16. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things,
but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
16. Mutuo alii in altos sensu affecti, non arroganter de vobis sentientes,
sed humilibus vos accommodantes: ne sitis apud vos ipsos prudentes.
16. Not thinking arrogantly of yourselves,etc. The Apostle employs words
in Greek more significant, and more suitable to the antithesis, “Not thinking,”
he says, “of high things:” by which he means, that it is not the part of
a Christian ambitiously to aspire to those things by which he may excel
others, nor to assume a lofty appearance, but on the contrary to exercise
humility and meekness: for by these we excel before the Lord, and not by
pride and contempt of the brethren. A precept is fitly added to the preceding;
for nothing tends more to break that unity which has been mentioned, than
when we elevate ourselves, and aspire to something higher, so that we may
rise to a higher situation. I take the term humble in the neuter gender,
to complete the antithesis.
Here then is condemned all ambition and that elation of mind which insinuates
itself under the name of magnanimity; for the chief virtue of the faithful
is moderation, or rather lowliness of mind, which ever prefers to give
honor to others, rather than to take it away from them.
Closely allied to this is what is subjoined: for nothing swells the
minds of men so much as a high notion of their own wisdom. His desire then
was, that we should lay this aside, hear others, and regard their counsels.
Erasmus has rendered froni>mouv, arrogantes — arrogant; but the rendering
is strained and frigid; for Paul would in this case repeat the same word
without any meaning. However, the most appropriate remedy for curing arrogance
is, that man should not be over-wise in his own esteem.
17. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in
the sight of all men.
17. Nemini malum pro malo rependentes, providentes bona coram omnibus
18. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with
18. Si fieri potest, quantum est in vobis, cum omnibus hominibus
19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place
unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the
19. Non vosmetipsos ulciscentes, dilecti; sed date locum irae; scriptum
est enim, Mihi vindictam, et ego rependam, dicit Dominus.
17. Repaying to no one, etc. This differs but little from what shortly
after follows, except that revenge is more than the kind of repaying of
which he speaks here; for we render evil for evil sometimes, even when
we exact not the requiting of an injury, as when we treat unkindly those
who do us no good. We are indeed wont to form an estimate of the deserts
of each, or of what they merit at our hands, so that we may confer our
benefits on those, by whom we have been already obliged, or from whom we
expect something: and again, when any one denies help to us when we need
it, we, by returning like for like, as they say, do not help him in time
of need, any more than he assisted us. There are also other instances of
the same kind, in which evil is rendered for evil, when there is no open
Providing good things, etc. I no not disapprove of the rendering of
Erasmus, “Providently preparing,” (Provide parantes;) but I prefer a literal
rendering. As every one is more than justly devoted to his own advantage,
and provident in avoiding losses, Paul seems to require a care and an attention
of another kind. What is meant is, that we ought diligently to labor, that
all may be edified by our honest dealings. For as purity of conscience
is necessary for us before God, so uprightness of character before men
is not to be neglected: for since it is meet that God should be glorified
by our good deeds, even so much is wanting to his glory, as there is a
deficiency of what is praiseworthy in us; and not only the glory of God
is thus obscured, but he is branded with reproach; for whatever sin we
commit, the ignorant employ it for the purpose of calumniating the gospel.
But when we are bidden to prepare good things before men, we must at
the same time notice for what purpose: it is not indeed that men may admire
and praise us, as this is a desire which Christ carefully forbids us to
indulge, since he bids us to admit God alone as the witness of our good
deeds, to the exclusion of all men; but that their minds being elevated
to God, they may give praise to him, that by our example they may be stirred
up to the practice of righteousness, that they may, in a word, perceive
the good and the sweet odor of our life, by which they may be allured to
the love of God. But if we are evil spoken of for the name of Christ, we
are by no means to neglect to provide good things before men: for fulfilled
then shall be that saying, that we are counted as false, and are yet true.
(2 Corinthians 6:8.)
18. If it be possible, etc. Peaceableness and a life so ordered as to
render us beloved by all, is no common gift in a Christian. If we desire
to attain this, we must not only be endued with perfect uprightness, but
also with very courteous and kind manners, which may not only conciliate
the just and the good, but produce also a favorable impression on the hearts
of the ungodly.
But here two cautions must be stated: We are not to seek to be in such
esteem as to refuse to undergo the hatred of any for Christ, whenever it
may be necessary. And indeed we see that there are some who, though they
render themselves amicable to all by the sweetness of their manners and
peaceableness of their minds, are yet hated even by their nearest connections
on account of the gospel. The second caution is, — that courteousness should
not degenerate into compliance, so as to lead us to flatter the vices of
men for the sake of preserving peace. Since then it cannot always be, that
we can have peace with all men, he has annexed two particulars by way of
exception, If it be possible, and, as far as you can. But we are to conclude
from what piety and love require, that we are not to violate peace, except
when constrained by either of these two things. For we ought, for the sake
of cherishing peace, to bear many things, to pardon offenses, and kindly
to remit the full rigor of the law; and yet in such a way, that we may
be prepared, whenever necessity requires, to fight courageously: for it
is impossible that the soldiers of Christ should have perpetual peace with
the world, whose prince is Satan.
