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  • VINCENT'S NEW TESTAMENT
    WORD STUDIES - ROMANS 12

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    CHAPTER XII

    1. I beseech (parakalw). See on consolation, Luke vi. 24.

    By the mercies (dia twn oiktirmwn). By, not as an adjuration, but as presenting the motive for obedience. I use the compassion of God to move you to present, etc.

    Present. See on ch. vi. 13. It is the technical term for presenting the Levitical victims and offerings. See Luke ii. 22. In the Levitical sacrifices the offerer placed his offering so as to face the Most Holy Place, thus bringing it before the Lord.

    Bodies. Literally, but regarded as the outward organ of the will. So, expressly, Rom. vi. 13, 19; 2 Cor. v. 10. Compare Rom. vii. 5, 23. Hence the exhortation to glorify God in the body (1 Cor. vi. 20; compare Philip. i. 20; 2 Cor. iv. 10). So the body is called the body of sin (Rom. vi. 6; compare Col. ii. 11). In later Greek usage slaves were called swmata bodies. See Apoc. xviii. 13.

    A living sacrifice (qusian zwsan). Living, in contrast with the slain Levitical offerings. Compare ch. vi. 8, 11. "How can the body become a sacrifice? Let the eye look on no evil, and it is a sacrifice. Let the tongue utter nothing base, and it is an offering. Let the hand work no sin, and it is a holocaust. But more, this suffices not, but besides we must actively exert ourselves for good; the hand giving alms, the mouth blessing them that curse us, the ear ever at leisure for listening to God" (Chrysostom). Acceptable (euareston). Lit., well-pleasing.

    Which is your reasonable service (thn logikhn latreian). Explaining the whole previous clause. Service, see on ch. ix. 4. The special word for the service rendered by the Israelites as the peculiar people of God is very significant here. Reasonable, not in the popular sense of the term, as a thing befitting or proper, but rational, as distinguished from merely external or material. Hence nearly equivalent to spiritual. So Rev., in margin. It is in harmony with the highest reason.

    2. Conformed - transformed (suschmatizesqe - metamorfousqe).

    See on was transfigured, Matt. xvii. 2. For conformed to, Rev., correctly, fashioned according to.

    Mind (noov). See on ch. vii. 23. Agreeing with reasonable service. That good and acceptable and perfect will. Better to render the three adjectives as appositional. "May prove what is the will of God, what is good," etc. The other rendering compels us to take well-pleasing in the sense of agreeable to men.

    3. Not to think, etc. The play upon fronein to think and its compounds is very noticeable. "Not to be high-minded (hyperphronein) above what he ought to be minded (phronein), but to be minded (phronein) unto the being sober-minded (sophronein). See on 1 Pet. iv. 7.

    The measure of faith (metron pistewv). An expression which it is not easy to define accurately. It is to be noted: 1. That the point of the passage is a warning against an undue self-estimate, and a corresponding exhortation to estimate one's self with discrimination and sober judgment.

    2. That Paul has a standard by which self-estimate is to be regulated. This is expressed by wJv as, according as. 3. That this scale or measure is different in different persons, so that the line between conceit and sober thinking is not the same for all. This is expressed by ejmerisen hath imparted, distributed, and eJkastw to each one. 4. The character of this measure or standard is determined by faith. It must be observed that the general exhortation to a proper self-estimate is shaped by, and foreshadows, the subsequent words respecting differences of gifts. It was at this point that the tendency to self-conceit and spiritual arrogance would develop itself. Hence the precise definition of faith here will be affected by its relation to the differing gifts in ver. 6. Its meaning, therefore, must not be strictly limited to the conception of justifying faith in Christ, though that conception includes and is really the basis of every wider conception. It is faith as the condition of the powers and offices of believers, faith regarded as spiritual insight, which, according to its degree, qualifies a man to be a prophet, a teacher, a minister, etc.; faith in its relation to character, as the only principle which develops a man's true character, and which, therefore, is the determining principle of the renewed man's tendencies, whether they lead him to meditation and research, or to practical activity. As faith is the sphere and subjective condition of the powers and functions of believers, so it furnishes a test or regulative standard of their respective endowments and functions. Thus the measure applied is distinctively a measure of faith. With faith the believer receives a power of discernment as to the actual limitations of his gifts. Faith, in introducing him into God's kingdom, introduces him to new standards of measurement, according to which he accurately determines the nature and extent of his powers, and so does not think of himself too highly. This measure is different in different individuals, but in every case faith is the determining element of the measure. Paul, then, does not mean precisely to say that a man is to think more or less soberly of himself according to the quantity of faith which he has, though that is true as a fact; but that sound and correct views as to the character and extent of spiritual gifts and functions are fixed by a measure, the determining element of which, in each particular case, is faith.

