Overcome evil with good

19 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.”

20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.   (Romans 12, English Standard Version)

Second, doing good to those who do evil against us can bring about the end of their evil. This does not always occur, but as we saw in Romans 12:20, people who have done wrong are often shamed when we do not repay them in kind, and they stop mistreating us. The Holy Spirit can even work in this to bring about the repentance and conversion of our foes. John Murray writes in his commentary Romans, “By well-doing we are to be the instruments of quenching the animosity and the ill-doing of those who persecute and maltreat us.”

Overcoming Evil with Good. https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/overcoming-evil-good/. Ligonier Ministries.

I cross referenced this with 1 Peter 3:16 [a letter in the New Testament Bible, English Standard Version]

16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

There was a similar sermon in 2005.

Paul’s call to us Christians to love our enemies (in Romans 12:20) and to overcome evil with good (in Romans 12:21) is based on what Christ did for us. Christ loved his enemies, and (in that way) he overcame evil with good. Not one of us would be a Christian if Christ had not loved his enemies and overcome our evil—our insubordination and willfulness and self-centeredness—with his great good—his death and resurrection.

John Piper. (20 Mar 2005). Christ Overcame Evil with Good—Do the Same. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/christ-overcame-evil-with-good-do-the-same. Desiring God.



Revenge and justice


The action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands (directly or indirectly).

The desire to repay an injury or wrong.

Adapted – Oxford Dictionaries entry. Accessed 3 Jun 2018. Oxford University Press.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, said the Lord.

New Testament Bible, Romans 12:19 (King James Version)

More notes and selected quotes from an article comparing Revenge and Justice:

  • Revenge is mainly emotion driven vs Justice is led more by rationality
  • Personal vs Impersonal
  • Cyclical vs Closure
  • Retaliation vs Balance

When someone wrongs us, we rarely (if ever) want to do the same thing back. Why? Because we want to do something more harmful. Likewise, when someone insults us, our instinct is to search for words that will be more insulting. Revenge always escalates. Rob Bell. (2013). What We Talk about When We Talk about God.

Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both. Eleanor Roosevelt.

Leon F. Seltzer. (6 Feb 2014). Don’t Confuse Revenge With Justice: Five Key Differences. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201402/don-t-confuse-revenge-justice-5-key-differences. Psychology Today.

Related Post/References

Reconciliation and revenge

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

US President Abraham Lincoln, March 1865. In April 1865, he presided over the victory of the Union (North) over the Confederacy (South) in the American Civil War – days later, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth (“a supporter of the Confederacy and of slavery” – Abraham Lincoln. American Experience. PBS.) Had Lincoln been the Prime Minister of France instead of Georges Clemenceau, perhaps World War Two would not have occurred.

Related posts

Being rich: Superman Li Ka-shing

Wealth cannot insulate one from pain and terror: ‘His wife died in 1990 and his son Victor was kidnapped in 1996.

Hong Kong’s Richest Man Li Ka-shing Retires. (16 Mar 2018). Bloomberg. [I first read the shortened version of the article in the Business Times Weekend, 17-18 Mar 2018.]

Li Ka-shing reportedly paid $134 million (U.S.)‘ to redeem his son.

Victor Victorious? (29 Dec 2003 – updated 19 Apr 2018). The Globe and Mail. Canada.

See also: Being Blind [to consider life from another’s perspective]

‘Stronghold’ – Johnny Hunt

This links to Shame – Two Perspectives.

Two reasons why I picked the book up – Ravi Zacharias’ commendation on the front cover (I have read/studied/trusted a fair deal of CS Lewis, JI Packer, Timothy Keller. Thus I now turn to Ravi Zacharias, albeit indirectly.) The second reason, ‘strongholds’.

Johnny Hunt’s book, a sincere attempt, defines ‘strongholds’ as ‘any habit that got hold of you.’ (p.21).

One other learning point:

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. [Proverbs 28:13, ESV Old Testament]

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. [James 5:16, ESV New Testament]


Demolishing Strongholds: Finding Victory Over the Struggles That Hold You Back. (2017). Harvest House Publishers. [Bible versions used – English Standard (ESV); New King James (NKJV); New International (NIV)]

Shame – Two Perspectives

General similarities between two articles by Jon Bloom and Joseph (Joe) Beckham

In Breaking the Power of Shame (15 Jul 2016), it seems that Bloom does not refer to the elimination of shame but rather its management. Shame (according to him) is usually the interaction of human failings and defensive pride. We therefore exert control through hiding (resulting in some form of false front). The antidote is to seek refuge and resolution through Jesus Christ.

