Adam Clarke Commentary
In things indifferent, Christians should not condemn each other, Romans 14:1. Particularly with respect to different kinds of food, Romans 14:2-4. And the observation of certain days, Romans 14:5, Romans 14:6. None of us should live unto himself, but unto Christ, who lived and died for us, Romans 14:7-9. We must not judge each other; for all judgment belongs to God, Romans 14:10-13. We should not do any thing by which a weak brother may be stumbled or grieved; lest we destroy him for whom Christ died, Romans 14:14-16. The kingdom of God does not consist in outward things, Romans 14:17, Romans 14:18. Christians should endeavor to cultivate peace and brotherly affection, and rather deny themselves of certain privileges than be the means of stumbling a weak brother, Romans 14:19-21. The necessity of doing all in the spirit of faith, Romans 14:22, Romans 14:23.
It seems very likely, from this and the following chapter, that there were considerable misunderstandings between the Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome, relative to certain customs which were sacredly observed by the one and disregarded by the other. The principal subject of dispute was concerning meats and days. The converted Jew, retaining a veneration for the law of Moses, abstained from certain meats, and was observant of certain days; while the converted Gentile, understanding that the Christian religion laid him under no obligations to such ceremonial points, had no regard to either. It appears, farther, that mutual censures and uncharitable judgments prevailed among them, and that brotherly love and mutual forbearance did not generally prevail. The apostle, in this part of his epistle, exhorts that in such things, not essential to religion, and in which both parties, in their different way of thinking, might have an honest meaning, and serious regard to God, difference of sentiments might not hinder Christian fellowship and love; but that they would mutually forbear each other, make candid allowance, and especially not carry their Gospel liberty so far as to prejudice a weak brother, a Jewish Christian, against the Gospel itself, and tempt him to renounce Christianity. His rules and exhortations are still of great use, and happy would the Christian world be if they were more generally practised. See Dr. Taylor, who farther remarks, that it is probable St. Paul learned all these particulars from Aquila and Priscilla, who were lately come from Rome, Acts 18:2, Acts 18:3, and with whom the apostle was familiar for a considerable time. This is very likely, as there is no evidence that he had any other intercourse with the Church at Rome.
Him that is weak in the faith - By this the apostle most evidently means the converted Jew, who must indeed be weak in the faith, if he considered this distinction of meats and days essential to his salvation. See on Romans 14:21 (note).
Receive ye - Associate with him; receive him into your religious fellowship; but when there, let all religious altercations be avoided.
Not to doubtful disputations - Μη εις διακρισεις δια λογισμων . These words have been variously translated and understood. Dr. Whitby thinks the sense of them to be this; Not discriminating them by their inward thoughts. Do not reject any from your Christian communion because of their particular sentiments on things which are in themselves indifferent. Do not curiously inquire into their religious scruples, nor condemn them on that account. Entertain a brother of this kind rather with what may profit his soul, than with curious disquisitions on speculative points of doctrine. A good lesson for modern Christians in general.
One believeth that he may eat all things - He believes that whatsoever is wholesome and nourishing, whether herbs or flesh - whether enjoined or forbidden by the Mosaic law - may be safely and conscientiously used by every Christian.
Another, who is weak, eateth herbs - Certain Jews, lately converted to the Christian faith, and having as yet little knowledge of its doctrines, believe the Mosaic law relative to clean and unclean meats to be still in force; and therefore, when they are in a Gentile country, for fear of being defiled, avoid flesh entirely and live on vegetables. And a Jew when in a heathen country acts thus, because he cannot tell whether the flesh which is sold in the market may be of a clean or unclean beast; whether it may not have been offered to an idol; or whether the blood may have been taken properly from it.
Let not him that eateth - The Gentile, who eats flesh, despise him, the Jew, who eateth not flesh, but herbs. And let not him, the Jew, that eateth not indiscriminately, judge - condemn him, the Gentile, that eateth indiscriminately flesh or vegetables.
For God hath received him - Both being sincere and upright, and acting in the fear of God, are received as heirs of eternal life, without any difference on account of these religious scruples or prejudices.
Who art thou that judgest another man‘s servant? - Who has ever given thee the right to condemn the servant of another man, in things pertaining to his own master? To his own master he standeth or falleth. He is to judge him, not thou; thy intermeddling in this business is both rash and uncharitable.
