Issue #214 -------
October 14, 2005
One must not always think so much
about what one should do, but rather
what one should be. Our works do not
ennoble us; we must ennoble our works.
Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)
The renowned Protestant reformer John Calvin (1509-1564), in commenting upon Romans 12:9-21, observed that Paul has here presented us all with a series of "short precepts, unconnected, though suited to the formation of a holy life" (Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, vol. 2, p. 468). John Calvin has correctly perceived that this passage is a compilation of divine principles, presented as practical guidelines for our daily walk with the Lord, that, if implemented in our lives, will lead us to become more grace affirming in our inter-personal relationships and service to Him.
In this present issue of my Reflections we will be examining a bit more closely each of these 27 steps enumerated by the apostle Paul in the above passage from the book of Romans. This will not be an in-depth scrutiny of each of these practical guidelines, but rather a brief word study, joined with a few comments by scholars, so as to give us a basic grasp of these principles and precepts that can be so invaluable to our Christian walk. Our heavenly Father has called us to be Family, and to be a functional one (as opposed to being dysfunctional, which too frequently we prove to be). To accomplish this goal He has provided us with the tools necessary to its achievement. We will seek to become more familiar with them in the course of this study. May we take each item seriously, as they all contribute directly to the attaining of our quest and truly constitute the very essence of authentic faith in Christ Jesus.
1 --- Unfeigned Love --- Rom. 12:9
Paul writes, "Let love be without hypocrisy." The Greek word employed here is anupokritos, which appears six times in the pages of the NT documents (Rom. 12:9; 2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:22; James 3:17). It is used with reference to Love on three occasions, regarding Faith twice, and Wisdom once. This word never appears in the Greek OT writings, and appears only twice in the Apocrypha (Wisdom of Solomon 5:18; 18:16). It is the negation of the concept: "to be an actor on the stage; to play a part; to simulate, feign, pretend" (Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, vol. 1, p. 213). Other translations and versions of the Bible render this thought in Rom. 12:9 as a positive, saying our love must be "sincere," "genuine," "real." The KJV reads, "Let love be without dissimulation," which is simply a word meaning "pretense, deception, hypocrisy." Ken Taylor, in the Living Bible, writes, "Don't just pretend that you love others: really love them." J.B. Phillips, in his New Testament in Modern English, says, "Let us have no imitation Christian love." Scripture References --- Leviticus 19:18, 34; Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13-14; James 2:8f; 1 John 3:18.
"Christian love is a love which is cleansed of self. It is a pure outgoing of the heart to others" (William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, p. 177). "The apostle counsels genuine love that takes its cue from God's love in Christ and is out for the very best for other people" (The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 1411). "If there be supreme love of God in the heart, all duties toward God will be discharged. If there be the love of the neighbor as of the self, all duties toward mankind will be performed" (William G.T. Shedd, A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, p. 366)."Feigned love is hate disguised. Love was so prevalent, and so strongly characterized the early church, that he who had it not was tempted to simulate it" (David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the NT Epistles, vol. 1, p. 225). "Love is primary, but if it is not sincere, it is not real love but only pretense. The whole of the believer's conduct should be bathed in love. If he fails to love his brother, doubt is cast on his professed love for God" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 132).
2 --- Abhorrence of Evil --- Rom. 12:9
Paul continues: "abhor what is evil." Other readings are: "hate what is wrong" ... "abhor what is wicked." The Message renders the phrase: "Run for dear life from evil." The Williams translation reads: "You must always turn in horror from what is wrong." This is an example of a "participial clause," of which there are several in this section of Romans. The Greek word apostugeo appears only here in the entire NT writings. It never appears in either the OT or the Apocrypha. It means "to shrink away from with abhorrence; to have a horror of; to shudder at; dislike, abhor." The phrase "the evil" is often contrasted in Scripture with the phrase "the good" --- as in Luke 6:45. Consider also: Psalm 97:10; 119:104; 1 Thessalonians 5:22.
"Unless we shudderingly recoil from contact with the bad in our own lives, and refuse to christen it with deceptive euphemisms when we meet it in social and civil life, we shall but feebly grasp, and slackly hold, that which is good" (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Romans, p. 264). "View with horror and dread and shrink from every evil deed as from a deadly poison. Wrongdoing is the poison of the soul. It unfits for heaven and educates for eternal ruin" (Lipscomb, p. 225). "It has been said that our one security against sin lies in our being shocked by it" (Barclay, p. 177). "Hate sin as you would hate that hell to which it leads" (Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 139). "There are many Christians, and among them many preachers, who oppose evil, it is true, but they do it so faintly as virtually to countenance it. They will not publicly endorse evil; but they will either go quietly home, or get out of its way, and leave it to riot unrebuked. They do not abhor it. Not that they sanction it; for they do not; they merely do not stand in its way" (Moses E. Lard, Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans, p. 389).
3 --- Holding to the Good --- Rom. 12:9
"Cling to what is good." Other readings are: "Cleave (hold fast) to that which is good" ... "Hold on for dear life to good." The Greek word kollao appears ten times within the pages of the NT documents (seven by Luke, three by Paul --- his other two are in 1 Cor. 6:16-17). It appears numerous times in the OT and Apocrypha (Deut. 10:20; 2 Kings 18:6; Psalm 63:8). It comes from the root word meaning "glue" -- "to glue or weld together, attach oneself to, adhere to, cement firmly together." It conveys the idea of "forming an intimate connection with, entering into the closest relations with, uniting oneself to" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, p. 353). The Greek word agathos appears 102 times in the NT writings. It "describes that which, being good in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect" (W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words).
"The word that is rendered cleave to denotes properly the act of gluing, or uniting firmly by glue. It is then used to denote a very firm adherence to an object; to be firmly united to it. Here it means that Christians should be firmly attached to that which is good" (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Romans, p. 280). "Be cemented or glued to that which is good; so the word literally signifies. Have an unalterable attachment to whatever leads to God, and contributes to the welfare of your fellow creatures" (Clarke, p. 139). "To these we are to cling, not feebly, but with a hold which no earthly power or temptation can break" (Lard, p. 389).
4 --- Devoted to Brotherly Love --- Rom. 12:10
"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." This Greek phrase could literally be translated --- "A proneness to be tenderly affectionate unto one another in brotherly love." The Greek word philadelphia appears seven times in the NT writings. It never appears in the OT, and appears only six times in the Apocrypha (all of which are located in 2 & 4 Maccabees). It signifies "the love which Christians cherish for each other as 'brethren'" (Thayer, p. 653). It comes from two Greek words: philos, which means "affection," and adelphos, which means "brother" (the root word for "brother" literally means "out of the womb"). The last word in the phrase is philostorgos. It appears only here in the entire NT canon, and never appears in the OT writings. It can be found in the Apocrypha in 2 Macc. 6:20; 9:21 and 4 Macc. 15:6,9,13. It also comes from two Greek words: philos, which means "affection," and storge, which signifies "family love." The emphasis of these two terms is on the fact that "in Christ" we are FAMILY, a brotherhood of believers. As such, we should always show tender love for each other. See 1 John 5:1. Love of God demands love of His other children as well.
