematical figures. In Homer grapho is
already used in the sense of scratching signs on a tablet as a kind of
letter (Il. 6, 169). From the time of Herodotus. it is used generally in
the normal sense of to write, and from the time of Pindar in the derived
sense of to prescribe, to order. From the practice of handing in a
written accusation, grapho came in judicial language to mean to accuse
(Plato, Euthyphro 2b). (Brown,
Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986.
Warren Wiersbe commenting on
the significance of the phrase it is written reminds us that
Our Lord used the Word of God to
defeat Satan, and so may we (Mt 4:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11;
see Ep 6:17-note).
But the Word of God is not only a sword for battle; it is also a light
to guide us in this dark world (Ps 119:105
- Spurgeon's note;
see 2Pe 1:19-note),
food that strengthens us (Mt 4:4; see 1Pe 2:2 -
and water that washes us (Ep 5:25; 26; 27-notes).
The Word of God has a sanctifying ministry in the lives of dedicated
believers (Jn 17:17). Those who delight in God’s Word, meditate on it,
and seek to obey it will experience God’s direction and blessing in
their lives (Ps 1:1, 2, 3 see notes
The Word reveals God’s mind, so we should learn it; God’s
heart, so we should love it; God’s will, so we
should live it. Our whole being—mind, will, and heart—should be
controlled by the Word of God....Does this mean that the Old Testament
Law is authoritative today for New Testament Christians? Keep in mind
that the early Christians did not even have the New Testament. The only
Word of God they possessed was the Old Testament, and God used that Word
to direct and nurture them. Believers today are not under the ceremonial
laws given to Israel; however, even in these laws we see moral and
spiritual principles revealed. Nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated
in the Epistles, so we must obey them. (The Sabbath commandment was
given especially to Israel and does not apply to us today. See Romans
14:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 -
As we read and study the Old Testament, we will learn much about God’s
character and working, and we will see truths pictured in types and
symbols. first step toward keeping clean in a filthy world is to ask,
“What does the Bible say?” In the Scriptures, we will find precepts,
promises, and persons to guide us in today’s decisions. If we are really
willing to obey God, He will show us His truth (Jn 7:17). While God’s methods of working may change from age to
age, His character remains the same and His spiritual principles never
vary. We do not study the Bible just to get to know the Bible. We study
the Bible that we might get to know God better. Too many earnest Bible
students are content with outlines and explanations, and do not really
get to know God. It is good to know the Word of God, but this should
help us better know the God of the Word." (Wiersbe,
W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor
MINE, I WILL REPAY, SAYS THE LORD: emoi ekdikesis, ego
(Ro 13:4; Deuteronomy 32:35,43; Psalms 94:1, 2, 3; Nahum 1:2,3; Hebrews 10:30)
[word study] from ekdikeo = that which proceeds from justice;
vindicate from ek = from + dike = justice) means to give justice
to someone who has been wronged. It means to repay harm with harm on
assumption that initial harm was unjustified and that retribution is therefore
Ekdikesis - 9x in 9v in the
NT - Lk. 18:7, 8; 21:22; Acts 7:24; Ro 12:19; 2Co 7:11; 2Th 1:8; Heb 10:30-note;
There are 48 uses of ekdikesis
Ex 7:4; 12:12; Num. 31:2, 3; 33:4; Deut. 32:35; Jdg. 11:36; 14:4; 2Sa 4:8;
22:48; Ps. 18:47, 48, 58:10; 79:10; 94:1; 149:7; Is 59:17; 66:15; Jer.
11:20; 20:10, 12; 46:10, 21; 50:15, 27, 26, 31; 51:6, 11, 36; Lam 3:60;
Ezek 5:15; 9:1; 14:21; 16:38, 41; 20:4; 23:10, 45; 24:8; 25:11, 12, 14,
15, 17; 30:14; Hos. 9:7; Mic. 5:15; 7:4.
Paul's point is that God said it and we
must be content to rest in God's perfect justice, irregardless of "when"
He determines repayment shall be meted out (in this life or the judgment
in the life to come).
God is faithful (see His attribute
Faithfulness) and just so you can be assured that there will be a just
recompense in His perfect time. He will faithfully fulfill the promise
inherent in the passage in Galatians...
Do not be deceived,
imperative + negative
~ stop being deceived, implying some already were being deceived -
remember too that when we are deceived, by definition we don't even know
it! That's frightening isn't it!) God is not mocked; for whatever a man
sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh
shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit
shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7, 8)
In Hosea the prophet warned...
For they sow the wind, And they reap
the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)
Revenge is excessive
retribution. It is not only "getting even", but it is giving the other
person something else besides and that is not God's way! He is the only
One Who can recompense perfectly. So let Him take care of all vengeance!
says in essence that the believer is never do this. We who call Christ our
Lord and Master are never (not just most of the time but never!) to try to get even
- never, ever attempt to exact your own vengeance because that "job
description" belongs to one person only -- God the
Judge. When we attempt "pay back", we usurp God's job and we do so
at some "risk" for we lack God's
and the result will most likely be that we make things worse. Think
for a moment those times you disobeyed this clear command and how many
times your pay back actually made things better! This alone should
motivate us to diligently seek to obey this section of Scripture. Notice
that there is not just one verse dealing with revenge, but several, a fact
that I personally take as a clue to our resistance to this truth and our
great need to obey it. But I could be wrong.
Spurgeon writes that...
It is recorded of a Chinese emperor
that, on being informed that his enemies had raised an insurrection in one
of his distant provinces, he said to his officers, "Come, follow me; and
we will quickly destroy them." He marched forward, and the rebels
submitted upon his approach. All now thought that he would take the most
signal revenge, but were surprised to see the captives treated with
mildness and humanity. "How!" cried the first minister, "is this the
manner in which you fulfil your promise? Your royal word was given that
your enemies should be destroyed; and behold! you. have pardoned them all,
and even caressed some of them." "I promised," replied the emperor, with a
generous air, "to destroy my enemies. I have fulfilled my word; for see,
they are enemies no longer: I have made friends of them" This is a fit
example for the Christian.
Forget not thou hast often sinned,
And sinful yet must be:
Deal gently with the erring one,
As God has dealt with thee.
Better Than Revenge
- For centuries, Albanian clans were
known for their bloody family feuds. They considered it cowardly not to
avenge the death of one of their own. Sometimes retaliation would set off
a chain reaction that left 25 to 30 people dead before it ended.
This bloody tradition continued until 1990, when a group of Albanian
peacemakers settled a large number of those clan conflicts. The change
came about because the people found something they desired more than
revenge. They wanted to become a part of the wider European community, and
also to unite in defending themselves against a common enemy.
So too, church fights and family feuds will end when Christians find
something they want more than the bitter excitement of a grudge match.
Holding a grudge loses its appeal when the combatants realize they are
cutting themselves off from the support and enjoyment they need, which
Christian fellowship provides. Getting even doesn't look so appealing when
they see how their angry words and belittling comments play into the hands
of the devil, who is trying to destroy them. Why pay the high price of
getting even? We have so much more to gain by dropping our grudges and
extending forgiveness. That's so much better than revenge! —M R De Haan II
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved
If you find yourself looking for ways to get even, why not look for
ways you might turn an enemy into a friend?