Yea, he shall be holden up - He is sincere and upright, and God, who is able to make him stand, will uphold him; and so teach him that he shall not essentially err. And it is the will of God that such upright though scrupulous persons should be continued members of his Church.
One man esteemeth one day above another - Perhaps the word ἡμεραν , day, is here taken for time, festival, and such like, in which sense it is frequently used. Reference is made here to the Jewish institutions, and especially their festivals; such as the passover, pentecost, feast of tabernacles, new moons, jubilee, etc. The converted Jew still thought these of moral obligation; the Gentile Christian not having been bred up in this way had no such prejudices. And as those who were the instruments of bringing him to the knowledge of God gave him no such injunctions, consequently he paid to these no religious regard.
Another - The converted Gentile esteemeth every day - considers that all time is the Lord‘s, and that each day should be devoted to the glory of God; and that those festivals are not binding on him.
Let every man be fully persuaded - With respect to the propriety or non-propriety of keeping the above festivals, let every man act from the plenary conviction of his own mind; there is a sufficient latitude allowed: all may be fully satisfied.
He that regardeth the day - A beautiful apology for mistaken sincerity and injudicious reformation. Do not condemn the man for what is indifferent in itself: if he keep these festivals, his purpose is to honor God by the religious observance of them. On the other hand, he who finds that he cannot observe them in honor of God, not believing that God has enjoined them, he does not observe them at all. In like manner, he that eateth any creature of God, which is wholesome and proper food, gives thanks to God as the author of all good. And he who cannot eat of all indiscriminately, but is regulated by the precepts in the Mosaic law relative to clean and unclean meats, also gives God thanks. Both are sincere; both upright; both act according to their light; God accepts both; and they should bear with each other.
None of us liveth to himself - The Greek writers use the phrase, ἑαυτῳ ζῃν , to signify acting according to one‘s own judgment, following one‘s own opinion. Christians must act in all things according to the mind and will of God, and not follow their own wills. The apostle seems to intimate that in all the above cases each must endeavor to please God, for he is accountable to him alone for his conduct in these indifferent things. God is our master, we must live to him, as we live under his notice and by his bounty; and when we cease to live among men, we are still in his hand. Therefore, what we do, or what we leave undone, should be in reference to that eternity which is ever at hand.
Christ both died and rose - That we are not our own, but are the Lord‘s both in life and death, is evident from this - that Christ lived, and died, and rose again, that he might be the Lord of the dead and the living; for his power extends equally over both worlds: separate, as well as embodied spirits, are under his authority; and he it is who is to raise even the dead to life: and thus all throughout eternity shall live under his dominion.
But why dost thou - Christian Jew, observing the rites of the Mosaic law, judge - condemn thy brother - the Christian Gentile, who does not think himself bound by this law?
Or why dost thou - Christian Gentile, set at nought thy Christian Jewish brother, as if he were unworthy of thy regard, because he does not yet believe that the Gospel has set him free from the rites and ceremonies of the law?
We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ - Why should we then judge and condemn each other? We are accountable to God for our conduct, and shall be judged at his bar; and let us consider that whatever measure we mete, the same shall be measured unto us again.
Every one of us shall give account of himself - We shall not, at the bar of God, be obliged to account for the conduct of each other - each shall give account of himself: and let him take heed that he be prepared to give up his accounts with joy.
Let us not, therefore, judge one another any more - Let us abandon such rash conduct; it is dangerous, it is uncharitable: judgment belongs to the Lord, and he will condemn those only who should not be acquitted.
That no man put a stumbling block - Let both the converted Jew and Gentile consider that they should labor to promote each other‘s spiritual interests, and not be a means of hindering each other in their Christian course; or of causing them to abandon the Gospel, on which, and not on questions of rites and ceremonies, the salvation of their soul depends.