Beckham in The Three-Headed Monster: Shame, Fear & Control (12 Jun 2014), points similarly to shame; as well as Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden.


In contrast however, shame is a sense of being “hopelessly flawed” (this is in line with Restoring the Foundations’ perspective – information is found in Beckham’s article).  The application of the concept(s) seem to take different paths. But I shall restrict my focus to the term ‘stronghold’ found in Verse 4.

There is reference to 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (New Testament, English Standard Version below); absent from Bloom’s piece.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Beckham’s citation:

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of stronghold [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

Based on Biblehub’s commentary section, it seems Beckham’s interpretation of the term is inaccurate in the sense that it is too wide; being conflated with fear and control. [The biblical Greek for the word is unique in the New Testament. See Vincent’s Word Studies and Pulpit Commentary on the same webpage.]

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible: “all that opposes itself to Christ; the learning, and eloquence, and philosophical subtleties on which the Corinthians prided themselves.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “possibly … the great system of idolatry and impurity enthroned at Corinth and throughout the Empire, possibly of those of pride and obstinate rebellion in the hearts of his individual opponents. The context favours the latter interpretation.

Barnes’ Notes: “strongholds (ὀχύρωμα ochurōma) means properly a fastness, fortress, or strong fortification. It … denote the various obstacles resembling a fortress … designed and adapted to oppose the truth and the triumph of the Christian’s cause. All those obstacles are strongly fortified. The sins of his heart are fortified by long indulgence and by the hold which they have on his soul. The wickedness of the world which he opposes is strongly fortified by the fact that it has seized on strong human passions; that one point strengthens another; that great numbers are united. The idolatry of the world was strongly fortified by prejudice, and long establishment, and the protection of laws, and the power of the priesthood; and the opinions of the world are entrenched behind false philosophy and the power of subtle argumentation.

To conclude (at this juncture), the strongholds appear to be built on “arguments and every lofty opinion” (Verse 5) of reasoning and arrogance/self-importance/condescension which is probably supported by Satan/Devil (to a degree).


Purpose, Meaning and Faith

Heidelberg Catechism (1563) Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) A Reason for Living  (1994)
Q6. Did God create man thus wicked and perverse?
No, but God created man good, and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness;
that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
It is to know, love and serve Jesus Christ (the Son of God).

The above conclusions are based on various Bible verses. Dependent on your source, you may find more or fewer verses. Further, there were (arguably minor) wording differences for the Heidelberg Catechism (I included the source* under References).

Heidelberg Catechism

  • “…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24, New Testament, English Standard Version)
  • “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:” (Colossians 3:10, New Testament)
    • Newness of life consists in knowledge which transforms man to the image of God his maker, that is to say to the sincerity and pureness of the whole soul. [Geneva Study Bible note from Biblehub]

Westminster Shorter Catechism

  • Listed as Biblical basis from two different sources: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, English Standard Version, New Testament).
  • “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:25-28, English Standard Version, New Testament). 
  • “I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me… You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:7 and 11, English Standard Version, New Testament).

A Reason for Living

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, New Testament). Preacher Timothy Keller, translates ‘Word’ as reason for life/living. To critically analyse this, see John 1. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/john/1.htm. Biblehub.
  • Generally, this is supported by Colossians 1 (New Testament, Geneva Study Bible), in particular, 1:16: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:”


  1. The Heidelberg Catechism tried to mend ties between Protestant groups in 16th century Germany. It was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, it was translated into more than 25 languages with the passage of time. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (1 Feb 2015). Heidelberg Catechism. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Heidelberg-Catechism. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. Various. (1563). The Heidelberg Catechism. https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/heidelberg-catechism-1563/. Ligonier Ministries.
  3. *Reformed Church in America. Heidelberg Catechism. https://www.rca.org/resources/heidelbergcatechism. Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  4. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (8 Jan 2016). Westminster Catechism.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Westminster-Catechism. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  5. The Westminster Shorter Catechism. http://www.westminsterconfession.org/confessional-standards/the-westminster-shorter-catechism.php. The Westminster Presbyterian.
  6. Timothy Keller. (27 Feb 1994). A Reason for Living (audio recording: Redeemer Open Forums). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU69so6VjHA. Gospel in Life, YouTube.
  7. On a related note, see Romans 8:29 (New Testament) and Ecclesiastes 12:13 (Old Testament).

Technical Reference:

  1. HTML.am. (no date). http://www.html.am/html-codes/tables/.