Believers at war with their brothers
and sisters Can't be at peace with their Father!
The story is told of a rich man in
Springfield, Illinois, who insisted that a certain poor man owed him
$2.50. When the claim was denied, the rich man decided to sue him. He
contacted a young lawyer named Lincoln, who at first hesitated to take the
case. On second thought he agreed—if he’d be paid a fee of $10 cash in
advance. The client readily produced the money, whereupon Lincoln went to
the poor man and offered him $5 if he would immediately settle the
alleged debt. Thus Lincoln received $5 for himself, the poor man got
$2.50, and the claim was satisfied. The rich man foolishly paid three
times the original debt, just to gain his rights. (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved
Romans 12:20 "BUT
FEED HIM, AND
IF HE IS
GIVE HIM A
DRINK; FOR IN
DOING YOU WILL
COALS ON HIS
But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for
by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. [Pr 25:21, 22.] (Amplified
Bible - Lockman)
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him
drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Instead, do what the Scriptures say: "If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed
of what they have done to you." (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: ... these are God's words: 'Therefore if your enemy
hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will
heap coals of fire on his head' (Phillips:
Wuest: But, if your enemy is hungry, be feeding him. If he thirsts,
be giving him to drink, for doing this, you will heap burning coals of fire
upon his head. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: I will recompense again, saith the Lord;' if, then,
thine enemy doth hunger, feed him; if he doth thirst, give him drink; for
this doing, coals of fire thou shalt heap upon his head;
BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY,
HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY,
GIVE HIM A DRINK: alla ean peina
o echthros sou,
psomize (2SPAM) auton: ean dipsa (3SPAS) potize (2SPAM) auton:
(Exodus 23:4,5; 1 Samuel 24:16, 17, 18, 19; 26:21; Pr 25:21,22; Matthew 5:44 )
(alla) -- Withholding personal vengeance is hard enough, but now now
Paul calls on us instead of doing nothing, to now return good for evil! Thus Paul presents the radical,
which is possible for believers who have presented themselves to God (not
just their physical bodies but their mind, soul, spirit) as living
sacrifices, who are not being conformed to the world (it says "get 'em
before they get you!") and who are continually having their minds renewed by
the Word of Truth and the Spirit of Truth to know the will of God (in this
case clearly stated!)
If your enemy is hungry -- This
implies that you have to be in contact with them otherwise how could you
know about their need.
(peinao from peína = hunger) literally means to be in a state
of hunger as used in this passage but occasionally used in a figurative
sense meaning to long for or desire something strongly (Mt 5:6-note).
Here are the 23 uses of peinao in
the NT - Mt 4:2; 5:6-note;
Mt 12:1, 3; 21:18; 25:35, 37, 42, 44; Mk. 2:25; 11:12; Lk 1:53; 4:2; 6:3,
21, 25; Jn 6:35; Ro 12:20; 1Co 4:11; 11:21, 34; Php 4:12-note;
(ptomizo from psomos = a morsel) means literally to feed
someone morsels (morsel = a small piece of food or small quantity of food).
Paul uses the
which calls for this to be our habitual practice. Once again this command
challenges every thinking believer to acknowledge that such an action is
totally impossible in our own strength. We must deny self and humble
ourselves allowing His Spirit (cp (see Gal 5:16-note;
cp Col 3:16-note)
and His amazing grace (2Co 12:9, 10, James 4:6) to "flow" through us,
feeding our enemies for the glory of the Lord (cp Mt 5:16-Matthew
The only other NT use of ptomizo
is in 1Co 13:3.
(dipsao) means literally to have a desire or need to drink (a
sensation of dryness in the mouth and throat associated with a desire for
liquids) or figuratively to have a strong or ardent desire for
something (Mt 5:6-note,
Jn 4:13, 14; 6:35; 7:37)
Give a drink
(potizo from potos = a drinking bout) means to give to drink
or to make to drink in the literal sense (Mt 10:42, 25:35, 37, 42 --
latter speaks of “ministering” to those who belong to Christ and thus doing
so virtually to Him) and figuratively with reference to teaching of an
rudimentary level (1Co 3:2, “I gave you milk to drink"), of spiritual
watering by teaching the Word of God, (1Co 3:6 - "Apollos watered"), of
being provided with the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit (1Co 12:13)
and of the effect upon the nations of “partaking” of the passion of
immorality that will characterize Babylon in the last days (Re 14:8 -
Here are the 15 uses of potizo in
the NT - Mt 10:42; 25:35, 37, 42; 27:48; Mk 9:41; 15:36; Lk 13:15; Ro 12:20;
1Co 3:2, 6, 7, 8; 12:13; Re 14:8 -
Paul quotes from Proverbs 25:21,
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to
eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap
burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. (Ryrie
commenting on this proverb says "Kindness shown to an enemy will bring
shame to him and blessing to the benefactor. Burning coals will kindle shame
in the enemy and perhaps lead him to repentance. In an Egyptian ritual a
guilty person carried a pan of burning coals on his head to indicate his
échthos = hatred, enmity; noun = echthra = enmity, hostility)
is an adjective which pertains to manifesting hostility or being at enmity
with another, where enmity is a deep seated animosity or hatred which may be
open or concealed or a "deep-rooted hatred."
In the active sense
echthros means to be hateful, hostile toward, at enmity with or
adversary of someone. In the passive sense echthros pertains to
being subjected to hostility, to be hated or to be regarded as an enemy.
one who has the extreme negative attitude that is the opposite of love and
friendship. An enemy is one that is antagonistic to another; especially
seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound the opponent. Scripture often
uses echthros as a noun describing "the adversary", Satan! Like
father like son!
This is how you overcome evil with good!
Which is another way of saying what Jesus said...
have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your
enemy.’ but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who
persecute you. (see notes
William MacDonald reminds us that...
Christianity goes beyond non-resistance
to active benevolence. It does not destroy its enemies by violence but
converts them by love." (MacDonald,
W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or
SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD: touto gar poion
anthrakas puros soreuseis
epi ten kephalen autou:
(Psalms 120:4; 140:10; Song 8:6,7)
Heap burning coals - Obviously
this is not literal but figurative language (See
terms of comparison -- metaphor) Is the heaping coals
of fire on his head something good in the eyes of our enemy or is it something
bad? Clearly in context it is something that is not calculated to aggravate to
(soreuo from soros = a heap) means to heap up, pile on or amass
by setting one thing atop another (used only here and Lxx of Pr 25:22). The
idea in part appears to be that of overcoming hostility against oneself by
showing kindness to the hostile party. In short, this
could refer to a "burning conviction" which kindness places on our enemy.
(anthrax) refers to charcoal or a burning ember.
