The Epistle to the Romans
Lesson Number 39
CONDUCT BECOMING OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD
12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving
preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing
steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to
hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the
same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but
associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no
one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it
is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is
written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20 Therefore "If your
enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing
you will heap coals of fire on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but
overcome evil with good. NKJV (Romans 12:9-21)
Often spiritual life is represented as not being practical - not touching upon every aspect of life. Thus we hear
sayings like, "Do not be so heavenly minded you are no earthly good," "Lighten up," or "What about real life?" There
seems to be a prevailing attitude among professed believers that commitment to God and the Word of God is too
cerebral, and has little to do with day-to-day living. This erroneous view is precisely why Scripture is often ignored
in preference for dealing with the supposed issues of the day. The development of "seeker friendly" formats and
services is also traceable to this perspective. The persons who are devoted enough to the Lord that He dominates their
conversation are considered a bit "weird," and out of touch with reality.
COMMON, BUT WRONG
Although these are common perceptions, they wholly misrepresent God and His truth. They distort salvation,
reproach Jesus, and do despite to the Spirit of grace. They reveal a frame of heart that is appropriately called
"minding earthly things" (Phil 3:19). The people of God must develop a certain intolerance of such
misrepresentations, for they contaminate the soul. They introduce carnal imaginations into the stream of thought,
tending to harden the heart and dull the conscience. They put too much distance between the individual and eternity,
pushing the coming of Christ and the day of judgment out of prominence in both heart and mind. No one should doubt
the reality of these things. Only brief self examination will confirm what happens to the individual when the accent
is removed from the things of God to matters relating to life in this world.
The propensity of church people to entertainment, trivia, issue-centered preaching and teaching, counseling, and
spiritual brevity and shallowness, are all outgrowths of this misperception: i.e., that heavenly mindedness is
IN SPITE OF CLARITY
This delusion exists in spite of the total absence of humor in the Bible, the obviously single focus of Jesus, and
the spiritual thrust of Apostolic doctrine. One will search in vain for an extended commentary on the political issues
of the day in which an inspired writer lived. The social issues of the day are equally shunned by inspired writers. The
only mention of things relates to spiritual life, preparation for eternity, and fellowship with Deity. There is such a
remarkable consistency in this, it is difficult to see how the thrust of Scripture could be missed. This condition is a
confirmation of the dulling effect of carnal mindedness, or minding earthly things.
ALL OF LIFE ADDRESSED
Lest some conclude that being justified, or having the righteousness of God imputed to us, does not influence our
manners in this world, the Spirit speaks of the practicality of spiritual life. With unusual power, He shows us there
is no facet of legitimate life and human relationships that is not impacted by newness of life. In so
doing, the Spirit removes all excuses for not living whole-heartedly for the Lord. No valid reason can be adduced for
failing to love the Lord with all of the heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is no justification for having our minds
nailed to the earth.
Faith addresses every aspect of life in this world. The person who has been reconciled to God will find no point
in life where the Lord may be pushed into the background, the Word of God ignored, and citizenship in heaven
forgotten. Whatever causes these things to occur is wrong, and is to be shunned with zeal and consistency. Nothing
about salvation allows for forgetting God. Nothing about newness of life moves a person to navigate in this world
without an acute awareness of the coming of the Lord and imminent judgment. The law of God is not put into our
hearts and written in our minds only to be placed into the background of thought. This should be abundantly clear.
THE PROPER CONTEXT
The context in which we live, think, and speak, is critical. Basically, there are only two contexts: "this present
evil world" and "the world to come." To put it another way, there are the contexts of time and eternity.
Let it be clear, the "present world" is fundamentally evil, contaminated by sin. Because of this, Jesus has
"delivered us" from it (Gal 1:4), and it is destined for destruction (2 Pet 3:10-12). To make this world, or time, the
context in which we live is disastrous. It contradicts the fact that we have been delivered from it.
The "world to come" is the lasting one. There is where the fulness of eternal life will be received (Mark 10:30).
The "world to come" is the subject of Apostolic exposition (Heb 2:5). Every commandment, exhortation, correction,
and elucidation of Scripture is set within the context of "the world to come." If it were possible to remove that world,
or if it were just an imagination, there would be no need for Christ Jesus or the Scriptures.
Salvation in all of its
aspects is couched in the setting of eternity!
The exhortations to which we will now be subjected are to be received as matters that tend to orient us for glory.
Life in this world is not their ultimate objective. Rather, they are given in order that life in this world will not distract
us or disqualify us from the glory to which we have been appointed by God's grace.
IN VIEW OF THE TIMES
I have taken the time to mention these things because of my persuasion of the wickedness and religious
corruption of the times. Certain religious manners and preferences have arisen that are not right. They are in sharp
conflict with the revealed purpose of God, and do not contribute to the eternal well being of people. Men have been
given too much honor, and God has been given too little. The wisdom and writings of men have been given too much
prominence, and the Word of God too little. In the mind of the average church member heaven is a distant thought,
and the coming of the Lord is rarely brought into the meditative process.
As we enter into this section of practical exhortations, you will find they have more weight when they are
considered within the context of eternity. When you contemplate your reception of the righteousness of God, these
admonitions will make perfect sense, and you will desire to fulfill them. If they are viewed only as our duties, to be
fulfilled in the energy of the flesh, they will appear beyond your reach. There is an unwavering consistency in this.
THE RESPONSE OF LOVE
12:9a Let love be without hypocrisy."
Other versions read, "Let love be without dissimulation," KJV "Love
must be sincere," NIV "Let love be genuine," NRSV "Let love be unfeigned," DARBY "Let love be without deceit," BBE and
"Let love be without any pretense." NJB Our love is to be without disguise. It is to be the genuine expression of the
"new man," the outgrowth of the "newness of life." The righteousness that has been given to us WILL express itself
in this way. Just as surely as God Himself is averse to pretense, so the life that He has given to us cannot be so
The word "dissimulation" means
"to hide under a false appearance." English synonyms include
"camouflage, cloak, dress
up, and mask." MERRIAM-WEBSTER Love with dissimulation, or hypocrisy, is love that is not genuine, even though the
individual expressing it may not even know it. One of the dreadful results of walking in the flesh, or not living by
faith, is that the individual can fall into reprehensible conduct without even knowing it. This is precisely why this
exhortation is given - to awaken the heart to self examination.
Love with dissimulation, or feigned love, is draped with culture and painted with fleshly refinement. It is not what
it appears to be. The fact that we are exhorted to avoid this pretense confirms that the seeds of such a tendency
remain within our natural man. If we do not set ourselves to avoid ostentatious love, we may easily be lulled into a
spiritual sleep that finds us wearing the mask of carnal politeness.
THE SOURCE OF LOVE
The Genuineness of love is not determined by the feeling of the individual. Nor, indeed, is it determined by the
intention of the person. The thing that makes love genuine is its source! Love "without hypocrisy" is the love
that flows out from the love that has been "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5). This love is not
pumped up by the individual. It is not a mere attempt to do what is right, although the effort of the individual is
involved. This is part of "the fruit of the Spirit," and is the consequence of walking in the Spirit.
THE BOND OF PERFECTION
Love is the spiritual adhesive that binds the saints of God together. That is why it cannot be fabricated, simulated,
or expressed in pretension. It is written, "But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection" NKJV
(Col 3:14). A lack of love disrupts the "unity of the Spirit," allowing for the entrance of Satan, delusion, and spiritual
There is an attractiveness to genuine and uncomplicated love. It draws the people of God together, for it is
consistently selfless, always seeking the welfare of others. It brings the saints together in mutuality, building up each
member. Thus there comes an "increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph 4:16). That is the "bond
of perfection" that causes one maturing member to profitably adhere to another.
There is a feigned love I have chosen to call "institutional love." It is a love that centers in religious
institutionalism rather than the love of God. Jesus spoke of this kind of love when He said, "For if ye love them which
love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye
more than others? do not even the publicans so?" (Matt 5:46-47). Such love is based upon mere human confraternity.
It gives no weight to faith, and certainly not to Divine acceptance.
There is a considerable emphasis in our day on religious camaraderie. This involves civility that is based upon
institutional identity rather than the love of God. It has no place in Jesus.
IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTRIVE
The admonition, "Let love be without dissimulation," NKJV does not suggest that genuine love - the "fruit of the
Spirit" - can be possessed, yet imperfectly expressed. The idea here is that no professed believer is to attempt to cover
up hatred and ill-will with the mask of love, or charity. In other words, those who do not love the people of God are
not to pretend as though they did.
HELP IS AVAILABLE TO US
It Is good to know that Divine help is available to us through our faith. The Lord can
"make you to increase and
abound in love one toward another, and toward all men" (1 Thess 3:12). Other versions read, "cause you to increase
and abound in love for one another, and for all men," NASB and "make your love increase and overflow for each other
and for everyone else." NIV In such a case, love will not be with hypocrisy. It will also yield the benefits only genuine
love can produce. Some of them are as follows.
Faith works by love (Gal 5:6).
In love we serve one another (Gal 5:13).
Love edifies, or builds up (1 Cor 8:1).
Love suffers long (1 Cor 13:4a).
Love is kind (1 Cor 13:4b).
Love does not envy (1 Cor 13:4c).
Love does not parade itself (1 Cor 13:4d).
Love is not puffed up (1 Cor 13:4e).
Love does not behave rudely (1 Coir 13:5a).
Love does not seek its own (1 Cor 13:5b).
Love is not easily provoked (1 Cor 13:5c).
Love thinks no evil (1 Cor 13:5d).
Love does not rejoice in iniquity )(1 Cor 13:6a).
Love rejoices in the truth (1 Cor 13:6b).
Love bears all things (1 Cor 13:7a).
Love believes all things (1 Cor 13:7b).
Love hopes all things (1 Cor 13:7c).
Love endures all things (1 Cor 13:7d).
Love will cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8).
Love that is feigned is totally lacking in these traits. It may have a polished appearance, but it brings no benefit
to the saints. Neither, indeed, can it open a door of opportunity for those who are outside of Christ. Love that is by
dissimulation is totally worthless, and is to be discarded. God does not honor it, and neither can we.
THE RESPONSE TOWARD EVIL
9b Abhor what is evil."