"The instinctive love of a mother to her child, or the strange mystical ties which unite members of a family together, irrespective of their differences of character and temperament, are taken as an example after which Christian men are to mold their relations to one another. The one cure for petty jealousies and the miserable strife for recognition, which we are all tempted to engage in, lies in a heart filled with love of the brethren" (Maclaren, p. 265-66). "The Christian Church is not a collection of acquaintances; it is not even a gathering of friends; it is a family in God" (Barclay, p. 177). "The Apostle joins two things --- mutual love of brethren, with the natural love of parents and children, as though he said, 'Let your brotherly love have in it the affectionate feeling which exists between parents and children'" (John Calvin, p. 465). "Nor is this love to be confined to members of the particular congregation to which we happen to belong. It must embrace the universal brotherhood of the redeemed ... this love is a believer's birth-right" (Lard, p. 389). "Love is to be shown to people, not lavished on a principle" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 132).
5 --- Giving Preference in Honor --- Rom. 12:10
"Give preference to one another in honor." Some other renderings of this phrase are: "Honor one another above yourselves" ... "In showing honor to one another take the lead" ... "Be eager to show respect for one another." The Message has: "Practice playing second fiddle." I also really like the insight provided by J.B. Phillips -- "...a willingness to let the other man have the credit." The Greek word time means "to show honor, respect, reverence" (Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 817). It refers to "the honor of one who outranks others; pre-eminence" (Thayer, p. 624). That which is highly prized or honored. "That respect shown another which is measured by one's evaluation of another" (Wuest, p. 214). The Greek word proegeomai appears only one time in the pages of the NT writings, twice in the OT documents, and twelve times in the Apocrypha. It means "to go before as a leader, to go before and show the way" (Thayer, p. 539). "The participle means to take the lead, to outrun, to go before, to anticipate" (John Calvin, p. 465). Many of the ancient versions of the Bible understood this phrase by the apostle Paul to mean "try to outdo one another in showing respect" (Arndt & Gingrich, p. 706). A couple of good Scripture references are: Romans 13:7 and Philippians 2:3.
"More than half the trouble that arises in Churches concerns rights and privileges and places and prestige. Someone has not been given his or her place; someone has been neglected or unthanked; someone has been given a more prominent place on a platform than someone else --- and there is trouble. It is not easy to give each other priority in honor. There is enough of the natural man in most of us to like to get our rights" (Barclay, p. 178). "Instead of coveting and trying to grasp honors for one's self, the Christian should rather desire to exalt his fellow Christians, even taking the lead in the conveyance of such honors to them" (Burton Coffman, Commentary on Romans, p. 434). "If this single direction were to be obeyed ... it would humble the ambition of those who, like Diotrephes, love to have the pre-eminence (3 John 9), and make every man willing to occupy the place for which God has designed him" (Barnes, p. 281). "This is a hard lesson, and very few persons learn it thoroughly," for "we have no objection to the elevation of others, providing we are at the head" (Clarke, p. 140).
6 --- Not Lagging in Diligence --- Rom. 12:11
"Not lagging behind in diligence." Other readings are: "Never lacking in zeal" ... "Never slack in earnestness" ... "Not wanting in devotion" ... "Be diligent, not lazy" ... "Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work." The KJV reads, "Not slothful in business." This translation is incorrect, and "without authority" (Lard, p. 390). It is "Wrong!!" (Wuest, p. 214). The Greek word spoude ("diligence, earnest application") occurs twelve times in the NT, and is translated in the KJV seven different ways! Yet, the KJV correctly translates this Greek word as "diligence" just three verses earlier (Romans 12:8). A form of this word -- spoudazo -- is also incorrectly translated by the KJV as "study" in 2 Tim. 2:15. The adjective okneros ("slow, slothful") appears only three times in the NT documents. It occurs numerous times in the OT, but only in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. A few examples are: Prov. 6:6,9; 20:4; 21:25; 31:27; Eccl. 10:18. The word spoude appears twelve times in the NT. A few examples are: Rom. 12:8; 2 Peter 1:5; Jude 3. A couple of good references are: Ecclesiastes 9:10 and 2 Thessalonians 3:7f.
"A lazy Christian is a contradiction of terms" (Coffman, p. 434). "We must not be sluggish in zeal. There is a certain intensity in the Christian life. There is no room for lethargy in it. The Christian may burn out, but he cannot rust out" (Barclay, p. 178). "An idle man and a Christian are names which do not harmonize. He whose life is spent in ease and in doing nothing, should doubt altogether his religion" (Barnes, p. 281). "After converts have experienced the initial glow and ardor of Christian life there is often danger of their slipping back into a deadening spiritual inertia. In brief, the thrust here is that the Lord's service calls for our best" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 133).
7 --- Fervent in Spirit --- Rom. 12:11
The apostle Paul says we are to be "fervent in spirit." Other readings are: "Keep your spiritual fervor" ... "Keeping spiritually aglow" ... "Serve the Lord with a boiling spirit." The Message has: "Keep yourselves fueled and aflame," and Bro. Hugo McCord wrote, in his translation, "Be spiritually enthusiastic." A few translations and commentators feel the reference is to the Holy Spirit. Therefore, one will encounter such translations as: "Be aglow with the Spirit" and "On fire with the Spirit." The Greek definite article is present in this phrase, so this view is a possibility. Commentators are divided on this interpretation, however. "Spirit here denotes the human spirit, not the Holy, as some have imagined" (Lard, p. 390). "The RSV is probably right in taking the reference to be to the Holy Spirit" (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 229).
"The spirit brought into contact with Christian truth and with the fire of the Holy Spirit will naturally have its temperature raised, and will be moved by the warm touch as heat makes water in a pot hung above a fire boil. Boiling water makes steam, does it not? And what is to be done with the steam that comes off the 'boiling' spirit? You may either let it go roaring through a waste-pipe and do nothing but make a noise and be idly dissipated into the air, or you may lead it into a cylinder and make it lift a piston, and then you will get work out of it" (Maclaren, p. 270-71). "We must keep our spirit at boiling point. The one man whom the Risen Christ could not stand was the man who was neither hot nor cold" (Barclay, p. 178). "Our flesh, like the ass, is always torpid, and has therefore need of goads; and it is only the fervency of the Spirit that can correct our slothfulness" (John Calvin, p. 465).
8 --- Serving the Lord --- Rom. 12:11
Christians are to be "serving the Lord." The Greek word kurios appears some 749 times in the pages of the NT writings, and it means "lord, master." There are a few western manuscripts that have replaced this word with the Greek word kairos, which means "a fitting time, opportunity." Thus, some marginal readings will have "serving the opportunity." William Barclay (p. 178-79), and several others (John Calvin, Martin Luther), feel this to be the correct reading, but most scholars reject it. The Greek word douleuo appears 25 times and refers to "serving; the discharging of the duties of a slave or servant." "It expresses the serving which people exercise toward ruling powers" (W.E. Vine, p. 350). "To yield to, give one's self up to; to obey one's commands and render to him the services due" (Thayer, p. 157). Some good references are: Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; Acts 20:19; Romans 7:6; 14:18; 16:18; Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:24. "The Greek idea is that of working as a slave whose entire work is directed by his master's will ... the point of importance is this taking of all orders from the master and never oneself acting as master ... they heed and obey and do the will of the Master alone" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, p. 769).
