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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Romans 14

 

 

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Verse 1

Romans 14:1. τὸν δὲ ἀσθενοῦντα: as Godet points out, the part. as opposed to ἀσθενῆ, denotes one who is for the time feeble, but who may become strong. τῇ πίστει: in respect of faith, i.e.—in Paul’s sense of the word—in respect of his saving reliance on Christ and all that it involves: see above. One is weak in respect of faith who does not understand that salvation is of faith from first to last, and that faith is secured by its own entireness and intensity, not by a timorous scrupulosity of conscience. προσλαμβάνεσθαι is often used of God’s gracious acceptance of men, but also of men welcoming other men to their society and friendship, 2 Maccabees 8:1; 2 Maccabees 10:15. μὴ εἰς διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν: not with a view to deciding (or passing sentence on) his doubts. The διαλογισμοί are the movements of thought in the weak man, whose anxious mind will not be at peace; no censure of any kind is implied by the word. The strong, who welcome him to the fellowship of the Church, are to do so unreservedly, not with the purpose of judging and ruling his mind by their own. For διάκρισεις see 1 Corinthians 12:10, Hebrews 5:14.


Verse 2

Romans 14:2. ὃς μέν: cf. Romans 14:5, Romans 9:21. πιστεύει φαγεῖν πάντα: has confidence to eat all things. See Winer, p. 405. Gifford quotes Demosthenes, p. 88: προέσθαι δὲ τὴν προῖκʼ οὐκ ἐπίστευσεν: “he had not confidence, i.e., was too cautious, to give up the dowry”. This use of πιστεύειν shows that πίστις to Paul was essentially an ethical principle; the man who was strong in it had moral independence, courage, and originality. δὲ ἀσθενῶν λάχανα ἐσθίει: it is impossible to suppose that Paul here is “writing quite generally”; he must have had a motive for saying what he does, and it can only be found in the fact that he knew there were Christians in Rome who abstained from the use of flesh.


Verse 3

Romans 14:3. ἐσθίωνμὴ ἐξουθενείτω κ. τ. λ. Paul passes no sentence on either party, but warns both of the temptations to which they are exposed. He who eats will be inclined to contempt—to sneer at the scruples of the weak as mere prejudice or obscurantism; he who does not eat will be inclined to censoriousness—to pronounce the strong, who uses his liberty, no better than he should be. This censoriousness is forbidden, because God ( θεὸς is emphatic by position) has received the strong into the Church, and therefore his place in it is not to be questioned.


Verse 4

Romans 14:4. σὺ τίς εἶ κρίνων ἀλλότριον οἱκέτην; the sharpness of this rebuke (cf. Romans 9:20) shows that Paul, with all his love and consideration for the weak, was alive to the possibility of a tyranny of the weak, and repressed it in its beginnings. It is easy to lapse from scrupulousness about one’s own conduct into Pharisaism about that of others. οἰκέτης is rare in the N.T. Paul has no other example, and may have used it here for the suggestion (which δοῦλος has not) that the person referred to belonged to the house. τῷ ἰδίῳ κυρίῳ στήκει πίπτει: for the verbs in the moral sense see 1 Corinthians 10:12. The dative is dat(36) comm(37) It is his own Lord who is concerned—it is His interest which is involved and to Him (not to you) he must answer—as he stands or falls. σταθήσεται δέ: but he shall be made to stand, i.e., shall be preserved in the integrity of his Christian character. δυνατεῖ γὰρ κύριος στῆσαι αὐτόν: for the Lord has power to keep him upright. Paul does not contemplate the strong man falling and being set up again by Christ; but in spite of the perils which liberty brings in its train—and the Apostle is as conscious of them as the most timid and scrupulous Christian could be—he is confident that Christian liberty, through the grace and power of Christ, will prove a triumphant moral success.