Thayer has this note associated with his
definition of anthrax noting that heaping burning colas signifies...
to call up, by the favors you confer on
your enemy, the memory in him of the wrong he has done you (which shall pain
him as if live coals were heaped on his head), that he may the more readily
repent. The Arabians call things that cause very acute mental pain burning
coals of the heart and fire in the liver; cf. Gesenius in Rosenmüller's
Biblical-exeg. Repert. i., p. 140f (or in his Thesaurus i. 280; cf. also BB.
DD. under the word Coal).
Other commentators feel heaping
burning coals refers to the practice of lending coals from a fire
(this was the best that one has to give another person because the fire from coals was very valuable in
the ancient world and necessary for warmth and cooking) to help a neighbor start
their own. Such an act of kindness that would be appreciated. It reminds one of
the phrase "Killing them with kindness." However as the world uses this
aphorism, it is selfishly, fleshly motivated. Such is not to be the case
with believers who can only carry this action out in the power of the
indwelling Holy Spirit.
The following story to some
degree illustrates the principle...
An old Christian Indian was
seen taking many gifts to his enemy's teepee.
"What are you doing?" asked the
"I am burning him to the ground," replied the chief, "by heaping coals of
fire on his head"
William MacDonald comments...
If the live coal treatment seems cruel,
it is because this idiomatic expression is not properly understood. To heap
live coals on a person’s head means to make him ashamed of his hostility by
surprising him with unconventional kindness. (MacDonald,
W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or
William Newell has a lengthy note
on this verse...
Here are specific directions for active
love toward an enemy,—praying for him meanwhile, as Christ commanded: “Bless
them that persecute you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” (Ro
12:14) There is no more
terrible danger than that of cherished revenge; and nothing marks out so
blazingly a Christian path as love toward a foe. The Indians who inhabited
America when the white man came, hated one another, tribe against tribe. The
war paint, the warpath, the tomahawk, the scalp lock,—and pride in it all!
was the hell-mark wherewith Satan branded these poor heathen,—and where are
they today? No less devilish are the ghastly family “feuds” in certain parts
of America. No less significant is the kind of man admired in some regions:
“He won’t take a word from anybody”; “He’ll fight at the drop of the hat,”
and the like.
Now the promise is most striking indeed, that in a deed of kindness to an
enemy we shall “heap coals of fire upon his head.” Of course, as always,
when the literal statements of God’s judgment are made, we are apt to shrink
in timidity and unbelief, and seek to evade the actualities. But remember
exactly what we are dealing with: we are asked to step aside from
self-avenging, and “give place” to God’s coming vengeance and recompense. Of
course, we continue loving our enemies and praying for them, hoping they may
repent. Thus we are sharing the feeling of God Himself, who “takes no
pleasure in the death of the wicked, and would have all men to be saved.”
Nevertheless, we know in our hearts that many will refuse Divine mercy, and
go on to that day of vengeance. And what do we read in the Scriptures about
“coals of fire” at that time?
Let burning coals fall upon them;
Let them be cast into the fire,
Into deep pits, whence they shall not rise (Ps 140:10).
Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind shall be the portion of their cup (Ps
It is a trifling exposition that would make the “coals of fire” of Romans
12:20, quoted from Proverbs 25:21, 22, a mere figure—and meaning, really,
The knowledge and constant remembrance by the saints of the coming literal
doom of the wicked, is both a deep incentive to a holy walk, and a strong
motive for loving and praying for them. But let us not forget that the more
we are “a sweet savor of Christ unto God” as we preach the gospel, the more
we become “a savor from death unto death in them that are perishing” (2Co
2:14, 15, 16). Paul significantly, just here, adds the words: “And who is
sufficient for these things? For we are not as the many, corrupting the Word
of God” (2Co 2:17). Our Lord Himself said, “If I had not come and spoken
unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin.”
It is a fearful thought that in our kindness to enemies—enemies of our Lord
and of ourselves for the gospel’s sake, we may be increasing their doom: but
the responsibility is theirs; the obedient kindness, ours! (Romans
Verse by Verse)
><> ><> ><>
Kindness - A
missionary was teaching a class of young girls about kindness. She told
them about Jesus, who said that a person who gives a cup of water in His
name "will by no means lose his reward" (Mark 9:41).
The next day the missionary watched as a group of weary men walked into
the village square, removed their heavy backpacks, and sat down to rest.
A few minutes later, several little girls shyly approached the surprised
men and gave them all a drink. Then they ran to the missionary.
"Teacher!" they shouted. "We gave those men a drink in Jesus' name."
Although Mark 9:41 applies primarily to showing kindness to believers in
Christ, we know that we are to "do good to all" (Galatians 6:10) and
even give our enemy a drink (Ro 12:20).
In today's Bible reading, David had the chance for revenge against King
Saul (1 Samuel 26:9, 1Sa 26:1-26). But because David revered God, he
showed kindness to the king.
Showing unexpected kindness to strangers or enemies will not always
change their hearts. But sooner or later someone will wonder why we were
kind, and we will have an opportunity to tell about our Lord, who was
kind even to His enemies (Ro 5:10-note).—Herbert Vander Lugt
Do a deed of simple
Though its end you may not see;
It may reach, like widening ripples,
Down a long eternity. —Norris
One act of kindness
may teach more about the love of God than many
DO NOT BE OVERCOME
BY EVIL: me niko
hupo tou kakou:
(Pr 16:32; Luke 6:27-30; 1Pe 3:9)
means to conquer, to be victorious or to prevail in the face of obstacles.
Romans 3:4 (note)
speaks of God prevailing as in a legal accusation against Him!
Overcome describes the quality of a
true saint who may stumble and fall but who God always picks up and he
continues onward and upward in the power and motivation of the victory Christ
has won for us on the Cross.
In Webster's American Dictionary of
the English language (1828) overcome means to conquer; to vanquish; to
subdue; as, to overcome enemies in battle. To surmount; to get the better of;
as, to overcome difficulties or obstacles. To gain the superiority; to be
As Jesus alerted His soon to be
vigorously persecuted disciples...
John 16:33 "These things I have
spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have
tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (Comment:
John uses the
pictures the permanence of
our Lord's victory over this evil world system and its evil ruler! Glory!)
John describes overcomes...
1John 2:13, 14 I am writing to you,
fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to
you, young men, because you have overcome (perfect
pictures permanence of the victory) the
evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14
I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the
beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the
word of God abides in you, and you have overcome (perfect
Spurgeon comments: (from his sermon
below) May we be happily ignorant of what it is to be vanquished by the powers
of evil, and remain like the British drummer boy who did not know how to beat
a retreat, for he had never had any use for such a thing. May we not know the
dishonor and misery of being overcome of evil, because divine grace
continually giveth us the victory. When we are overcome of evil, even for a
moment, it discovers the sad weakness of our spiritual life. We must be babes
in grace and sadly carnal still, if sin is allowed to master us. If we were
stronger in the Lord and in the power of his might we should overcome the
world itself by faith: did not John write unto young men
John teaches us that as believers in
the Overcoming Christ, we too have overcome the "evil one"...
1John 4:4 You are from God, little
children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he
who is in the world. (Comment: John uses the
which pictures the permanence
of this victory! Hallelujah!)