9 --- Rejoicing in Hope --- Rom. 12:12
Christians are a favored people, always "rejoicing in hope." Other renderings are: "Be joyful in hope" ... "Let hope keep you joyful" ... "Be joyful because you have hope" ... "Ever happy in hope." The Greek word chairo ("to rejoice; be full of joy") is closely related to the word charis ("grace"). In its broader meaning, it is a form of greeting, such as "be well" or "thrive." A few good references are: 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Romans 5:2; Philippians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:8. "The Christian must be essentially an optimist. There are no hopeless situations in life; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them. There can never be any such thing as a hopeless Christian" (Barclay, p. 179). "To the Christian is given a high and exalted hope of eternal glory with God. This so transcends in importance all earthly trials, troubles, disappointments, and afflictions that in the darkest hours he may find ground for rejoicing. A despondent, complaining, disheartened spirit that always sees evil is not in accord with the divine will" (Lipscomb, p. 226-27). "If our joy is derived from the hope of future life, then patience will grow up in adversities; for no kind of sorrow will be able to overwhelm this joy" (John Calvin, p. 466-67). The NT concept of "hope" is much different than what we may normally perceive in English. It goes well beyond a mere human desire (which, nevertheless, contains some degree of uncertainty as to attainment); it is more accurately the concept of "confident expectation." "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1).
10 --- Persevering in Tribulation --- Rom. 12:12
"Persevering in tribulation" ... "patient in suffering" ... "endure under trial" ... "in trouble stand firm" ... "When trials come endure them patiently." The Greek word thlipsis appears 45 times in the pages of the New Covenant writings. It is used 24 of those times by the apostle Paul. It means "pressure, hard-pressing, affliction." The Greek word hupomeno appears 49 times in the NT documents -- 17 times in verb form, 32 times as a noun. It means "patiently enduring, bearing up under, remaining under, persevering." Scripture references: John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3; 8:35; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; James 1:2-3; Revelation 7:14. "We, dear brethren, ought to have an inner depth of spirit, down to the disturbance of which no surface-trouble can ever reach" (Maclaren, p. 278). "The Christian can afford to be patient under such trials, knowing that by patiently bearing them the character is completed, perfected, and fitted to dwell with God" (Lipscomb, p. 227). The essence of our religion is "heroic endurance amidst sharp distresses" (Lard, p. 390). "A man can meet anything when he meets it with Christ" (Barclay, p. 180).
11 --- Devoted to Prayer --- Rom. 12:12
Those with authentic faith in the Lord Jesus will be disciples "devoted to prayer." Other ways of phrasing this thought are: "Continuing steadfastly in prayer" ... "faithful in prayer" ... "constant in prayer" ... "persistent in prayer." Phillips captures the thought well with: "Steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer." The Greek word used here for "prayer" is proseuche, which appears 37 times in the pages of the NT writings. It's interesting to note that the word for "prayer" is never found anywhere in the writings of John! There are several Greek words which can be translated "prayer," but this particular word refers to "prayer in general" (W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary). It is also the word which describes a "place of prayer" (Thayer, p. 545) --- See: Acts 16:13,16. Some would translate these occurrences as "chapel" (Arndt & Gingrich, p. 713).
The Greek word proskartereo appears only ten times in the NT documents, and only five of these have reference to prayer --- Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4; Col. 4:2; Eph. 6:18. It means "intently engaged in; attend constantly to; persist in strict adherence to; constantly devoted to." It "denotes to continue steadfastly in a thing and give unremitting care to it" (W.E. Vine). "It signifies unremitting attention" (Shedd, p. 368). This strong word suggests not only the constancy with which one is to pray, but the effort that is needed to maintain a habit so contrary to human tendency. A couple of excellent references are: 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and 1 Timothy 2:8.
"When a man ceases to pray he despoils himself of the strength of Almighty God. No man can be surprised if life collapses if he insists on living life alone" (Barclay, p. 180). "Prayer is the breathing of the redeemed soul, and the cessation or neglect of it will smother and destroy spiritual life" (Coffman, p. 435). "But can I pray without ceasing? Not if by prayer you mean only words of supplication and petition, but if by prayer you mean also a mental attitude of devotion, and a kind of sub-conscious reference to God in all that you do, such unceasing prayer is possible" (Maclaren, p. 280).
12 --- Sharing with Needy Saints --- Rom. 12:13
The apostle Paul writes that we should be "contributing to the needs of the saints." "Share with God's people who are in need" ... "Distributing to the necessity of saints" ... "Give freely to fellow Christians in want." The Greek word chreia appears 49 times in the NT documents. It means "needs, necessities, requirements." The Greek word koinoneo appears only 8 times. It means "sharing, communion, fellowship, partnership." These two words are used together in this phrase to signify: "To make another's necessities one's own as to relieve them" (Thayer, p. 352). "It means to be equally responsible for them. Participation in something can reach such a degree that one claims a part in it for oneself" (Arndt & Gingrich, p. 438). Some Greek scholars take exception to the translation "distribute" (KJV, NKJV, Lamsa) --- "The verb does not mean 'distribute'" (W.E. Vine). This seems to lend itself more to the idea of a "hand out" or a "dole," rather than a personal sharing in the needs of others. The NAB probably comes the closest to capturing the actual meaning of this passage --- "Look on the needs of the saints as your own." Scripture references: Acts 2:45; 4:35; Romans 15:27; Galatians 6:6; Ephesians 4:28; Philippians 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 6:18; 1 John 3:17.
"In a world which is bent on getting, the Christian is bent on giving, because he knows that 'what we keep we lose, and what we give we have'" (Barclay, p. 180). "We ought to relieve the wants of the brethren, as though we were relieving our own selves ... Though our love ought to extend itself to the whole race of man, yet it ought with peculiar feeling to embrace the household of faith, who are by a closer bond united to us" (John Calvin, p. 468). "The first priority in such sharing of God's gracious gifts must go to Christians, rather than to the world generally; and even the Christian's claim upon the generosity of his fellows is resident in his necessities, and not merely in his desires and wants" (Coffman, p. 435). "In the earliest times of the church, Christians had all things in common (Acts 2:44), and felt themselves bound to meet all the wants of their brethren. This duty of rendering aid to Christians especially, does not interfere with the general love of mankind; the law of the NT is Galatians 6:10. But he is to show particular interest in the welfare of his brethren. One of the most precious privileges conferred on men is to be permitted to assist those who are the friends of God (Ps. 41:1-3; Prov. 14:21)" (Barnes, p. 283-84). "One should not allow himself to be so preoccupied with his own troubles that he becomes insensitive to the needs of other believers. To share with others is never more meaningful than when one is hard pressed to find a sufficient supply for himself" -- see 2 Cor. 8:2-5 (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 133).