Other versions read, "Hate what is evil," NASB and "Avoid what is evil." NJB The
strength of this word is apparent. The word "abhor" means to "hate utterly," entirely and totally. It also means to
shrink away from, as from something that is loathsome or detestable. To "abhor" is to draw away from, out of a sense
of utter disgust and repulsion. Something that is abhorred goes against the nature of the person. It chaffs against the
soul, and weighs the heart down with offensiveness. For that reason, the individual cannot abide the presence of the
thing abhorred. He will not allow himself to remain within the circumference of evil influence.
The intention of this exhortation is not simply the development of an attitude, but of a godly response. All of these
are reactions that reflect the Divine nature. They include an attitude, feeling, or outlook, but extend into the area of
the will and of action.
In the matter before us, to "abhor" is to have such a horror of something that is expressed by withdrawal. From
the viewpoint of language, there is a Greek word for hatred that emphasizes the attitude of the heart and mind. It
is a strong aversion that exists deep within the individual. It is the word
ìéóÝù. The word used in our text
(avpostugou/ntej) comes from another root word (óôõãÝù). The difference between the two is that the latter is "hatred
ABHOR MEANS TO DEPART
That is why I prefer the word "abhor," for it carries the idea of withdrawal more than an inward attitude alone.
That withdrawal, of course, is driven by an inward response to evil, which compels the believe to take action. Thus,
when God said of Israel, "I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces" (Amos 6:8), He meant that He would
withdraw from them, leaving them to the behest of their enemies. When the Psalmist said, "the LORD will abhor the
bloody and deceitful man" (Psa 5:6), he meant the Lord would have nothing to do with such a man. The Lord "greatly
abhorred Israel," "He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, The tent He had placed among men, and delivered His
strength into captivity, And His glory into the enemy's hand" (Psa 78:60-61). Again it is written, "Therefore the wrath
of the LORD was kindled against His people, So that He abhorred His own inheritance. And He gave them into the
hand of the Gentiles, And those who hated them ruled over them" (Psa 106:40).
Let there be no mistake about this. What or who the Lord abhors, He leaves, or forsakes. You do not want your
thinking to be loose or unstable on this point. Much of the psychological jargon that is spewing from the pulpits of
the land leaves one imagining God tenderly embraces those He abhors. Nothing could be further from the truth, as
Satan and his angels can testify.
The Relevance of the Observation
It may appear as though all of this has little to do with our text. But that is not the case. The response that is
enjoined upon us is nothing less than the expression of the "Divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4), called the "new man," or a
"new creature" (Col 3:10; 2 Cor 5:17). We are being admonished to withdraw from the very things God and Christ
withdraw from. They are things that God cannot tolerate, and that He will not abide in His presence.
Those who insist on remaining close to what God abhors will themselves become detestable to God.
That is precisely why the Lord speaks to His people in this manner. "Therefore 'Come out from among them And be
separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you'" NKJV (2 Cor 6:17). This is not a popular
word in our time, but it is a very needful one, and must often be declared.
The Lord leaves no stone unturned in His appeal to us to abhor whatever is evil.
"You who love the LORD, hate
(Psa 97:10). "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil" (Prov 8:13).
"Hate the evil" (Amos 5:15). "Depart from
evil" (Psa 34:14). One of the telling marks of the Savior of the world is that He
"hates wickedness," or "iniquity."
For this reason, Gopd bestowed the greatest blessing upon Him. "God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the
oil of gladness above Thy fellows" (Psa 45:7; Heb 1:9).
A person who abhors "that which is evil" will join David in this holy resolve. "I will set nothing wicked before
my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I
will not know wickedness" (Psa 101:3-4). When the Word of God brings understanding to the heart, the believer
shouts, "Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way" (Psa 119:104).
One of the marks of a wicked man is,
"he abhorreth not evil" (Psa 36:4). On the other hand, one of the points
for which Jesus commended backslidding Ephesus was, "you cannot bear those who are evil" (Rev 2:2). We could do
with a revival of that kind of attitude!
We must not allow the psychiatrists to deceive us about, what is called, "fallen leaders." Reports of men and
women falling into immortality are not confined to the politician arena. It has become altogether too common in the
professing church. Why do such things occur? It is because the offenders did not "abhor that which is evil." If such
poor souls expect to be received by God, they do well to admit this is the case, and to aggressively seek to obey this
text. Their sin did not occur because they were in the wrong place at the right time. It happened because they did not
"abhor that which is evil." Sin does not lay hold of a person just because they are simple, or because others take
advantage of them. It is because they do not "abhor that which is evil." They chose to live close to what God
commands them to hate and leave. They trafficked on forbidden territory with hearts that had been sullied with the
love of the world.
THE DREADFULNESS OF EVIL
With the deterioration of sound doctrine and spiritual life, there has also come a blindness concerning the
dreadful nature of evil. Religious people have been blinded to the reprehensible nature of "evil." The very first issue
that faced humanity related to "the knowledge of good and evil"
(Gen 2:9). At the very instant man came to
evil," he was thrust from the presence of the Lord (Gen 3:22-24). The world of Noah's day was utterly destroyed
because "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was
only evil continually" (Gen 6:5). When God became incensed against Israel, it was because they were an
Jesus spoke of vain words that came "from evil" (Matt 5:37). He taught us to pray, "deliver us from evil." Some
versions read "the evil one" NIV (Matt 6:13). Jesus said "evil thoughts" defile a person (Matt 15:19-20). He spoke of
an "evil eye" (Mark 7:22), "evil things" (Mark 7:23), an "evil man," and an "evil treasure" in the heart (Lk 6:45).
Troubling and defiling spirits from the domain of the devil are called "evil spirits" (Lk 7:21). Our Lord spoke of an
"evil generation" (Lk 11:29), "deeds" that are evil (John 3:19), and those who "do evil" (John 3:20). The works of the
world, Jesus said, "are evil" (John 7:7).
The fall of the Gentile world included the invention of "evil things" (Rom 1:30). The Spirit promises that
"tribulation and anguish" will come upon "every soul of man that doeth evil" (Rom 2:9). There are communications
and associations that are "evil" (1 Cor 15:33). This present word, from which Jesus has delivered us, is "evil" (Gal
1:4). There is such a thing as "evil speaking" (Eph 4:31), days that "are evil" (Eph 5:16), and "evil workers" (Phil 3:2).
There is an "appearance of evil" that is to be avoided at all cost (1 Thess 5:22). There are "evil surmisings," or
suspicions (1 Tim 6:4), and "evil men" that "wax worse and worse" (2 Tim 3:13). There is such a thing as an "evil
heart of unbelief," and we are to see to it that it does not enter into us (Heb 3:12). There are "evil thoughts" (James
2:4), and "evil" that can flow from the tongue (1 Pet 3:10).
The consistency and firmness with which we are addressed concerning evil makes it inexcusable for a tolerant
attitude toward it. No justification can be given for choosing to be around evil, or allowing its encroachments into our
hearts and minds.
What Is "EVIL"?
The word "evil" is very large in both its meaning and its implications. It carries the ideas of disadvantageous, bad,
harmful, and painful. It also connotes useless, unprofitable, and unserviceable. Anything or anyone that is "evil" is
wicked, poisonous, and has no redeeming qualities. Evil inflicts injury upon the soul, corrupts the mind, and defiles
the conscience. "That which is evil" is inherently bad. It is like a piece of rotten fruit that cannot be made good. It
is to be discarded, and that with great haste.
You cannot sanctify something that is evil. You cannot convert it to useful purposes. It is contaminated
throughout, and cannot blend with the unseen things to which we have been called (2 Cor 4:17-18). Whatever has the
taint of the world upon it is evil. Whatever Satan uses is evil. Whatever competes with God is evil. Whatever makes
living for the Lord more difficult is evil. Things that interrupt communion with the Lord are evil. Actions, thoughts,
and objects that will cause shame on the day of judgment are evil. Evil is the opposite of God. It is what Jesus hates,
and what causes the Holy Spirit of God to grieve. It is what stops the Spirit's work, drives a wedge between the soul
and its Creator, and makes the blessing of God seem unworthy of pursuit.
And what is to be our response to evil? We are to "abhor it." When we are aware of it, we are to draw back in
revulsion, putting a distance between it and us. We are to refuse what it offers, and close our ears to its suggestions.
We are to run from it like Joseph fled from Potiphar's wife.
Abhorring evil is not the result of a disciplinary procedure, or the exercise of self-will. Rather, it is the result of
a heart that has been duly sensitized to the Lord. As Moses' face was altered by exposure to the glory of God, so the
heart is sharpened and stimulated. Evil became especially repulsive to Moses after he had been in the presence of the
Lord - even more so than to Aaron, who had remained in the presence of the people (Ex 32:19-24). That is the secret
to obtaining an utter hatred of sin - dwelling in the presence of God, walking in the light of His countenance.
THE RESPONSE TOWARD GOOD
9c Cling to what is good."
Other versions read, "Cleave to that which is good," KJV "hold fast to what is good,"
NRSV "keep your minds fixed on what is good," BBE "hold on to what is good," NAB and "Stand on the side of the good."
Here is an aggressive stance - one that requires sustained effort and determination: "Cling," "hold fast," "hold
on to!" The picture is of something that can be elusive - something that may not always be as accessible as it is at the
moment. The word translated "cling," or "cleave," KJV means to be joined to something - to be glued, or fastened
firmly, together. Coming from
, this word is used to describe both illicit and holy relationships.
ye not that he which is
joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is
unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor 6:16-17). Whatever is joined becomes a single entity, working together for a
Be Glued to Good!
This text exhorts us to be bonded to good, not merely acquainted with it. It is to be identified with good, not
merely admit to its uprightness. The attitude toward evil was two-fold: have a disdain for it, and turn from it.
Likewise, there is a two-fold response to good: love it, and attach ourselves to it.
Clinging to "what is good" presumes a preference for it. It also involves satisfaction and enjoyment realized from
it. There is also a refusal to let it go.
WHAT IS "GOOD"?
"Good" is the opposite of evil, and is so represented throughout Scripture. No less than ninety-seven times, the
words "good and evil" occur in Scripture. The first warning in human history regarded these extremities (Gen
2:9,17).In a plea to Israel, the Lord associated "good" with life, and "evil" with death (Deut 30:15).
"Good and evil" are the extremes on the scale of moral values. "Good" blesses, giving advantage and leading to
heaven. "Evil" curses, robbing the soul and leading to hell.