I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus - After reasoning so long and so much with these contending parties on the subject of their mutual misunderstandings, without attempting to give any opinion, but merely to show them the folly and uncharitableness of their conduct, he now expresses himself fully, and tells them that nothing is unclean of itself, and that he has the inspiration and authority of Jesus Christ to say so; for to such an inspiration he must refer in such words as, I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus. And yet, after having given them this decisive judgment, through respect to the tender, mistaken conscience of weak believers, he immediately adds: But to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean; because if he act contrary to his conscience, he must necessarily contract guilt; for he who acts in opposition to his conscience in one case may do it in another, and thus even the plain declarations of the word of God may be set aside on things of the utmost importance, as well as the erroneous though well-intentioned dictates of his conscience, on matters which he makes of the last consequence; though others who are better taught know them to be indifferent.
If thy brother be grieved - If he think that thou doest wrong, and he is in consequence stumbled at thy conduct.
Now walkest thou not charitably - Κατα αγαπην , According to love; for love worketh no ill to its neighbor; but by thy eating some particular kind of meat, on which neither thy life nor well-being depends, thou workest ill to him by grieving and distressing his mind; and therefore thou breakest the law of God in reference to him, while pretending that thy Christian liberty raises thee above his scruples.
Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died - This puts the uncharitable conduct of the person in question in the strongest light, because it supposes that the weak brother may be so stumbled as to fall and perish finally; even the man for whom Christ died. To injure a man in his circumstances is bad; to injure him in his person is worse; to injure him in his reputation is still worse; and to injure his soul is worst of all. No wickedness, no malice, can go farther than to injure and destroy the soul: thy uncharitable conduct may proceed thus far; therefore thou art highly criminal before God.
Let not then your good be evil spoken of - Do not make such a use of your Christian liberty as to subject the Gospel itself to reproach. Whatsoever you do, do it in such a manner, spirit, and time, as to make it productive of the greatest possible good. There are many who have such an unhappy method of doing their good acts, as not only to do little or no good by them, but a great deal of evil. It requires much prudence and watchfulness to find out the proper time of performing even a good action.
For the kingdom of God - That holy religion which God has sent from heaven, and which be intends to make the instrument of establishing a counterpart of the kingdom of glory among men: see on Matthew 3:2 (note).
Is not meat and drink - It consists not in these outward and indifferent things. It neither particularly enjoins nor particularly forbids such.
But righteousness - Pardon of sin, and holiness of heart and life.
And peace - In the soul, from a sense of God‘s mercy; peace regulating, ruling, and harmonizing the heart.
And joy in the Holy Ghost - Solid spiritual happiness; a joy which springs from a clear sense of God‘s mercy; the love of God being shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. In a word, it is happiness brought into the soul by the Holy Spirit, and maintained there by the same influence. This is a genuine counterpart of heaven; righteousness without sin, Peace without inward disturbance, Joy without any kind of mental agony or distressing fear. See the note on Matthew 3:2.
For he that in these things - The man, whether Jew or Gentile, who in these things - righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, serveth Christ - acts according to his doctrine, is acceptable to God; for he has not only the form of godliness in thus serving Christ, but he has the power, the very spirit and essence of it, in having righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and therefore the whole frame of his mind, as well as his acts, must be acceptable to God. - And approved of men; for although religion may be persecuted, yet the righteous man, who is continually labouring for the public good, will be generally esteemed. This was a very common form of speech among the Jews; that he who Was a conscientious observer of the law, was pleasing to God and approved of men. See several examples in Schoettgen.
Let us therefore follow - Far from contending about meats, drinks, and festival times, in which it is not likely that the Jews and Gentiles will soon agree, let us endeavor to the utmost of our power to promote peace and unanimity, that we may be instrumental in edifying each other, in promoting religious knowledge and piety instead of being stumbling-blocks in each other‘s way.
For meat destroy not the work of God - Do not hinder the progress of the Gospel either in your own souls or in those of others, by contending about lawful or unlawful meats. And do not destroy the soul of thy Christian brother, Romans 14:15, by offending him so as to induce him to apostatize.
All things indeed are pure - This is a repetition of the sentiment delivered, Romans 14:14, in different words. Nothing that is proper for aliment is unlawful to be eaten; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense - the man who either eats contrary to his own conscience, or so as to grieve and stumble another, does an evil act; and however lawful the thing may be in itself, his conduct does not please God.
It is good neither to eat flesh, etc. - The spirit and self-denying principles of the Gospel teach us, that we should not only avoid every thing in eating or drinking which may be an occasion of offense or apostasy to our brethren, but even to lay down our lives for them should it be necessary.