13 --- Practicing Hospitality --- Rom. 12:13
"Practicing hospitality" is one of the characteristic traits of the Christian faith. The Greek word philoxenia is a combination of two words -- philos meaning "affection" and xenos meaning "stranger." Thus, it signifies an affection toward strangers. It is usually translated "hospitality." It appears five times in the pages of the New Testament writings --- Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9. The Greek word dioko appears 44 times in the New Testament documents and is usually translated "persecute." It may on occasion, as here, appear in a more positive light and refer to pursuing after something zealously. Refer to: Romans 14:19; 1 Cor. 14:1; Philp. 3:12,14; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:11.
"Over and over again the New Testament insists on this duty of the open door. Tyndale used a magnificent word. He translated it that the Christian should have a harborous disposition. Christianity is the religion of the open hand, the open heart, and the open door" (Barclay, p. 180). "Hospitality is especially enjoined by the Saviour, and its exercise commanded (Matt. 10:40, 42; 25:35). The want of hospitality is one of the charges which the Judge of mankind will allege against the wicked, and on which He will condemn them (Matt. 25:43). 'The primitive Christians,' says Calmut, 'were in fact so ready in discharging this duty, that the very heathen admired them for it'" (Barnes, p. 284-85). "The poverty of the early church, and the lack of inns, made this form of brotherly love uncommonly necessary." The word dioko stresses that "the needy must be sought out and followed after; not merely received when they present themselves" (William G.T. Shedd, A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, p. 369). "Without it the spread of the gospel during the days of the early church would have been greatly impeded. With it, the 'church in the house' became a reality (Rom. 16:23; cf. 16:5)" (Expositor's, p. 133).
14 --- Bless and Curse Not --- Rom. 12:14
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not." Other translations of this phrase are: "Call down blessings on your persecutors -- blessings, not curses" ... "And as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them. Don't curse, bless" ... "Bless those who persecute you. Bless and don't condemn." The Greek word eulogeo appears 44 times in the pages of the New Testament writings. It means "speak well of, bless, invoke blessings upon." "The verb is a present imperative which commands an habitual action, 'Be constantly blessing'" (Wuest, p. 216). Our word "eulogy" comes from this Greek word. Some passages which can be read in connection with this are: Luke 6:28a; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Peter 3:9; James 3:8-10. The Greek word kataraomai appears only six times in the NT. It means "to wish evil upon, curse, to doom or condemn another." "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:44-45).
"The great principle here commended to us is that we are to meet enmity with its opposite, and to conquer by love. It is a poor thing if a Christian character only gives back like a mirror the expression of the face that looks at it" (Maclaren, p. 285). "The Christian must meet persecution with a prayer for those who persecute him. Long ago Plato had said that the good man will choose rather to suffer evil than to do evil. As St. Augustine once said: 'The Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen.' Many a persecutor of the faithful has become a follower of the faith he once sought to destroy, because he has seen how a Christian can forgive" (Barclay, p. 181-82). "The natural man curses his unjust persecutors, the regenerate man prays for them that they may repent, and that God may pardon them" (Lenski, p. 774).
15 --- Rejoice with Those who Rejoice --- Rom. 12:15
Grace affirming disciples of Jesus Christ "rejoice with those who rejoice." Other renderings: "When others are happy, be happy with them" ... "Share the joy of those who are happy." The two Greek words used in this phrase -- chairein and chaironton -- are both forms of the same Greek word: chairo. It means "to rejoice, be glad, be full of joy." The first of these two words is a Present Active Infinitive, the second is a Present Active Participle (genitive case, masculine, plural). This word is related to charis, which means "grace." Paul has already spoken of the basis for this rejoicing in vs. 12a --- see #9 above. This word appears 74 times in the pages of the New Testament writings. A couple of good biblical references are: 1 Corinthians 12:26 and Philippians 2:17-18.
"To 'rejoice with them that do rejoice' makes a greater demand on unselfish love than to 'weep with them that weep,' because envy is apt to creep in and mar the completeness of joy" (Maclaren, p. 285). "Chrysostom remarks that it is easier to weep with those that weep, than to rejoice with those that rejoice; because nature itself prompts the former, but envy stands in the way of the latter" (Shedd, p. 369-70). "It is, indeed, more difficult to congratulate another on his success, especially if his success involves disappointment to us, than it is to sympathize with his sorrow and his loss. It is only when self is dead that we can take as much joy in the success of others as in our own" (Barclay, p. 182). "Not to regard with joy the happiness of a brother is envy; and not to grieve for his misfortunes is inhumanity" (John Calvin, p. 469-70). "The Christian does not exist in a state of isolation and indifference to the fate of others, but, like his holy Master, has compassion, being involved in and moved by the emotions of others, whether of joy or sorrow" (Coffman, p. 437). "Divided joy is doubled ... divided sorrow is halved" (Lenski, p. 775).
16 --- Weep with Those who Weep --- Rom. 12:15
Grace affirming saints also "weep with those who weep." "If others are sad, then share their sorrow" ... "Share the grief of those who grieve" ... "mourn with those who mourn." As with #15 above, the two words used here are really just two separate forms (infinitive and participle) of the Greek word klaio, which means "to weep, lament, shed tears, bewail, to weep audibly." This word appears 40 times in the NT and is "used of any loud expression of grief" (W.E. Vine). Examples of this usage are: Lev. 10:6; Matt. 26:75; Mark 5:38-39; John 11:31,33. There are actually about six different Greek words which portray various levels of crying (see: Thayer, p. 347). A more controlled, less demonstrative, shedding of tears is dakruo, which means "to weep silently." This word is used 12 times in the NT (John 11:35 is an example ... note the contrast with the previous word in vs. 31,33).
"It's a fact, attested by universal experience, that by sympathy a man may receive into his own affectionate feeling a measure of the distress of his friend, and that his friend does find himself relieved in the same proportion as the other has entered into his griefs" (Adam Clarke, p. 141). "This is what Paul meant by becoming all things to all men. He would place himself in such full and complete sympathy with them that he felt their difficulties and rejoiced when they had occasions for joy. He could feel a brother's sigh and with him bear a part" (Lipscomb, p. 229). "All who are afflicted know how much it diminishes their sorrow to see others sympathizing with them, and especially those who evince in their sympathies the Christian spirit. How sad would be a suffering world if there were none who regarded our griefs with interest or with tears; if every sufferer were left to bear his sorrows unpitied and alone; and if all the ties of human sympathy were rudely cut at once, and men were left to suffer in solitude and unbefriended!" (Barnes, p. 286).