John explains that all believers are
1Jn 5:4 For whatever is born of God
continually) the world; and this is the victory that has overcome (aorist
speaks of completed action at a point in time -- surely an allusion to the
Cross [Jn 16:33] and our faith in the finished work of the Cross) the world --
our faith. 5:5 And who is the one who overcomes (present
continually) the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (Comment:
Rhetorical question -- the point is that believers = overcomers -- see their
"rewards" in the uses of Nikao in the Revelation -- see verses below
and click note for commentary).
There are 28 uses on nikao in the NT
(4 verses use nikao twice) - Lk 11:22; Jn 16:33; Ro 3:4-note;
Ro 12:21; 1Jn 2:13; 4:4; 5:4, 5; Re 2:7-note,
The NAS renders nikao as -- come off
victorious(1), conquer(1), conquering(1), overcame(2), overcome(11),
overcomes(10), overpowers(1), prevail(1).
There are 3 uses of nikao in the
Septuagint - Ps 51:4; Pr 6:25 (Septuagint translation - "Let not the
desire of beauty overcome thee"); Hab 3:19
Do not be overcome - This is not
a "suggestion" but a command (present
imperative) to be carried out
at all times (present tense). In Greek the present imperative with a
negative calls for the stoppage of something already being carried out. The
idea then is Stop being overcome by evil, implying that some were
allowing this to happen.
"Stop being conquered by this harmful,
wicked thing or person."
How can one
stop? For one thing you know that God will repay and that satisfies the
righteous indignation). We must not allow the evil done to us by other people to overcome and
overwhelm us. And we must not allow ourselves to be
overcome by our own evil responses (emanating from our
which remains present and totally unredeemed or unimproved in all
believers until we are glorified! The indwelling Spirit now enables us to
Believers need to remember that our own evil is more detrimental
to us than is the evil done to us by others.
Darby explains the first part of this verse...
If my bad temper puts you in a bad
temper, you have been overcome of evil. (Interesting thought!)
study of related word
kakia) is a word which basically,
denotes a lack of something. Evil, bad, destructive, damaging, unjust.
Kakos then speaks of lack of goodness, of a bad nature, not as it ought to
be. Kakos defines one who is evil in himself, wicked, vicious, bad
in heart, conduct, and character and, as such, gets others in trouble.
Kakos is found from Homer on in a large variety of associations and
means bad in the sense of lacking something, always in contrast to agathos
which is good.
was descriptive of a soldier who was cowardly. It is seen in several
English words, such as "cacophony" (a discordant, bad sound), "cacography"
(illegible writing), and "cacodemon" (an evil demon—as if there were
"good" demons). The very sound of the word kakos suggests the idea in the
EVIL WITH GOOD: alla nika
en to agatho to kakon:
But - Paul presents the radical,
supernatural, Spirit empowered
(nikao from níke = victory) means to get the victory,
overcome, conquer or subdue. The verb is in the (present
imperative) and thus is
a command to keep on overcoming, implying that believers will continually be
confronted with evil! Don't be surprised. Be aware! Be "empowered" by His
Spirit to stand firm against the onslaught of evil, even being
(Click study of
agathos) means profitable, benefiting
others, whereas the related word kalos means constitutionally good,
but not necessarily benefiting others The idea is to overcome evil with what
is useful, beneficial or profitable to others.
can return good for good and evil for evil. But
Paul is teaching that the only way to truly overcome evil is with good. If
we return evil for evil, we only add fuel to the fire of the evil doer.
The great black scientist, George Washington Carver, once said,
“I will never
let another man ruin my life by making me hate him.”
As a believer Carver empowered by the
Spirit would not
allow evil to conquer him.
Instead he choose to overcome evil with good.
Sound (healthy, soul health giving)
does not just deliver a negative prohibition but goes on to a positive
Edwin M Stanton (1814-1869)
treated Abraham Lincoln with venomous hatred, declaring on one
occasion that it was foolish to go to Africa in search of a gorilla when
"the original gorilla" could be found in Springfield, Illinois! Lincoln took
this "gorilla warfare" all in stride and later Lincoln appointed Stanton as
his secretary of war, because he felt that Stanton was the most qualified
for the office. After Lincoln was assassinated, Stanton called him the
greatest leader of men. Lincoln's restraint in returning the vitriolic
verbal diatribe prove too great a weapon for Stanton who was overcome by
Lincoln's such selfless restraint!
C H Spurgeon's sermon on
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, OCTOBER 8TH, 1876,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
“Be not overcome of evil, but
overcome evil with good.” — Romans 12:21.
This is a very pithy verse, and the form
of it greatly assists the memory. It is worthy to be called a Christian
proverb. I would recommend every Christian man to learn it by heart, and
have it ready for use (see
Memorizing His Word); for there are a great many proverbs, which convey a
very different sense, and these are often quoted to give the weight of
authority to unchristian principles. Here is an inspired proverb; carry it
with you, and use it as a weapon with which to parry the thrusts of the
world’s wisdom. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
A Choice Between Two Things
Observe that the text appears to give us a choice between two things, and
bids us choose the better one. You must either be overcome of evil, or you
must yourself overcome evil: one of the two. You cannot let evil alone and
evil will not let you alone. You must fight, and in the battle you must
either conquer or be conquered.
The words before us remind me of the saying
of the Scotch officer to the Highland regiment when he brought them up in
front of the enemy and said,
“Lads, there they are: if ye dinna kill
them they’ll kill you.”
So does Paul marshal us in front of evil,
and like a wise general he puts us on our mettle by saying,
“Overcome, or be overcome.”
There is no avoiding the conflict, no
making truce or holding parley, no suspension of hostilities after a brief
skirmish, but the battle must be fought through to the end, and can only
close with a decided victory to one or the other side. Soldier of Christ, do
you long debate which of the two to choose, victory or defeat?
To be utterly overcome of evil would be a very dreadful thing. I shall say
but little about it, because I trust we shall, by divine grace, be upheld so
as never to know by experience what it is to be overcome of evil! May we be
“more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (Ro 8:37-note)
May we be happily ignorant of what it is to be vanquished by the powers of
evil, and remain like the British drummer boy who did not know how to beat a
retreat, for he had never had any use for such a thing. May we not know the
dishonor and misery of being overcome of evil, because divine grace
continually giveth us the victory. When we are overcome of evil, even for a
moment, it discovers the sad weakness of our spiritual life. We must be
babes in grace and sadly carnal still, if sin is allowed to master us. If we
were stronger in the Lord and in the power of his might we should overcome
the world itself by faith: did not John write unto young men and say, “Ye
are strong, and have overcome the wicked one.” If we are overcome of evil,
even for a moment, it will cause us great sorrow if we are in our right
mind. A tender conscience will be greatly vexed as soon as defeat is
sustained, and in looking back upon our fall, if fall we do, it will be a
daily grief to us that we suffered ourselves to be overcome by evil at all.