Verse 5

Romans 14:5. The Apostle passes from the question of food to one of essentially the same kind—the religious observance of days. This is generally regarded as quite independent of the other; but Weiss argues from Romans 14:6, where the text which he adopts in common with most editors seems to contrast “him who observes the day” with “him who eats,” that what we have here is really a subdivision of the same general subject. In other words, among those who abstained from flesh and wine, some did so always, others only on certain days. “To observe the day” might in itself mean to observe it by fasting—this would be the case if one’s ordinary custom were to use flesh and wine; or it might mean to observe it by feasting—this would be the case if one ordinarily abstained. Practically, it makes no difference whether this reading of the passage is correct or not: Paul argues the question of the distinction of days as if it were an independent question, much as he does in Colossians 2. It is not probable that there is any reference either to the Jewish Sabbath or to the Lord’s Day, though the principle on which the Apostle argues defines the Christian attitude to both. Nothing whatever in the Christian religion is legal or statutory, not even the religious observance of the first day of the week; that observance originated in faith, and is not what it should be except as it is freely maintained by faith. For ὃς μὲν see Romans 14:2. κρίνει ἡμ. παρʼ ἡμέραν means judges one day “in comparison with,” or “to the passing by of” another: cf. Romans 1:25, Winer, 503 f. Side by side with this, κρίνει πᾶσαν ἡμέραν can only mean, makes no distinction between days, counts all alike. In such questions the important thing is not that the decision should be this or that, but that each man should have an intelligent assurance as to his own conduct: it is, indeed, by having to take the responsibility of deciding for oneself, without the constraint of law, that an intelligent Christian conscience is developed. For πληροφορείσθω cf. Romans 4:21, and Lightfoot’s note on Colossians 4:12. νοῦς (Romans 7:23) is the moral intelligence, or practical reason; by means of this, enlightened by the Spirit, the Christian becomes a law to himself.


Verse 6

Romans 14:6. The indifference of the questions at issue, from the religious point of view, is shown by the fact that both parties, by the line of action they choose, have the same end in view—viz., the interest of the Lord. φρονῶν τὴν ἡμέραν cf. Colossians 3:2. The setting of the mind upon the day implies of course some distinction between it and others. The clause καὶ μὴ φρονῶνοὐ φρονεῖ is omitted by most editors, but its absence from most MSS. might still be due to homœoteleuton. εὐχαριστεῖ: thanksgiving to God consecrates every meal, whether it be the ascetic one of him who abstains from wine and flesh ( μὴ ἐσθίων), or the more generous one of him who uses both ( ἐσθίων): cf. Acts 27:35, 1 Corinthians 10:30, 1 Timothy 4:3-5. The thanksgiving shows that in either case the Christian is acting εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ (1 Corinthians 10:31), and therefore that the Lord’s interest is safe.


Verse 7

Romans 14:7 f. οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἡμῶν ἑαυτῷ ζῇ κ. τ. λ. The truth which has been affirmed in regard to the Christian’s use of food, and observance or non-observance of days, is here based on a larger truth of which it is a part. His whole life belongs not to himself, but to his Lord. “No one of us liveth to himself,” does not mean, “every man’s conduct affects others for better or worse, whether he will or not”; it means, “no Christian is his own end in life; what is always present to his mind, as the rule of his conduct, is the will and the interest of his Lord”. The same holds of his dying. He does not choose either the time or the mode of it, like a Roman Stoic, to please himself. He dies when the Lord will, as the Lord will, and even by his death glorifies God. In Romans 14:14 ff. Paul comes to speak of the influence of conduct upon others; but here there is no such thing in view; the prominence given to τῷ κυρίῳ ( τοῦ κυρίου) three times in Romans 14:8 shows that the one truth present to his mind is the all-determining significance, for Christian conduct, of the relation to Christ. This (ideally) determines everything, alike in life and death; and all that is determined by it is right.


Verse 9

Romans 14:9. εἰς τοῦτο γὰρἵνα: cf. 2 Corinthians 2:9. ἔζησεν refers to the resurrection, as is shown by the order of the words, the connection elsewhere in Paul of Lordship with the resurrection (cf. Philippians 2:9 ff.), and the aorist tense which describes an act, and not the continued existence of Christ on earth (Sanday and Headlam): cf. Revelation 2:8 ( ὃς ἐγένετο νεκρὸς κ. ἔζησεν), Revelation 20:4 f. ἵνα denotes God’s purpose in subjecting His Son to this experience. We must not suppose that ἀπέθανεν is specially connected with νεκρῶν and ἔζησεν with ζώντων; there is the same mannerism as in Romans 4:25. Rather is it through Christ’s resurrection that His lordship over the realm of death is established, so that not even in that dark world do those who are His cease to stand in their old relation to Him. τοῦ κυρίου ἐσμὲν holds alike in the seen and the unseen.