    4. Office (praxin). Lit., mode of acting.

    5. Being many (oi polloi). Lit., the many. Rev., better, who are many. Every one (to de kaq eiv). The literal phrase can only be rendered awkwardly: and as to what is true according to one; i.e., individually, severally. Compare, for a similar phrase, Mark xiv. 19; John viii. 9.

    6. Prophecy. See on prophet, Luke vii. 26. In the New Testament, as in the Old, the prominent idea is not prediction, but the inspired delivery of warning, exhortation, instruction, judging, and making manifest the secrets of the heart. See 1 Cor. xiv. 3, 24, 25. The New-Testament prophets are distinguished from teachers, by speaking under direct divine inspiration.

    Let us prophesy. Not in the Greek.

    According to the proportion of faith (kata thn analogian thv pistewv). Analogia proportion, occurs only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek it is used as a mathematical term. Thus Plato: "The fairest bond is that which most completely fuses and is fused into the things which are bound; and proportion (analogia) is best adapted to effect such a fusion" ("Timaeus," 31). "Out of such elements, which are in number four, the body of the world was created in harmony and proportion" ("Timaeus," 32). Compare "Politicus," 257 The phrase here is related to the measure of faith (ver. 3). It signifies, according to the proportion defined by faith. The meaning is not the technical meaning expressed by the theological phrase analogy of faith, sometimes called analogy of scripture, i.e., the correspondence of the several parts of divine revelation in one consistent whole. This would require hJ pistiv the faith, to be taken as the objective rule of faith, or system of doctrine (see on Acts vi. 7), and is not in harmony with ver. 3, nor with according to the grace given. Those who prophesy are to interpret the divine revelation "according to the strength, clearness, fervor, and other qualities of the faith bestowed upon them; so that the character and mode of their speaking is conformed to the rules and limits which are implied in the proportion of their individual degree of faith" (Meyer).

    7. Ministering (diakonia). Let us wait on is supplied. Lit., or ministry in our ministry. The word appears in the New Testament always in connection with the service of the Christian Church, except Luke x. 40, of Martha's serving; Heb. i. 14, of the ministry of angels, and 2 Corinthians iii. 7, of the ministry of Moses. Within this limit it is used, 1. Of service in general, including all forms of christian ministration tending to the good of the christian body (1 Cor. xii. 5; Eph. iv. 13; 2 Timothy iv. 11). Hence, 2. Of the apostolic office and its administration; (a) generally (Acts xx. 24; 2 Cor. iv. 1; 1 Tim. i. 12); or (b) defined as a ministry of reconciliation, of the word, of the Spirit, of righteousness (2 Cor. v. 18; Acts vi. 4; 2 Cor. iii. 8, 9). It is not used of the specific office of a deacon; but the kindred word diakonov occurs in that sense (Philip. i. 1; 1 Tim. iii. 8, 12). As the word is employed in connection with both the higher and lower ministrations in the Church (see Acts vi. 1, 4), it is difficult to fix its precise meaning here; yet as it is distinguished here from prophecy, exhortation, and teaching, it may refer to some more practical, and, possibly, minor form of ministry. Moule says: "Almost any work other than that of inspired utterance or miracle-working may be included in it here." So Godet: "An activity of a practical nature exerted in action, not in word." Some limit it to the office of deacon.

    Teaching. Aimed at the understanding.

    8. Exhortation. Aimed at the heart and will. See on consolation, Luke vi. 24. Compare 1 Cor. xiv. 3; Acts iv. 36, where Rev. gives son of exhortation.

    He that giveth (o metadidouv). Earthly possessions. The preposition meta indicates sharing with. He that imparteth. Compare Eph. iv. 28; Luke iii. 11.

    Simplicity (aplothti). See on single, Matt. vi. 22, and compare James i. 5, where it is said that God gives aJplwv simply. See note there. In 2 Corinthians viii. 2; ix. 11, 13, the A.V. gives liberality; and in Jas. i. 5, liberally. Rev. accepts this in the last-named passage, but gives singleness in margin. In all the others liberality is, at best, very doubtful. The sense is unusual, and the rendering simplicity or singleness is defensible in all the passages.

    He that ruleth (o proistamenov). Lit., he that is placed in front. The reference is to any position involving superintendence. No special ecclesiastical office is meant. Compare Tit. iii. 8, to maintain good works; the idea of presiding over running into that of carrying on or practicing. See note there. Compare also prostativ succorer, Rom. xvi. 2, and see note.