To be overcome of evil is dishonoring to our Lord, and opens the mouths of
adversaries. Those who watch for our halting will be sure to make much of
it. “Report it, report it,” say they, and they do report it through the
length and breadth of the land, that a servant of Christ has been overcome
of evil. And if to be overcome of evil were not occasional but were
continuous, if it could be said of our whole life that we were overcome of
evil, it would prove that we were none of Christ’s; for he that is born of
God overcometh the world. Our Lord Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, I have
overcome the world,” and he makes all his true disciples partakers of this
victory. Only to conquerors are the great promises of the book of Revelation
“To him that overcometh will I give to
eat of the hidden manna.”
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar
in the house of my God.”
“To him that overcometh will I grant to
sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my
Father in his throne.”
To be defeated in the battle of life
would prove that we did not belong to that conquering seed which, if its
heel be bruised, shall nevertheless break the foeman’s head. Fix it, then,
in your minds that evil is to be overcome; it is a matter of necessity that
we wage this war and succeed in it. We must needs triumph over the powers of
Few are the words, but weighty is the meaning of our text. In one
sententious sentence the conflict is set before us, and the sword of the
battle is put into our hands.
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome
evil with good.”
Good is the only weapon which in this
dread conflict we are permitted to use, and we may rest assured it will be
sufficient and effectual. To use any other weapon is not only unlawful but
altogether impossible, for he who wields the sword of evil is no longer
Christ’s soldier at all.
The reference in the text is to personal injuries, and therefore we shall
confine ourselves to that one point, though the principle is capable of very
great extension. In fighting with sin and error our weapons must be holiness
and truth, and these alone: it is a wide subject, and I will not venture
upon it. That personal injury is referred to in my text is clear from the
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves,
but rather give piece unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mire: I
will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him, if he
thirst, give him drink: for is so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his
With regard to the evil of personal injury, the common method is to overcome
evil with evil: let us talk about it. Secondly, the divine method is to
overcome evil with good: let us speak of that; and this will no doubt
exhaust our time. As this is a very practical subject let us entreat the
Holy Spirit to teach us the will of Christ, and then to enable us to obey it
in all things. I shall be much disappointed if the subject does not humble
as well as instruct us, and if it does this it will be well for us to fly at
once to the blood of the atonement, that we may be purged from former faults
and cleansed for future holiness.
I. The Common Method Of Overcoming Injuries Is Overcoming Evil With Evil.
“Give him a Roland for his Oliver.”
“Give him as good as he sends.”
“Sauce for the goose is sauce for the
“Be six to his half dozen.”
I might go on with a score of proverbs,
all inculcating the sentiment of revenge, or at least of meeting evil with
I have to observe that the overcoming of evil with evil is in the first
place a most natural procedure. It suggests itself to my fool to overcome
evil with evil; a lunatic or idiot would do that. You need not train your
children to it, it will be suggested in their infancy, and they will strike
the floor upon which they fall, and beat the post against which they
stumble, to punish it for their hurt; it is natural, very sadly natural. A
sort of instinct suggests it, the instinct of the worm which turns if it be
trodden on. This instinct says,
“Surely we are not to suffer evil without
resenting it, and what can we do better than to treat others as they treat
It must be admitted, also, that there is
a show of justice about such a method of combating evil. Why should not a
man be made to suffer who makes me suffer? And if he does me wrong why
should I not defend myself and make him smart for making me smart? I freely
admit that this is exceedingly natural, and has a show of justice about it?
But to which part of us is it natural? Think for a minute. Is it natural to
the new created spirit which dwells in believers, or is it natural to us
because there is a part of us which is animal? Is it the new man in us which
suggests revenge? Or is it the flesh, the mere animal in us which strikes
out to avenge itself? A moment’s reflection will let you see that the
returning of evil for evil is natural to the animal nature, but that it is
not, and never can be, natural to the new-created spirit whose nature is
like the God from which it came, namely love, and gentleness, and kindness.
“Good for evil is Godlike; good for good
is man-like; evil for good is devil-like; evil for evil,”
— what is that? I quote it to prove my
point. It is beast-like; it is like the beast which kicks because it is
kicked, gores because it is gored, and bites because it is bitten. Surely we
cannot allow the lower part of our triple nature to dictate to our
heaven-born Spirit. We cannot let the servant be the master. We will be
natural, but the nature which we will follow shall be that which we received
in our regeneration, when we were made partakers of the divine nature, and
enabled to escape the corruptions of the world. That returning evil for evil
looks like rough and ready justice I have confessed, but then is any man
prepared to follow out for himself, and in his own case this rule of
justice? Is he prepared to stand before God and receive evil for his evil?
“He shall have justice without mercy that showeth
Is he willing to stand before God on the
same terms as he would have the offending one stand before himself? Nay, our
best, and indeed our only hope must lie in the mercy of God who freely
forgives offenses. We must look up to infinite love, and entreat the Lord to
have mercy upon us according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses; and
therefore we must render mercy to others. To recompense evil for evil is
natural, but may God deliver us from the nature which makes it natural? It
is just, no doubt, after a fashion, but from that sort of justice may our
Redeemer rescue us!
Again, it is admitted that the art of returning evil for evil is very, very
easy. If, my dear friend, you make it a rule that nobody shall ever insult
you without having to pay for it, nor treat you with disrespect without
meeting his match, you need not pray God in the morning to help you to carry
out your resolve. There will be no need to wrestle in prayer that you may be
graciously enabled to take vengeance on your adversaries, and stand up for
your rights: you can do that decidedly better by trusting to yourself than
by looking to God; indeed you dare not look to God about it. The devil will
help you, and between your own passion and the evil one the thing may be
very easily managed. There will be no reason for watchfulness, you need not
be on your guard, or keep your spirit in check; on the contrary, you may
give to the very worst part of your nature the greatest possible license,
and go a-head according to the rage of your passionate spirit. Prayer and
humility of mind will of course be quite out of the question. Nor will there
be any need for faith; you will not commit your case unto God and leave it
there, you will fight your own battles, wipe off old scores as you go on,
and place your dependence on fierce speeches, on your mighty fists, or on
the law and the policeman. Christian graces will be too much in your way for
you to think of them. Gentleness, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness — you
will bid good-bye to these and cultivate the virtues of a savage or of a
bull-dog. All this is wonderful easy, though it may be that ere long it will
turn out to be hard.
