SUMMARY.--The Divine Mercy should Move Us. Being Transformed. Humility. Faithfulness in Our Own Personal Duties. Loving with Pure Hearts. Blessing for Cursing; Good for Evil. Leaving Vengeance to the Lord. Treatment of Enemies.
1, 2. I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God. The depth of the riches of the divine mercy has been shown in the argument of the preceding chapters, mercy for Jew and Gentile believers, and mercy in prospect for all Israel. The argument is now ended; God's plans have been explained, and the apostle appeals to those who have found mercy, in the name of that mercy, "to continue in the goodness of God." That you present your bodies a living sacrifice. The Jewish dispensation with its sacrifices was ended; it closed when Christ, "our passover," was offered for us. But a new order of sacrifice has come in. We should give ourselves. As the victim on the altar was surrendered wholly to God, so our bodies with all their members should be consecrated to his service; not as slain, but as "living sacrifices." We do this when they become the temple of the Holy Spirit, and are used to serve God. Reasonable service. The consecration of the body to God is not an outward act, like the sacrifice on the altar, but an act of the mind, or reason; hence "a reasonable service." 2. Be not conformed to this world. The spirit of the world is opposed to that of Christ. Satan is "the Prince of this world." Christ died (Gal. 1:4) "to deliver us from this present wicked world." Hence the service of Christ renders necessary a refusal to fashion ourselves after its ways. But be ye transformed. Instead of following the ways of the world, the Christian must be "transformed," changed into a new form of life by the renewing of your mind, by having a new spirit, and walking after the Spirit. That ye may prove. Demonstrate, show forth. The saint, transformed, renewed, will show forth in his life "the will of God."
3-5. For I say, through the grace given unto me. The grace given unto him, specially, was that of apostleship. See Rom. 1:5; 15:15; 1 Cor. 3:10. Not to think more highly, etc. A much needed exhortation. To be puffed up in one's own conceits is the end of progress. It is the humble who are exalted; those that hunger are filled. Think soberly. Let each one take a sober judgment of himself, of his powers, and duties. The measure of faith. That measure of faith which would enable one to exercise spiritual gifts. The verses that follow show that this is Paul's meaning. It is not the ordinary faith that saves the soul, but the extraordinary faith, which was accompanied in the first century by supernatural gifts, that is meant. 4. For as we have many members, etc. The church is likened to the human body in which the various organs each has its own office; so (verse 5) in the church, we being many, are one body in Christ, and all related to each other as the organs of the body are related.
6-8. Having then gifts. Each in the church had his duties, just as the hand, or foot, or eye of the body. These duties were indicated by the "gift" dealt out by "the measure of faith." They differed according to the grace that was given. Compare verse 3. One gift was given to one, as he was seen to be fitted for it, and another gift to another. Seven gifts are now spoken of in succession. The first four are official, and some of them are extraordinary. Whether prophecy. To prophesy was to speak by inspiration. As the early church did not yet have the New Testament, many were thus inspired to speak. One would be called to this work. 7. Or ministry. If instead of prophecy, our gift be the more lowly one of ministering, let us give our time and attention to it. The word rendered "ministry" is Diakonia, "Deaconship," service. Or he that teacheth. The work of an elder, or bishop, who must be "apt to teach." If this was one's work, his soul must be put into it. 8. Or he that exhorteth. He whose peculiar strength was to encourage feeble saints, and to stir up Christians to duty. He that giveth. A duty of all, which must be discharged without ostentation. See Matt. 6:2. He that ruleth. One who is an elder should attend to his duty with diligence, an exhortation that a great many elders have overlooked. Every leader should be diligent. He that sheweth mercy. Whenever called upon to show compassion.
9-13. Let love be without dissimulation. Not a deceitful profession of love, but genuine; not like that of Judas to Christ, or Joab to Abner: a kiss and a stab. Abhor that which is evil. Evil must be repulsive to the saint; good, on the other hand, attractive. 10. With brotherly love. The brotherhood of the saints was not a name only, but a real tie of tenderness and love; and each, in the spirit of true brotherhood, was to seek the honor of his Christian brother. 11. Not slothful in business. See the Revision. The idea is, "Give all diligence." Fervent in spirit. Zealous, enthusiastic, not indifferent. Serving the Lord. Whatever we find to do is to be done with our might, but above all, the service of Christ. 12. Rejoicing in hope. Hopeful, and hence rejoicing in the prospect. Patient in tribulation. Patient in sorrow, suffering and persecution. Patience implies steadfastness. In prayer. "Praying always and fainting not" (Luke 18:1). 13. Distributing. Making the needs of fellow saints your own and helping them. Given to hospitality. This duty was especially needful in those early days when Christians were so often driven from their homes by persecution.
14-17. Bless them that persecute you. See Matt. 5:44. Thus did Christ on the cross, and the martyred Stephen. He who can obey this precept is a transformed man. 15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, etc. Sympathize with the joys and sorrows of others. 16. Be of the same mind, etc. Let there be harmony; a spirit of concord. Mind not high things. Do not seek for official or social distinction. Obedience to this would eliminate caste from the church. Condescend to things that are lowly. So reads the Revision. Instead of seeking pre-eminence, we are to walk in lowly spirit like our Savior. Be not wise in your own conceits. Conceited and opinionated as the result.
18-21. Live peaceably with all men. If you can do so. Sometimes it is impossible. Sometimes sinners are exceedingly mad against the saints. But we are to be "peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9). 19. Beloved, avenge not yourselves. If we are injured, we are to leave the matter in the hands of God and give place unto his wrath. He sees and resents the injuries of his children. For it is written. Deut. 32:35. The Lord claims it as his prerogative to avenge what needs to be avenged. When we do it, we trample on the divine rights. 20. If thine enemy hunger, feed him. This is the spirit of Christ's command, to return good for evil. Compare Prov. 25:21, 23. Thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Thou wilt by this kindness most readily subdue him, and make him feel most keenly the wrong he has done. 21. Be not overcome by evil. Don't let the fact that you are treated wickedly induce you to do wrong, but overcome evil by returning good for evil. This sums up the whole matter respecting the treatment of adversaries. Happy would it be if the Christian world could come up to these requirements! The logic of kind deeds is more powerful than the logic of argument.