1 In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul has presented the main doctrines and teachings of the Christian religion. He has laid the foundation of our faith. In brief, these teachings are as follows. We have been united with Christ. Through Christ’s death, our “old self’ has died, and the rule of sin in our lives has come to an end. Through Christ’s resurrection, our “new self’ has come to life. We have received Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, through whom we receive the guidance and the power to lead holy and righteous lives.
Hate what is evil. This world of men is evil; it is under the control of Satan. Therefore, to say, Hate what is evil, is the same as saying, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (verse 2).
… cling to what is good. Hold it fast! Satan is always trying to draw us away from what is good; therefore, we must cling to it.
10 How should Christians love one another? We must love each other with brotherly love (see Hebrews 13:1). We must be devoted to one another like parents are devoted to their children. Christians should love all men, but they should especially love their brothers and sisters in the church (see Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 4:8 and comments). We should love each other as Christ loved us (see John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:1618 and comments).
Love is respectful; the person who loves his brother also honors his brother. We must always regard others as being above ourselves (see Philippians 2:3 and comment). If we do this, division and strif e in the church will never arise. Let the other person have the honor, the position, the credit; let us not seek these things for ourselves.
Why is there division in our churches? Because each of us is seeking honor for himself and not giving it to others. We suppose ourselves to be “straight” and the other man “crooked.” We imagine our work to be worthy, and the other man’s unworthy. We are always elevating ourselves in our own eyes. When we do this, division is not far away.
11 … keep your spiritual fervor. Paul is referring here to both our own human spirit and to the Holy Spirit. To keep our spiritual fervor means that our human spirit must keep responding to God’s Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit our own spirits are made alive; through the Holy Spirit we are filled with zeal. Therefore, let us do nothing to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (see 1 Thessa-lonians 5:19).
12 Because of our hope, we can be joyful. Because of our hope—that is, hope in salvation—we can persevere in times of trouble and suffering (Romans 5:2-4). And trouble and suffering are going to come one day to every Christian (2 Timothy 3:12). On that day, especially, we will need to remember this verse: Be joyful in hope.
In order to be patient in affliction, we will need to be faithful in prayer. Through prayer we will receive the strength and patience to endure affliction (Acts 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
13 Share with God’s people who are in need. We must never neglect our own Christian brothers and sisters who are in need; we must meet their needs before we go out and meet the needs of non-Christians. But we are only required to provide what they need, not what they want. Sometimes Christians can spend so much time caring for each other that they end up neglecting their neighbors outside the church.
To practice hospitality is an important Christian duty. We should always be looking for opportunities to practice hospitality—instead of doing it only when we have to! (1 Peter 4:9). And remember, let us not be hospitable only to those who can be hospitable to us in return. Rather let us be especially hospitable to those who will never be able to pay us back (see Matthew 5:46-47; Luke 6:32-34; 14:12-14 and comments).
14 In this verse, the word bless means to show kindness and love. We should pray that God will bless our enemies (see Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27-28 and comment). It is not by our own strength but only by Christ’s Holy Spirit that we can love our enemies in this way.
Christ is our example: instead of resisting, He prayed; instead of accusing, He forgave; instead of hating, He loved; instead of bringing death, He brought life (see Luke 23:34).
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice. Sometimes we are unhappy when our brother is happy or successful. This comes from envy (see Luke 15:25-30). Sometimes we are inwardly happy when our brother has failed, or is sad or in trouble. We are secretly pleased at his fall; because when he is “down,” we feel “up.”
But Paul says: Let this not be. When our brother is rejoicing, let us rejoice with him (see 1 Corinthians 12:26). When our brother is sad, let us share in his sadness. When our brother is burdened, let us help him carry that burden (see Galatians 6:2 and comment).
16 Live in harmony. … Do not be proud. In order to remain in harmony with one another we must remain humble; pride destroys unity (see Ephesians 4:2-3 and comment).
If we are of one body, then we must be of one mind (see 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2 and comments). Let us not look down on each other. Is the hand better than the eye? Is the tongue better than the foot? No. Therefore, let us respect one another (see 1 Corinthians 12:21-27 and comment).
… be willing to associate with people of low position.69 This means to be willing not only to associate with those of lower position but also to do their work. Paul’s point here is that Christians must never make differences between people according to such things as birth, caste, or financial status (see James 2:1-4 and comment). And especially they must not make such distinctions among fellow believers! Since we are all members of one body, those believers of higher position must willingly associate with those of lower position.
Do not be conceited. Let us not consider ourselves wise. It’s good to be wise, but it’s not good to think we’re wise! Let us not always go around thinking, “I’m right.” The man who is always sure he’s right is very hard to teach; even God can’t teach such a man.
People who are educated of ten become conceited—that is, wise in their own eyes. Let not the educated people look down on the uneducated. True wisdom isn’t learned mainly in schools! It is learned mainly from God—from His Spirit, from His word (the Bible), and from fellow believers in the church. of ten the uneducated members of the church will have more wisdom on certain matters than the educated will!
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil (see Matthew 5:38-41; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9 and comments).
We must not only do what is right in the eyes of God; we must do what is right in the eyes of everybody70 (2 Corinthians 8:21). Otherwise, we shall bring dishonor on Christ (see Romans 14:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and comments).
18 It is not possible all the time to live at peace with everyone. We cannot live totally at peace with some people—evildoers, for example. We must oppose evil. We must oppose those who oppose Christ, especially those who dishonor Him and seek to block His work. But our opposition must be under God’s guidance; we must not engage in conflict unless God is going to be glorified by it. Paul is here giving a general rule: if it is possible, live at peace—even with your enemies.71
However, within the church there must always be peace (see Romans 14:19; Ephe-sians 4:3 and comments).
19 Do not take revenge. This command is the same as Paul’s command in verse 17: Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
We must never take any kind of revenge for any reason (Proverbs 20:22). When we are hurt in some way by another person, even by a Christian brother, our natural tendency is to find some way of getting even, of taking revenge. What kinds of things do we usually do to take revenge? We might refuse to speak to the person who hurt us. Not to speak is itself a form of revenge; by not speaking we are withdrawing our friendship and fellowship from that person. Our inner desire is to hurt him. And that is revenge. Instead of refusing to talk to the person who has hurt us, we should go to him and forgive him! We should try as quickly as possible to forget the wrong he has done.
Furthermore, it is not necessary for us to take revenge: God Himself will always avenge us. “It is mine to avenge,” says God (Deuteronomy 32:35). God will judge all men; He will reward every man according to his work—whether it be good or evil (see Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 10:30; Revelation 22:12 and comments).
20 Paul here quotes from Proverbs 25:21-22. The meaning of the proverb is that if we do good to our enemy, he will of ten become embarrassed and ashamed for the wrong he has done us. He will “burn with shame.” This is one of the meanings of the words: In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. The burning coals are also a sign of God’s judgment; if our enemy does not repent, our kindness to him will make his of fense worse by contrast, and his judgment will be more severe.
There is an additional meaning in this proverb: namely, the best way to overcome your enemy is to turn him into your friend!
21 Evil is all around us. Sometimes Christians become discouraged and cast down by evil. They suffer on account of evil men. Sometimes they cry out, “I can’t take it!” Their faith weakens; they become separated from God.
Let this not happen to us! Even though evil is all around us, we can with God’s help overcome evil with good. Just as light always overcomes darkness, so good always overcomes evil.
Paul’s words, overcome evil with good, are a command, not a suggestion! Whenever God gives a command, He always provides the means and the strength needed to carry out the command.