The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Romans 12:16-21, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Romans 12:16-21, for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.

Romans 12:16-21, Evidence Four – Faithfully Enduring Hardships:

  • This has truly been a wonderful opportunity for us to be reminded of the role we share as individuals within the church. I pray that you are encouraged and convicted by these truths and that you would pursue these commands continuously as your circle now expands.
  • So as we wrap up this short series, we have a few more thoughts to consider, a final widening of the circle. It started with a personal circle in verse 9, then it expanded into the church family in verses 10-13, and then sort expanded to of everybody in verses 14-16.
  • The final expansion of this circle which was introduced in verse 14, concerns personal enemies.  I like to refer to this portion as enduring hardships. And that’s the final evidence of a faithful believer according to Romans 12. Therefore, let us look at 4 realities of faithfully enduring hardships:

1. Be Even:

  • Text – v16
  • Explanation – This reality is a personal hardship, it has to do with putting away your own desires for isolation, and reaching out in the following 3 ways. So here we’ll deal with 3 areas of life were we can be ‘even’ with those around.
  • Firstly, “Be of the same mind one toward another.” It means think about everybody the same. To treat everyone equally. In Romans 15:5 says, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 
  • Now how do we do this? Philippians 2:1-2, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So this flows out of love and humility.
  • Illustration – Now secondly, there’s another area of being ‘even’. Paul says, since you are to treat everyone the same, don’t become snobbish, but take a real interest in ordinary people.
  • So haughty literally means high, raised, or elevated. Paul says be associated with the lowly instead, and literally – meaning “to come down.” Or “to be carried away with.”  So in other words, don’t pursue the high things, but be carried away with people of low estate.  It doesn’t mean you ignore those who are high, it means you don’t pursue that.
  • It might be best illustrated in Luke 14:12. “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
  • Application – It’s good to know when you have folks over and they respond and have you over or give you a gift. But their gift can’t match what the Lord will give. So next time you have a dinner, call the lowly. Because the idea of the lowly has nothing to do with spirituality.  
  • So you have to be even by treating everybody the same, and by being associated with the lowly. But finally, you cannot be wise in your own sight. In other words, don’t become wise with yourself, thinking you know everything. Better put, don’t be satisfied that everything begins and ends with you. 
  • Conclusion – Don’t be like, I’m smart enough to know not to have a group of fools over. Or say, well I should only have people who are on my level over. There are no social classes in the body of Christ. That’s the way it ought to be. In fact, Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” Here’s the deal, the person who is wise in his own eyes is rarely so in the eyes of other people.
  • Bridge – So the question that stands is, how transformed are your attitudes? Are you practicing humility through true Christian unity by living in harmony with those around you? Are you associated with the lowly? And are you aware of your dependence on the Lord when it comes to discerning these realities? Are you faithfully enduring the truth of being ‘even’? This brings us to the second reality:

2. Be Respectable:

  • Text – v17
  • Explanation – John Calvin once said, “Revenge is a passion unbecoming the children of God” meaning improper for the Christian. Another writer said, “A man who studies revenge keeps his own wounds green. Men must not turn into bees and kill themselves in stinging others.”
  • Illustration – Consider the following true story. During the Korean War, American soldiers rented a house for themselves and hired a Korean houseboy to work for them. He was cheerful, and they were young and had a lot of fun playing tricks on him. They would nail his shoes to the floor, and they would put a water bucket on the door so that when he pushed it open the bucket would fall on him. They played all kinds of tricks, but he always took them in such a beautiful, good humour that they finally became ashamed for themselves.
  • They called him in one day and said, “We’ve been doing all these mean things to you and you have taken it so beautifully. We just want to apologize to you and tell you that we are never going to do those things again.”
  • Application – He said, “You mean no more nail shoes to floor?” They said, “No more.” He said, “You mean no more water on door?” They said, “No more.” He said, “Okay then, no more spit in soup!” So Paul says, be careful to do what is right in the sight of everybody. 
  • Now to pay back means literally to give back, implying that there is a debt and conveying the idea of an obligation and a responsibility that is not optional. Growing up as kids, if you received a dead-leg, it was your only task to ensure that the give became the receiver.
  • Conclusion – That is not how you faithfully endure hardships. ThomasWatson once said, “It is more honour to bury an injury than to revenge it.” Proverbs 20:22 states: “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.” 1 Peter 3:9 basically follows the same idea, saying; “Don’t ever give back evil for evil, but rather provide things that are honest in the sight of all men,” or literally, “that are good.”
  • So when somebody does something evil to you, you’re going to act with evil against evil, right? That’s your natural reaction. So you have to premeditate so that you would do good when evil comes.  
  • Bridge – It is a preparation process. And what should you premeditate? Goodness. So when someone really does you evil, do good to them in a way they can see it and it’s visible. It isn’t just thought. It isn’t just a private emotion. It is a visible act of goodness so that we return something good, and something kind, and something gracious to them. This brings us to the third hardship we endure…

