Recompense – definition

recompense definition
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

Traditional Legal Model – God’s arbitrary act to punish or reward man’s actions.

Biblical Healing Model – God allowing the natural results of man’s actions, whether good or evil, to return to him.

On-line Bible Definition:

Recompense (G467) ἀνταποδίδωμι antapodidomi an-tap-od-ee’-do-mee from 473 and 591; v;
AV-recompense 4, recompense again 1, repay 1, render 1; 7
1) in a good sense, to repay, requite
2) in a bad sense, penalty and vengeance

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

Recompense, verb transitive
To compensate; to make return of an equivalent for any thing given, done or suffered; as, to recompense a person for services, for fidelity or for sacrifices of time, for loss or damages.
To require; to repay; to return an equivalent; in a bad sense.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Romans 12:17.

Recompense, noun
An equivalent returned for any thing given, done or suffered; compensation; reward; amends; as a recompense for services, for damages, for loss, etc.

Recompense can mean either good or bad; reward or punishment.

This verse is commonly understood to be referring to God’s just response to actively punish sin:

“Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;” (2 Thess 1:6)

 Since it mentions “tribulation,” it would seem to be in a negative sense. Here is the view from one commentary:

“Recompense is the actual exercise of vengeance, and vengeance is the actual execution of judgment on sinners, according to their desert, without mitigation by mercy.” (Benson Commentary)

What does the Bible itself say? Let’s look at more verses:

“To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” (Deut 32:35)

Recompense sounds negative being paired in that verse with vengeance. However, the meaning of “vengeance” has been shown to be “God allowing the sinner to experience the natural consequences of his choice to break the law in order to help him change his ways.”

Here is a verse using “recompence” in a positive sense:

“The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” (Ruth 2:12)

That sounds like it could be an arbitrary reward but this is only reflecting the understanding of the speaker – Boaz, speaking to Ruth.

“For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands.” (Jer 25:14)

“According to their deeds” – could be referring to either good or bad deeds. It sounds like “you reap what you sow.” It points to God allowing consequences as He honors free will as in these verses:

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds:” (Rom 2:6)

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal 6:7)

“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Rev 22:12)

This version really brings out that meaning for 2 Thessalonians 1:6:

“God always does what is merciful, loving and right: those who refuse the Remedy and cause harm, he will give up to reap the torment they have chosen–the destruction that comes from unremedied selfishness–” (2 Thess 1:6, The Remedy New Testament)

In taking any action, man (perhaps not always consciously) is choosing to encounter the consequences of that action. God always honors man’s free-will choices. To not do so would be to force the will and this God will not do.

This verse may come to mind:

“For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.” (Heb 10:30)

However, it is quoting Deuteronomy 32:35 discussed earlier in this study.

Here is a verse to test the true meaning of “recompense” as it certainly sounds like the usual understanding:

“Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations.” (Eze 7:3)

This is an example of a verse being badly misunderstood due to the use of non-Biblical definitions for multiple words.

Send translated from the Hebrew word “shalach” often means merely to allow.

Anger and wrath can refer to God’s action to allow man to receive the natural consequences of his actions.

God does not judge as in arbitrarily making a decision regarding our eternal fate. He does judge in the sense of diagnosing our condition and doing all He can to turn us around. However, we determine our own destiny as far as eternity; we judge ourselves. He only honors and confirms our free-will decisions.

The verse might be paraphrased something like this:

“Now is the end come upon you and I will, regretfully, have to recompense you by allowing you to experience the results of the things you have done.” (Eze 7:3, paraphrased)

See a video of a group study on the meaning of recompense.

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