Whereby thy brother stumbleth - Προσκοπτει , from προς , against, and κοπτω , to strike, to hit the foot against a stone in walking, so as to halt, and be impeded in one‘s journey. It here means, spiritually, any thing by which a man is so perplexed in his mind as to be prevented from making due progress in the Divine life. Any thing by which he is caused to halt, to be undecisive, and undetermined; and under such an influence no man has ever yet grown in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Or is offended - Η σκανδαλιζεται , from σκανδαλον , a stumbling-block; any thing by which a person is caused to fall, especially into a snare, trap, or gin. Originally the word signified the piece of wood or key in a trap, which being trodden on caused the animal to fall into a pit, or the trap to close upon him. In the New Testament it generally refers to total apostasy from the Christian religion; and this appears to be its meaning in this place.
Or is made weak - Η ασθενει , from α , negative, and σθενος , strength; without mental vigor; without power sufficiently to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, lawful and unlawful. To get under the dominion of an erroneous conscience, so as to judge that to be evil or unlawful which is not so. The two last terms are omitted by two excellent MSS. (the Codex Alexandrinus and the Codex Ephraim), by the Syriac of Erpen, the Coptic and the Ethiopic, and by some of the primitive fathers. It is very likely that they were added by some early hand by way of illustration. Griesbach has left them in the text with a note of doubtfulness.
Hast thou faith? - The term faith seems to signify in this place a full persuasion in a man‘s mind that he is right, that what he does is lawful, and has the approbation of God and his conscience. Dr. Taylor has a judicious note on this passage. “There is no necessity,” says he, “ for reading the first clause interrogatively; and it seems to be more agreeable to the structure of the Greek to render it, Thou hast faith; as if he had said: ‹I own thou hast a right persuasion.‘ Farther, there is an anadiplosis in εχεις , and εχε the first simply signifies thou hast, the latter, hold fast. Thou hast a right persuasion concerning thy Christian liberty; and I advise thee to hold that persuasion steadfastly, with respect to thyself in the sight of God. Εχω have, has frequently this emphatical signification. See Matthew 25:29, etc.”
Happy is he that condemneth not, etc. - That man only can enjoy peace of conscience who acts according to the full persuasion which God has given him of the lawfulness of his conduct: whereas he must be miserable who allows himself in the practice of any thing for which his conscience upbraids and accuses him. This is a most excellent maxim, and every genuine Christian should be careful to try every part of his conduct by it. If a man have not peace in his own bosom, he cannot be happy; and no man can have peace who sins against his conscience. If a man‘s passions or appetite allow or instigate him to a particular thing, let him take good heed that his conscience approve what his passions allow, and that he live not the subject of continual self-condemnation and reproach. Even the man who has the too scrupulous conscience had better, in such matters as are in question, obey its erroneous dictates than violate this moral feeling, and live only to condemn the actions he is constantly performing.
And he that doubteth - This verse is a necessary part of the preceding, and should be read thus: But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith. The meaning is sufficiently plain. He that feeds on any kind of meats prohibited by the Mosaic law, with the persuasion in his mind that he may be wrong in so doing, is condemned by his conscience for doing that which he has reason to think God has forbidden.
For whatsoever is not of faith is sin - Whatever he does, without a full persuasion of its lawfulness, (see Romans 14:22) is to him sin; for he does it under a conviction that he may be wrong in so doing. Therefore, if he makes a distinction in his own conscience between different kinds of meats, and yet eats of all indifferently, he is a sinner before God; because he eats either through false shame, base compliance, or an unbridled appetite; and any of these is in itself a sin against the sincerity, ingenuousness, and self-denying principles of the Gospel of Christ.
Romans 14:23: And he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
These words certainly connect better with the close of the fourteenth chapter and the beginning of the fifteenth than they do with the conclusion of the sixteenth, where they are now generally found; but I shall defer my observations upon them till I come to that place, with only this remark, that the stablishing mentioned Romans 16:25, corresponds well with the doubting, Romans 14:23, and indeed the whole matter of these verses agrees so well with the subject so largely handled in the preceding chapter, that there can be very little doubt of their being in their proper place if joined to the end of this chapter, as they are in the preceding MSS. and versions.
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