Now, I put it to Christians, whether that which is so very easy to the very
worst of men can ever be the right procedure for those who ought to be the
best of men. If the divine plan of love be difficult and requires great
grace to enable you to follow it, and I freely admit that it does, if it be
very difficult to maintain it, and will require much prayer, much
watchfulness, and much conquest of yourself, is it not, therefore, the more
sure to be right? As for that which is so easy, let that be left to
publicans and sinners, but as for you who have received more mercy of God
than other men, should you not render more? You believe yourselves to be
twice born, you have received a new and heavenly life; what do ye more than
others? Ought ye not to show that there is more in you than in others, by
letting more come out of you than comes out of others? Much more is expected
of us than of the unregenerate, naturally and rightly expectation runs high
in reference to men who make such high professions; and if the professed
Christian be no better in his daily conversation than the ungodly, depend
upon it he is no Christian man at all. We possess a higher life, and we are
lifted to a nobler platform than the common sons of men, and therefore we
must lead a nobler life and be guided by sublimer principles. Let the
children of darkness meet evil with evil, and carry on their wars and
fightings, their strifes and their envyings, their malice and their revenge:
but as for you, O believers, ye are the children of the God of love, and
love must be your life. You have been renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and you must not be conformed to this world, but be transformed into the
likeness of Christ your Master. Evil for evil should be a principle detested
by you, and such should be your loving spirit that it ought to be no longer
easy to recompense evil with evil, but hard, yea impossible, to bring you to
do anything of the kind. Revenge and fury should be as alien to the spirit
of a child of God as they would be to an angel before the throne.
By many to return evil for evil has been judged to be the more manly course.
Years ago if a gentleman imagined himself to be insulted, it was necessary
according to the code of honor then in vogue for him either to shed the
blood of the offending person, or at least to expose himself to the like
peril of his life. Thank God, that murderous custom is now almost entirely
gone from the face of the earth. The spirit of Christianity has by degrees
overcome this evil, but there still abides in the world the idea that to
stand up for yourself, just to let people know what you are, never to
knuckle down to anybody, but to defend your own cause and vindicate your
honor, has something extremely manly about it; but to yield, to submit, to
be patient, to be meek, to be gentle, is considered to be unworthy of a man
of Spirit. They call it showing the white feather and being cowardly, though
to my mind, he is the bravest man who can bear the most. Now, Christian men,
who is your model of a man? You do not hesitate for a second, I am sure.
There is but one model of a Christian man, and that is the man Christ Jesus.
Will you then remember that whatever is Christly is manly, and whatsoever
you think to be manly which is not Christlike, is really unmanly, as judged
by the highest style of man. The Lord Jesus draws near to a Samaritan
village, but they will not receive him, though he was always kind to
Samaritans. Good John, gentle John, becomes highly indignant, and cries,
“Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume
Jesus meekly answers,
“Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of:
for the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
See him on another occasion: your Master has risen from his knees, with the
bloody sweat still on his face; and Judas comes and betrays him, and they
begin to handle him very roughly, and therefore, being highly provoked,
brave Peter draws out his sword; and just to flesh it a little he cuts off
the ear of Malchus. Hear how gently Jesus says,
“Put up again thy sword
into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the
and so he heals that ear at once. Was that manly, do you think? Was
it manly to refuse to call fire from heaven, and to touch and heal the
wounded ear? To me it seems superlatively manly, and may such be my
manliness and yours. Look at our Lord again before the high priest, when an
officer of the court, incensed by his gentle answers, smites him on the
cheek; what does Jesus say? Observe the difference between Christ and Paul.
Paul says, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall.” Bravo, Paul, that is
speaking up for yourself! We cannot blame thee, for who are we to censure an
apostle? But look at Paul’s Master and hear his words,
“If I have spoken
evil bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?”
Is not the example of Jesus the more
noble, the more Godlike? No man for a moment can put the two side by side
without feeling that the Lord’s conduct is by far the more sublime. It is
not for us to imitate the servant of Christ when Christ himself excels him.
Herein is victory when a man so overcomes himself that he replies to evil
language with good and wise answers, but not with fierce and reviling words.
O Christians, look ye at Christ, your Lord, who all his life long endured
such contradiction of sinners against himself; who when he was reviled
reviled not again, but submitted himself to him that judgeth righteously;
and who even on the cruel tree, when he was mocked by those around him, had
nothing to say but this —
“Father, forgive them, for they know not
what they do.”
O Man of men, be thou the criterion
henceforth of all the manliness at which we aim, and if others count the
opposite to be manly let them count it so that will, — we are not of their
Dear friends, we are now bold to affirm concerning the old, easy, natural
method of returning evil for evil is that it does not succeed. Nobody ever
did overcome evil by confronting it with evil yet. Such a course increases
the evil. When the great fire was blazing at London Bridge it would have
been a strange way of putting it out or keeping it under if our firemen had
lit another fire close to it, or had pumped petroleum upon it; yet have I
known some try to overcome the evil of a passionate temper in a man by
becoming passionate themselves — rolling up another tar barrel to his fire,
and so making it burn more furiously than ever. That is not conquering evil,
nor is evil ever to be so conquered till water drowns the sea. A soft answer
turneth away wrath, but anger excites more anger and more sin. Behold how
great a matter a little fire kindleth, when it comes to be heaped up with
fuel, and blown upon by furious winds.
What is worse, when we assail evil with evil we are already ourselves
overcome: we have fallen into the very wrong which we complain of. As long
as we can be calm and quiet we are victorious; but our breaking loose into
an ill temper is our own defeat, and being overcome how can we overcome
others? Brethren, the desire to return evil for evil does not succeed,
because it injures us much more than it injures the person whom we seek to
overcome. It has been said that the worst peace is better than the best war,
and I believe almost anything is better than becoming angry. Scarcely any
injury which we can ever sustain will so injure us as the injury which must
arise to us from becoming angry and revengeful. Our enemies are not worth
putting ourselves out about after all, and ten minutes of a palpitating
heart, and of a disturbed circulation, causes us greater real damage in body
than an enemy could inflict in seven years. Ten minutes of a fiery deluge
overflowing the whole soul is a serious catastrophe, not to be often risked.
Ten minutes in which you could not look Jesus in the face, ten minutes in
which you would be ashamed to think of the Master’s being near, ten minutes
of broken fellowship — why this is a very serious self-torture. Let us not
suffer it to please our foes. Alas, I have known professors keep up this
wrath for days and weeks. How it must hurt a man to have his soul broiling
all that time! To have his heart roasting in the fire of wrath. I feel it to
be too painful to bear, even for a brief season; it is bad for us in every
sense, it hurts the mind permanently. Evil for evil is an edged tool which
cuts the man who uses it: a kind of cannon which is most dangerous to those
who fire it, both in its discharge and in its recoil. If you wished to
destroy your enemy it would be wise to make him a present of this dangerous
gun, and allow him to have the entire monopoly of it. I may truly say that
when we oppose evil with evil, the evil which comes from us does us far more
injury than any evil which we experience from others.
Again, the method of overcoming evil with evil does not bear inspection; it
does not bear to be pondered and meditated on. Let any renewed man sit down
for a minute after he has fallen into this practice, and ask himself as a
Christian how he feels over it. He has usurped the place of God, for
vengeance belongs only to the Judge of all the earth: how does he feel while
acting as a usurper? Who am I that I should clamber to the throne of God and
seize his sword and attempt to make myself judge and executioner among
mankind! Will this bear consideration? Can a child of God thus see himself
guilty of high treason against his King? How does a man feel when he is on
his knees and remember what he has done? How does he say “forgive us our
trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us”? Do not his eyes
fill with tears and is not his heart heavy with regret? How will your hard
speeches and fierce actions appear when viewed from your dying bed? Will
railing, and fighting, and law-suits be sweet memories there? Can such a
thing as resenting evil with evil be the subject of our praise to God? Can
we ever thank the God of love for enabling us to avenge ourselves? If we
cannot pray about it, or praise about it, let us let it alone. Is there
anything about it which we could whisper in the ear of Christ? Is there
anything in it that will help us to nearer fellowship, with him? Is there
anything in anger and wrath which will prepare: us for the business of earth
or for the bliss of heaven?