    With diligence (en spoudh). See on Jude 3. In Mark vi. 25; Luke i. 39, it is rendered haste. In 2 Cor. vii. 11, carefulness (Rev., earnest care). In 2 Cor. vii. 12, care (Rev., earnest care). In 2 Cor. viii. 8, forwardness (Rev., earnestness). In 2 Cor. viii. 16, earnest care. With cheerfulness (en ilarothti). Only here in the New Testament. It reappears in the Latin hilaritas; English, hilarity, exhilarate. "The joyful eagerness, the amiable grace, the affability going the length of gayety, which make the visitor a sunbeam penetrating into the sick-chamber, and to the heart of the afflicted."

    9. Love (h agaph). The article has the force of your. See on loveth, John v. 20.

    Without dissimulation (anupokritov). Rev., without hypocrisy. See on hypocrites, Matt. xxiii. 13.

    Abhor (apostugountev). Lit., abhorring. The only simple verb for hate in the New Testament is misew. Stugew, quite frequent in the classics, does not occur except in this compound, which is found only here. The kindred adjective stughtov hateful, is found 1 Tim. iii. 3. The original distinction between misew and stugew is that the former denotes concealed and cherished hatred, and the latter hatred expressed. The preposition ajpo away from, may either denote separation or be merely intensive. An intense sentiment is meant: loathing.

    Cleave (kollwmenoi). See on joined himself, Luke xv. 15. Compare Acts xvii. 34; 1 Cor. vi. 16.

    10. Be kindly affectioned (filostorgoi). Only here in the New Testament. From stergw to love, which denotes peculiarly a natural affection, a sentiment innate and peculiar to men as men, as distinguished from the love of desire, called out by circumstance. Hence of the natural love of kindred, of people and king (the relation being regarded as founded in nature), of a tutelary God for a people. The word here represents Christians as bound by a family tie. It is intended to define more specifically the character of filadelfia brotherly love, which follows, so that the exhortation is "love the brethren in the faith as though they were brethren in blood" (Farrar). Rev., be tenderly affectioned; but the A.V., in the word kindly gives the real sense, since kind is originally kinned; and kindly affectioned is having the affection of kindred.

    In honor preferring one another (th timh allhlouv prohgoumenoi). The verb occurs only here. It means to go before as a guide. Honor is the honor due from each to all. Compare Philip. ii. 3; 1 Pet. ii. 17; v. 5. Hence, leading the way in showing the honor that is due. Others render antcipating and excelling.

    11. Slothful (oknhroi). From ojknew to delay.

    In business (th spoudh). Wrong. Render, as Rev., in diligence; see on ver. 8. Luther, "in regard to zeal be not lazy."

    Fervent (zeontev). See on Acts xviii. 25.

    The Lord (tw Kuriw). Some texts read kairw the time or opportunity, but the best authorities give Lord.

    12. Continuing instant (proskarterountev). Compare Acts i. 4; vi. 4. Rev., steadfastly for instant, which has lost its original sense of urgent (Latin, instare to press upon). Thus Latimer: "I preached at the instant request of a curate." Compare A.V., Luke vii. 4; Acts xxvi. 7.

    13. Distributing (koinwnountev). Rev., communicating to. The meaning is sharing in the necessities; taking part in them as one's own. So Romans xv. 27; 1 Tim. v. 22; 2 John 11; Heb. ii. 14; 1 Pet. iv. 13. See on partners, Luke v. 10; fellowship, Acts ii. 42; 1 John i. 3; 2 John 11. Given to hospitality (filoxenian diwkontev). Lit., pursuing hospitality. For a similar use of the verb compare 1 Cor. xiv. 1; 1 Thessalonians v. 15; Heb. xii. 14; 1 Pet. iii. 11. A necessary injunction when so many Christians were banished and persecuted. The verb indicates not only that hospitality is to be furnished when sought, but that Christians are to seek opportunities of exercising it.

    14. Bless (eulogeite). See on blessed, 1 Pet. i. 3.

    Them that persecute (touv diwkontav). See on John v. 16. It has been suggested that the verb pursuing in ver. 13 may have suggested the persecutors here. Pursue hospitality toward the brethren as the wicked pursue them.

    Curse not. Plutarch relates that when a decree was issued that Alcibiades should be solemnly cursed by all the priests and priestesses, one of the latter declared that her holy office obliged her to make prayers, but not execrations ("Alcibiades").