3. Be Agreeable:

  • Text – v18
  • Explanation – Now the text is clear, there are some people you try to make peace with, and it’s not possible. Sometimes you just don’t know what is left to do. You have tried everything there is to do, and you can’t seem to do it. The reality is, it takes two to make peace. So if it’s possible, don’t let the conflict come from you. Always make peace. Seek to be a peacemaker in a world full of trouble makers.
  • Illustration – The reality is sometimes in spite of all that we do, the other person does not want to make peace. He’s mad at God and you represent God to him. But Paul’s point is, don’t provoke a quarrel by your obnoxious behaviour and then claim that you’re being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
  • Application – Bend over backwards to make peace. Let the difficult person know that you want to be on friendly terms. If he rejects it, at least it’s not your fault.
  • Listen, this is important, seeking peace does not include compromising key biblical truth for the sake of peace. Paul would not make peace with the Judai-zers, who insisted on circumcision in addition to faith for salvation. He confronted Peter over his hypocrisy in trying to stay on their good side. Sometimes it is sin to make peace. We need wisdom and discernment to know when to stand firm. 
  • Conclusion – So while holding to God’s truth and standards, we should be willing to go to great lengths to build peaceful bridges to those who hate us and harm us. We must forsake any grudge or settled bitterness and fully forgive from the heart all who harm us. Having done that, we can seek reconciliation honestly.
  • Bridge – this leaves us with the final few verses on enduring hardships…

4. Be Without Retaliation:

  • Text – v19-21
  • Explanation – Seeing that we’re in the Minor Prophets on Fridays, let’s start there.  Nahum 1:2 says, “A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies.” If you defend yourself, then the Lord can’t defend you. 
  • Illustration – Paul gives two reasons why you should not avenge yourself: One is because God is already doing it. “Leave room for God’s wrath.” God knows you have been insulted or hurt or injured. He knows it and he is already doing something about it.
  • Second, God alone claims the right to vengeance because he alone can work it without injury to all concerned. He will do it in a way that will be redemptive. He won’t injure the other person, but will bring him out of it. We never give God a chance; we take the matter into our own hands.
  • Application – Paul says that is wrong. It is wrong because we don’t want that person to be redeemed; we want them to be hurt. We are like Jonah when Ninevah repented. When God spared it, Jonah got mad at God. “Why didn’t you wipe them out like you said you would?”
  • We get angry because God hasn’t taken vengeance in the way that we would like. Paul reminds us that God is already avenging, so we should leave him room, and God claims the right to vengeance because he alone can work it without injury to all concerned. 
  • Conclusion – But rather; if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink. Don’t give him vengeance. Give him help. “For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” I’ve been asked what this refers to, and I found the answer in Macarthur’s commentary.
  • So there’s an old Egyptian ritual that when a man in the Egyptian culture wanted to demonstrate his public shame, or guilt, and he wanted to show his repentance, he would carry on his head a pan of burning coals, which were supposed to represent the burning pain of shame, the burning pain of guilt. 
  • So Paul is saying, when you treat an enemy with love, and you feed him, and quench his thirst, you put on his head a burning shame for the evil done. You expose their shamefulness to their hearts by doing good. And therefore, verse 21 says “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The word overcome is nika. From it is the word Nike, which means “victory.” Paul says be a victor over evil by doing good. 
  • Bridge – And that’s where we draw the line today. So let me sum it all up, what are the evidences of a faithful believer? A faithful believer loves purely, and hates evil, and therefore holds to what is good.
  • A faithful believer is concerned with others, serving them in showing honour, with maximum effort serving the Lord. And when trials come, we face it with hope, and joy, and as we see others who are in the same kinds of trials, we reach out to them and share our possession and our homes with all who have need.
  • And when we encounter hardships in our service to Christ, we bless those who oppose us and who persecute us. We do not regard only those who are high people, but we love to fellowship equally with those on the lowest level, and we are marked by humility. 
  • A faithful believer does not return evil against evil doers out of spite. We desire to overpower them with good and we leave room for God’s vengeance. And in the end, we will be the overcomers. We’re the winners in Christ.