"Good" is anything that is associated with the strait and narrow way that leads unto life (Matt 7:13-14). It is
related to the "fruit of the Spirit," which "is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Eph 5:9). "Good" has the
hand of God upon it, who is Himself "good" (Psa 34:8; 100:5), and is "abundant in goodness" (Ex 34:6). In fact, as
compared with all that is created, "there is none good but one, that is, God" (Matt 19:17).
The Nature of Spiritual Life Seen
Here, the nature of spiritual life is seen. Not only are we to disassociate ourselves from evil, we are to associate
ourselves with good. We are not only to refrain from doing evil, but engage in doing good. We avoid what tears down,
and embrace what builds up. We shun what causes spiritual deterioration, and take hold of what contributes to
spiritual growth and stability. In all of this, our heart is not only in accord with our thoughts, words, and deeds, it
is the governor that dictates what we do.
Doing Good IS Emphasized
The particular point of emphasis here is the DOING of good. It is engaging in benevolent and helpful conduct
toward all men, particularly those who live by faith. As it is written,
"As we have therefore opportunity, let us do
good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). "Good," in this case, leaves
the ones to whom it is directed better. It opens the door for the blessing of God, and leaves the individual with
Thus, we are admonished, "Depart from evil, and do good" (Psa 34:14; 37:27). Again,
"Trust in the LORD, and
do good" (Psa 37:3). It is possible for our words to
"do good to him that walks uprightly" (Mic 2:7). Jesus
admonished "do good to them that hate you" (Matt 5:44), and to
"do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again" (Lk
Those with an abundance of resources are exhorted to
"do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give,
willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal
life" (1 Tim 6:18-19). Here is something we must not forget.
"But do not forget to do good and to share, for with
such sacrifices God is well pleased" NKJV (Heb 13:16). Those who desire to love life and see good days are admonished,
"eschew evil, and do good" (1 Pet 3:11).
"Good" is not to be the subject of empty discussion and philosophizing, it is to be done. Only as we engage in
the doing of good can we be joined to it. We cannot "cling" to what we do not do. We can claim no association
with anything with which we are not personally involved.
An Expression of the New Creation
Doing good, or bringing eternal advantages and kindness to others, is the expression of the new creation. By
nature, "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Psa 14:3; Rom 3:2). Our text, therefore, is not speaking of mere
human goodness, kindness, or thoughtfulness. Doing good is actually God ministering to others through a willing
vessel. It is the result of walking so close with the Lord that others are actually benefitted by it.
For this reason it is written, "He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God"
11). The fact that we are exhorted to "cling to that which is good" confirms we are in the midst of competitive
influences. There are contrary winds about us that can cause us to veer off course. We dare not imagine that adhering
to the good will happen without any effort on our part. While it is true that our effort is not the determining factor,
neither is it something that is excluded.
If you have been in the Lord for any length of time, you have experienced the value of brethren who "do good"
to you. Such kind and tender souls have associated themselves with good, clinging to it, and refusing to purge
thoughts of doing good from their minds. You know how profitable that can be. May you be such a soul, holding on
to the good.
THE RESPONSE TOWARD ONE ANOTHER
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one
another . . . " In Scripture, a considerable amount of attention is given to believer's involvements with one another.
Unity is not a mere institutional formality, and the attitude and conduct of believers among themselves is given
substantial weight. Our adversary the devil has been particularly effective in the matter of disrupting the unity of
the Spirit, which can only be maintained in "the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3). Sectarianism has taken its toll among the
people of God, as well as a worldly-minded spirit. These conditions have compelled professing believers to view
admonitions like the one before us in relation to a particular denomination. Some even restrict them to their local
congregation. As a result, a significant amount of inconsideration and harshness exists in the Christian community.
This is a most unfortunate circumstance that has actually neutralized the effectiveness of the truth, and brought
great reproach upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is imperative that the admonition before us be taken seriously. It is not a mere suggestion, nor is it something
that is optional. It does not represent a high level of spirituality, only to be attained by a few unusual souls.
"Be kindly affectionate to one another . . . "
Other versions read, "Be devoted to one another," NASB "be tenderly
affectioned one to another," ASV "with genuine affection," NLT and "let your feelings of deep affection for one another
come to expression." NJB
Kind affection involves cherishing the people of God and being profoundly considerate of their welfare. This is
the kind of affection a parent has for a child, or for family members. The word carries the meaning of "tenderly
affectionate, very loving, and naturally devoted to." ROBERTSON This is a love that is "not called out by circumstance,
but is the natural love of kindred." VINCENT
Spiritual love, part of "the fruit of the Spirit," is like a great tree with many branches. Kind affection is one of
those branches, upon which much fruit can be borne. Tender affection is to be expressed among the household of faith
regardless of social or domestic distinctions. The master can be profoundly considerate of the slave, who may
reciprocate with joy. Thus Onesimus the slave can become profitable to Philemon the master (Phile 10-11), and a
Centurion can seek the welfare of his slave (Matt 8:5-6). The Jew can be kindly affectioned toward the Gentile,
enjoying a reciprocation of the same. Thus Titus the Greek can comfort Paul the Jew (Gal 2:3; 2 Cor 7:6), while Paul
ministered and cared for Gentile believers (Rom 15:9-12). The thoughtful consideration can be enjoyed between male
and female, in a beneficial and unsinful way. Thus Phebe can minister to Paul (Rom 16:1-2), and Paul can minister
to Lydia (Acts 16:14,40). Spiritual affection can be experienced between the young and the old in Christ Jesus. Thus
Eli can minister to young Samuel, while Samuel served him (1 Sam 3:1-16).
The fact of our oneness in Christ allows for being kindly affectioned toward one another.
"For as many of you as
have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free,
there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:27-28). The Lord Jesus was tender toward
all who were drawn to Him. He was gentle toward Nicodemus the Jew (John 3:1-16), and a Gentile centurion (Luke
7:1-9). He was gracious to a man who was a demoniac (Mark 5:15), and a woman who was an adulteress (John 8:10-11). He healed an older woman, Peter's mother-in-law (Lk 4:38-39), raised a twelve year old girl, and blessed little
children (Lk 8:41-42,52-54; Mark 10:16). He answered the prayer of a master, and healed his servant (Matt 8:6-7).
He was "kindly affectioned."
Tender affection does not discriminate among the children of God! Yet, we are admonished to BE kindly
affectioned toward one another, extending ourselves to express what God has put within us. The reason for this
requirement is obvious: when what the Lord gives us is not used, it soon withers and becomes useless.
There is a profound need for tender affection within the household of faith. Because of our faith, we have become
pilgrims and strangers in the world (1 Pet 2:11). The world does not love us because we no longer belong to its order
(John 15:19). If, therefore, we are lacking in tenderness toward one another, we will have robbed the people of God
of something provided for them.
You will note that the requirement is to express the tender affection, not receive it. It is not the business of the
King's children to seek for others to bestow tender affection upon them. Rather, it is their lot to bestow it upon their
brethren. They will soon find the affection returning many fold to them, fulfilling the word of the Lord, "Give, and
it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into
your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38). Many
a small soul has become disgruntled because they did not receive the attention they thought was due to them. Almost
without exception, such people have been stingy with their own affection, and thus have reaped an extremely small
harvest of the same.
With Brotherly Love
" . . . with brotherly love." This is a special kind of love, devoted to the family of God. This is the love that drives
being "kindly affectioned" one to another. It is mentioned at least four other times in Scripture.
First, this love is taught to us by God Himself - not in the Scriptures, but within the context of fellowship with
the Father and the Son. "But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you
yourselves are taught by God to love one another" (1 Thess 4:9). This is not a mere academic lesson, but involves the
communication of God's own propensity to love to those who have been joined to His Son.
Second, brotherly love is never to terminate, or find a conclusion. In Christ, no provision is made for it to end.
"Let brotherly love continue" (Heb 13:1). This is not a crisis quality, or one that is intended to be temporary. It is
an ongoing trait that enables the survival and growth of the saints.
Third, brotherly love is the outcome or purifying our souls in obeying the truth through the power of the Holy
Spirit. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the
brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently" (1 Pet 1:22). The new birth is necessary before
this love can ever be exhibited.
Fourth, the love of the brethren is the experiential proof that we have passed from death unto life.
that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in
death" (1 John 3:14).
Brotherly love is the well from which "brotherly kindness" (2 Pet 1:7) and tender affection are drawn.
PREFERRING ONE ANOTHER
As with several passages of Scripture, there is a Divine progression in this thought. As we allow the sails of
inspiration to bear us up, we will find ourselves mounting up with the wings of the eagle, soaring into lofty heights.
Not only are we to be kindly affectioned, we do so in "brotherly love." But the matter does not end there, as though
we were fulfilling a law from Mount Sinai.
" . . . in honor . . . " With very few exceptions, every translation uses the word "honor." This is the frame of spirit
we are to have when we are kindly affectioned toward one another with brotherly love. It is to be done "in honor,"
"showing honor," NRSV or "with honor." DOUAY
To "honor" means to respect, recognize as valuable, and esteem. This is perceiving the people of God as He sees
them - as "jewels" belonging to Him (Mal 3:17). There is a certain dignity associated with being called "the sons of
God" (1 John 3:1-2), and it is our business to recognize it in our brethren. If our Father is going to "honor" those who
serve the Son (John 12:26), we do well to also give them
To honor the saints by being kindly affectioned toward them in brother love, is the opposite of despising them.
It involves preferring their company, benefitting from the grace they have received, and bestowing labor upon them.
" . . . giving preference to one another." Brotherly love is altogether selfless. It does not seek its own, but prefers
another. Other versions read, "give preference to one another," NASB "Honor one another above yourselves," NIV "outdo
one another in showing honor," NRSV "each taking the lead in paying it [honor] to one another," DARBY "putting others
before yourselves," BBE "take delight in honoring each other," NLT and "regard others as more important than
Flesh cannot do this, for it sees no benefit in it. That is why this attitude is so exceedingly rare. It is not of this
world. This is the frame of spirit that Jesus displayed freely. He said, "Even as the Son of man came not to be
ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt 20:28). It is seen when He
miraculously provided tribute money for both Himself and Peter (Matt 17:27). It is seen when He washed the disciples
feet (John 13:4-5), and prepared an early breakfast for them (John 21:9). How often His disciples must have recalled
Jesus' acts of humility and consideration.
