Campfire Scripture: Uncommon scriptures, simple truth… For pondering over a warm campfire.
Author, Date and Context:
Paul of Tarsus wrote half of the New Testament. The last appointed of the apostles of Jesus Christ, Paul was so important to the Lord that Christ made a specific appearance to him, post ascension, to call him to a ministry of spreading the Gospel to the gentiles. A murderer turned missionary Paul would face persecution, beatings, shipwrecks and continual peril. The gospel transformed Paul from Christian hunter into a martyr for Christ. Despite embarking on several missionary journeys across the Greco-Roman world preaching to the gentiles, he neither formed nor ever visited the church of Rome. When it became apparent to him that he would not reach them in time, he wrote the masterpiece of Christian theology and doctrine known as ‘Romans’. Paul wrote Romans around 56 A.D.
This short passage sits nicely in a small section in Romans on Christian behaviour, living righteously and modelling Christ.
What I Reckon:
I love tales of war and conquest throughout scripture, they make for great entertaining reading. However passages like this, more than OT war history, demonstrate that even when the subject matter of a particular verse emphasizes kindness and longsuffering, the author somehow still manages to scrape the icing off the top. The Lord, ever our protector and sovereign judge, does not mince the message of wrath with phrases like ‘love the sinner’. Too much is at stake. God doesn’t need our approval, and he doesn’t suffer non believers.
“Evil for evil” means exactly what it says it means. Don’t sin, in order to repay wickedness done against you. It doesn’t mean don’t seek lawful justice against someone who has broken the law. Pray for those who sin against you, but don’t let them get away with murder.
Be at peace with all men, if possible. Again, I love the caveat. Unfortunately some people, no matter how you act, how patient and kind you are, will seek conflict out. They cannot help themselves. Even when encountering belligerence it’s important to practise keeping your composure, but there comes a time when seeking peace is no longer possible. Christ certainly never suffered fools, so don’t go around thinking you have to. It’s one thing to be diplomatic, it’s another thing to allow your passivity to put your family or loved ones in danger; there’s always a threshold.
And the best one – God will exact revenge on your behalf. That sounds pretty sinister, but I mean, literally all the unsaved will be judged for eternity. God’s ultimate act of justice will be poured out on all unbelievers. If you think that I’m just trying to use fear mongering, then you need to ask yourself why that’s so frightening to you…
All Campfire Scripture passages are taken from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise stated.
John MacArthur, 2006, The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (1995 edition).