17 --- Be of the Same Mind --- Rom. 12:16
"Be of the same mind toward one another," says the apostle Paul. Other translations and versions phrase it this way: "Live in harmony with one another" ... "Get along with one another" ... "Have the same attitude toward all" ... "Live together in peace with each other." The first two Greek words in this phrase -- to auto -- comprise what is known as an Intensive or Identical Pronoun (A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 687). It is usually translated "the same," and has reference to equality. Most lexicons state the intended meaning here is that the brethren are "to be of the same mind towards one another" (Thayer, p. 658); they are to regard each other equally. Our regard for one another is NOT to be like that discussed in Romans 14:3-5. The last word in the phrase -- phroneo -- appears 29 times in the pages of the NT writings (26 of which are by Paul; 10 of these being in Romans). It means to regard or view with a certain frame of mind. The phrase signifies that we are to show the same regard toward one another (NOT like the attitude displayed in James 2:1-4). This phrase does not oppose, as some contend, a diversity of opinion or practice among brethren. "This is not 'loving unanimity'" (Lenski, p. 775). "It is not uniformity of which Paul is speaking here" (Wuest, p. 216). "This is not the same thing as 'seeing eye to eye'" (Bruce, p. 229). Refer to: Romans 12:3; 15:5; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 2:2; 4:2; James 2:1f.
"The Apostle exhorts to mutual harmonious relations. Such a spirit of amity and concord may co-exist with great differences about other matters. It is not opposed to wide divergence of opinion. It is the Christ in us which makes us kindred with all others in whom He is. It is self, in some form or other, that separates us from the possessors of like precious faith" (Maclaren, p. 287-90). "This verse is a prohibition of partiality and respect of persons within communities of Christians ... the formation of inner circles of preference" (Coffman, p. 438). "This rules out any caste system" (Layman's, p. 1411). "Do not love one brother and hate another; do not honor one and slight another; do not wish one well and another ill. In mind be to auto, the same to all" (Lard, p. 392).
18 --- Be not Haughty in Mind --- Rom. 12:16
The apostle Paul writes, "do not be haughty in mind." Others read: "do not be proud" ... "don't be stuck-up" ... "Do not aspire to eminence" (3 John 9 is a good example of this) ... "don't become snobbish" ... The Living Bible has: "Don't try to act big. Don't try to get into the good graces of important people." In Jeremiah 45:5 we find this good advice: "And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not." The Greek word hupselos appears 11 times in the pages of the NT writings. Luke 16:15 renders it "that which is highly esteemed." It refers here to an extremely high estimation of oneself, far exceeding "good self-esteem." Paul writes, "I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think" (Romans 12:3). The Greek word phroneo has already been discussed in #17 above. On two different occasions Paul combines these two Greek words -- hupselophroneo -- Romans 11:20 and 1 Timothy 6:17. It means "high-minded, conceited, overly proud, haughty."
"Warns against the vanity that is the basis of snobbery" (Layman's, p. 1411). "Where every man is eagerly seeking to force himself in front of his neighbor, any community will become a struggling mob" (Maclaren, p. 291). "....having its immediate application to that form of conceit which allows petty little human arrangements of a 'pecking order' among the most sacred fellowship of the redeemed as the basis upon which some associations are cultivated, and others neglected" (Coffman, p. 439). "Paul stresses the necessity of rejecting the temptation to think high thoughts about oneself, as though one were a superior breed of Christian, and of coming down off the perch of isolation and mingling with" others (Expositor's, p. 134). "The attachment to high things and high men is the vice of little, shallow minds. However, it argues one important fact, that such persons are conscious that they are of no worth and of no consequence in themselves!" (Clarke, p. 141).
19 --- Associate with the Lowly --- Rom. 12:16
Those who are not guilty of the above haughtiness of mind, will "associate with the lowly." "Enjoy the company of ordinary folks" ... "Be willing to associate with people of low position" ... "Go about with humble folk" ... "Make friends with those who seem unimportant" ... "But take a real interest in ordinary people." The Greek word tapeinos appears 8 times in the pages of the NT writings, and literally conveys the idea of "not rising far from the ground" (see: Ezekiel 17:24 where this word is used with that significance). It is generally translated "undistinguished, lowly, those in humble conditions." The translations disagree as to whether this refers to people or to things or to circumstances in this text. The reason for this is that the word can be either masculine or neuter. If the latter, the significance is "humble circumstances;" if the former, it signifies "those people who are in humble circumstances." In the NT occurrences it is always used with reference to people (according to some Greek reference works) --- examples: James 1:9 and 1 Peter 5:5. The Greek word sunapago -- which is translated "associate" -- appears only three times in the New Covenant writings. It refers to those "who carry themselves along with; to go along together with." The other two occurrences are Galatians 2:13 and 2 Peter 3:17.
"The Christian Church was the only place where master and slave sat side by side. The Christian Church is still the place where all earthly distinctions are gone, for with God there is no respect of persons" (Barclay, p. 183). "In the Greek the word here is an adjective, and may refer either to men or to things, either in the masculine or neuter gender. The sentiment is not materially changed whichever interpretation is adopted. It means that Christians should seek the objects of interest and companionship, not among the great, the rich, and the noble, but among the humble and the obscure" (Barnes, p. 287). "Be a companion of the humble, and pass through life with as little noise and show as possible" (Clarke, p. 141).
20 --- Be not Conceited --- Rom. 12:16
Paul writes, "Do not be wise in your own estimation." Other ways translators have expressed this are: "Do not be conceited" ... "Don't think you know it all" ... "Do not think how smart you are" ... "Do not be wise in your own opinion." The Message has: "Don't be the great somebody," and the translation of Phillips reads: "Don't become set in your own opinions." This whole phrase suggests "one who deems himself wise" (Thayer, p. 658). It means "to be wise in your own estimation = relying on your own wisdom" (Arndt & Gingrich, p. 866). See -- Romans 11:25; 12:3; 1 Corinthians 13:4; 2 Corinthians 11:19; Proverbs 3:7; Isaiah 5:21. "Do not trust in the conceit of your own superior skill and understanding, and refuse to hearken to the counsel of others" (Barnes, p. 287). "Do not be puffed up with a sense of your own wisdom. Overconfidence in self leads to presumption, which is offensive to God and man. When men conceive the idea that they are wise, then they are unwilling to look to God for wisdom. They follow their own conceits. Most of the failures in religion and in business come from too high an estimate of oneself" (Lipscomb, p. 229-30). "Be not puffed up with an opinion of your own consequence; for this will simply prove that the consequence itself is imaginary. Do not suppose that wisdom and discernment dwell alone with you. Believe that you stand in need both of help and instruction from others" (Clarke, p. 141).
21 --- Recompense not Evil for Evil --- Rom. 12:17
"Never pay back evil for evil to anyone," declares Paul. "If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong" ... "Never repay injury with injury" ... "Don't hit back," says The Message simply. The Greek word kakos is described as "base treatment" (Lenski, p. 777) and "harm caused by evil intent" (Arndt & Gingrich, p. 398). "Three times in the NT apodidomi (to pay back; recompense) is used in the expression of a major rule of Christian conduct: Evil is not to be repaid with evil, but with good (1 Thess. 5:15; Rom. 12:17; 1 Pet. 3:9). There is no corresponding rule in the OT (Prov. 20:22 is only a remote analogy). Of course, the Old Testament prohibits the repayment of good with evil (Gen. 44:4; Jer. 18:20; etc.)" (Exegetical Dictionary of the NT, vol. 1, p. 128). Some good references are: Romans 12:21; 13:10; 1 Peter 2:23; Matthew 5:44.