In preferring one another, we speak honorably of each believer, throwing the mantel of love upon them all, lest they
be disgraced by some unwilling weakness. If our brethren have sins, we prefer they not be seen, and extend ourselves
to conceal them from others. This word is appropriately described in Philippians 2:3-4.
"Let nothing be done through
strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man
on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
THE SPIRIT OF SERVICE
11 Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." Here the Spirit touches upon an area
of especial weakness among believers. In the routine matters of life, whether directly or indirectly related to the
Lord's work, there is an attitude to be avoided, and one to be obtained. The Divine stamp of approval is never given
to halfheartedness, retardation, and slowness of response. Never are such traits commended or represented as being
tolerable. Those who are bent in such a direction will do well to give heed to this word, receiving it with all sobriety.
"Not lagging in diligence. . . " Other versions read,
"Not slothful in business," KJV "not lagging behind in
diligence," NASB "Never be lacking in zeal," NIV "Be not slow in your work," BBE and "Never be lazy in your work." NLT
Here, the various translations appear to obscure the text. Linguists insist that the word "business," as used in
the KJV, is not correct. Yet Thayer, the esteemed Greek lexicographer defines the word used here (spoudh/) as,
"earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything." That, of course, is precisely what the word "business" means:
"purposeful activity . . . an immediate task or objective . . . a particular field of endeavor."
In this verse "diligence" means commitment to do something, or giving oneself to the completion of a specific task:
i.e., the business of learning, What is your business here?, the best in the business, etc.
The meaning of the exhortation is this: whatever you set your mind and hand to do, do not be slothful in
accomplishing it. It is another way of saying, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" (Eccl 9:10).
Bringing that exhortation into the domain of the New Covenant, it says,
"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as
to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve
the Lord Christ" (Col 3:23-24). Another way of saying the same thing is,
"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not
as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph 5:15-16).
You will search the Scripture in vain for any word of encouragement for slothful souls. Slothfulness and lagging
behind have no place in the walk of faith. God is not slothful. Jesus is not slothful. The Holy Spirit is not slothful. The
holy angels are not slothful. What would lead any soul to believe this grievous trait is acceptable among men -
particularly those who have been delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear
Son (Col 1:13)?
In this time of falling away, the church is not noted for its zeal. There is an unfortunate spirit of stupor that has
settled upon the Christian community, and it is altogether unacceptable. Aggressive preachers, teachers, elders, and
deacons are not common. In practical financial and business matters, Christians do not generally have good record.
We are solemnly admonished, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving
thanks to God and the Father by Him" (Col 3:17). It should be evident that no place is made for slothfulness in that
FERVENT IN SPIRIT
" . . . fervent in spirit." Other versions read, "keep your spiritual fervor," NIV
"be ardent in spirit," NRSV
"enthusiastically," NLT and
"with conscientiousness and an eager spirit." NJB This is equivalent to "with all your
might" (Eccl 9:10), "heartily" (Col 3:23), and "making the most of every opportunity" NIV (Eph 5:16).
Apollos is an example of fervency.
"This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the
spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord" (Acts 18:25). Another example is Epaphras. "Epaphras,
who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers" (Col 4:12). We are
told that the prayer heaven will honor is a "fervent" one (James 5:16). Our love for one another is to be done
"fervently" (1 Pet 1:22). Those who repent are to do so with zeal (Rev 3:19).
Can you imagine Noah being slothful in building the ark? How about Israel's preparation to come out of Egypt?
"Whatever you do" (Col 3:17), throw yourself into it. Do so because the Lord is honored by it. Do so because the people
of God are helped by it. Do so because you are adorning the doctrine by it.
SERVING THE LORD
" . . . serving the Lord." Spiritual fervor is not an end of itself. It is the spirit in which God is served. Nothing in
all of Scripture remotely suggests that God is served by halfheartedness or lukewarmness. Those who attempt to serve
the Lord in a spirit of disinterest, infrequency, or out of a sense of obligation are not serving the Lord, and their
efforts will not be recognized by Him. It simply is not possible to love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength,
and be haphazard or nonchalant in serving Him.
Those religious leaders who have pioneered brief meetings, infrequency of gatherings, and shallow presentations,
should explain their preferences and practices in view of this passage. They have chosen to cater to the carnal mind,
and to a manner of religious life that does not comport with the revealed will of God.
It is quite true that we ought not be overbearing, or more demanding of the saints than the Lord. Such a custom is
altogether unacceptable. Everyone, however, does well to take this text seriously, and to purge from their lives all
forms of indolence and sloth.
HOPE, TRIBULATION, AND PRAYER
12 Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer . . . " Faith responds
correctly and beneficially under all circumstances. It always walks through difficulties, through the fire and water,
hand-in-hand with the Deliverer. The eye of faith always sees beyond trials and tribulations, enabling the survival
of the child of God, even though he is sorely tested.
Our text now addresses the difficulties of life. These are areas where survival and continuance are maintained
with great difficulty. The race that is set before us leads to glory, yet it goes through the grievous "straits" in which
even our persecutors "overlook" us (Lam 1:3). Faith is triumphant, overcoming the world, but not without a fierce
conflict. If this was not the case, admonitions regarding "hope," "tribulation," and "prayer" would not be necessary.
These three responses are to accompany our service to the Lord: "serving the Lord" (verse 11). These are
attending graces. They do not stand by themselves, but are put to work in the crucible of service to God. Apart from
that service to, or worship of (12:1-2), the Lord, they have neither meaning nor purpose.
"Rejoicing in hope . . . " Other versions read, "Be joyful in hope," NIV "As regards hope, rejoicing," DARBY and "Being
glad in hope." BBE The Spirit has already mentioned this marvelous quality: " . . . our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also
we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (5:2). This rejoicing,
therefore, is "by," or "through," Christ Jesus. It is realized by means of His power and through fellowship with Him.
Yet, this does not mean no effort is required from us. God does not admonish Jesus to cause us to rejoice in hope. We
are the ones exhorted to do so! Divine appointments must be appropriated through faith.
What does it mean to "rejoice in hope?" Hope regards the future. It is faith peering beyond the horizon of time
and circumstance, seeing what God has "prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor 2:9). Hope does not look down, but
up. It does not survey the circumstances, but ponders the future, when we will "ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess 4:17).
Hope does not ask, "What is happening to me?", but declares, "For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come,
and will not tarry" (Heb 10:37). Hope does not linger in the outer court of where we are, but looks into the most holy
place, where we are going.
Rejoicing in hope results from the contemplation of "the crown of righteousness" that will be given to us (2 Tim
4:8). It is awakened by the consideration of receiving "praise from God" (1 Cor 4:5), and hearing His "well done!"
(Matt 25:23). When our thoughts linger on the fact that we are "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom 7:17),
joy erupts, pouring refreshing water upon our souls. Meditating upon the coming glory, when we will "ever be with
the Lord," sitting with Him in His throne (Rev 3:21), and reigning with Him (2 Tim 2:12), summons rejoicing to the
place of dominance.
Things related to "the hope of His calling" (Eph 1:18) can only bring joy when they are duly considered. "And God
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall
there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev 21:4-5). "And there shall be no more curse: but
the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his
name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun;
for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev 22:3-5).
If these things seem too good to be true, the God of heaven adds, "These sayings are faithful and true" (Rev 22:6).
It goes without saying that rejoicing in hope is only possible as these blessed realities are brought to the forefront
of our thoughts. You may consider the possibility of your circumstances in this world improving. You may even
associate such improvement with the grace and power of God. But such thoughts cannot produce the rejoicing
of hope. If, whether concerning your own person, or those to whom you minister, you labor to bring rejoicing in the
hope of earthly circumstance improving, you have not done well. You must hold the revealed future for all saints
before people if they are to rejoice!
Neither faith nor hope can flourish and refresh while thoughts are wrapped around
" . . . patient in tribulation . . . " Other versions read, "persevering in tribulation," NASB "patient in affliction," NIV
"be patient in suffering," and NRSV "endure in affliction" NAB
Patience is perseverance, persistence, or endurance. It is making progress when the details of life are not
conducive to progress. It is continuing in the race when it leads through the Red Sea of impossibility or the burning
desert of trial. Patience shouts to the soul what Moses was told to cry out to Israel: "speak unto the children of Israel,
go forward" (Ex 14:15).
Patience is also an aspect of faith. Faith appropriately responds when it enters into the furnace of tribulation.
Rather than being beat down by the flames, it becomes more determined than ever to stand. When circumstance
throws troops of complication and walls of impossibility before the child of God, faith shouts, "For by Thee I have
run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall" (Psa 18:29).
It is not possible for those who live by faith to avoid tribulation. Jesus has declared, "In the world ye
shall have tribulation" (John 16:33). The only issue here is whether we will continue to run the race set before us or
not. Many a professed believer has thrown in the towel when things become seemingly too difficult. Such imagine they
will find relief by withdrawing from the race, and ceasing to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12). Thus, they are
thrown to the ground by discouragement, and pummeled into despair by frustration. Poor souls, indeed, for they have
actually incurred the indignation of God by their response. Is it not written, "but if any man draw back, my soul shall
have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving
of the soul" (Heb 10:38-39).
This is the word from heaven: "be patient in tribulation!" No other alternative is offered! This can only mean that
our Father has graciously supplied all that we need to be "patient in tribulation." If we quit in tribulation, it is because
we have not availed ourselves of the resources God has provided. It is because we have not believed, or kept the faith.
There is no valid reason for this to happen!
" . . . continuing steadfastly in prayer." Other versions read, "continuing instant in prayer," KJV "devoted to
prayer," NASB "faithful in prayer," NIV "persevere in prayer," NRSV "be constant in prayer," RSV and "at all times given
to prayer." BBE
The words "continuing steadfastly," or "continuing instant," come from a single word (proskarterou/ntej). The
word has a broad meaning. In includes the ideas of continuance and readiness. It also means to pay persistent
attention to, and be devoted to.
The meaning of the exhortation is this: we are to remain so sensitive and devoted to prayer that it is
your first and continual resort. Concerning our response, we are to be
"instant in prayer," not tardy or slow
in heart. Concerning the manner of prayer itself, we are to
"continue steadfastly" in it, not giving up in difficult
cases. Regarding our attitude concerning prayer, we are to be
"devoted to prayer," not allowing anything to move
us from it.