19. Avenge not yourselves, etc. The evil which he corrects here, as
we have reminded you, is more grievous than the preceding, which he has
just stated; and yet both of them arise from the same fountain, even from
an inordinate love of self and innate pride, which makes us very indulgent
to our own faults and inexorable to those of others. As then this disease
begets almost in all men a furious passion for revenge, whenever they are
in the least degree touched, he commands here, that however grievously
we may be injured, we are not to seek revenge, but to commit it to the
Lord. And inasmuch as they do not easily admit the bridle, who are once
seized with this wild passion, he lays, as it were, his hand upon us to
restrain us, by kindly addressing us as beloved.
The precept; then is, — that we are not to revenge nor seek to revenge
injuries done to us. The manner is added, a place is to be given to wrath.
To give place to wrath, is to commit to the Lord the right of judging,
which they take away from him who attempt revenge. Hence, as it is not
lawful to usurp the office of God, it is not lawful to revenge; for we
thus anticipate the judgment of God, who will have this office reserved
for himself. He at the same time intimates, that they shall have God as
their defender, who patiently wait for his help; but that those who anticipate
him leave no place for the help of God.
But he prohibits here, not only that we are not to execute revenge with
our own hands, but that our hearts also are not to be influenced by a desire
of this kind: it is therefore superfluous to make a distinction here between
public and private revenge; for he who, with a malevolent mind and desirous
of revenge, seeks the help of a magistrate, has no more excuse than when
he devises means for self-revenge. Nay, revenge, as we shall presently
see, is not indeed at all times to be sought from God: for if our petitions
arise from a private feeling, and not from pure zeal produced by the Spirit,
we do not make God so much our judge as the executioner of our depraved
Hence, we do not otherwise give place to wrath, than when with quiet
minds we wait for the seasonable time of deliverance, praying at the same
time, that they who are now our adversaries, may by repentance become our
For it is written, etc. He brings proof, taken from the song of Moses,
Deuteronomy 32:35, where the Lord declares that he will be the avenger
of his enemies; and God’s enemies are all who without cause oppress his
servants. “He who touches you,” he says, “touches the pupil of mine eye.”
With this consolation then we ought to be content, — that they shall not
escape unpunished who undeservedly oppress us, — and that we, by enduring,
shall not make ourselves more subject or open to the injuries of the wicked,
but, on the contrary, shall give place to the Lord, who is our only judge
and deliverer, to bring us help.
Though it be not indeed lawful for us to pray to God for vengeance on
our enemies, but to pray for their conversion, that they may become friends;
yet if they proceed in their impiety, what is to happen to the despisers
of God will happen to them. But Paul quoted not this testimony to show
that it is right for us to be as it were on fire as soon as we are injured,
and according to the impulse of our flesh, to ask in our prayers that God
may become the avenger of our injuries; but he first teaches us that it
belongs not to us to revenge, except we would assume to ourselves the office
of God; and secondly, he intimates, that we are not to fear that the wicked
will more furiously rage when they see us bearing patiently; for God does
not in vain take upon himself the office of executing vengeance.
20. Therefore 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.
20. Itaque si esurit inimicus tuus, pasce illum; si sitit, potum
da illi: hoc enim faciens carbones ignis congeres in caput ipsius.
21. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
21. Ne vincaris a malo, sed vincas bono malum.
20. If therefore, etc. He now shows how we may really fulfill the precepts
of not revenging and of not repaying evil, even when we not only abstain
from doing injury but when we also do good to those who have done wrong
to us; for it is a kind of an indirect retaliation when we turn aside our
kindness from those by whom we have been injured. Understand as included
under the words meat and drink, all acts of kindness. Whatsoever then may
be thine ability, in whatever business thy enemy may want either thy wealth,
or thy counsel, or thy efforts, thou oughtest to help him. But he calls
him our enemy, not whom we regard with hatred, but him who entertains enmity
towards us. And if they are to be helped according to the flesh, much less
is their salvation to be opposed by imprecating vengeance on them.
Thou shalt heap coals of fire, etc. As we are not willing to lose our
toil and labor, he shows what fruit will follow, when we treat our enemies
with acts of kindness. But some by coals understand the destruction which
returns on the head of our enemy, when we show kindness to one unworthy,
and deal with him otherwise than he deserves; for in this manner his guilt
is doubled. Others prefer to take this view, that when he sees himself
so kindly treated, his mind is allured to love us in return. I take a simpler
view, that his mind shall be turned to one side or another; for doubtless
our enemy shall either be softened by our benefits, or if he be so savage
that nothing can tame him, he shall yet be burnt and tormented by the testimony
of his own conscience, on finding himself overwhelmed with our kindness.
21. Be not overcome by evil, etc. This sentence is laid down as a confirmation;
for in this case our contest is altogether with perverseness, if we try
to retaliate it, we confess that we are overcome by it; if, on the contrary,
we return good for evil, by that very deed we show the invincible firmness
of our mind. This is truly a most glorious kind of victory, the fruit of
which is not only apprehended by the mind, but really perceived, while
the Lord is giving success to their patience, than which they can wish
nothing better. On the other hand, he who attempts to overcome evil with
evil, may perhaps surpass his enemy in doing injury, but it is to his own
ruin; for by acting thus he carries on war for the devil.