"Tit-for-tat would only aggravate the situation and set up a vicious circle" (Layman's, p. 1411). "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, is one of the most natural sentiments of the human heart," nevertheless "it is unchristian, because wholly unmixed with mercy" (Lard, p. 393). "Tit for tat ... the maxim of the Pharisees, Matt. 5:38,44. But if God applied only that principle to us, where should we be?" (Lenski, p. 776-77). "Do not take notice of every little injury you may sustain. Do not be litigious. Beware of too nice a sense of your own honour; intolerable pride is at the very bottom of this. The motto of the royal arms of Scotland is in direct opposition to the Divine direction --- 'Nemo me impune lacesset,' of which 'I render evil for evil to every man,' is a pretty literal translation. This is both antichristian and abominable, whether in a state or in an individual" (Clarke, p. 141).
22 --- Take Thought for Things Honorable --- Rom. 12:17
Paul directs that Christians must "respect what is right in the sight of all men." Other renderings are: "See that your conduct is honorable in the eyes of all" ... "Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through" ... "Let your aims be such as all men count honourable" ... "Take thought for what is noble in the sight of all" ... "Determine on the noblest ways of dealing with all people" ... "See that your public behavior is above criticism." The Greek word pronoeo appears only three times in the pages of the New Testament writings (2 Cor. 8:21 and 1 Tim. 5:8 are the other two). It literally means "to apply oneself to, strive to exhibit, have regard for." When it appears in the Middle Voice with an Accusative Case (as it does in this passage) it means "to take thought for, care for" something (Thayer, p. 540). The Greek word kalos signifies being "excellent in its nature and characteristics" (Thayer, p. 540). "The word is one of two words which the Greeks have of describing that which is good -- agathos, referring to intrinsic goodness, and kalos, our word here, to exterior goodness, or goodness that is seen on the exterior of a person; the outward expression of an inward goodness" (Wuest, p. 218). "The KJV inadequately translates the significant word in this exhortation by 'honest'" (Maclaren, p. 296). 1 Tim. 3:7 uses this word with respect to a quality an elder is to possess. Proverbs 3:4 (in the Septuagint) reads, "And do thou provide things honest (honorable) in the sight of the Lord, and of men." Also note: 1 Peter 2:12.
"So-called Christianity can be presented in the hardest and the most unlovely way; but real Christianity is something which is fair for all to see" (Barclay, p. 183). "Uprightness of character before men is not to be neglected: for whatever sin we commit, the ignorant employ it for the purpose of calumniating the gospel" (John Calvin, p. 472). "Christians are not to provide their pagan neighbors with just cause for criticism" (Layman's, p. 1411). "He is to be sensitively attentive to the world's observation where the world, acquainted with the word of the Lord and conscious of its truth and right, is watching, maliciously, or it may be wistfully, to see if it governs the practice of His professed followers" (Lipscomb, p. 230). "Believers are constantly under the scrutiny of unsaved persons as well as of fellow Christians, and they must be careful that their conduct does not betray the high standards of the gospel (Col. 4:5). The verb 'be careful' (pronoeo) is literally 'to think beforehand,' which suggests that the conduct of believers ought not to be regulated by habit, but rather that each situation that holds prospect for a witness to the world be weighed so that the action taken will not bring unfavorable reflection on the gospel" (Expositor's, p. 134). "The Christian is exhorted to take careful forethought that his manner of life, his outward expression, conforms to, and is honestly representative of, what he is as a child of God" (Wuest, p. 219).
23 --- Live Peaceably with All --- Rom. 12:18
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Other versions have: "If possible, live peaceably with everyone" ... "Don't quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible" ... "Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody" ... "If it is possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men." The first two words in this phrase (in the Greek text) are generally translated "if possible" --- See: Matthew 24:24; 26:39; Galatians 4:15. The next three words are an example of a Greek idiom. It conveys the idea of personal, individual responsibility in a given matter. We must each do our own part to see that peace is cultivated. Peace may not be achieved; it may not even be possible, given all the circumstances; but the fault will not lie with us. We did what we could; beyond that we are not liable. The Greek word eireneuo appears only four times in the pages of the New Testament writings --- Mark 9:50; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:13 are the other three. It means "to be at ... or to cultivate or make/keep ... peace, concord, harmony; to live in a state of peace." It conveys not only the idea of a state of peace, but also the cultivation and continuation of that state. See: Matthew 5:9; Hebrews 12:14; James 3:18.
"Be sure that, if there is to be enmity, it is all on one side. We cannot determine whether our relations with men will be peaceful or not; we are only answerable for our part. It may not be possible to be at peace with all men; there may be some who will quarrel with you. You are not to blame for that" (Maclaren, p. 298). "He says, if it be possible. There may come a time when the claims of courtesy have to submit to the claims of principle. Christianity is not an easy-going tolerance which will accept anything and shut its eyes to everything. There may come a time some battle has to be fought, and when that time comes the Christian will not shirk it" (Barclay, p. 184). "Courteousness should not degenerate into compliance, so as to lead us to flatter the vices of men for the sake of preserving peace" (John Calvin, p. 473). "For the sake of peace, sacrifice everything, save truth and right" (Lipscomb, p. 231). "In his own interest the Christian is a pacifist; for Christ he is a militarist" (Lenski, p. 777). "There are instances in human relations when the strongest desire for concord will not avail," but "if disharmony and conflict should come, let not the responsibility be laid at your feet" (Expositor's, p. 134).
24 --- Take not Your own Revenge --- Rom. 12:19
"Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (NASB). "Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. 'I'll do the judging,' says God. 'I'll take care of it'" (The Message). The Greek word ekdikeo appears six times in the NT writings, and means "to execute retributive justice; a determination to execute judgment for; to avenge or punish a wrong." Note the following Scriptures --- Luke 18:7-8; Acts 7:24; 1 Thess. 4:6; 2 Thess. 1:8; Heb. 10:30; Rev. 6:10; 19:2. The Greek word translated "wrath" is orge, which appears 36 times in the NT. This should not be confused with the Greek word thumos. These two words are to be distinguished in this respect: "Thumos indicates a more agitated condition of the feelings, an outburst of wrath from inward indignation, while orge suggests a more settled or abiding condition of mind, frequently with a view to taking revenge. Orge is less sudden in its rise than thumos, but is far more lasting in nature. Thumos expresses more the inward feeling, that quickly blazes up and quickly subsides; orge the more active, enduring emotion" (W.E. Vine, p. 55-56). --- See: John 3:36; Rom. 2:5,8; Col. 3:6; James 1:20; Rev. 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15.