All of these are seen in the importunate widow, who refused to cease from asking until she received an answer
(Luke 18:1-8). They are also seen in the mighty prophet Elijah, who prayed seven times for rain - until his servant
saw a small cloud forming, about the size of a man's hand (1 Kgs 18:44). The early church was "instant in prayer,"
immediately going to the Lord when they were threatened (Acts 4:24-31).
"Continuing instant in prayer" requires a sensitive spirit - one that is more aware of heaven than it is of earth.
Such a soul is not shaken by circumstance, or moved by threats from the enemy. It is persuaded that God is "a very
present help in the time of trouble," and relies upon that fact (Psa 46:1).
Such people live and move and have their being within the framework of an acute consciousness of God. They
know they are reconciled to Him. They know they have access to Him. They know He is seeking their welfare. Without
such persuasions, one cannot continue "instant in prayer." With them, such prayer is possible to the child of God.
Blessed is the person who knows that joyful sound, and embraces it with joy and faith!
THE RESPONSE TOWARD NEEDS OF SAINTS
13 . . . distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality."
Here is an exceedingly practical area
of living by faith. It is not common to hear exhortations in this area, or to behold any degree of consistency in the
fulfillment of the exhortation. I want to keep before you that the Spirit is showing how faith works. He is also
revealing the response of the individual to whom righteousness has been imputed. The individual who is able to
fervently desire, and enter into, these good works possesses confirmation that he is righteous. As it is written, "ye
know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him" (1 John 2:29). And again, "he that doeth righteousness
is righteous, even as He is righteous" (1 John 3:7).
"Distributing to the needs of the saints." Other versions read, "Distributing to the necessity of saints," KJV
"contributing to the needs of the saints," NASB "Share with God's people who are in need," NIV and "When God's
children are in need, be the one to help them out."
For some, this is a most difficult text. Particularly in the Western world, a kind of Christianity is being marketed
that looks with disdain upon any believer being needy. The resurrection of the health and wealth gospel (falsely so
called) teaches that salvation includes financial prosperity and health of body. Thus, these benighted souls surmise,
need is an evidence of unbelief. Of course, if these people were right, you would not contribute to the needs of the
saints, but exhort them to have no needs at all. The best thing to do with such teaching is to throw it into the
theological scrap heap.
The word "distribute" postulates that we are stewards of the resources God has given us. They are not intended
to be for ourselves alone, but are to be used for the glory of God. Those who have more than an adequate supply of
resources are admonished to handle them properly. "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not
highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they
do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves
a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Tim 6:17-19). Notice the wealth
of insight that is here made known.
The rich are to be "charged," commanded, NKJV or instructed NASB regarding their riches.
The rich are not to be "highminded," haughty NKJV or conceited.
They are not to "trust in uncertain riches," of fix their hope in fading resources.
Their hope is to be firmly "in the living God."
The things they have received have come from Him, who richly supplies us all things to enjoy.
The rich are to "do good" with their riches.
They are to see to it they are "rich in good works," rather than only in goods or possessions.
The rich are to be "ready to distribute," "ready to give," NKJV and "generous."
They are to be "willing to communicate," or "share."
By so doing, they are "storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold
on eternal life," or "storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may
take hold of that which is life indeed." NASB
The proper handling of earthly resources is a matter of stewardship. It reveals whether or not a person has faith.
It also provides an opportunity to excel in good works. Faithfulness in this area directly impacts upon our future-"the
time to come." Finally. It relates to taking hold of eternal life. When, therefore, we speak of giving to the needs of
the saints, we are not dealing with a trivial and inconsequential matter!
Determining Our Eternal Destiny
Jesus revealed that our response to the needs of His brethren - "the saints" - had a direct bearing upon our
eternal destiny. He mentioned several areas, relating them all to Himself personally. "I was hungry . . . I was thirsty
. . . I was a stranger . . . I was naked . . . I was sick . . . I was in prison." The response of the people to these situations
revealed whether they were "sheep" or "goats," accepted or rejected. It became the basis for being on His right hand
or left hand. It determined if they inherited the kingdom prepared for them, or were cursed, forced to depart from
him and have their part in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and His angels.
Those who were blessed to be forever with the Lord were told, "you gave Me food . . . you gave Me drink . . . you
took ME in . . . you clothed Me . . . you visited Me . . . you came to Me." Those who were cursed and cast into
everlasting fire ere told: "you gave Me no food . . . you gave Me no drink . . . you did not take Me in . . . you did not
clothe Me . . . you did not visit Me."
In both cases, the people were not aware of any action they had performed toward the Lord Himself. The
righteous responded, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we
see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come
to You?" The wicked responded, "Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in
prison, and did not minister to You?"
Our Lord's answer unveiled the kind of realm into which we have been called. To the righteous He said,
"Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these
My brethren, you did it to Me." To the
wicked He replied, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to
one of the least of these, you did not
do it to Me." (Matt 25:32-46).
Within the context of those words, our text takes on a greater weight. This is no mere suggestion: "Distributing to
the necessity of saints." No wonder David exclaimed, "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him
in time of trouble" (Psa 41:1) - particularly when they are the saints of God (Gal 6:10)!
The Experience of the Early Church
Almost immediately, the early church was faced with the need of the saints. Devout men "from every nation under
heaven" had flocked to Jerusalem to observe the feast of Pentecost. They had not come to stay, but had planned to
return home after the festivities. However, during their stay, they heard the news of the exalted Savior, were convinced
of their need to be reconciled to God, and were "added to the church." As a result, they remained, basking in the blessing
of the Lord and the newness of life.
Consequently, their resources soon were depleted, and need surfaced. Faith rose to the occasion. It is written,
"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted
them to all men, as every man had need" (Acts 2:44-45).
While this was an unusual circumstance, it provides an excellent example of being "ready to distribute." We are
told that God "is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in
that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Heb 6:10). Such sharing is described as "sacrifices" with
which God is "well pleased" (Heb 13:16).
Elsewhere the Spirit reminds us that the love of God does not dwell in the individual who fails to respond to the
needs of Christ's brethren. "But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart
from him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17).
What of Those with Chronic Needs?
What of those with chronic needs, who always seem to stand in need of assistance? What is to be done in their
First, there ARE people who, due to debilitating circumstances, always need to be helped. Such was the beggar
Lazarus, full of sores, who was daily laid at the gate of a rich man (Lk 16:20). In the case of Lazarus, he found no relief
until he died and was escorted by angels to Abraham's bosom (16:22). There was also the lame beggar who was carried
every day and placed at the "gate of the temple" (Acts 3:2). His situation was changed when Peter and John, in the
name of Jesus, eliminated his need (3:6-7). There was also blind Bartimaeus who regularly begged alms (Mark 10:46).
Thus, there are people whose need is never really eliminated, and we ought not to grow impatient with them.
They have disadvantages that prohibit them from meeting their needs. Of such, Jesus said, "For you have the poor
with you always" NKJV (Matt 26:11).
There are others, however, whose need has arisen because of their lack of diligence and productivity. The role
of believers is not to nurse such along, ignoring their slothfulness. Of such, it is written,
"For even when we were with
you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some
who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we
command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread" (2 Thess
From the very moment man was thrust from the garden, hearty work was ordained. "In the sweat of thy face
shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust
shalt thou return" (Gen 3:19). Any person who seeks to avoid this judgment is in rebellion against God. Such souls
are sluggards who can always find a reason for NOT working, or NOT eating his bread as the result of his own work.
Of such Solomon said, "The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have
nothing" (Prov 20:4). He hands "refuse to labor," and thus God has withdrawn help from him (Prov 21:25).
You see, then, that discretion is required as we distribute "to the necessity of the saints." We are handling God's
resources, and therefore are to do so for His honor and glory, as well as the assistance of the poor.
" . . . given to hospitality." Other versions read,
"practicing hospitality," NASB
"extend hospitality to strangers,"
NRSV "pursuing hospitality," DOUAY
"ready to take people into your houses," BBE
"And get into the habit of inviting guests
home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night," NLT and
"look for opportunities to be hospitable."
In a day of economical motels and credit cards, this exhortation may sound strange. It may even be viewed as a
cultural thing, with no bearing upon the nature of spiritual life. However, the Holy Spirit does not apply the effects
of imputed righteousness and faith to mere cultural matters. Such a postulate is wholly without foundation. It has
the Lord admonishing us to conform to culture on the one hand, and yet refuse to conform to the fashion of the world
on the other hand (Rom 12:2; 1 Cor 7:31). Such thinking is unbefitting for those with renewed minds.
There are numerous examples of hospitality in Scripture.
Pharaoh to Abraham (Gen 12:16).
Melchizedec to Abraham (Gen 14:18).
Abraham to angels (Gen 18:1-8).
Lot to angels (Gen 19:1-11).
Abimelech to Abraham (Gen 20:14-15).
Sons of Heth to Abraham (Gen 23:6-11).
Laban to Abraham's servant (Gen 24:31).
Laban to Jacob (Gen 29:13-14).
Isaac to Abimelech (Gen 26:30).
Joseph to his brethren (Gen 43:31-34).
Pharaoh to Jacob (Gen 45:16-20).
Jethro to Moses (Ex 2:20).
Rahab to the spies (Josh 2:1-16).
Men of Gibeah to the Levite (Judges 19:16-21).
Pharaoh to Hadad (1 Kgs 11:17,22).
David to Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9:7-13).
The widow of Zarephath to Elijah (1 Kings 17:10-24).
The Shunammite to Elisha (2 Kgs 4:8-10).
Elisha to the Syrian spies (2 Kgs 6:22).
Job to strangers (Job 31:32).
Martha to Jesus (Lk 10:38; John 12:1-2).
A Pharisee to Jesus (Luke 11:37-38).
Zaccheus to Jesus (Luke 19:1-10).
Simon the tanner to Peter (Acts 10:6,23).
Lydia to Paul and Silas (Acts 16:15).
Jailor to Paul and Silas (Acts 16:33-34).
Publius to Paul (Acts 28:7).
Phebe to Paul (Rom 16:2).
Onesiphorus to Paul (2 Tim 1:16).
Gaius (3 John 5-8).
Considerable blessing was conferred upon people in the above instances of hospitality. It became an environment in
which encouragement was ministered and the work of God was extended. In Zaccheus' case, salvation came to his house
in the atmosphere of hospitality. In Rahab's case, her whole family was spared because of her hospitality. The father of
Publius was healed because of his hospitality to Paul. The Shunammite woman was given a child because of her
Let the people of God be known for their kindly spirit, and for sharing their home and possessions with others.
