Intro: We have given a lot of attention to Romans 12. This chapter is filled with various commands and admonitions, each with its own imperativeness in the life of the Christian. But taken from the beginning this chapter is a character description as well.
- Rom 12:2 – 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
These verses are not simply disconnected commands. They provide a character description of the transformed and renewed Christian.
1. The transformed Christian:
- Willingly gives his body as a sacrifice to God through consistent obedience to God’s will and moral purity.
- is humble and thinks of others more than himself.
- uses his God-given gifts to serve the body of Christ
- loves genuinely
- clings to what is good and hates what is evil.
- treats his brothers and sisters with kindness and affection.
- works diligently
- patiently endures persecution
- prays often
- gives to the needs of his fellow Christians
- practices hospitality toward those who are not Christians.
Although each of these commands are difficult and countercultural, nothing that Paul has commanded so far is more transforming than what follows: Rom 12:14 – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. This does not come easy, or naturally. If we are to do this we must be transformed.
I. What is Commanded?
A. “bless” – is translated from the Greek word, “eulogeo“ (we get the word eulogy from this word) – which means “to praise, or celebrate with praise.”
1. Albert Barnes says…“The word bless here means to speak well of or to. Not to curse again, or to slander, but to speak of those things which we can commend in an enemy; or if there is nothing that we can commend, to say nothing about him.”
2. To bless someone means to say good things about him or praise his good qualities. It also includes asking God to bless him and wish well for him. Matthew 5:44 – ” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” 1 Peter 3:8-10 – “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”
B. “do not curse” – the word curse here is “kataraomai” [kat-ar-ah’-om-ahee] Strong’s says this word means “to curse, doom, imprecate evil upon.” This word seems harsh to us. We seldom speak of cursing another person (unless we are referencing profane language). But this word also includes the reproachful or insulting word that is meant to hurt another.
1. Albert Barnes comments…. ” to implore a curse from God to rest on others; to pray that God would destroy them. In a larger sense still, it means to abuse by reproachful words;… or to express one’s self in a violent, profane, and outrageous manner.”
2. The command here is presented in the negative…”do not“(sometimes it is more difficult to refrain from doing what comes naturally). Do not wish evil upon your enemy or pray for God to bring him evil.
II. Why is this commanded? Why is this and important element of spiritual development?
A. It is What Jesus Taught: When we learn to react to evil people in this positive manner we truly follow the personal teachings of Christ. In fact we cannot claim discipleship toward Christ until we learn to bless and not curse our enemies. Jesus commanded more than just kind feelings toward one’s enemies (that is hard enough).
1. The Lord gave specific illustrations of what was involved. Luke 6:29-30 – 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. When the Christian obeys this command he is not only acting above the natural instinct but refusing to pursue his own rights. Do you justify or rationalize your unkind words or attitudes toward others (“He brings this on himself”; “I wish she would get what was coming to her”)
2. Jesus points out the how this behavior distinguishes the Christians form those around him. Luke 6:32-33 – 32 “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. To truly bless those who persecute us is to treat them as if they were our friends.
3. Obeying this command demands a different perspective on God’s work. If these people are persecuting God’s people and working against God’s purposes, wouldn’t God want to stop them? Wouldn’t it be better if they were destroyed? Luke 9:51-56 – 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Do you know what manner of spirit you are of?
a. Like Jesus, our main objective is to save our enemies, not condemn them. This changes everything. What do you want for your worst enemy?
b. In his commentary, John MacArthur talks about his nephew who was brutally murdered in the store where he was working by a drug addict looking for drug money. Although deeply grieved by his loss, the boy’s father (MacArthur’s brother-in-law) refused to become bitter or revengeful. Instead he prayed for the man and even visited him in prison to talk to him about Jesus. He sought to bless him, not curse him. What kind of impression would this make on you if your enemy treated you this way? Would you want to know more about his God?
B. It is What Jesus Did: This command is best exemplified in the life of Jesus Himself. As the sinless Son of God hung on the cross, He prayed with unimaginable mercy, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ love for even his worst enemies set Him apart from all others. (Muhammad has his enemies and he tried to annihilate them.) This attitude transformed Jesus’ disciples as well.
1. Acts 7:60 – 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. As the bloody stones were crushing the life out of him, Stephen echoed the very words of his Savior. ,
2. Later Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:21-23 – 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
3. Paul, as other disciples, lived by this principle and always sought to bless his enemies, just as Jesus. 1 Corinthians 4:12 – And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure;
4. Some ask, what of the imprecatory prayers and actions of men like David (prayed for the defeat of his enemies), Elisha (pronounced a curse on the blasphemous young men in 2 Kgs 2:24)?
a. One commentator said it well, “These did it by a special vocation and instinct of the Spirit”…(Poole) Some inspired men had the calling and aid to administer God’s wrath and judgment against sin. We, however, are called to administer mercy, and leave the vengeance to God alone. (Rom. 12:19)
Conclusion: God’s people need to develop this transforming attitude. It is a very practical and powerful way for us to reflect Jesus in our lives. IF we fail to treat others with mercy (and curse those we should bless) we will undermine our own testimony and teaching. Jesus’ willingness to bless those who were His enemies is what the gospel is all about. It is what made us who we are. It may be that this will open the door to save others. Rom 5:8-10 – 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.