What does Romans 12:19 mean?
ESV: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
NIV: Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
NASB: Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,' says the Lord.
CSB: Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.
NLT: Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, 'I will take revenge; I will pay them back,' says the Lord.
KJV: Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
NKJV: Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has just written that Christians must not repay evil for evil (Romans 12:17). Now he expands that idea to make it even more clear. Those who follow Christ are commanded to never avenge themselves, to never "get even." Whether the hurt comes from fellow believers or from unbelievers, revenge is simply not a legitimate option for us.

For a change, Paul gives us a reason for this command, and it's a bit surprising. After all the other instructions to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, we might expect something similar. Instead, Paul writes that we should refuse to take revenge because God is much better at it than we are. In a sense, Paul implies that taking our own revenge may dilute God's opportunity to avenge us in His great anger against those who harm us.

Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 32:35 to show that God has always declared His intention to take vengeance on those who wrong others. A desire for justice for ourselves and those we care about is not wrong. Paul simply wants us to trust God's timing and power to deliver justice as He sees fit.

How do we respond to this idea? On the one hand, we might be concerned that God will show mercy to those who harm us instead of giving them what they deserve. After all, He has shown great mercy to us. Isn't that what God does? The truth is that God executes justice for every sin, including ours. For those in Christ, God's anger was poured out on Jesus on the cross. Someone suffered for those sins: Christ. He experienced what we deserved. Those who refuse to receive Jesus' death in their place for their sin will suffer the consequences for that sin themselves for eternity.

With that punishment in mind, perhaps we will hesitate to wish for God's vengeance on our persecutors. Perhaps not. In either case, God says to us, "Trust me to handle revenge and justice for all who harm you instead of seeking it yourself."
Verse Context:
Romans 12:9–21 is a list of numerous brief, bullet-pointed commands. Taken together, they paint a picture of what the living-sacrifice Christian life should look like. The unifying theme of the list is setting ourselves aside, to effectively love and serve the Lord, each other, and even our enemies. We must serve with enthusiasm and focus, mastering our emotions to rejoice in our future and be patient in our present. We must refuse to sink to evil's level in taking revenge and instead overcome evil by doing good to those who harm us.
Chapter Summary:
In Romans 12, Paul describes the worship of our God as becoming living sacrifices to our God, giving up seeking what we want from life and learning to know and serve what God wants. That begins with using our spiritual gifts to serve each other in the church. Paul's list of commands describes a lifestyle of setting ourselves aside. Our goal as Christians is to love and lift each other up. We must focus our expectation on eternity and wait with patience and prayer for our Father to provide. We must refuse to sink to evil's level, giving good to those who harm us instead of revenge.
Chapter Context:
Romans 11 ended with a hymn describing God's vast ownership of the universe. Romans 12 begins by asking the question, ''Since He owed us nothing and has given us great mercy, how should we respond?'' The answer is a life of self-sacrificing worship spent in serving the Lord and other believers, refusing revenge and overcoming evil with good. Romans 13 will continue to describe God's intended lifestyle for those in Christ.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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