If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
As much as lieth in you - This implies two things:
(1) We are to do our utmost endeavors to preserve peace, and to appease the anger and malice of others.
(2) we are not to "begin" or to "originate" a quarrel.
So far as "we" are concerned, we are to seek peace. But then it does not always depend on us. Others may oppose and persecute us; they will hate religion, and may slander, revile, and otherwise injure us; or they may commence an assault on our persons or property. For "their" assaults we are not answerable; but we are answerable for our conduct toward them; and on no occasion are we to commence a warfare with them. It may not be "possible" to prevent their injuring and opposing us; but it is possible not to begin a contention with them; and "when they" have commenced a strife, to seek peace, and to evince a Christian spirit. This command doubtless extends to everything connected with strife; and means that we are not to "provoke" them to controversy, or to prolong it when it is commenced; see Psalm 34:14; Matthew 5:9, Matthew 5:39-41; Hebrews 12:14. If all Christians would follow this command, if they would never "provoke" to controversy, if they would injure no man by slander or by unfair dealing, if they would compel none to prosecute them in law by lack of punctuality in payment of debts or honesty in business, if they would do nothing to irritate, or to prolong a controversy when it is commenced, it would put an end to no small part of the strife that exists in the world.
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!Hebrews 12:14. And to the discharge of this duty he annexeth a double limitation; first:
If it be possible; secondly: As much as lieth in you: q.d. It may so fall out, that some men are of such froward and unpeaceable tempers, that it is impossible to live peaceably with them, or by them: or such conditions of peace may be offered as are not lawful for you to accept; it will not stand with the truth and glory of God, and with a good conscience, to agree with them. But, however, do your part, let there be no default in you why you should not live in peace with all men whatsoever.
with all men; with those that we are immediately concerned with, in a natural relation; so husbands should live peaceably with their wives, and wives with their husbands; parents with their children, and children with their parents; masters with their servants, and servants with their masters; and one brother, relation, and friend, with another: and so with all we are concerned with in a spiritual relation, as members of Christ, and in the same church state; such should be at peace among themselves, 1 Thessalonians 5:13; peace should rule in their hearts, Colossians 3:15, and they should study to keep "the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace", Ephesians 4:3, yea, with all we are concerned in a civil sense; saints should live peaceably in the neighbourhood, towns, cities, and countries, where they dwell, and show themselves to be the quiet in the land; should pray for the peace of the place where they are; and do all that in them lies to promote it, by living themselves peaceably and quietly, in all godliness and honesty; yea, they should live peaceably with their very enemies, "if it be possible"; which is rightly put, for there are some persons of such tempers and dispositions, that it is impossible to live peaceably with; for when others are for peace, they are for war; and in some cases it is not only impracticable, but would be unlawful; as when it cannot be done consistent with holiness of life and conversation, with the edification of others, the truths of the Gospel, the interest of religion, and the glory of God; these are things that are never to be sacrificed for the sake of peace with men: the apostle adds another limitation of this rule, "as much as lieth in you"; for more than this is not required of us; nothing should be wanting on our parts; every step should be taken to cultivate and maintain peace; the blame should lie wholly on the other side; it becomes the saints to live peaceably themselves, if others will not with them.If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Romans 12:18. εἰ δυνατὸν: cf. Matthew 24:24. τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν: for what depends on you. Cf. Romans 1:15. Over others’ conduct we have no control; but the initiative in disturbing the peace is never to lie with the Christian.18. If it be possible, &c.] Cp. Hebrews 12:14; and see 1 Peter 3:9-13.
