Triumph of Good Over Evil

Wednesday: How Can We Live Like This?

Romans 12:21 In this week’s studies, we are reminded that not only are we not to retaliate for evil done to us, but we are actually to do good to others and to overcome evil by our good conduct.
How Can We Live Like This?

Triumphing by overcoming evil with good sounds great, but how are we to live like this? That is the real problem. How is this to be done in our lives, we being what we are? Robert Candlish, in his excellent book on Romans 12, observes, “This surely is a very holy calling. It is a very awful calling. We may well ask, ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ And we can be sustained only when we are enabled to add, ‘Our sufficiency is of God’—of that God who has so dealt with us as he would have us to deal with our fellow men and fellow sinners.”1

How are we to live like this? How are we to overcome evil with good, when our natures are so contrary to this standard? 

We must know with deep gratitude that this is how God has treated us. We deserved to be condemned, but God was good to us and overcame our evil by His good. If we appreciate this rightly, it will empower us to do the same. In fact, if we do not have this spirit, it will be sound evidence that we do not know God and have not experienced His grace in salvation. 

I think of the story Jesus told about the unmerciful servant. This man owed the king ten thousand talents. We do not know whether this was of gold or silver, but it amounted to several million dollars at least. Since he was unable to pay, the king was going to sell him, his wife and his children into slavery. But the servant fell on his knees and begged for mercy, promising to pay back everything. This was an impossible thing to do, of course. But the king took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 

This servant then found another servant who owed him a mere pittance. He demanded repayment. The servant who owed only a little pleaded for a chance to pay his debt, but the first man refused and had the other cast into prison. When the king heard this, he recalled the first servant, rebuked him and had him jailed too. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart,” Jesus concluded (see Matt. 18:21-35). 

The parable does not teach that we are saved from sin by good works, of course. We are saved by grace alone. However, it does teach that if we have been saved by grace we will be gracious and that, if we are not, we have never actually known the grace of God and will be judged for our sins at the final judgment. If it does nothing else, the parable shows why overcoming evil with good is not an optional matter for Christians. We must forgive because we have been forgiven. We must overcome evil with good because God has overcome our even greater evil in saving us.

1Robert S. Candlish, Studies in Romans 12: The Christian’s Sacrifice and Service of Praise (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1989), 339.

Study Questions
  1. How does God’s mercy toward us serve as the foundation and motivation to overcome evil done toward us with good?
  2. Read Matthew 18:21-35. Why was the servant punished for demanding what was owed him? Why should he have shown grace to his debtor?

Application: What is the lesson for us in this parable of the unmerciful servant?

Key Point: We must forgive because we have been forgiven. We must overcome evil with good because God has overcome our even greater evil in saving us.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message, “The Faith to Forgive.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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