Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
The doctrinal teaching of this Epistle is now followed up by a series of
exhortations to practical duty. And first, the all-comprehensive
1. I beseech you therefore--in view of all that has been advanced in
the foregoing part of this Epistle.
by the mercies of God--those mercies, whose free and unmerited nature,
glorious Channel, and saving fruits have been opened up at such length.
that ye present--See on
where we have the same exhortation and the same word there rendered
"yield" (as also in
Ro 12:16, 19).
your bodies--that is, "yourselves in the body," considered as the organ
of the inner life. As it is through the body that all the evil that is
in the unrenewed heart comes forth into palpable manifestation and
action, so it is through the body that all the gracious principles and
affections of believers reveal themselves in the outward life.
Sanctification extends to the whole man
(1Th 5:23, 24).
a living sacrifice--in glorious contrast to the legal sacrifices,
which, save as they were slain, were no sacrifices at all. The
death of the one "Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world," has
swept all dead victims from off the altar of God, to make room for the
redeemed themselves as "living sacrifices" to Him who made "Him to be
sin for us"; while every outgoing of their grateful hearts in praise,
and every act prompted by the love of Christ, is itself a sacrifice to
God of a sweet-smelling savor
(Heb 13:15, 16).
holy--As the Levitical victims, when offered without blemish to God,
were regarded as holy, so believers, "yielding themselves to God as
those that are alive from the dead, and their members as instruments of
righteousness unto God," are, in His estimation, not ritually but really
"holy," and so
unto God--not as the Levitical offerings, merely as appointed symbols
of spiritual ideas, but objects, intrinsically, of divine complacency,
in their renewed character, and endeared relationship to Him through His
Son Jesus Christ.
which is your reasonable--rather, "rational"
service--in contrast, not to the senselessness of idol-worship,
but to the offering of irrational victims under the law. In this view
the presentation of ourselves, as living monuments of redeeming mercy,
is here called "our rational service"; and surely it is the most
rational and exalted occupation of God's reasonable creatures. So
"to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus
2. And be ye not conformed to this world--Compare
but be ye transformed--or, "transfigured" (as in
by the renewing of your mind--not by a mere outward disconformity to
the ungodly world, many of whose actions in themselves may be virtuous
and praiseworthy; but by such an inward spiritual transformation as
makes the whole life new--new in its motives and ends, even where the
actions differ in nothing from those of the world--new, considered as a
whole, and in such a sense as to be wholly unattainable save through the
constraining power of the love of Christ.
that ye may prove--that is, experimentally. (On the word
"experience" see on
where the sentiment is the same).
what is that--"the"
good and acceptable--"well-pleasing"
and perfect, will of God--We prefer this rendering (with
that which many able critics [THOLUCK,
HODGE] adopt--"that ye may prove," or "discern the will
of God, [even] what is good, and acceptable, and perfect." God's will is
"good," as it demands only what is essentially and unchangeably good
it is "well pleasing," in contrast with all that is arbitrary,
as demanding only what God has eternal complacency in (compare
with Jer 9:24);
and it is "perfect," as it required nothing else than the
perfection of God's reasonable creature, who, in proportion as he
attains to it, reflects God's own perfection. Such then is the great
general duty of the redeemed--SELF-CONSECRATION,
in our whole spirit and soul and body to Him who hath called us into
the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ. Next follow specific duties,
chiefly social; beginning with Humility, the chiefest of all the
graces--but here with special reference to spiritual gifts.
3. For I say--authoritatively
through the grace given unto me--as an apostle of Jesus Christ; thus
exemplifying his own precept by modestly falling back on that office
which both warranted and required such plainness towards all classes.
to every man that is among you, not to think, &c.--It is impossible
to convey in good English the emphatic play, so to speak, which each
word here has upon another: "not to be high-minded above what he ought
to be minded, but so to be minded as to be sober-minded" [CALVIN,
ALFORD]. This is merely a strong way of characterizing all undue
according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith--Faith
is here viewed as the inlet to all the other graces, and so, as the
receptive faculty of the renewed soul--that is, "as God hath given to
each his particular capacity to take in the gifts and graces which He
designs for the general good."
4, 5. For as we have many members, &c.--The same diversity and yet
unity obtains in the body of Christ, whereof all believers are the
several members, as in the natural body.
6-8. Having then gifts differing according to the grace given to
us--Here, let it be observed, all the gifts of believers alike are
viewed as communications of mere grace.
whether--we have the gift of
prophecy--that is, of inspired teaching (as in
Anyone speaking with divine authority--whether with reference to the
past, the present, or the future--was termed a prophet
let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith--rather, "of
our faith." Many Romish expositors and some Protestant (as
BENGEL, and, though, hesitatingly,
HODGE), render this "the
analogy of faith," understanding by it "the general tenor" or "rule of
faith," divinely delivered to men for their guidance. But this is
against the context, whose object is to show that, as all the gifts of
believers are according to their respective capacity for them, they are
not to be puffed up on account of them, but to use them purely for their
7. Or ministry, let us wait on--"be occupied with."
our ministering--The word here used imports any kind of service, from
the dispensing of the word of life
to the administering of the temporal affairs of the Church
The latter seems intended here, being distinguished from "prophesying,"
"teaching," and "exhorting."
or he that teacheth--Teachers are expressly distinguished from
prophets, and put after them, as exercising a lower function
1Co 12:28, 29).
Probably it consisted mainly in opening up the evangelical bearings of
Old Testament Scripture; and it was in this department apparently that
Apollos showed his power and eloquence
8. Or he that exhorteth--Since all preaching, whether by apostles,
prophets, or teachers, was followed up by exhortation
(Ac 11:23; 14:22; 15:32,
&c.), many think that no specific class is here in view. But if liberty
was given to others to exercise themselves occasionally in exhorting
the brethren, generally, or small parties of the less instructed, the
reference may be to them.
he that giveth--in the exercise of private benevolence probably, rather
than in the discharge of diaconal duty.
with simplicity--so the word probably means. But as simplicity seems
enjoined in the next clause but one of this same verse, perhaps the
meaning here is, "with liberality," as the same word is rendered in
2Co 8:2; 9:11.
he that ruleth--whether in the Church or his own household. See
1Ti 3:4, 5,
where the same word is applied to both.
with diligence--with earnest purpose.
he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness--not only without grudging
either trouble or pecuniary relief, but feeling it to be "more blessed
to give than to receive," and to help than be helped.
9. Let love be without dissimulation--"Let your love be unfeigned"
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
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
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.
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.
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
17. Recompense--"Recompensing," &c.--(See on
in the sight of all men--The idea (which is from
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
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
which we are enjoined to await, or give room for. (So the best
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
(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"
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
(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"
(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
--(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
(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,"
(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
(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"
(9) Oh, how far is even the living Church from exhibiting the whole
character and spirit, so beautifully portrayed in the latter verses of
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!