It is bad, bad altogether. The best that I can say of it is that there may
be rare occasions in which the provocation may be so great as to present
others from condemning us, but then I must add that at such times we had
better even then make no excuse for ourselves. The mind of Christ is that
when smitten on one cheek we turn the other also, and that in no case we
render unto any man evil for evil. Beloved brethren, I beseech you by the
mercies of God that ye adjure for ever the method of seeking to overcome
evil with evil, and that ye follow the example of your Lord, taking his yoke
upon you and learning of him, for he is meek and lowly in mind.
II. Let us now consider The Divine Method Of Overcoming Evil With Good.
here I freely admit, to commence with, that this is a very elevated mode of
procedure. “Overcome evil with good! Ridiculous!” says one; “Utopian,”
cries another; “It might do for Plato’s republic,” says a third, “but it
will never do for ordinary, every day life.” Well, I shall not blush to own
that this is a very high course of conduct, and one which the mere worldling
cannot be expected to follow, but of Christians we expect higher things. Ye
have a high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and ye are therefore called to a
high style of character by your glorious leader, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Brethren, if it be difficult I commend it to you because it is so; what is
there which is good which is not also difficult? Soldiers of Christ love
those virtues most which cost them most. If it be hard to obtain, the jewel
is all the more precious. Since there is grace sufficient to enable us to
become like our Lord, we will labor after this virtue also, and obtain the
great grace which its cultivation requires.
Notice that this text inculcates not merely passive non-resistance, though
that is going a good way, but it teaches us active benevolence to enemies.
“Overcome evil with good,” with direct and overt acts of kindness. That is,
if any man has done you a wrong, do not only forgive it, but avenge it by
doing him a favor. Dr. Cotton Mather was never content till he had bestowed
a benefit on every man who had in any way done him an injury. If anybody has
slandered you, or treated you unkindly in any way, go out of your way to
serve him. “If thine enemy hunger, feed him.”
You might say
“Well, I am sorry for him, but really he
is such a vagabond, I could not think of relieving him.”
Yet according to this Scripture, he is
the very man you are bound to feed. If he thirst, do not say,
“I hope somebody will relieve him; I feel
no animosity to the man, but I am not going out of my way to give him
According to your Lord’s command, he is
the man to whom you must give drink. Go straightway to the well and fill
your pitcher, and hasten to give him drink at once, and without stint. You
have not merely to forgive and forget, but you are bidden to inflict upon
the malicious mind the blessed sin-killing wound of your hearty and
practical good-will. Give a blessing for a curse, a kiss for a blow, a favor
for a wrong. “Oh,” say you, “this is high, I cannot attain unto it.” God is
able to give you strength equal to this also. “It is hard,” say you. Ah, but
if you take Christ to be your Master, you must do what he tells you, and
instead of shrinking because His command seems difficult to flesh and blood,
you must cry, “Lord, increase my faith, and give me more of thy Spirit.” To
forgive to seventy times seven would not be hard to Christ, for he did it
all His life long, and it will not be hard to you if the same mind be in you
which was also in Christ Jesus. It is to this that you are called. It is a
sublime temper, and it is exceedingly difficult and needs Divine grace,
needs watchfulness, needs living near to God, but for these reasons it is
all the more worthy of a follower of Jesus, and therefore we should aim at
it with our whole heart.
The benefit of the method of returning good for evil is that it preserves
the man from evil. If evil assails you, and you only fight it with good, it
cannot hurt you, you are invulnerable. If any man curse you, and you answer
him with a blessing, it is clear that the curse has not hurt you. It has not
made you full of curses, or else one would come out of you. If a man has
slandered you, but you never return him a reproachful word, he has not hurt
your real character; the dirt which he has thrown has missed you, for you
have none to throw back upon him. If when much provoked your temper still
remains calm and quiet, the provocation has not touched you, the arrow has
passed harmlessly by. The very thing your enemy wants is to make you descend
to his level of anger and malice, but, as long as having much provocation
you remain unprovoked, you vanquish him. Believe me you are provoking your
adversary terribly if you are quite calm yourself, you are disappointing
him, he cannot insert his poisoned darts for you are clad in armor of proof.
He tries to injure you, but he cannot; he fails to make you sin, and so he
misses his mark. Do you not see what a wonderful armor it is? If God
preserve you, so that you have nothing but good wishes and goodwill towards
the man who hates you and seeks your ruin, then you are a conqueror indeed.
While this conduct protects you, it is the very best weapon of offense
against the opposer. William Ladd had a farm in one of the states of
America, and his neighbor, Pulsifer, was a great trouble to him, for he kept
a breed of gaunt, long-legged sheep, as active as spaniels, which would
spring over almost any sort of fence. These sheep were very fond of a fine
field of grain belonging to Mr. Ladd, and were in it continually; complaints
were of no use, for Pulsifer evidently cared nothing for his neighbour’s
losses. One morning Ladd said to his men, “Set the dogs on those sheep, and
if that won’t keep them out, shoot them.” After he had said that, he
thought to himself,
“This will not do. I had better try the peace
So he sent to his men and countermanded the order, and rode
over to see his neighbor about those troublesome sheep. “Good morning,”
said he, but he received no answer: so he tried again, and got nothing but a
sort of grunt. “Neighbor,” said he, “I have come to see you about those
sheep.” “Yes,” Pulsifer replied, “I know. You are a pretty neighbor to tell
your men to kill my sheep! You a rich man, too, and going to shoot a poor
man’s sheep!” Then followed some very strong language, but Ladd replied,
“I was wrong, neighbor, and I am sorry
for it. Think no more about it. But, neighbor, we may as well agree. It
seems I have got to keep your sheep, and it won’t do to let them eat all
that grain, so I came over to say that I will take them into my homestead
pasture and I will keep them all the season; and if any one is missing you
shall have the pick of mine.”
Pulsifer looked confounded, and then stammered out, “Now, Squire, are you
in earnest?” When he found that Ladd really meant to stand to the offer,
Pulsifer stood still a moment and then said, “The sheep shan’t trouble you
any more. When you talk about shooting I can shoot as well as you; but when
you speak in that kind and neighbourly way I can be kind too.” The sheep
never trespassed into Ladd’s lot any more. That is the way to kill a bad
spirit: this is overcoming evil with good. If one had begun shooting, and
the other had followed suit, they certainly would have been both losers, and
both been overcome; but when the offended one made kindness his only return
the battle was over. I remember years ago — though I only quote it, not for
my own praise, but as an illustration — a certain person, a very good man
too, did not admire a course of action that I felt bound to take. He was
very angry, and called upon me to express his objections. At last he said,
“If you do that I shall expose you in a pamphlet.” I was in a gracious
mood at that time, and was not to be ruffled in temper, nor yet turned from
my course. I said to him quietly, “What do you think the pamphlet would
cost?” “Oh,” he said, “I don’t know, but whatever it costs I shall do
it.” I answered, “Well, if you feel you ought to do it I should be sorry
to see you go into debt, and therefore I will pay the printer’s bill. I will
trust you to give a truthful account of the matter, and I am not at all
ashamed to have my course of action made as public as possible; indeed I had
rather it should be.” He said he should not like to take any money from me.
