Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves - Ye are the children of God, and he loves you; and because he loves you he will permit nothing to be done to you that he will not turn to your advantage. Never take the execution of the law into your own hands; rather suffer injuries. The Son of man is come, not to destroy men's lives, but to save: be of the same spirit. When he was reviled, he reviled not again. It is the part of a noble mind to bear up under unmerited disgrace; little minds are litigious and quarrelsome.
Give place unto wrath - Δοτε τοπον τῃ οργῃ· Leave room for the civil magistrate to do his duty, he holds the sword for this purpose; and if he be unfaithful to the trust reposed in him by the state, leave the matter to God, who is the righteous judge: for by avenging yourselves you take your cause both out of the hands of the civil magistrate and out of the hands of God. I believe this to be the meaning of give place to wrath, οργῃ, punishment; the penalty which the law, properly executed, will inflict. This is well expressed by the author of the book of Ecclesiasticus, 19:17: Admonish thy neighbor before thou threaten him, and, not being, angry, Give Place to the Law of the Most High.
Vengeance is mine - This fixes the meaning of the apostle, and at once shows that the exhortation, Rather give place to wrath or punishment, means, Leave the matter to the judgment of God; it is his law that in this case is broken; and to him the infliction of deserved punishment belongs. Some think it means, "Yield a little to a man when in a violent passion, for the sake of peace, until he grow cooler."
I will repay - In my own time and in my own way. But he gives the sinner space to repent, and this longsuffering leads to salvation. Dr. Taylor, after Dr. Benson, conjectures that the apostle in these directions had his eye upon the indignities which the Jews, and probably the Christians too, (for they were often confounded by the heathen), suffered by the edict of Claudius, mentioned Acts 18:2, which "commanded all Jews to depart from Rome." Upon this occasion Aquila and Priscilla removed to Corinth, where Paul found them, and dwelt with them a considerable time. No doubt they gave him a full account of the state of the Christian Church at Rome, and of every thing relating to the late persecution under Claudius. That emperor's edict probably died with him, if it were not repealed before, and then the Jews and Christians (if the Christians were also expelled) returned again to Rome; for Aquila and Priscilla were there when Paul wrote this epistle, Romans 16:3, which was in the fourth year of Nero, successor to Claudius.
Dearly beloved - This expression of tenderness was especially appropriate in an exhortation to peace. It reminded them of the affection and friendship which ought to subsist among them as brethren.
Avenge not yourselves - To “avenge” is to take satisfaction for an injury by inflicting punishment on the offender. To take such satisfaction for injuries done to society, is lawful and proper for a magistrate; Romans 13:4. And to take satisfaction for injuries done by sin to the universe, is the province of God. But the apostle here is addressing private individual Christians. And the command is, to avoid a spirit and purpose of revenge. But this command is not to be so understood that we may not seek for “justice” in a regular and proper way before civil tribunals. If our character is assaulted, if we are robbed and plundered, if we are oppressed contrary to the law of the land, religion does not require us to submit to such oppression and injury without seeking our rights in an orderly and regular manner. If it did, it would be to give a premium to iniquity, to countenance wickedness, and require a man, by becoming a Christian, to abandon his rights.
Besides, the magistrate is appointed for the praise of those who do well, and to punish evil-doers; 1 Peter 2:14. Further, our Lord Jesus did not surrender his rights John 18:23; and Paul demanded that he himself should be treated according to the rights and privileges of a Roman citizen; Acts 16:37. The command here “not to avenge ourselves” means, that we are not to take it out of the hands of God, or the hands of the law, and to inflict it ourselves. It is well known that where there are no laws, the business of vengeance is pursued by individuals in a barbarous and unrelenting manner. In a state of savage society, vengeance is “immediately taken,” if possible, or it is pursued for years, and the offended man is never satisfied until he has imbrued his hands in the blood of the offender. Such was eminently the case among the Indians of this country (America). But Christianity seeks the ascendancy of the laws; and in cases which do not admit or require the interference of the laws, in private assaults and quarrels, it demands that we bear injury with patience, and commit our cause unto God; see Leviticus 19:18.
But rather give place unto wrath - This expression has been interpreted in a great variety of ways. Its obvious design is to induce us not to attempt to avenge ourselves, but to leave it with God. To “give place,” then, is to leave it for God to come in and execute wrath or vengeance on the enemy. Do not execute wrath; leave it to God; commit all to him; leave yourself and your enemy in his hands, assured that he will vindicate you and punish him.
For it is written - Deuteronomy 32:35.
Vengeance is mine - That is, it belongs to me to inflict revenge. This expression implies that it is “improper” for people to interfere with that which properly belongs to God. When we are angry, and attempt to avenge ourselves, we should remember, therefore, that we are infringing on the prerogatives of the Almighty.
I will repay - This is said in substance, though not in so many words, in Deuteronomy 32:35-36. Its design is to assure us that those who deserve to be punished, shall be; and that, therefore, the business of revenge may be safely left in the bands of God. Though “we” should not do it, yet if it ought to be done, it will be done. This assurance will sustain as, not in the “desire” that our enemy shall be punished, but in the belief that “God” will take the matter into his own hands; that he can administer it better than we can; and that if our enemy “ought” to be punished, he will be. “We,” therefore, should leave it all with God. That God will vindicate his people, is clearly and abundantly proved in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 6:9-11; Deuteronomy 32:40-43.
God will deal with the unworthy church member who defrauds his brother or the cause of God; the Christian need not contend for his rights. God will deal with the one who violates these rights. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” Romans 12:19. An account is kept of all these matters, and for all the Lord declares that He will avenge. He will bring every work into judgment. 3SM 300.1Read in context »