Sermon: "Rely on God's Justice, and Try a Little Kindness"--Romans 12:19-21
The Apostle Paul
Rely on God's Justice
Second, Dedicated Christians Rely On God’s Sovereign Justice (19-20)
19a--Never take your own revenge, beloved . . .
Seeking revenge is a natural, human, but sinful response that usurps from God His sovereign right to correct wrongdoing and bring about His will.
God stepped into OT history several times in order to preserve His plan for His people.
I think most of us are familiar with the time Jacob was traveling . . . Jacob was afraid that Esau would attack him for stealing his birthright. The LORD apparently softened Esau’s heart and made him prosperous. He kept him from avenging himself upon Jacob.
Later in Genesis, God kept Joseph from avenging himself upon his brothers for selling him to slave traders. Joseph came to understand God’s plan. He said to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
David had opportunities to avenge himself upon Saul, but God kept him from doing so. David understood Saul to be the “LORD’s anointed.”
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but
Verse 19b--Leave Room for the Wrath of God
Correcting a common misconception: The LORD is not only a God of love and forgiveness, but also a God of wrath and retributive justice.
In his book Knowing God, J. I. Packer quotes A.W. Pink: “A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God than there are to His love and tenderness.”
To refresh our memories about this attribute of God, we’ll consider just a few of the many passages that speak of it. If you aren’t familiar with these verses, you might want to jot down the references and study them later on your own.
Turn to and read each verse.
Romans 1:18 asserts that God’s retributive justice is continually proceeding from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous deeds of human beings. The wrath of God is not just something that will happen in the future, but it’s happening right now as He gives people up to their own depravity.
Romans 2:5 pictures the self-righteous man figuratively gathering God’s wrath toward himself as if it were a treasure of good deeds. [We know from Scripture that God will punish unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment and consign the lost, both small and great, into the Lake of Fire after this event.]
Romans 2:8-9 tell us that people who live only to get all they can to spend in “here and now” and who show no concern for eternal truth will experience horrible anguish. God will eternally separate from Himself both Gentiles who sin against the light they have and Jews who sin against the Mosaic Law.
Romans 9:22 argues that the Creator has the absolute authority to save one vessel and condemn the other. God maintains the right to put down those who have prepared themselves for destruction (vessels of wrath).
Ephesians 2:3 tells believers that they were once spiritually “dead”). They were once doomed to eternal wrath, but the Lord intervened.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 speaks about a particular time of God’s wrath upon the Earth. The Thessalonians’ transformation from idol-worshipers into servants of “the living and true God” will save them from the Great Tribulation (“the wrath to come”).
1 Thessalonians 2:16 says that God’s wrath has fallen (and will continue to fall) upon zealous Jewish leaders who not only murdered the Messiah and the OT prophets, but also continue to persecute the Apostle Paul.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 reveals that the Thessalonians knew that a terrible time of God’s wrath was approaching; God appointed Church believers to receive salvation; they will never experience His wrath. [The Great Tribulation consists in the pouring out of God’s wrath upon “those who dwell upon the earth”; Jesus’ redemption exempts Christians from this time.]
The next part of verse 19 speaks about God’s right of vengeance.
Paul borrows part of Deuteronomy 32:35. The whole verse in Deuteronomy reads: “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time.”
The context of this chapter reveals Moses’ frustration with Israel’s lack of spiritual understanding. He wonders how they couldn’t see what “their latter end” would be if they forsook God.
He states that Israel’s judgment at the LORD’s hand of vengeance will surely come, and the nation’s strength and numbers will shrink. God mocks them for their worship of impotent gods. He declares His sovereign power over life and death, as well as His willingness to render bloody judgment upon His enemies.
That doesn’t sound like He is only a God of love, does it?
Try a Little Kindness
Verse 20 begins with the word “Therefore.” Paul is saying, in essence, “Seeing how God is going to repay His enemies, you (His children) ought to do something else.”
Then he quotes Proverbs 25:21-22—“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”
This proverb refers to an Egyptian ritual in which a man gave public evidence of his penitence by carrying a pan of burning charcoal on his head.
In the book of Proverbs, the “coals of fire” symbolize a change of mind that takes place as a result of a deed of love.
Andrew Murray writes, “. . . by well-doing we are to be the instruments of quenching the animosity and the ill-doing of those who persecute and maltreat us. How relevant to the believer’s high and holy calling! Vengeance, retaliation foments strife and fans the flames of resentment. How noble the aim that our enemy should be brought to repentance, at any rate to the shame that will restrain and perhaps remove the ill-doing which hostility prompts.”
“Heaping burning coals” is something that only dedicated Christians can accomplish with a God-honoring motive.
TS: (Let’s review this second point. First, God restrains mankind’s vengeful motives in order to preserve His people, and He promises to direct His wrath against evildoers. Next, He commands believers to act in love toward evil, assuring them that they will overcome it.)
Third, Dedicated Christians Overcome Evil With Good (v. 21)
This last point can be short. Read 2 Kings 6: 8-23:
I believe you get the gist of this historical account and the main point I wished to stress.
Elisha’s kindness turned away the animosity of Israel’s enemies.
Let’s try to remember this lesson should we be tempted to pay back evil for evil.
Let’s Review the Top Ten Exhortations from Romans 12:9-21
“Don’t wear a mask. Love others with a holy love.”
“Demonstrate Christ’s love by submitting to His will.”
“Work hard; don’t be lazy.”
“Rejoice and pray your way through your trials.”
“Give generously, and bless your enemies.”
“Befriend a lowly person.”
“Cultivate a humble mind.”
“Don’t seek revenge.”
“Depend upon God’s justice.”
“Conquer your enemy’s evil spirit by your own good disposition.”
Let’s all seek the Lord’s help to make strides in all these graces.
© 2014 glynch1