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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Romans 14

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-23


The Duty of Sympathy and Toleration

In chapter Romans 13:12 St. Paul urged his readers, by their expectation of Christ's coming, to avoid the licence and immorality of the heathen. Now he turns to the opposite extreme, and deals with the ascetic scrupulousness of certain Christians.

Under the Jewish Law there was a distinction between clean and unclean meats. This distinction, which perpetuated the separation between Jew and Gentile, Christ abolished (Mark 7:19 RV), as was afterwards revealed to Peter (Acts 10:28), and decided by the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:28.) The Council, however, directed the Gentile Christians in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia to abstain from meat which had been offered to idols, or which had not been killed in the Jewish manner, out of consideration for the feelings of the Jewish Christians and to preserve unity. Afterwards the question arose at Corinth how far the Gentile Christians could join with their heathen acquaintances in meals when the meat had been offered to idols. St. Paul decided that as the meat was God's gift it might be eaten, but that when it was avowedly connected with idolatrous worship, it should be abstained from, for the sake of the consciences of those who thought it wrong to eat such meat.

It would seem that at Rome a minority of the Christians scrupled to partake of meat or wine in any form. They were probably Jewish Christians, for such ascetic practices were held by certain religious Jews. St. Paul did not approve of their scruples. He called such Christians 'weak in faith,' i.e. without that strong and clear conviction of Christian liberty which he held to be in accordance with the truth. But such brethren were to be welcomed and allowed to follow their convictions; and if there were any danger of wounding their consciences, the 'strong' brethren were to abstain themselves for the sake of Christian love.

Although the Apostle so urged toleration, yet, when a vital principle was at stake, he allowed no compromise: cp. 1 Corinthians 5, 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Corinthians 15:12.; Galatians 1:8.

1-12. The 'strong' and the 'weak' are lovingly to tolerate one another, remembering that Christ is master of each, and that each will be judged by God. 13-23. It would be better that the strong should forego his right, if its exercise would injure his brother.

Paraphrase. '(1) Some Christians have not grasped the principle that acceptance by God depends upon faith alone, and are in consequence scrupulous about unessential observances. Admit them to Christian fellowship, and abstain from criticising their scruples. (2) For example, one man is confident that he may eat any kind of food, while another refrains from meat. (3) Let not him who eats meat despise the other as superstitious. And let not the other condemn him who eats as unspiritual and worldly, for God imposed no rule about food upon him. (4) It is not for you to say that what Christ allows His servants is dangerous for them: their Master will keep them safe. (5) Again, one man observes the Jewish distinctions of days, while another does not. Let each man be faithful to his own conscience, (6) and recognise that the aim of men of both opinions is to please Christ. (7, 8) For His will is our law, in this life and in the world of death, (9) as is right, seeing that He is Master in both states of existence. (10, 11) It does not befit those who must all stand before God's judgment seat, to pass judgment upon one another. (12) The account that each will have to give of himself is enough for each to think of. (13) Therefore, instead of judging one another, determine not to hinder your brother in his Christian life.(14) For while in itself no food is sinful, it is sinful to those whose consciences forbid it, (15) and therefore to insist upon your right might injure your brother, which would be a breach of love. If Christ gave up His life for your brother, can you not give up some particular food? (16) Do not bring reproach upon the truth you hold, (17) by making it seem that you regard a well-spread table as more important than spiritual graces and unity, (18) for it is the practice of such graces which makes the service of Christ approved by God and man. (19) Let it be our aim to bring about peace and the welfare of the Christian community. (20) It would be monstrous to destroy God's Church for the sake of food. To eat any particular food is not in itself wrong; but it becomes wrong if by doing so you harm your brother; (21) while it is a noble thing to give up your own right for his sake. (22) Cherish your own convictions, but do not seek to impose them upon every one else. You have the great blessing of an un-doubting conscience, be satisfied with that.

(23) and do not tempt another to eat, when the fact that he is not sure whether he is doing right condemns him; for it is always sinful for a man to do what his conscience does not approve.'

1. The faith] RV 'faith.' To doubtful disputations] RM 'for decisions of doubts.'

2. Believeth that he may] RV 'hath faith to'; i.e. has such a grasp of the gospel of Christ that he recognises the indifference of these matters.

3. Despise] cp. Matthew 5:22. Hath received] i.e. into the Church.

4. God] RV 'the Lord,' i.e. Christ.

5. One day above another] The reference is, no doubt, to Jewish observances: cp. Galatians 4:10; Colossians 2:16. The principle is that salvation does not depend upon the observance of special days and seasons. These are indifferent in themselves, although to set apart special days may be practically useful. St. Paul would probably have included in this the keeping of Sunday. But he would have said that Sunday is no different from other days, because all days should be holy, not because all days are common. The six days should approximate as far as possible to Sunday, not Sunday to the six days. Hence the inestimable value of Sunday to maintain the level of spiritual life, quite apart from the benefit of its rest. Persuaded] RV 'assured.'

6. And he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it] RV omits. Eateth] i.e. eateth flesh. Thanks] cp. Matthew 15:36; Acts 27:35; 1 Corinthians 10:30; 1 Corinthians 11:24; 1 Timothy 4:4.

9. RV 'For to this end Christ died, and lived again.' 'He who, to save them, had dwelt in both worlds, was their Master in both' (Moule).

10. RV 'But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or thou, again, why dost thou,' etc. All] emphatic. Christ] RV 'God.' 'It is important to notice how easily St. Paul passes from “Christ” to “God” (Sanday and Headlam).

11. From Isaiah 45:23. Confess] i.e. God's sovereignty.

12. Himself] emphatic.

13. Stumblingblock] cp. Matthew 18:6.; 1 Corinthians 8:9.

14. By the Lord] RV 'in the Lord,' i.e. in communion with Christ. Unclean] lit. 'common': cp. Acts 10:14, Acts 10:28. But] RV 'save that.' 'Mistaken conscience calls for correction by better light, but never for violation. To follow conscience is, by itself, no security that we are doing what is in itself right; but to violate conscience, which is our actual view of right and wrong, is always wrong' (Moule).

17. Kingdom of God] i.e. the Messianic kingdom, expected by the Jews as an earthly kingdom, but really the reign of Christ over man, whether in grace or glory: cp. 1 Corinthians 4:20.

Righteousness] i.e. here, right dealing in relation to others. Peace] i.e. with one another. Joy] i.e. of the united Christian brotherhood. In the Holy Ghost] i.e. through His indwelling.

18. In these things] RV 'herein'; i.e. in the exercise of such a life of Christian love.

19. Edify] i.e. build up the Christian society, which is called in the next v. 'the work of God.'

20. RV 'overthrow not for meat's sake.' Pure] RV 'clean': cp. 1 Corinthians 10:23. With offence] i.e. to others.

21. Nor any thing] RV 'nor to do anything': cp. 1 Corinthians 8:13. Or is offended, or is made weak] RV omits.

22. Hast thou faith?] RV 'The faith which thou hast.' Have it to thyself] i.e. do not force it upon others; respect the scruples of the weak. Condemneth] RV 'judgeth.' Alloweth] RV 'approveth.'

23. Damned] RV 'condemned.' Faith] here = strong conviction. 'The words do not apply to those who are not Christians, nor to the works of those who are Christians done before they became such, but to the conduct of believing Christians; and faith is used somewhat in the way we should speak of a “good conscience” everything which is not done with a clear conscience is sin' (Sanday and Headlam).

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Romans 14:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/romans-14.html. 1909.

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