We can well afford to receive others because Christ "has received us to the glory of God" (Rom 15:7).
One of the qualifications for an elder is, "given to hospitality" (1 Tim 3:2), and even being a "lover of hospitality"
(Tit 1:8). Before a widow can be supported by the church, she must "have lodged strangers, if she have washed the
saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted" (1 Tim 5:10). Such hospitality is to be given to one another "without
grumbling" (1 Pet 4:9).
Here is a virtue in which considerable advancement can be realized. The church is deficient in this area.
THE RESPONSE TOWARD OUR PERSECUTORS
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." Spiritual life expresses itself on all levels, and
in all relationships. There is no legitimate area of life where it is not productive, or does not bear fruit. Here, faith
responds to those who persecute and abuse the saints.
How are we to respond to those who hurt us - who persecute us, and do all manner of evil against us? How does
Divine life react to people like that? What kind of grace are we to seek to help in a need such as that?
Here is a challenge worthy of the people of God: "Bless your persecutors!" NJB Seek their advantage! Ask the Lord
to bestow benefits upon them. Pursue their welfare!
Jesus put it this way:
"But I say unto you, 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 on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just
and on the unjust" (Matt 5:44-45).
One of the traits to which Paul confessed was this: "being reviled, we bless" (1 Cor 4:10).
When a band of men and officers came to arrest Jesus in the garden, Peter rushed to His defense, drawing his
sword, "and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus" (John 18:10).
The reaction of Jesus to that deed is recorded by Luke. "And He touched his ear, and healed him" (Lk 22:51). He
blessed His enemies, and did good to those despitefully using Him.
Luke records the first words Jesus said after He was crucified: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they
do" (Lk 23:34). He was blessing His enemies, and those who persecuted Him. Stephen did the same regarding his
enemies, blessing them with these words, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60). He blessed them while
the stones they were throwing battered the life from his body.
bless our enemies is not a natural disposition, and it cannot be carried out in
the energy of the flesh. You will have to live in fellowship with Christ to do
it, and you really have no choice but to do so.
Do Not Curse!
Of old time, holy men were known to curse their enemies. Elisha cursed forty two children who had chided him
saying, "Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head." Two she bears forthwith came out of the wood and mauled
them all to death! On another occasion, when hostile men were sent to Elijah by the king of Samaria, he called fire
down from heaven upon them, consuming two groups of fifty, together with their leaders (2 Kgs 1:10-12).
Drawing upon these two occasions, the disciples of Jesus once confronted some Samaritans who did not want to
receive Jesus because they saw He was headed for Jerusalem. Infuriated by the circumstance, James and John asked
the Lord, "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?"
Most solemnly, the Lord replied, "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" (Lk 9:52-56). Thus did He set the tone for His followers to
If it seems too difficult for this word to be fulfilled in your life, you must consider Job, who had neither Bible nor
kindred spirits around him. He confessed, "If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself
when evil found him: neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul" (Job 31:29-30).
Even under the Law, the Lord demanded of the people, "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray,
thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and
wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him" (Ex 23:4-5). I doubt not that most Israelites failed to
see the kernel of truth in that commandment. But that must not be said of us!
Some centuries later, David, the man after God's own heart, acknowledged, "But as for me, when they were sick,
my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. I behaved
myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother" (Psa
Even Solomon declared, "Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall
not be unpunished" (Prov 17:5). Through the poor, the hearts of men ae discovered.
The Lord, therefore, has asked nothing of us that is too difficult. We have, by grace, been called into affiliation
with the One who reconciled us when we were enemies (Rom 5:10). We have been the recipients of great blessing, and
can now refrain ourselves from cursing our enemies, and those who do us harm.
REJOICING AND WEEPING WITH OTHERS
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."
Here is another admonition that
cannot be fulfilled by mere discipline, or out of a sense of obedience alone. Heart and affection can be admonished,
but they cannot be commanded, as in the sense of law. In this very sensitive exhortation we are urged to make the
experiences of our brethren our own. How can such a word be viewed as a cold and heartless commandment, or obeyed
out of a sense of obligation? Your heart will tell you such a thing is not possible.
Nature cannot rise to this requirement. It has neither the strength nor the inclination to do so. Neither, indeed,
can legalism fulfill this admonition. Job's "friends," driven by a spirit of law, were not able to weep with Job in his
sorrow, nor rejoice with him in his deliverance. They were suspicious, not sensitive, and antipathetic, not empathetic.
Although God refused to excuse their inconsideration, these men lived in the dim light of limited revelation. However,
those living in the high noon of the Gospel of Christ are abundantly capable of rejoicing with those who rejoice, and
weeping with those who weep. It only remains for them to do so.
This is an encouragement to identify more fully with those who are in Christ Jesus. The saved cannot always
rejoice or weep with the unsaved, for they do not have the same sense of values. While there are common experiences
in which measured empathy can take place (death, birth, etc), those occasions are not the thrust of this word.
Rejoicing with Those Who Rejoice
David provided an example of one trusting person rejoicing with another. "My soul shall make her boast in the
LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad" (Psa 34:2). And again, "They that fear thee will be glad when they
see me; because I have hoped in thy word" (Psa 119:74).
Elizabeth, who gave birth to John the Baptist, experienced the same type of fellowship. When John was born,
neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her"
Another picture is provided in the parable of the lost sheep. The good shepherd left the ninety and nine sheep to
find the one that was lost. Finding it, he carried it upon his shoulder "with rejoicing." Upon returning home,
calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which
was lost" (Luke 15:4-6).
One of the measures of true spiritual advancement is the ability to rejoice at the well being and successfulness
of our brothers and sisters. It confirms that we have been delivered from the tyranny of self. Thus, if "one member
be honored, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor 12:26). There is a great comfort that comes to us in the realization
that our brethren are rejoicing with us. It mitigates otherwise selfish tendencies.
Weeping with Those Who Weep
When we rejoice with those who rejoice, the joy is, as it was, multiplied. However, when we weep with those who
weep, sorrow is reduced, and made more bearable.
One remarkable passage that touches upon this matter, regards our consideration of those who are suffering in
bonds, or chains. "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being
yourselves also in the body" (Heb 13:3).
This is not a mere formality, like those who came to lament the passing of Lazarus (John 11:33-38), or the passing
of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37-40). It is an action driven by insight, and the capacity to participate in the experiences
of those of like precious faith.
WHY WE CAN REJOICE AND WEEP
Common. These responses are possible because of the "common faith" (Tit 1:4) that exists among us. We are
all members of one body, have the same values, have left the same condemned realm, and are headed for the same
Capacity. In Christ, we have the capacity to rejoice and weep with fellow strangers and pilgrims. We are able
to do this by virtue of the same Spirit that we possess. We also have been given the same kind of nature in Christ, and
have the same law written upon our heats and put into our minds.
Versatility. Faith can adapt to all kinds of experiences. While we are rejoicing in our own blessings, we can, at
the same time, weep with those who have been less fortunate. Suffering ones, on the other hand, can rejoice in their
brethren who have been exalted at the same time they are standing in the furnace of trial.
Faith works at the
extremities of human experience as well as at its center - in the valleys as well as on the mountains.
Many of us have been able to negotiate through very difficult times because our brothers and sisters wept with
us. Also, we have been able to handle great blessings without being overcome with pride, because our brethren rejoiced
with us. This is a good family benefit.
One might ask why such an exhortation is necessary. It is because the remnants of the old nature remain in us,
quite willing to express themselves during times of spiritual obtuseness. Sinful selfishness can overcome the
expression of mutual feelings if we do not walk by faith and live in the power of the Spirit. Satan is particular active
in this area, and thus we are to be alert to his delusions.
HAVING THE SAME MIND
16a Be of the same mind toward one another." Other versions read, "Live in harmony with one another,"
NIV "Have the same respect one for another," DARBY "Have the same regard for one another," NAB and "Give the same
consideration to all others alike." NJB This is another way of saying we are not to have "respect of persons," for "if ye have
respect to persons, ye commit sin" (James 2:9).
There are several texts in which we are admonished to "be of the same mind," embracing the same perspectives
of God and His great salvation, or having the same emphasis (Rom 15:6; 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Cor 13:11; Phil 1:27; 2:2; 4:2).
However, that is not the thrust of this verse.
The key here is "toward one another." That is, we are not to be selective about those with whom we "rejoice" or
"weep." We are not to have our favorites, so to speak, developing religious cliques, or groups. This is a lamentable
tendency that is quite common among professed Christians. Sectarianism encourages such a stance, driving wedges
between those whom faith unites.
This is having "the same love" (Phil 2:2) and thoughtful consideration toward one another. Being "of the same
mind toward one another" will move us to "by love serve one another" (Gal 5:13). We will thus live considerately of
one another, "forbearing one another, and forgiving one another" (Col 3:13), thereby encouraging growth in Christ
In this attitude, we view one another as we are in Christ Jesus, without regard to social or other fleshly
distinctions. We are all born of God, washed, sanctified, and justified. We have all received the Spirit of adoption, an
eternal inheritance, and grace for grace. Our names are all written in the book of life, the angels minister to us all,
and Jesus makes intercession for us all. Recalling these, and other things, will assist us in having the same regard
for one another. This will produce a pleasant spiritual environment in which encouragement and comfort will be
It must be remembered that faith has alienated us from the world. It does not and cannot love us, even though
we often receive helps from it. But they are not of the sort that are received from the household of faith, and are not
to be compared with the same. At the very best, those who are of the world can assist us in temporal ways. We are
grateful for such helps, but they are not to be compared with the lifting up of the hands than hang down, and the
strengthening of the feeble knees received amidst the saints of God. There is a comfort that is superior. There is a
help that is more excellent. There are advantages that are more beneficial, more laden with Divine resources. These
are blessings Jesus ministers through the members of His body. No one can bring these to us but those who are
reconciled to God. They are needful to us all.