as much as lieth in you] Lit. as regards what is on your side; “you” being emphatic here: q. d., “Let the peace, if broken, be broken from the other side.” The spirit of the Saviour’s precepts best illustrates this verse; Matthew 5:39-41.—“Peaceable living” would be “impossible,” on the Christian’s side, only when duty to others required him to withstand or expose wrong-doing.Romans 12:18. Ἐι, if) if possible. He makes it conditional, and this clause may be construed with the 17th verse, inasmuch as good actions, especially if cirumspection be wanting, may often appear to some not so good as they really are.—τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν, so far as it lieth in you) This is a limitation, for it is not always possible owing to others.—μετὰ πάντων ἀνθρώπων, with all men) of whom there was a very great conflux at Rome. No man is so savage, as not to have the feelings of humanity towards some individuals, but we ought to be peaceful, gentle, meek towards all, Php 4:5; 2 Timothy 2:24; Titus 3:2. [Once and again at some time or other in the whole course of our life, we have to transact business with some individual, and according as we behave to him, so he ever after forms his estimate of our character and general conduct.—V. g.]—εἰρηνεύοντες, being at peace) Romans 14:17; Romans 14:19.Verses 18-21. - If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto wrath. The thought in ver. 19 seems to follow from what precedes. It may sometimes be impossible to he at peace with all; but at any rate, do not increase bitterness by avenging yourselves. Give place unto wrath (τῇ ὀργῇ), has been taken by some to mean that we are to give scope to the wrath of our enemy, instead of being exasperated to resist it (cf. Matthew 5:39, etc.). But there has been no particular reference to a wrathful adversary. Another view is that our own wrath is intended, to which we are to allow time to expend itself before following its impulse; δότε τόπον being taken as equivalent to data spatium in Latin (cf. Lactantius, 'De Ira,' 18, "Ego vero laudarem, si, cum fuisset iratus, dedis-set irae suae spatium, ut, residente per intervallum temporis animi tumore, haberet modum castigatio." Also Livy, 8:32, "Legati circumstantes sellam orabant, ut rem in posterum diem differret, et irae suae spatium, et consilio tempus daret." There seems, however, to be no known instance elsewhere of this use of the Greek phrase. Chrysostom, Augustine, Theodoret, and most commentators, understand the meaning to be that we are to give place to the wrath of God, not presuming to forestall it. The wrath, used absolutely, might be an understood expression for the Divine wrath against sin (cf. Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:16); and this interpretation suits the usual sense of δότε τόπον. It is not thus implied that the falling of Divine vengeance on our enemy should be our desire and purpose, but only this - that, if punishment is due, we must leave it to the righteous God to inflict it; it is not for us to do so. And this interpretation suits what immediately follows. For it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35, quoted freely from the Hebrew, but with the words ἐκδίκησις and ἀνταποδώσω as found in the LXX. The fact that the same form of quotation occurs also in Hebrews 10:30 seems to show that it was one in current use). But (so rather than wherefore, as in the Authorized Version) if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. This whole verse is from Proverbs 25:21, 22, where is added, "and the Lord shall reward thee." What is meant by the "coals of fire," both in the original and in St. Paul's citation, has been much discussed. Undoubtedly, the expression in itself, in view of its usual significance in the Old Testament, suggests only the idea of Divine vengeance (see Psalm 18:12; Psalm 120:4; Psalm 140:10; and especially 2 Esdras 16:53. Cf. also Psalm 11:6; Habakkuk 3:5); and this especially as it occurs here almost immediately after "Vengeance is mine." Hence Chrysostom and other Fathers, as well as some moderns, have taken it to mean that by heaping benefits on our enemy we shall aggravate his guilt, and expose him to severer punishment from God. But it is surely incredible that the apostle should have meant to suggest such a motive for beneficence; and the whole tone of the context is against it, including that of ver. 21, which follows. Jerome saw this, writing," Carbones igitur congregabis super caput ejus, non in maledictum et condemnationem, ut plerique existimant, sed in correctionem et poenitudinem." But if the "coals of fire" mean the Divine judgment on our enemy, there is nothing to suggest a corrective purpose. The view, held by some, that the softening effect of fire on metals is intended, is hardly tenable. Heaping coals of fire on a person's head would be an unnatural way of denoting the softening of his heart. More likely is the view which retains the idea of coals of fire carrying with it, as elsewhere, that of punishment and the infliction of pain, but regards the pain as that of shame and compunction, which may induce penitence. This appears to be the most generally received view. It is, however, a question whether any such effect is definitely in the writer's view. He may mean simply this: Men in general desire vengeance on their enemies, expressed proverbially by heaping coals of fire on the head. Hast thou an enemy? Do him good. This is the only vengeance, the only coals of fire, allowed to a Christian. Then follows naturally, Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Not if you can, but if others will allow. The phrase is explained by as much as lieth in you (τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν), lit., as to that which proceeds from you, or depends on you. "All your part is to be peace" (Alford).
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