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Marks of the True Christian

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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9. Let love be without dissimulation—"Let your love be unfeigned" (as in 2Co 6:6; 1Pe 2:22; and see 1Jo 3:18).

Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good—What a lofty tone of moral principle and feeling is here inculcated! It is not, Abstain from the one, and do the other; nor, Turn away from the one, and draw to the other; but, Abhor the one, and cling, with deepest sympathy, to the other.

10. Be, &c.—better, "In brotherly love be affectionate one to another; in [giving, or showing] honor, outdoing each other." The word rendered "prefer" means rather "to go before," "take the lead," that is, "show an example." How opposite is this to the reigning morality of the heathen world! and though Christianity has so changed the spirit of society, that a certain beautiful disinterestedness and self-sacrifice shines in the character of not a few who are but partially, if at all under the transforming power of the Gospel, it is only those whom "the love of Christ constrains to live not unto themselves," who are capable of thoroughly acting in the spirit of this precept.

11. not slothful in business—The word rendered "business" means "zeal," "diligence," "purpose"; denoting the energy of action.

serving the Lord—that is, the Lord Jesus (see Eph 6:5-8). Another reading—"serving the time," or "the occasion"—which differs in form but very slightly from the received reading, has been adopted by good critics [Luther, Olshausen, Fritzsche, Meyer]. But as manuscript authority is decidedly against it, so is internal evidence; and comparatively few favor it. Nor is the sense which it yields a very Christian one.

12. Rejoicing, &c.—Here it is more lively to retain the order and the verbs of the original: "In hope, rejoicing; in tribulation, enduring; in prayer, persevering." Each of these exercises helps the other. If our "hope" of glory is so assured that it is a rejoicing hope, we shall find the spirit of "endurance in tribulation" natural and easy; but since it is "prayer" which strengthens the faith that begets hope and lifts it up into an assured and joyful expectancy, and since our patience in tribulation is fed by this, it will be seen that all depends on our "perseverance in prayer."

13. given to hospitality—that is, the entertainment of strangers. In times of persecution, and before the general institution of houses of entertainment, the importance of this precept would be at once felt. In the East, where such houses are still rare, this duty is regarded as of the most sacred character [Hodge].

14. Bless—that is, Call down by prayer a blessing on.

them which persecute you, &c.—This is taken from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:44), which, from the allusions made to it, seems to have been the storehouse of Christian morality among the churches.

15. Rejoice with them that rejoice; and weep—the "and" should probably be omitted.

with them that weep—What a beautiful spirit of sympathy with the joys and sorrows of others is here inculcated! But it is only one charming phase of the unselfish character which belongs to all living Christianity. What a world will ours be when this shall become its reigning spirit! Of the two, however, it is more easy to sympathize with another's sorrows than his joys, because in the one case he needs us; in the other not. But just for this reason the latter is the more disinterested, and so the nobler.

16. Be—"Being"

of the same mind one toward another—The feeling of the common bond which binds all Christians to each other, whatever diversity of station, cultivation, temperament, or gifts may obtain among them, is the thing here enjoined. This is next taken up in detail.

Mind not—"not minding"

high things—that is, Cherish not ambitious or aspiring purposes and desires. As this springs from selfish severance of our own interests and objects from those of our brethren, so it is quite incompatible with the spirit inculcated in the preceding clause.

but condescend—"condescending"

to men of low estate—or (as some render the words), "inclining unto the things that be lowly." But we prefer the former.

Be not wise in your own conceits—This is just the application of the caution against high-mindedness to the estimate we form of our own mental character.

17. Recompense—"Recompensing," &c.—(See on Ro 12:14).


things honest—"honorable"

in the sight of all men—The idea (which is from Pr 3:4) is the care which Christians should take so to demean themselves as to command the respect of all men.

18. If it be possible—that is, If others will let you.

as much as lieth in you—or, "dependeth on you."

live peaceably—or, "be at peace."

with all men—The impossibility of this in some cases is hinted at, to keep up the hearts of those who, having done their best unsuccessfully to live in peace, might be tempted to think the failure was necessarily owing to themselves. But how emphatically expressed is the injunction to let nothing on our part prevent it! Would that Christians were guiltless in this respect!

19-21. avenge not, &c.—(See on Ro 12:14).

but rather give place unto wrath—This is usually taken to mean, "but give room or space for wrath to spend itself." But as the context shows that the injunction is to leave vengeance to God, "wrath" here seems to mean, not the offense, which we are tempted to avenge, but the avenging wrath of God (see 2Ch 24:18), which we are enjoined to await, or give room for. (So the best interpreters).

20. if thine enemy hunger, &c.—This is taken from Pr 25:21, 22, which without doubt supplied the basis of those lofty precepts on that subject which form the culminating point of the Sermon on the Mount.

in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head—As the heaping of "coals of fire" is in the Old Testament the figurative expression of divine vengeance (Ps 140:10; 11:6, &c.), the true sense of these words seems to be, "That will be the most effectual vengeance—a vengeance under which he will be fain to bend" (So Alford, Hodge, &c.). Ro 12:21 confirms this.

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

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

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