VERSE 16: RELATIONSHIP TO BELIEVERS
“Be of the same mind one towards another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in our own conceits.”
In this verse Paul may be anticipating the tensions between the Jews and Gentiles in the Roman church for he begins by urging them to be in harmony.
“Be of the same mind one to another.”
Literally: “Minding the same thing toward one another.”–This passage has been variously interpreted. “Enter into each other's circumstances, in order to see how you would yourself feel;” or, “Be agreed in your opinions and views;” or, “Be united or agreed with each other.” (Comp. II Cor. 13:11; Phil. 2:2-5).
A literal translation of the Greek will give somewhat a different sense, but one evidently correct. “Think of, that is, regard, or seek after the same thing for each other; that is, what you regard or seek for yourself, seek also for your brethren.”
1. Do not have divided interests; do not be pursuing different ends and aims;
2. Do not indulge counter plans and purposes; and,
3. Do not seek honors, offices, for yourself, which you do not seek for your brethren.
Live in a state of continual harmony and concord, and pray for the same good for all which you desire for yourselves. Let there be harmony; a spirit of concord. Simply put, Paul is saying that we are to live in harmony with one another. Like the spokes in a wheel that converge at the hub, the closer we are to God, the closer we come to one another.
“It was Admiral Nelson who, after one of his great victories, sent back a dispatch in which he gave the reason for it: ‘I had the happiness to command a band of brother.’ It is a band of brothers and sisters that any Christian church should be.”–William Barclay
MIND: (Grk.–phronountes)—In this verse Paul is doing a play-on-words with the Greek verb phronein, which means, “to think.”
The first use of phronein occurs when he uses verb form of the word, phronountes (meaning, “mind” or “minding”) two times, and then he uses the noun form of the word (phronimoi), which means, “wise.” Paul also uses these terms in some of his other epistles (v. 3; 11:20, 25; 15:5; O Cor. 4:10; II Cor. 13:11; Phil. 2:2, 5; 4:2) when he urging believers to be in harmony or to warn against pride.
“Mind not high things”
Literally: “Not minding high things.”–That is, not seeking them, or aspiring after them. Here Paul is urging against arrogance or pride.
The connection shows that Paul had in view those things which pertained to worldly offices and honors– wealth, state, and grandeur. They were not to seek them for themselves; nor were they to court the society or the honors of the men in an elevated rank in life. Christians were commonly of the poorer ranks, and they were to seek their companions and joys there, and not to aspire to the society of the great and the rich.
“And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not” (Jer. 45:5).
“Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the thins which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
We are to avoid al forms ofl pride and snobbishness; and understand that the standards by which the world judges people are not the standards by which God judges them.
1. Do not be ambitious; affect nothing above your station;
2. Do not court the rich nor the powerful; do not pass by the poor man to pay your court to the great man;
3. Do not affect titles or worldly distinctions; much less sacrifice your conscience for them. The attachment to high things and high men is the vice of little, shallow minds.
Such actions really display one important fact: that such persons are conscious that they are of no worth and of no consequence in THEMSELVES, and they seek to render themselves observable and to gain a little credit by their endeavors to associate themselves with men of rank and fortune, and if possible to get into honorable employments; and, if this cannot be attained, they affect honorable TITLE
“but condescend to men of low estate”
Literally: “But yielding to the lowly.”–Be a companion of the humble, and pass through life with as little ego noise and show as possible.
CONDESCEND: (Grk.– sunapagomenoi)— This word literally means, “being led away by, or being conducted by.” It does not really mean to condescend, budenotes a yielding, or being guided and led in the thoughts, feelings, plans, by humble objects.
The English word, “condescend” is really a feeble rendering of this Greek word, and really implies a patronizing sense. What Paul is saying is let the poor, godly man be your chief companion; and learn from his humility and faithfulness to be humble and godly.
LOW ESTATE: (Grk.–apeinois)–Literally: “lowly” or “humble.” This Greek word is an adjective, and may refer either to men or to things, and may be used either in the masculine or neuter gender.
It means that Christians should seek the objects of interest and companionship not among thegreat, the rich, and the noble, but among the humble and the obscure. They should do it because:
1. Their Master did it before them, and,
2. His friends are most commonly found among those in humble life; and,
3. Christianity prompts us to benevolence, rather than to a fondness for pride and display.
Let the poor, godly man be your chief companion; and learn from his humility and faithfulness to be humble and godly. False or man-pleasing professors would try to escape all this disgrace and danger by getting into the favor of the great, the worldly, and the irreligious. There have been in all ages of the Church who have made it their practice to shun the reproach of the cross by renouncing the company of the godly by speaking evil of the way of life, and perhaps sitting down in the chair of the scorner or with apostates like themselves. And yet these men will keep up a form of godliness!
“Be not wise in your own conceits.”
Literally: “Do not become wise within yourselves.”–Do not be puffed up with an opinion of your own self.
Do not have such an opinion of your own wisdom as to exalt yourself or despise others, or prevent your feeling your dependence, and obligation for all which you possess, to the grace of God. (Prov. 3:5-7). 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.
In other words, stop being wise in your own opinion. Many of the saints think they are spiritual giants, but they are not. Solomon, who was a man with wisdom from God, gave a very interesting injunction: “Seekest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 26:12).
“Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.” (Isa 5:21) The meaning is, Do not trust in the conceit of your own superior skill and understanding, and refuse to hearken to the counsel of others. “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).