THE RESPONSE TOWARD SELF
16b Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own
opinion." Once again, I am reminded of the presence of the sinful nature within us. It is what necessitates
exhortations like this, and we do well to remember it. You may recall the fierce spiritual struggle that was depicted
in the seventh chapter of Romans. There arise in us thoughts and inclinations that we hate, and we are powerless to
stop them from asserting themselves. Time and time again, we must reject them, throwing them down in the energy
of faith (7:15-18). All of this confirms that in our natural persons, or "flesh," there is nothing good, nothing
salvageable, nothing that must be allowed to dominate (7:18). With the Adamic nature we "serve the law of sin"
Salvation has freed us from an obligation to the flesh. We are no longer debtors to it, to live after it - even though it is
constantly crying to us for attention (8:12).
This condition is the reason for this word. There is in us a propensity that must be cast down to the ground, and
that with aggression.
MINDING HIGH THINGS
"Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble." Other versions read, "Mind not high
things, but condescend to men of low estate," KJV "do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly," NASB "Do
not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position," NIV and "Pay no regard to social standing, but
meet humble people on their own terms." NJB
The idea is that we are not to gravitate to people who appear to give us the greater advantage. The KJV version
accentuates this by saying, "condescend to men of low estate." The meaning is not to condescend to ourselves be men
of low estate (although that is emphasized in the next clause), but to be identified with others who are of lower social
The church in Rome had people from "Caesar's household" (Phil 4:21), and those who served in the households
of others, having none of their own (16:10,11). There was not to be division in the church with, for example, the slaves
meeting together in one place, and those of high social standing in another. The most advanced in Christ were to
associate themselves with those of most ignoble backgrounds and associations, showing no preference.
The Lord Jesus
Our blessed Lord lived out this spirit in a public manner. It was so contrary to the nature of the religious bigots
of His day, that they criticized Him for it. They said of Him, "Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend
of publicans and sinners" (Matt 11:19). Jesus was neither gluttonous nor a winebibber (drunkard). However, because
He condescended to bring the Gospel to them, His enemies thought He had become defiled by the association.
Again, when He stooped to wash the disciples' feet, He was condescending to be identified with men of low estate
(John 13:4-5). He was the King, yet was not demeaned by performing the work of a servant to those He Himself
Again, when mothers brought their little children to Jesus, that He would "touch them," His disciples were much
displeased. It seemed much to lowly for the Master Teacher to engage in such mundane things. Therefore, the
disciples sternly "rebuked those that brought" the little children. When the Lord saw this conduct, He was "greatly
displeased." He told His disciples to cease from forbidding little children to be brought to Him. He then took the little
children "up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them" (Matt 19:13-16). He stooped to be identified
with the lowliest estate of all - that of little children.
The Practice of Paul
We learn from Scripture that a certain runaway slave, Onesimus, was converted by Paul. This took place when
Paul was in prison (Philemon 10). Onesimus was probably in prison with Paul at the time. Later, Paul referred to him
as "a faithful brother," sending him to Colossae with Tychicus (Col 4:9). Eventually, Paul sent him back to Philemon,
saying he would prove profitable to his former master (Philemon 11-16). This circumstance would never have arisen
if Paul, from an illustrious Jewish background, did not associate with Onesimus the runaway. He was not haughty
in mind, but associated with the lowly. NASB This was not grace given to an Apostle, but grace for the saints.
Who can forget the time when Paul was shipwrecked. The entire crew of the ship, together with its prisoners (of
whom Paul was one), finally making it to the shore of an island of uncultured and "barbarous" people. Because of "the
rain, and because of the cold," the islanders received them, even kindling a fire for them. Paul, however, did not
simply sit by the fire, but "gathered a bundle of sticks" for the fire. In the process, he was bitten by a poisonous snake,
which he shook off in the fire, that no one else would be harmed (Acts 28:2-3). He condescended to be identified with
men of low estate, thereby opening the door for the Lord to work on that island.
The church has too long suffered from men of haughty spirit, who refused to be identified with those they
imagined were too lowly. It is our business to make sure this uncomely trait is not in us.
WISE IN OUR OWN EYES
"Do not be wise in your own opinion." Other versions read, "Be not wise in your own conceits," KJV "Do not be
wise in your own estimation," NASB "Do not be conceited," NIV and "do not claim to be wiser than you are." NRSV Flesh
tends to provoke us to overestimate our own worth. It is not unusual to find professing Christians engaging in all
manner of activities for which they are not well suited. Some, for example, imagine that academic credentials qualify
them for these tasks. Those in Christ are to "think soberly," and in strict accord with their role in the body of Christ
"Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!"
Solomon enjoined, "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil" (Prov 3:7). Again he warned,
"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him" (Prov 26:12). Paul warned those
who speculated about the Jews without hearing what God has said of them,
"For I do not want you, brethren, to be
uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel
until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in" NASB (Rom 11:25).
A person who is wise in his own eyes has used worldly standards to make that vain determination. He has asked
the world for the criterion of judgment. Such a person is solemnly warned,
"Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of
you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a 'fool' so that he may become wise" NIV (1 Cor
3:18). Whether it is in the area of logic, language, history, or other forms of worldly knowledge, the world cannot
produce "wisdom" in the child of God. The wisdom of this world, in its totality, is "foolishness in God's sight" (1 Cor
3:19). It tends top puff up, and cause men to over-evaluate their own worth before God and to the saints. Such people
must give heed to the words of our text!
Those who are "wise" in their "own opinion" are leaning to their own understanding. They do not understand
"through faith" (Heb 11:3), and thus their understanding is vain. For this reason it is written,
"Trust in the LORD
with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (Prov 3:5). The person who is wise in his own
eyes has failed to give heed to this word. For this reason, his wisdom is without value.
If this word was given due heed within the professing church, it would require changes of great magnitude. The
structure of local congregations and Christian institutions would be altered so radically, one would scarcely be able
to identify the results with what presently exists. There is a certain manner in place in the professing church, that
has assigned high value to things of minuscule spiritual worth. People with very little spiritual insight have been
vaulted into places of prominence. They have been given the responsibility of teaching and training others in the ways
of the institution while they themselves are grossly ignorant of the ways of God. It may appear that this is a harsh
judgment, and is characterized by inconsideration. However, when men are unable to move about in heavenly places,
handle the Word of God, and open the mysteries of the Kingdom, they are not wise, regardless of their imagined
credentials. A system that allows, and even encourages, them to consider themselves wise is seriously deficient, to say
the least. I doubt that it can be blessed by God.
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men." Good and evil are
all about us, personally impacting upon our lives. It is essential that we respond properly to them both.
DO NOT REPAY EVIL FOR EVIL
"Repay no one evil for evil." Other versions read, "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone," NASB and "Do not give
evil for evil to any man." BBE The commandment is firm.
Under the Law
Under the Law it was written, "But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for
tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (Ex 21:23-24). Again it was
written, "If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him; fracture for
fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him" (Lev 24:19-20). And again, "then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil
from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil
among you. Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Deut
The Law was a harsh and retaliatory system. It was ordained of God, and was suited for those who were not
reconciled to Him. It was a covenant for those who lived in the flesh, under the dominance of sin, with a defiled
conscience and an unchanged heart. It was designed to keep sin in check, lest it break forth on all sides, becoming
Because the people had not been joined to the Lord, and were unlike Him in their thoughts and ways, they were
often required to take some matters into their own hands. They were charged with the responsibility of restraining
sin from bursting out of bounds, as it did in the days of Noah. However, this was not the ideal situation, to say the
Under the New Covenant
Things are quite different under the New Covenant. This difference is not owing to a mere change of the legal
code. It is because men themselves are changed. Their sins are remitted, and the law of God is written upon their
hearts and put into their minds (Heb 10:16-17). They are partakers of the Divine nature (2 Pet 1:4), partakers of
Christ (Heb 3:14), and have been made "a new creature" in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17).
Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist
an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and
take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give
to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away" NKJV (Matt 5:38-42). In the
words of our text, "Repay no one evil for evil."
eter admonished us, "not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling" (1 Pet 3:9). Whether in word or deed,
those who do evil to us are not to be allowed to set our agenda, or determine how we react. The Lord is our Shepherd,
and as such dictates how we respond to our enemies.
If you are tempted to return evil for evil, heed this word: "Do not say, 'I will recompense evil'; Wait for the LORD,
and He will save you" (Prov 20:22). It is our responsibility to "See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but
always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all" (1 Thess 5:15).
Should we choose to ignore this word, all manner of evil will be awakened within us. When we set ourselves to
return evil for evil, the "old man" is raised in great strength, and begins to sit upon the throne of our heart and mind.
He will not rule us well, and will again put us on the broad road that leads to destruction. Returning evil for evil gives
a large room of residence to the devil, and he will not fail to occupy it.
REGARD GOOD THINGS
"Have regard for good things in the sight of all men." Other versions read, "Provide things honest in the sight
of all men," KJV "Respect what is right in the sight of all men," NASB "Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of
everybody," NIV and "but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all." NRSV
This is another call for a total departure from self-centeredness. We are to have a regard for how others - even
"everybody" - perceives our manners. This does not mean we are to become pleasers of men, for then we would cease
to be the servants of Christ (Gal 1:10; Eph 6:6; Col 3:22). However, there is a general sense in men, even unregenerate
men, of what is good and proper. While the wicked may not act upon this general knowledge, we must not be guilty
of violating that consciousness.
Prepare beforehand. By saying "Have regard," or "provide" for such things, the Spirit means we are to think
about our manners ahead of time. We are to consider how "all men" will view what we do - not because we seek to
please them, but because we do not want them to have a wrong view of life in Christ. Whether it is our
countenance, words, deeds, clothing, or social preferences, the world must not conclude that we are no
different than they. They must not see our profession as empty and without an impact upon our lives.
Avoiding offence. Young Titus was told to exhort young men about these things. The words given to him are
applicable to us as well, and we do well to take them seriously.
"Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded,
in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,
sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say
of you" (Tit 2:6-8). An aggressive exhortation, indeed!
Make no mistake about this, we are to "be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst
of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil 2:15). The name of the Lord and
His doctrine has suffered much reproach because of the manners of many who wear His name. They have not
provided for things honest in the eyes of all men.
Adorn the doctrine. There is a word spoken to slaves that is also a timely one for us all. It will have particular
application to those in the employment of others, yet can be adapted to every person in Christ. "Exhort bondservants
to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing
all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (Tit 2:9-10).
What others think of your expressions does have a bearing on how you are to live. If you live in violation of even
the common sense of goodness that all men have, you greatly dishonor the Savior, and place yourself in great jeopardy.
