The Bible is a complex book. Unless we read every verse in its context (the rest of the Bible) we will undoubtedly oversimplify the truth. The result will be legalism.

Personal vengeance is a good example. In Romans 12 Paul tells us “Repay no one evil for evil…Never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God…If you enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…Overcome evil with good” (12:17-21).

This seems straightforward enough until we come to 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If anyone has no love for the Lord let him be accursed,” And how about Galatians 1:8-9? “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” 

Here is a Holy Spirit inspired paradox. In Romans Paul tells us to do good to our enemies, but in 1Corinthians and Galatians he asks God to curse those who do not love God, and he calls down an anathema (curse) on those who pervert or distort the gospel. How can we resolve these texts? 

Here is one solution. In the first instance Paul is talking about personal vengeance. Do not repay others for the wrongs they have done to you personally. If a friend slanders you forgive , bless, and do not harm them. However, in both of the second instances he prays not that God will curse those who have not wronged him personally, but he asks God to curse those who have done something to diminish the glory of God. In 1 Cor 16 he asks God to curse those who fail to love him, i.e. reject the gospel. In Galatians he prays that God will curse those who conspire to change or pervert the gospel. 

Through this contrast we see the Paul’s priorities. The glory of God and the gospel are at the heart of what matters. He and we should be willing to turn the other cheek for personal offenses, but when it comes to the integrity of the gospel the rules change.   

In relativistic age that devalues doctrine, these distinctions are not welcome. But for the believer who wants to walk in the freedom that a fullorbed grasp of the truth provides, these differences are a matter of great joy.