Monday, April 01, 2024

2024.04.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 12:17–21

Read Romans 12:17–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What aren’t we to do to anyone (Romans 12:17)? For what are we to have regard? Before whom? What does Romans 12:18 command? Under what conditions? To what extent? How does the apostle address them in Romans 12:19? What does he tell them not to do? What should they do instead? Why? To whom does what belong? What will He do? Who says? What should we do with a hungry enemy (Romans 12:20)? What should we do with a thirsty one? What will we do in this way? What does Romans 12:21 say not to do? What does it say to do?

What about our relationships outside the church? Romans 12:17–21 prepares us for the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we should live godly and peaceably with all, and especially love our enemies. 

How to live with all menRomans 12:17-18. With Romans 12:17 we move out of the sphere of “one another” (cf. Romans 12:16) into how we are to relate to “all men” (Romans 12:17Romans 12:18). If we needed to be prepared to respond rightly to sinners within the church (Romans 12:14), how much more we need that instruction when dealing with the world! 

One thing that we have learned throughout the book of Romans is that we never know whom the Lord might save. The apostle who penned the letter is a prime example of this. How amazing it might have been for a persecuted believer, who blessed Saul of Tarsus and prayed for him, to hear of his conversion and subsequently of all of his ministry. Repaying evil for evil isn’t permitted for anyone (Romans 12:17a). And it doesn’t matter whose eyes are upon us, we must always act with a view toward what is good (verse 17b). 

Similarly, Romans 12:18 tells us to live peaceably with all men. The first two clauses acknowledge that sometimes peace is not possible; sometimes peace just isn’t something we have the opportunity to bring about. But, the command as a whole still implies that we will often be able to forge/maintain peace with others. So, while Romans 12:1-16 has made it clear that there ought to be a transformed, other-worldly quality to our relationships within the church, now Romans 12:17-18 make it equally clear that all of our relationships should be affected by the transformation we have gone through. 

What to do with enemiesRomans 12:19-21. If the gospel changes how we treat everyone (Romans 12:17-18), then there is one group with whom our interactions will be very different than that of unbelievers: enemies (Romans 12:19-21). There will be those who do not merely do us ill as a one-off, but who are enemies (Romans 12:20) and evil (Romans 12:21).  It is in dealing with enemies that believers especially differentiate themselves from the world (cf. Matthew 5:44–48). Romans 12:17 already told us not to do them ill back; now Romans 12:19 reminds us that vengeance is not given to any individual in himself. 

There are earthly avengers of those who practice evil (Romans 13:4), and we must submit to Christ’s institutions and order. Even more, we must remember that ultimate vengeance isn’t something that anyone else has right or ability to exercise; only the Lord Himself can do that. “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” Sin is, first and foremost, against the Lord. And repayment is, ultimately, only possible from the Lord.

This frees us up to love our enemies, to keep notice of if he is hungry or if he is thirsty, so that we can rush to minister to him as providence affords us opportunity. Either the coals of fire in the last of Romans 12:20 will be the increasing pressure, of the wrath of God, by which the enemy is saved; or, it is the increased wrath that he will suffer for having continue to sin even against the Christian that loved him. In both situations, the “good” of the believer overcomes the “evil” of his enemy (Romans 12:21). 

What unbelievers regularly get a chance to observe you and interact with you? What do they see and experience? Who does you evil? Who might even count you as an enemy? What are ways that you can come up with to do them good?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for Christ, and for His conduct before all men, and His love for His enemies. Indeed, we were once those enemies. But now that You have joined us to Him by Your grace, give us to live peaceably with all men and to love our own enemies. Your wrath and vengeance are perfect. Grant unto us the humility and faith to leave that entirely in Your hands. And enable us to overcome evil with good, we ask, through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP109A  “God of My Praise” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes” 

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