God will not ignore such inconsideration. Again, we live in times that require this to be taught aggressively. There
is far too much looseness in the professing church concerning this matter. The attitude of the people living under the
Judges has resurfaced to the shame of the church. "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that
which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Our text forbids such an attitude, for no person in Christ is
an island to himself. Hence, he cannot live independently of the body. The church is the "fulness" of Christ (Eph 1:23),
and thus is essential to us.
IF YOU DETERMINE THE CIRCUMSTANCE
18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." Other versions read, "Do
your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible," NLT and "As much as possible, and to the utmost of your
ability, be at peace with everyone." NJB Agitation and turmoil are the foe of spiritual progress. Many a soul
has gone down in defeat because of a troublesome environment! If you want a harvest of righteousness,
"the fruit of
righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace" (James 3:16). The NIV reads, "Peacemakers who sow in
peace raise a harvest of righteousness."
There is such a thing as being able to "MAKE peace" - that is what our text declares. This is not a constant
circumstance, or something over which we have total control. However, there are times when peaceableness depends
upon us: "as much as depends upon you!" A wise woman once said to the fierce warrior Joab, "I am one of them that
are peaceable and faithful in Israel." Her words spared a city, and only a single offender was punished. Peace
depended on that wise woman (2 Sam 20:19-21).
There is a sense in which we are the cause of division and agitation. Even as Jesus said of Himself, "Think not
that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt 10:34). But this is not the
preference of "The Prince of peace" (Isa 9:6). He prefers that men be reconciled to God, and gave His life for that
purpose (2 Cor 5:18-20).
So it is with the children of God. We do not desire to have war and conflict all about it. It is not in our heart to
set every person against us, and be constantly opposed in what we do. We find no delight in such circumstances. As
David would say, "I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war" (Psa 120:7). We will do everything short of
dishonoring our Lord to keep peace. We will not go out of our way to make war or cause dissension, but will extend
ourselves to "make peace."
As with all such matters, this high regard for peace is to be had in our associations with "all men, especially unto
them who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). May the words of our blessed Lord find residence in our hearts:
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt 5:9). The benefit is worth the effort.
THE RESPONSE TOWARD OUR ENEMIES
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is
Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
20 Therefore If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him
a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." This is a text worthy of deep contemplation.
Perhaps you have begun to see the magnitude of these exhortations. They extend far beyond the capabilities of
the flesh or mere civility. That is one of the reasons for the abundance of them, and the insistence that they be carried
out. This moves us to rely the more upon the Lord, showing us how utterly insufficient we are of ourselves.
If we keep religion in the realm of philosophy, it will place no pressure upon us. Nor, indeed, will it move us to
call upon the name of the Lord, or to see the futility of our own understanding and strength. But if we will hear the
words of this passage, particular regarding our response to our enemies, we will move beyond the boundary of
speculation. The passage before us is a most excellent example of this truth.
AVENGE NOT YOURSELVES
"Beloved, do not avenge yourselves . . . " Other versions read, "Never take your own revenge, beloved," NASB
"Beloved, do not look for revenge," NAB and "Do not give punishment for wrongs done to you, dear brothers." BBE
You are not to be the judge of your enemies, or the avenger of wrongs done to you. God has withdrawn that right
from you. The Lord does not allow us to take matters into our own hands, dispensing vengeance as though we had
omniscience. Even under the Law is was said, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of
thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD" (Lev 19:18).
One of the judgments again Edom, Esau's descendants, was that they took vengeance themselves. "Thus saith
the Lord GOD; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly
offended, and revenged himself upon them; Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also stretch out mine hand
upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall
fall by the sword" (Ezek 25:12-13). If God reacted in this manner to the self-assertive vengeance of the Edomites, what
will be His response to such conduct among those who wear the name of His Son?
This prohibition does not suggest that those who wrong you have not been duly noted by your Father in heaven.
In fact, it is written, "it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you" (2 Thess
1:6). You must believe His promise, and be willing to wait for Him. His judgment will be righteous taking everything
" . . . but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." Other
versions read, "but leave room for the wrath of God," NASB and "but leave it to the wrath of God." RSV The meaning
is that we are provide room for God to execute His wrath, not take it upon ourselves to settle the matter. The
implication is that if we take matters into our own hands, God will not work for us.
God has spoken, declaring the right to show wrath "belongs" to Him. It does not belong to us. The reason for this
is simple. "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). God's purpose is not served,
and His name is not honored by the explosion of man's anger. It is something to be controlled.
All of this means that unlawful wrath is resident in the flesh, and is to be subdued in the power of the Spirit.
"Wrath," or "outbursts of wrath," NKJV are part of the "works of the flesh" (Gal 5:20). If you have been truly wronged,
God will settle your case.
HOW TO TREAT YOUR ENEMY
"Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink."
How flesh cringes when it hears this
word! Once again, even under the Law, there was a glimmer of this kind of conduct. "If you meet your enemy's ox
or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you
lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it" (Ex 23:4-5). This
word, therefore, ought not have a strange sound to us, even though it is challenging.
These words are taken from Proverbs 25:21-22. "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be
thirsty, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee."
Jesus said the same thing in these words, "do good to them that hate you" (Matt 5:44).
If these words appear too difficult (and surely they are not), let us remember the action of our Lord toward us when
we were His enemies. "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom 5:10). Let us
also remember what our Father in heaven did. "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved
us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised
us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:4-6). These recollections will assist
us in doing good to our enemies whenever it is in our hand to do so. Although they may not receive the Word from us,
or give ear to our testimony, yet they may be put in a situation where they will receive the normal amenities of life from
us. Thus the way may very well be paved for the Lord to work in them as He did in Saul of Tarsus.
In So Doing
" . . . for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." This does not mean we intend to heap coals of fire
upon the heads of our enemies. Rather, it means that is what will result. We cannot do good to our enemies, giving
them bread and water, with the intent of bringing misery upon them. That should be evident, for it is not in keeping
with the spirit of the passage.
The figure of "coals of fire" heaped upon the head is, indeed, a figure of intense pain. This pain, however, is of a special
sort. It is the pangs of a condemning conscience - the bitter regret of having wronged someone to whom no wrong was
due. It is the conviction that the wrong inflicted by our enemies was not right. Thus the door is opened for repentance.
At least one paraphrased version emphasizes this: "and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you."
This teaching is also expounded by Peter, and confirms this is the intent of the passage:
"having your conduct
honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which
they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Pet 2:12). The day of visitation is the time when God judges
the person, whether in a temporal punishment, or when Jesus comes again.
Again Peter writes,
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone
who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they
defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed" (1 Pet 3:15-16).
Thus, a gracious response to our enemies can be used of God to convince them of their wrongdoing and move
them to repentance. By the same token, a failure to react in the prescribed manner will place the blood of our
persecutors on our own hands.
It Has Been Noticed
It is not that those who do evil to you have not been duly noted in heaven. Nor, indeed, does this mean they are
excluded from all judgment if they do not repent. But, we are not the ones charged with the responsibility of exacting
this judgment. We have been "joined to the Lord" (1 Cor 6:17), and He alone "will repay" (Heb 10:39).
OVERCOMING, BUT NOT OVERCOME
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Here is a short but pungent word. Here
is something we are NOT to do, and something we ARE to do. Both of them have to do with evil that is directed
toward us. Among other things, this alerts us to the inevitability of suffering at the hands of men.
WHAT WE ARE NOT TO DO
Regarding evil, we are not to allow it to overcome us. This is the evil that men do to us. Their persecutions are
not to be the means by which we fall. They are not to be the occasions when flesh erupts with defiling power. This
has to do with being slow to anger, and having control of your own spirit. As it is written, "He that is slow to anger
is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Prov 16:32). Nothing must be
permitted to stop the well of blessing flowing from us. Thus it is written, "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for
railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing" (1 Pet 3:9).
When "rivers of living water" cease to flow from our belly, or inmost person, we have been "overcome by evil" (John
7:37-38). It is possible for believers to actually be vanquished by the evil that is done to them. That possibility, however,
is only because of the flesh, which is to be subdued. As stewards of life, God has supplied us with all of the graces
necessary to "not be overcome by evil." If you will put on "the whole armor of God" and "resist the devil," you will NOT
be overcome by evil (Eph 6:10-18; 1 Pet 5:8-9).
WHAT WE ARE TO DO
If you are looking for a challenge worthy of a hearty effort, here is one. "Overcome evil with good!" In a way, you
can overcome the evil person by doing good to him when he does evil to you: feeding him when he is hungry and giving
him something to drink when he is thirsty. After all, "greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1
John 4:4). Why should you not be able to continue doing good, even when those aligned against you continue to do
If we avenge ourselves, we have been overcome by evil. If we "do good" to our enemies, we are overcoming evil with
good. In this case, overcoming evil does not mean evil disappears, or that the wicked cease to inflict evil upon us. Rather,
it means that the intentions of the evil doer are not realized. Daniel's opponents sought to get rid of him by
raising a false accusation against him. He overcame evil with good, continuing in prayer in spite of the threat of a lion's
den. The evil intent of his enemies was not realized. They were the losers, not Daniel. His response is still ministering
to and encouraging us.
As for you, you have been given even more grace than Daniel received. It is not that you are greater than Daniel.
Rather, you are participating in the salvation of which he received but faint glimpses. He lived in a preparatory period.
You are living in "the day of salvation" when more is being given to men than was ever given before. This is the time
of spiritual plentitude, when heaven has been opened to the sons of men. It is a time of fulness, satisfaction, and
adequacy. The way to God has been thrown open for heavenly commerce! The sun of righteousness has risen in power.
There is no reason why you cannot excel in this regard. I encourage you to put your hand to the plow!
Now, be up and doing this great commission! The Lord has set before you an array of responsibilities that are too
great to be fulfilled in the energy of the flesh. Mere human discipline cannot accomplish them. There is no secret
knowledge in the world that will put them within your reach. This is work for faith! It is doing that is accomplished
through the power of the Holy Spirit! Your "new man" can do all of these things, and your "old man" is set to resist
them. I encourage you to throw yourself into the doing of them, all the while calling upon the name of the Lord. As
you see them being fulfilled in your life, joy and confidence will come together in your heart, causing strength and
determination to become strong within you. Now, "Be of good courage . . . play the men . . . and the LORD do that
which seemeth Him good" (2 Sam 10:12). There is no reason why a harvest of righteousness cannot be enjoyed by you,
dear child of God!