    16. Condescend to men of low estate (toiv tapeinoiv sunapagomenoi). Rev., to things that are lowly. Toiv tapeinoiv to the lowly may mean either lowly men or lowly things. The verb literally means being carried off along with; hence yielding or submitting to, and so condescending. Compare Gal. ii. 13, and see on 2 Pet. iii. 17, in which passages it has a bad sense from the context. According to the original sense, the meaning will be, being led away with lowly things or people; i.e. being drawn into sympathy with them. Farrar suggests letting the lowly lead you by the hand. Meyer, who maintains the neuter, explains: "The lowly things ought to have for the Christian a force of attraction, in virtue of which he yields himself to fellowship with them, and allows himself to be guided by them in the determination of his conduct. Thus Paul felt himself compelled to enter into humble situations." On the other hand, Godet, maintaining the masculine, says: "The reference is to the most indigent and ignorant and least influential in the Church. It is to them the believer ought to feel most drawn. The antipathy felt by the apostle to every sort of spiritual aristocracy, to every caste-distinction within the Church, breaks out again in the last word." Condescend is a feeble and inferential rendering, open to construction in a patronizing sense; yet it is not easy to furnish a better in a single word. 65 The idea, then, fully expressed is, "set not your mind on lofty things, but be borne away (apo) from these by the current of your Christian sympathy along with (sun) things which are humble."

    In your own conceits (par eautoiv). Lit., with yourselves; in your own opinion. See ch. xi. 25, and compare Acts xxvi. 8, "incredible with you," i.e., in your judgment.

    17. Provide (pronooumenoi). The A.V. uses provide in its earlier and more literal meaning of taking thought in advance. This has been mostly merged in the later meaning of furnish, so that the translation conveys the sense of providing honestly for ourselves and our families. Better, as Rev., take thought for. 66 The citation is from Prov. iii. 4, and varies from both Hebrew and Septuagint. Hebrew: And thou shalt find favor and good understanding in the eyes of God and man. Septuagint: And thou shalt find favor and devise excellent things in the sight of the Lord and of men. Compare 2 Cor. viii. 21. Construe in the sight of all men with the verb, not with honorable. Men's estimate of what is honorable is not the standard.

    18. If it be possible. Not if you can, but if others will allow. The phrase is explained by as much as lieth in you (to ex umwn), lit., as to that which proceeds from you, or depends on you. "All your part is to be peace" (Alford).

    19. Give place unto wrath (dote topon th orgh). Wrath has the article: the wrath, referring to the divine wrath. Give place is give room for it to work. Do not get in its way, as you will do by taking vengeance into your own hands. Hence as Rev., in margin, and American Rev., in text, give place unto the wrath of God.

    Vengeance is mine (emoi ekdikhsiv). Lit., unto Me is vengeance. The Rev. brings out better the force of the original: Vengeance belongeth unto Me. The quotation is from Deut. xxxii. 35. Hebrew, To me belongs vengeance and requital. Septuagint, In the day of vengeance I will requite. The antithesis between vengeance by God and by men is not found in Deuteronomy. Compare Heb. x. 30. Dante, listening to Peter Damiano, who describes the abuses of the Church, hears a great cry.

    Beatrice says:

    "The cry has startled thee so much, In which, if thou hadst understood its prayers, Already would be known to thee the vengeance Which thou shalt look upon before thou diest. The sword above here smiteth not in haste, Nor tardily, howe'er it seem to him Who, fearing or desiring, waits for it." "Paradiso," 22, 12-18.

    Compare Plato: Socrates, "And what of doing evil in return for evil, which is the morality of the many - is that just or not? Crito, Not just. Socrates, For doing evil to another is the same as injuring him? Crito, Very true. Socrates, Then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to any one, whatever evil we may have suffered from him.... This opinion has never been held, and never will be held by any considerable number of persons" ("Crito," 49). Epictetus, being asked how a man could injure his enemy, replied, "By living the best life himself." The idea of personal vindictiveness must be eliminated from the word here. It is rather full meting out of justice to all parties.

    20. Feed (ywmize). See on sop, John xiii. 26. The citation from Proverbs xxv. 21, 22, closely follows both Hebrew and Septuagint.

    Shalt heap (swreuseiv). Only here and 2 Tim. iii. 6.

    Coals of fire. Many explain: The memory of the wrong awakened in your enemy by your kindness, shall sting him with penitence. This, however, might be open to the objection that the enemy's pain might gratify the instinct of revenge. Perhaps it is better to take it, that kindness is as effectual as coals of fire. Among the Arabs and Hebrews the figure of "coals of fire" is common as a symbol of divine punishment (Psalm xviii. 13). "The Arabians call things which cause very acute mental pain, burning coals of the heart and fire in the liver" (Thayer, "Lexicon"). Thomas De Quincey, referring to an author who calls this "a fiendish idea," says: "I acknowledge that to myself, in one part of my boyhood, it did seem a refinement of malice. My subtilizing habits, however, even in those days, soon suggested to me that this aggravation of guilt in the object of our forgiveness was not held out as the motive to the forgiveness, but as the result of it; secondly, that perhaps no aggravation of his guilt was the point contemplated, but the salutary stinging into life of his remorse hitherto sleeping" ("Essays on the Poets").

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