The Greek word ego adds greater emphasis to the phrase "I .. I will repay" = "I will repay!" The Greek word for "repay" is antapodidomi, which appears only seven times in the NT writings, and can be used either positively or negatively --- see: Luke 14:14; 2 Thess. 1:6; Heb. 10:30. It means "to repay; to recompense." Note the following references: Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 32:35-36; Proverbs 20:22; 24:29; 1 Corinthians 6:6-8. In the Apocrypha we read: "Admonish thy neighbour before thou threaten him, and, not being angry, give place to the law of the Most High" (Ecclesiasticus 19:17).
"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" (Maclaren, p. 301). "To give place to wrath, is to commit to the Lord the right of judging, which they take away from Him who attempt revenge. Hence, as it is not lawful to usurp the office of God, it is not lawful to revenge" (John Calvin, p. 473). "This command is not to be understood that we may not seek for justice in a regular and proper way before civil tribunals. Religion does not require us to submit to such oppression and injury without seeking our rights in an orderly and regular manner. The command here 'not to avenge ourselves' means that we are not to take it out of the hands of God, or the hands of the law, and to inflict it ourselves" (Barnes, p. 288). "Let the Lord's anger take the place of yours, and let Him avenge you. His mind is unclouded by passion, yours never is when you are injured; He can justly judge your injurer, you can not; He can temper punishment with mercy; there is much danger that you will not" (Lard, p. 394). "A juster hand than yours and mine rules and will, indeed, in most perfect justice mete out full due to every rascal. Not one of them will escape. Justice will be done in every case and will be done perfectly. If any of us interfered, it would be the height of presumption" (Lenski, p. 778-80).
25 --- Minister to your Enemies --- Rom. 12:20
"But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head" (NASB). The Greek conjunction alla ("but") "serves to introduce a sentence with keenness and emphasis" (Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 15). The word translated "feed" is psomizo, which appears only two times in the NT writings (1 Cor. 13:3 being the other instance). It comes from the root word psomion, meaning "sop" (see: John 13:26, 27, 30), and signifies "to dole out to someone in portions." "Literally it is 'morsel him' as morsels are fed to a babe" (Lenski, p. 781). The Greek word anthrax, translated "burning coals," appears only this one time in the NT, and it is from this word that we get our English word "anthrax" (which signifies a fiery boil or ulcer; an infectious, usually fatal disease of cattle, sheep, etc., which can be transmitted to man; it is characterized by malignant, burning pustules). The Greek word soreuo appears only twice in the NT (here and 2 Tim. 3:6). It signifies a heaping up into a pile. "To overwhelm with a heaping together of anything" (Thayer, p. 612). Refer to: Proverbs 25:21-22 and Matthew 5:44.
"It is clear that the 'coals of fire' which are to be heaped on the head are meant to melt and soften the heart, and cause it to glow with love. There may be also included the burning pangs of shame felt by a man whose evil is answered by good. But these are secondary and auxiliary to the true end of kindling the fire of love in his alienated heart" (Maclaren, p. 302-303). "An alternative view is that the proverb refers to an Egyptian ritual in which a man gave public evidence of his penitence by carrying a pan of burning charcoal on his head" (Bruce, p. 230). "Vengeance may break his spirit; but kindness will break his heart" ... and "move him to burning shame" (Barclay, p. 184). "The writer once heard of a woman involved in bitter quarrels with her husband. Seeking counsel, she was asked, 'Have you tried heaping coals of fire on his head?' She replied, "No, but I tried a skillet of hot grease!' She, like many others, failed to realize that Paul here used a figure of speech, a style of rhetoric often found in the sacred scriptures. As Richard Batey noted: 'The original meaning of this figure of speech has been lost, but Paul suggests that the enemy will burn with shame for his abuse of one who loves him'" (Coffman, p. 442-43).
"Coals of fire are doubtless emblematical of pain. Burning coals heaped on a man's head would be expressive of intense agony. But the pain will result from shame, remorse of conscience, a conviction of the evil of his conduct, and an apprehension of divine displeasure that may lead to repentance" (Barnes, p. 289). "'Coals of fire' is a metaphor for keen anguish. Compare the Arabic phrases: 'coals in the heart' and 'fire in the liver'" (Shedd, p. 374). "'Burning coals' are best understood as the burning pangs of shame and contrition" (Expositor's, p. 135).
26 --- Be not Overcome by Evil --- Rom. 12:21
In the final verse, the apostle Paul writes, "Do not be overcome by evil." Other renderings are: "Don't let evil get the best of you" ... "Don't let evil get the upper hand" ... "Do not let yourself be conquered by evil." The Greek word nikao, which means "to be conquering, overcoming, vanquishing," appears 28 times in the pages of the New Testament writings. It is used 24 of those times by the apostle John (17 of which appear in Revelation). Both times that Paul uses it in this verse it appears in the Present Tense and the Imperative Mood. This means this is issued as a command which is to be carried out continuously. See: 1 Samuel 24:17 --- When Saul realized that David had spared his life, after Saul had pursued David to kill him, Saul said, "You have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil" (RSV).
"To stoop to vengeance is to be ourselves conquered by evil. Evil can never be conquered by evil. If hatred is met with more hatred then hatred is only increased thereby; but if hatred is met with love then an antidote for the poison is found. As Booker Washington said: 'I will not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him'" (Barclay, p. 184). "He who attempts to overcome evil with evil, may perhaps surpass his enemy in doing injury, but it is to his own ruin; for by acting thus he carries on war for the devil" (John Calvin, p. 477). "Be not vanquished or subdued by injury received from others. Do not suffer your temper to be excited; your Christian principles to be abandoned; your mild, amiable, kind, and benevolent temper to be ruffled by any opposition or injury which you may experience. Maintain your Christian principles amidst all opposition, and thus show the power of the gospel of Christ. They are overcome by evil who suffer their temper to be excited, who become enraged and revengeful, and who engage in contention with those who injure them, Prov. 16:22" (Barnes, p. 290). "Do not, by giving place to evil, become precisely the same character which thou condemnest in another. As soon as a man begins to avenge himself, he places himself on a par with the unprincipled man whose conduct he has so much reason to blame, and whose spirit he has so much cause to abominate. He who avenges himself receives into his own heart all the evil and disgraceful passions by which his enemy is rendered both wretched and contemptible. There is the voice of eternal reason in 'Avenge not yourselves -- overcome evil with good'" (Clarke, p. 143).
27 --- Overcome Evil with Good --- Rom. 12:21
As the companion thought to the above, Paul writes, "But overcome evil with good." Other readings are: "Get the best of evil by doing good" ... "Take the offensive -- overpower evil with good!" See: Exodus 23:4-5; Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27-36. "We overcome our foes when we win them over to be lovers. We overcome the men around us when we are not seduced by their example to evil, but attract them to goodness by ours" (Maclaren, p. 303-304). "The only real way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend" (Barclay, p. 184). "Show them the loveliness of a better spirit; the power of kindness and benevolence; the value of an amiable, Christian deportment. So doing, you may disarm them of their rage, and be the means of bringing them to better minds" (Barnes, p. 290). "To receive kindness, to see love when it seems uncalled for, can melt the hardest heart" (Expositor's, p. 135).
