Lesson 5 – Revenge Belongs to God

Revenge Belongs to God

Lesson Aim:             To show how a Christian overcomes evil and seeks peace in his relationship with sinners by walking in love.

Scriptures:                Romans: 12:17-21; 13:8-10; Matthew 5:38-48.

Word Definition:    Vengeance (Greek –ekdikesis).  What proceeds out of – in Rom. 12: 19, the meaning is proceeding out of justice.


This you know, my beloved brethren.  But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.  James 1:19, 20

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God.  Rom. 12:19

The English words anger and wrath come from the Greek word “orge” in the above scriptures.  Orge denotes an abiding anger with a plan to take revenge.  If one were looking for contradictory statements in the scriptures, the following appears to be a true paradox:  Christians are to conform to the image of Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:29).  Jesus is the exact image of God’s nature (Heb. 1:3).  Anger is an emotion of a person.   Anger is also known to be among the greatest enemies of good mental health to mankind.  Jesus showed how the person who has the emotion of anger has the potential to murder (Matt. 5:21, 22).  God has an attribute of anger (orge).  Christians are to develop the nature of God; however, James said anger in Christians does not achieve the righteousness of God.  The question is do we have a paradoxical statement or a contradiction?  First, let us assume there is no contradiction and accept that although anger is an unhealthy emotion for mankind, it is quite healthy for God.  Let us explore our scripture text to understand why this is true.

A part of our answer will be found in James’ statement; “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.”  Righteousness in this scripture, as in most others, is translated from the Greek word “dikaiosune.”  It could be rendered “justice.”  It should be thought of as justice, as well as righteousness, to fully understand many of the scriptures where it is used.  Therefore, we could say the anger of man does not work justice in the way God would have it meted out.  This opens up a new avenue of thought.

Let us consider our last encounter with a situation where our anger was aroused.  Someone did us an injustice.  It may have been real, or perhaps, an imagined injustice.  An imagined injustice would have the same effect as a real injustice.  In any case, our anger was aroused, and we demanded justice.  We became a mad judge.  We were ready to take vengeance.  In a court of law, a judge would not be allowed to render judgment in a case of his own personal involvement.  We can readily see the many reasons for God saying “never take your own revenge.”   First of all, we cannot always clearly distinguish between real and imagined injustice.  Secondly, we are not capable of making proper judgment in our turmoil of anger.  Thirdly, if we were righteous in steps one and two, then who would carry out the sentence?

Suppose we have correctly analyzed the amount of injustice done to ourselves and we have decided to do to the one who harmed us the exact amount of harm.  But listen to Jesus quote from the Law God gave Moses, “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.”  Matt. 5:38, 39.  Why does Jesus want to stop us from repaying exactly what the evil person did to us?  Is He trying to protect the evil?  Or perhaps He wants to make weaklings out of us?  Neither one!  Jesus knows we will not be able to give equal justice.  He knows that in our anger, we would probably try to bruise both eyes of the person who hit us in one eye.  However, there may be another reason we need to “turn the other cheek.”  Turning the other cheek means we will not contest the evil person.  This would be a wise decision because even if we were successful in our pursuit of revenge, the issues would still exist.  By getting revenge we could create a situation where we have an enemy whose wrath has been kindled and directed toward us.   He or she has a problem with us and this is an issue on our minds.  Or perhaps we broke our enemies’ spirit by the method we used to get revenge.  Will we be satisfied with either of these possible situations we created?  Probably not; so,  the enemy wins because with his new status he will have a power over us.  This will, perhaps, subtract power from our character – power we will need to meet the next challenge in our life.  James was right, our wrath will not work the righteousness of God.  The problem is generally not out there, it is in us.  The best thing to do with our anger is to get rid of it by loving our enemy (Matt. 5:43, 44). 

All right, we admit we cannot take our own revenge in a righteous way; however, none of us enjoy sitting by and watching an evil person getting away with his or her evil, do we?   Just thinking about it makes many of us angry.  The law of the land was set up by God to bring wrath upon the one who practices evil?  Yes, we know this; but what if the law does not catch them?   The argument still stands, should not evil doers be punished?   The answer is yes, they should be, but our Father says to us, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  Rom. 12:19.  God agrees with mankind that justice should prevail.  However, God wants righteous judgment to prevail.  He is able to be wrathful and just at the same time.  We are not.  This is why God wants us to leave room for His wrath.  The evil doer will be punished if he or she does not repent and accept Jesus as the one who took his punishment.

Another reason God wants man to leave room for His wrath is that He wants peace to prevail on earth.  Peace is possible only when evil is overcome.  Since we cannot remove evil with our revenge, then we must overcome evil with good.  In our previous lesson, we learned how love is the circulatory system in the body of Christ.  Christians enjoy brotherly love in Christ.  As we grow spiritually, we develop love (agape).  This quality of love can include our enemies.  This is a healthy attitude Christians develop as a part of their new “self.”  Love is developed by loving.  God is love.  Love works the righteousness of God.

Love also fulfills the law God gave to Moses (Rom. 13:8-10).  From our study in Romans, chapter eight, we learned those of us who walk according to the Spirit fulfill the requirements of the law.  When we follow the Spirit, we will find the law of life.   As the law of life is being written on our hearts and minds, we will begin to exercise love (agape).  Our new nature will never pay back evil for evil because our new nature wants to please God.  We trust God and know He knows how to make everything work out in a peaceful way.

We know all men were made to be God’s sons, and that He, through us, is trying to get them to repent.  We respect what is right in the sight of all men, and if possible, so far as it depends on us, we are at peace with all men because we are at peace with our God (Rom. 12:17-21).  It takes a Christian who has become love to heap burning coals upon his or her enemies’ head by feeding them when they are hungry and giving  them a drink when they are thirsty.   The blessings “in Christ” will allow us to be this kind of a son of God.  Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Mathew 5:48.

We will love now and leave vengeance for God.  This is the only way to overcome evil and find peace in this world.  Even then, some will not be at peace with us; however, we will continue to follow God’s instructions.  We will achieve the righteousness of God by walking in love and at the same time fulfill the requirements of the law He gave to Moses.

Yes, we realize we have emotions of anger within us; even so, we will strive to avoid letting this lead us to an act of sin.   We shall not let anger dominate our lives for long periods of time; consequently, the devil will not have an opportunity to use us.

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.  Eph. 4:26, 27

           Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the apparent paradox set forth in our lesson?
  2. Why is there no contradiction about God’s wrath and God’s righteousness?
  3. List the reasons why mankind needs God to take vengeance for us.
  4. What is another word for righteousness?
  5. What will not achieve the righteousness of God?
  6. Why does Jesus’ way of fulfilling the requirements of the Law of Moses work better for Christians than if we were trying to fulfill the requirements under the Law?
  7. Does God agree with us that evil people should be punished?
  8. What is the only way one can escape being punished for doing an evil deed?
  9. Would we be benefited if a person who did us an injustice was punished?
  10. How can we achieve the righteousness of God in our daily lives?
  11. How can we fulfill the Law God gave to Moses?
  12. What is the best way to have peace in this world?

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