VERSE 17-21: RELATIONSHIP TO UNBELIEVERS
“Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”
The natural impulse is to return injury for injury. But retaliation for personal injury is not for those who claim to follow the One Who told His disciples to turn the other cheek and go for the second mile (Matt. 5:39, 41).
“Recompense to no man evil for evil”
Literally: “To no one evil returning evil.”–Verse 14 forbade the feeling, and this is the act. It is only Christian love that can obey this command.
By not recompensing them is meant not avenging them. Do no evil to any one even though he does evil to you. This is directly opposite to the law of retaliation of the Pharisees referred to in Matt. 5:39. Hostility is to be met with a holy life.
EVIL: (Grk.–kakos)– By evil here, we are to understand to be wrongs and private injuries.
This is probably one of the most difficult precepts of Christianity; but the law of Christ on the subject is unyielding. It is a solemn demand made on all His followers, and it must be obeyed. The suggestion is that the believer may expect evil at the hands of the world. Satan and the world hate God’s saints who walk with Him, and will do them all permitted evil, but do not return such against such doers. If evil has been done to you, you are not to strike back.
1. Do not take notice of every little injury you may sustain.
2. Do not be litigious.
3. Beware of too nice a sense of your own honor.
Intolerable pride is at the bottom of this.
The motto of the Royal Arms of Scotland is in direct opposition to this Divine direction-Nemo me impune lacesset, of which “No one treads on me unpunished,” is a pretty literal translation. This is both antichristian and abominable, whether in a state or in an individual.
“Provide things honest”
Literally: “Providing for right things.”– Let your purposes be such that all men shall recognize their complete integrity. Do not engage in enterprises of a doubtful character that might bring not only yourselves but the Christian body into ill repute.
PROVIDE: (Grk.–pronooumenoi)-–This literally means, “to think or mediate beforehand.”–Make it a matter of previous thought; of a settled plan.
This word, “provide” in its modern narrow sense of furnishing or supplying is misleading here. This injunction does not refer to acts, but to the prudence which regulates them. This direction would make it a matter of principle and fixed purpose to do that which is right; and not to leave it to the fluctuations of feeling, or to the influence of excitement. The same direction is given in II Cor. 8:21.
THINGS HONEST: (Grk.–kala)–Literally, “honorable.”
The connection requires us to understand it respecting conduct, and especially our conduct towards those who injure us. The KJV inadequately translates this word as an exhortation by “honest.” Here the word is used in the full breadth of its ancient use, and is equivalent to that which is fair with the moral beauty of goodness.
It requires us to display a spirit and deportment that shall be lovely and comely in the view of others; such as all men will approve and admire. All persons who have ever been provoked by injury (and who has not been?) will see the profound wisdom of this caution to discipline and guard the temper by previous purpose, that we may not evince an improper spirit.
“in the sight of all men.”
Literally: “Before all men.”–Such as all must approve; such that no man can blame; therefore, such as shall do no discredit to the Christian faith. This expression is taken from Prov. 3:4.
Conduct in such a manner as is suited to meet the enlightened and conscientious approval of men. The idea is the care which Christians should take so to demean themselves as to command the respect of all men. The Christian spirit is one that the world must approve, however little it is disposed to act on it.
“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
“If it be possible”
Literally: “If possible.”– If it can be done; if others will allow it. This expression implies that it cannot always be done. Still it should be an object of desire; and we should endeavor to obtain it. That is, If others will let you. He makes it conditional, and this clause may be construed with the 17th verse.
Some people will always be quarrelsome, and it is barely possible to keep on good terms with them. In their case we must do our best, and if we cannot live peaceably with them, it will be fortunate for us if we can move off and live without them. Since men became enemies to God, they have been very ready to be enemies one to another. So far as the Christian is concerned, he is to do his best to maintain peace.
To live in a state of peace with one's neighbors, friends, and even family, is often quite difficult. But the man who loves God must work at doing this very thing, for it is indispensably necessary even for his own sake. A man cannot have broils and misunderstandings with others, without having his own peace very materially disturbed. Therefore, to be happy he must be at peace with all men, whether or not they will be at peace with him. Though it may barely be possible, still work at it. Give it the “old college try”!
“as much as lieth in you”– That is, If others will let you. As far as you can consistently with duty, cultivate a peaceful temper, and seek to live in peace; that is, as far as others will let 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 originate a quarrel.
Others may oppose and persecute us. They will hate our Christianity, 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 towards 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 display a Christian spirit.
“live peaceably with all men.”
Literally: “seeking peace with all men.”–To live in a state of peace with one's neighbors, friends, and even family, is often difficult. But the man who loves God must labor after this, for it is indispensably necessary even for his own sake.
A man cannot have broiings and misunderstandings with others without having his own peace disturbed. Therefore, to be happy, he must be at peace with all men, whether or not they will be at peace with him. Paul knew that it would be difficult to get into and maintain such a state of peace, and this his own words amply prove: And if it be possible, asmuch as lies within you, live peaceably. Though it is barely possible, work at it.
The impossibility of this in some cases is hinted at by the phrase, “as much as lieth in you.” To keep up the hearts of those who, have unsuccessfully done their best to live in peace, might be tempted to think the failure was necessarily owing to themselves. It may so turn out that some men have such 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 none the less do your part, let there be no default in you why you should not live in peace with all men whatsoever