“Well,” I replied, “perhaps you think that there might be some profits
upon the sale; you shall be quite welcome to them. Your own friends can
print for you, I will find the money, and you shall have the profit.” I
never heard any more of that pamphlet, and he is an exceedingly good friend
of mine at the present moment, and will I hope always remain so.
To remain quiet is generally the way to baffle an adversary; indeed there is
no weapon with which he can wound you. If you will not yield so as to give
railing for railing, what is to be done with you? It is much the same as
when a certain duke proclaimed war against a peaceful neighbor, who was
resolved not to fight. The troops came riding to the town, and found the
gates open as on ordinary occasions. The children were playing in the
streets, and the blacksmith was at his forge, and the shopkeepers at their
counters, and so, pulling up their horses, the soldiers enquired, “Where is
the enemy?” “We don’t know. We are friends.” What was to be done under
the circumstances but to ride home? So it is in life, if you only meet evil
with good the bad man’s occupation is gone.
It has sometimes happened that evil men have been converted into good men,
and conquered thus in the very best possible way by seeing the patient
Christian return good for evil. Some years ago a wicked, reprobate sailor
was engaged in tarring a vessel, and while he was at his work there came
along an old man well known in the district as a Christian. One of the
sailor’s mates standing by said to him, “Jack, you could not provoke that
man; he is such a gentle-spirited man you could not put him out of temper.”
Jack was quite sure he could, and it became the subject of a wager. The
wicked fellow took his bucket of tar with which he was tarring the keel, and
dared to throw it right over the good old man. It was a most shameful
assault, and the fellow deserved the utmost penalty of the law. The old man
turned round and calmly said to him, “The Lord Jesus Christ has said that
he who offends one of his little ones will find that it were better for him
that a millstone had been tied about his neck, and that he were cast into
the sea: now, if I am one of Christ’s little ones, it will be very bad for
you.” Jack slunk back dreadfully ashamed of himself. What was more, the old
man’s quiet face haunted him; night after night he woke up, and in his
dreams he saw that old man; and those tremendous words, “that it were
better for him that a millstone were about his neck,” broke him down before
the mercy-seat of God. He asked and found pardon; he sought out the old man,
confessed his fault, and received forgiveness. Who would not have a
bucketful of tar thrown over him if it would save a soul? Now, suppose the
old man had turned round on him, and uttered some fiery language, or struck
at him, — who could have blamed him? But then there would have been no
triumph of grace in the Christian, and no conversion in the sinner. God has
often made use of a gentle, meek, quiet, forbearing spirit to be the power
with which he subdues the lion-like rebel, and turns the course of
ill-disposed and ungodly men. He makes them see how awful goodness is, how
strong is gentleness, how omnipotent is love.
Returning good for evil, again reflects great honor upon Christ. I do not
know of anything which makes the blind world see so much of the glory of
Christ as this. When one of the martyrs was being tortured and tormented in
a horrible way, the tyrant who had caused his sufferings said to him, “And
what has your Christ ever done for you that you should bear this?” He
replied, “He has done this for me, that in the midst of all my pain, I do
nothing else but pray for you.” Ah, Lord Jesus, thou hast taught us how to
conquer, for thou hast conquered. There are many mighty names on the
battle-roll of earth, but thy name is not there: there is another conflict
sterner and nobler, and thou standest at the head of the heroes who are
engaged in it. Read the name, my brethren, it is written in his own blood,
“Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified, the chief of those who overcome evil
with good.” Who among you will say, “Write down my name, Sir, beneath my
Lord the Lamb, for in that battle I would have a share, and on those lines I
would fight the foe”? Recollect you must do it or you cannot be like him,
and if you are not like him, you have not his spirit, and “if any man hath
not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
I will not explain how this principle can be carried into other things, for
there is no time, but I will close by noticing that everything that is
admirable may be said of this method of overcoming evil with good. It is so
noble, it is so becoming tone whom God has lifted up to be his child, that I
commend it to every man of sanctified feeling. A Christian man is the
noblest work of God, and one of the noblest features of a Christian man is
his readiness to forgive; and the cheerfulness with which he seeks to
recompense good for evil. The Emperor Adrian, before he reached the throne,
had been grievously insulted. When he had attained the imperial purple he
met the man who had used him ill. The guilty person was, of course,
dreadfully afraid of his mighty foe. He knew that now it only needed a wish
from the Emperor, and his life would be taken away. Adrian cried out,
“Approach. You have nothing to fear; I am an Emperor!”
Did this heathen feel that his dignity
lifted him above the meanness of revenge? Then, my brethren, let those whom
Christ has made kings unto God scorn to render evil for evil. Say, “I am a
Christian, and my resentments are over. What can I do to serve you? I could
have fought you to the death aforetime, but now I am dead myself and born
again, and having commenced a new life, behold Christ hath made all things
new. My animosities are buried in his tomb, my revenges are lost in the
abyss into which he has cast my sins; and now as a new man in Christ Jesus,
my life shall be love, for he hath said, “Love your enemies, bless them that
curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which
despitefully use you and persecute you. That ye may be the children of your
Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise upon the evil and
on the good.”
Good for evil is nobly congruous with the spirit of the gospel. Were we not
saved because the Lord rendered to us good for evil? The spirit of the law
is “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” but the spirit of the gospel
is, “freely I forgive you: your many iniquities and vast transgressions are
all blotted out for Christ’s name’s sake, therefore be pitiful towards
others.” Forgiveness is one fruit of the gospel, and doing good in return
for evil is another. Should not the spirit of every Christian man be one of
unconquerable love? For by unconquerable love he is saved.
And, beloved, this spirit of forgiveness is the Spirit of God, and he that
hath it becomes like to God. If thou wouldst rise to the highest style of
being, rise thou to the condition of a being who can be injured, and yet
forgive. To be just is something, scarcely for a righteous man would one
die; but to be merciful and kind is much more, since for a good man some
would even dare to die — such is the enthusiasm which a loving spirit will
kindle. Rise above mere righteousness into the divine atmosphere of love.
But whether men love you or not is a small matter; whether you conquer them
or not is also a little matter, but that you should conquer evil, that you
should be victorious over sin, that you should receive from your Lord at the
last the “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and that you should be
like to God in your nature, this is of the utmost importance to you, for
this is heaven. Heaven is to have self dethroned to be purged of all anger —
to be delivered from all pride. Heaven is in fact to be God-like. May we be
made so through Jesus Christ our Savior, by the work of his Holy Spirit.
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