From a Reader in California:
Al, I thoroughly enjoyed today's article on Daniel Sommer, as it explained so many unexplained things. Several years ago a counselor for my oldest son and his wife (both offspring of the conservative Church of Christ -- the one cup, one loaf, no music, anti-everything segment) made the following statement to them after several months of counseling: "I would love to be wealthy. Then I could quit my job, retire, and study your church backgrounds!" Now that's sad, isn't it?! Thanks for your article. Very interesting. Very insightful. Very remindful that in each of our backgrounds there is at least one (and sometimes many more) "Daniel Sommer."
From a Reader in Louisiana:
Al, That was an incredible amount of information in one article. Thanks. I personally had never heard of Daniel Sommer, but have suffered many times at the hands of his devout followers. I am grateful that God is working in the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches, and that there is now "fellowship" -- or the start of it anyhow. Thank you for this article!
From a Minister in California:
Bro. Maxey, Thanks for the informative article on Daniel Sommer and his impact on the Restoration Movement. Fewer things would help us to understand who the Churches of Christ really are than an honest investigation of the men who have impacted our thinking. The Churches of Christ do indeed have a "theology" that has been shaped by the thinking and experiences of men of the past. Of course, some among us deny this, claiming we are "just following the Bible." But, we cannot help but be affected by what these influential men both emphasized and neglected. That's why we must constantly evaluate, study, question, and be open to having our thinking and conclusions challenged, or else we will fall prey to the blind dogmatism that has long been a mental hallmark among us. Keep up the good work.
From an Author in California:
Bro. Maxey, I found this article highly interesting. My grandfather, a leader in the one cup, no Sunday School Churches of Christ in Pennsylvania for many decades in the 20th century, attended several studies conducted by Daniel Sommer. He often spoke of him.
From a Lecturer/Author in Arkansas:
Bro. Al, you did a great job putting together the information about Daniel Sommer. One other bit of info: About 30 years ago I was in the audience at Freed-Hardeman when Bro. H. A. Dixon was president, and, in the course of his pleading for a more moderate attitude, he mentioned that he was there when Daniel Sommer, later in his life, came to the school and apologized to the brotherhood for what he had done to destroy unity. I gave a digest of Sommer's action and his influence in my book The Restoration Movement Sidetracked. I am working on a new book now on cultism within Churches of Christ, and have had occasion to mention again the fact that the cultish attitude started with Sommer. One chapter I have written is on "The Pattern Theory." I hope a few of our critics will take note of some of these things! Keep up the good work, Al. Right information can do nothing but good.
From a Minister/Author in Arizona:
Dear Bro. Al, I enjoyed your piece on Bro. Daniel Sommer. We are agreed that he had and continues to have a baleful influence on some of our fellow Christians. We should remember that most of the church leaders in the South and Southwest rejected him as an extremist who was negative and domineering. Those churches in the Midwest that fell under his influence generally did not prosper, and eventually declined. His flawed approach to Christianity was, of course, legalism. He most likely never heard the term, and did not imagine himself to be that, nor did those who admired him. The mainstream of the brotherhood flourished in part because they rejected his legalistic approach. Bro. Sommer popularized an approach to Bible study, interpretation and application that blighted all who follow it. The various "anti" groups that have arisen among us, whether consciously or unconsciously, have walked in his steps. Not everyone in the mainstream is influenced by Bro. Sommer. Now, as in every generation, we have an element among us who approach the religion of Christ in a legalistic way. These ultra-conservatives do not represent the broad spectrum of the church. Although they are loud, they are not great in number.
From a Minister in Oklahoma:
Al, I have read with definite interest, a lot of humor, and a little disgust (though not toward you!), your exchange with the "KJV Only" Baptist guys (The Maxey-Martin Dialogue). I must say, you had a lot of patience to take what they were dishing out. It seemed that every time they couldn't answer you they just resorted to name-calling. I agree with you that they have a very skewed impression of mainstream thought among the Churches of Christ. You did a good job of presenting to them the true intent of the gospel, and not the knuckle-headed approach a few of our own "brethren" still take. I see you as a minister who is doing what so many of us are trying to do: simply teach the gospel of Christ the way He intended, focused on the heart and not on Pharisaic rules. God Bless You!
From a Minister in New Mexico:
Brother Al, I have read your latest article on brother Sommer, and came across your statement, "With extremism always comes exclusivism." Although this statement is correct in some instances, it made me wonder, "Is Al saying that the Churches of Christ should not be set apart? Is Al saying that other faiths are also going to be saved? What other faiths, I wonder? Baptists? Lutherans? Catholics?" If you would, please say yes or no in answer to this.
From a One-Cup Minister in California:
Brother Al, Excellent Reflections article on this brother of ours, Daniel Sommer. As I reflected on brother Sommer's life, and all he did to destroy the unity of the brethren that many great men had labored to build, and then later in his life tried to restore what he had torn down, it reminded me of a forest fire. The fire destroys a large area of trees that had taken a life-time to grow. Men go in and reseed that area, the rains come, and the seed grows one seed at a time. Soon you have a beautiful forest again. This is what it is going to take to have unity -- planting the Word, watering, and letting God give the increase, one brother at a time. God bless you brother Al Maxey for being a great planter and waterer.
From a Reader in Washington:
Your biographical sketch of Daniel Sommer brought back youthful memories. I was born in 1930 about fifty miles south of Sand Creek in Vandalia, Illinois just 41 years after that episode occurred. Next month I will celebrate 75 years as a Jew and 64 years as a Christian.
From a Reader in (Unknown):
Dear Brother Maxey, Your Reflections regarding Daniel Sommer brought back fond memories. In 1969 I was invited to a "ministers luncheon" in St. Louis. The first man to introduce himself was a very distinguished looking, gray-haired gentleman that extended his hand and said, "I don't think I have met you, my name is Carl Ketcherside." I am sure the expression on my face said volumes. After lunch, he invited me to his home. I told him I had heard of him all of my life and what I had heard was bad, but I really did not know what was wrong with him. I asked, "What is wrong with you?" He said he had been a debater for the "Sommerites" and had had a big change as a result of his "6 month sabbatical" in 1955.
A few years later at the "Hartford Forum" I heard Dr. Leroy Garrett speak about what he believed to be wrong with "located preachers." I asked him if they had a located preacher where he attended. He said that they did and the elders were aware of his position and they did not have any problems. As far as I know, neither of these men ever changed their personal convictions on what they believed the Bible truly taught on the subjects they had defended in the past, but neither of the men were willing to make these issues a test of fellowship. Carl Ketcherside said, "I cannot choose who is my spiritual brother any more than I can choose who is my brother in the flesh. What makes us brothers is the fact we have the same father. Though I disagree with him, I have no right to treat him as anything less than my brother." Thanks for stimulating great memories.
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