Verse 10

Romans 14:10. σὺ δὲ: thou, in contrast with the one Lord and Judge of all. In face of our common responsibility to Him, how dare we judge each other? τὸν ἀδελφόν σου: another reason for not judging: it is inconsistent with a recognition of the brotherhood of believers. καὶ σὺ τί ἐξουθενεῖς κ. τ. λ. Or thou, again, why despisest thou? etc. This is addressed to the strong and free thinking, as the first question is to the weak and scrupulous Christian. Censoriousness and contempt are never anything but sins, not to be practised but shunned, and that all the more when we remember that we shall all stand at one bar παραστησόμεθα τῷ βήματι τοῦ θεοῦ God is the universal Judge. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 we have τῷ βήματι τοῦ χριστοῦ but here τοῦ θεοῦ is the correct reading We cannot suppose that by τοῦ θεοῦ here Paul means Christ in His Divine nature; the true way to mediate between the two expressions is seen in chap. Romans 2:16, Acts 17:31. When we all stand at that bar—and it should be part of our spiritual environment always—no one will look at his brother with either censoriousness or contempt.


Verse 11

Romans 14:11. γέγραπται γάρ: the universal judgment proved from Scripture, Isaiah 45:23. Paul follows the LXX, but very freely. For ζῶ ἐγὼ λέγει κύριος the LXX has κατʼ ἐμαυτοῦ ὀμνύω. The same passage is quoted more freely still in Philippians 2:10 f. to describe the exaltation of Christ. In Isaiah it refers to the coming of God’s kingdom, when all nations shall worship Him. ἐξομολογήσεται τῷ θεῷ = shall give thanks or praise to God: Romans 15:9, Matthew 11:25, and often in LXX = הוֹדָה. In the sense of “confess” it takes the accusative.


Verse 12

Romans 14:12. ἄρα ( οὖν): So then—conclusion of this aspect of the subject: cf. Romans 5:18, Romans 7:25. Every word in this sentence is emphatic: ἕκαστος, περὶ ἑαυτοῦ, λόγον δώσει, τῷ θεῷ. For λόγον in this sense see 1 Peter 4:5, Hebrews 13:17, Matthew 12:36, Acts 19:40.


Verses 13-23

Romans 14:13-23. The Apostle now proceeds to argue the question of Christian conduct in things indifferent from another point of view—that of the influence which our conduct may have on others, and of the consideration which is due to them. μηκέτι οὖν ἀλλήλους κρίνωμεν: thus much follows from what has been said already, and κρίνωμεν therefore forbids both the censorious and the contemptuous estimate of others. ἀλλὰ τοῦτο κρίνατε μᾶλλον: be this your judgment rather. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 7:37. τὸ μὴ τιθέναι πρόσκομμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ: this is of course addressed to the liberal party. For πρόσκομμα see 1 Corinthians 8:9. The word does not occur in the Gospels, but it is a remarkable fact that in most of our Lord’s express teaching about sin, it is sin in the character of σκάνδαλον, a snare or stumbling-block to others, with which He deals. Paul develops his ideas quite freely from his conception of faith, but in all probability he was familiar with what Jesus taught (Matthew 18).


Verse 14

Romans 14:14. In principle, the Apostle sides with the strong. He has no scruples about meats or drinks or days. ἐν κυρίῳ ἰησοῦ: it is as a Christian, not as a libertine, that Paul has this conviction; in Christ Jesus he is sure that there is nothing in the world essentially unclean; all things can be consecrated and Christianised by Christian use. κοινόν: cf. Acts 10:14; Acts 10:28, Revelation 21:27. It is the opposite of ἅγιον, and signifies that which is not and cannot be brought into relation to God. εἰ μὴ τῷ λογιζομένῳ κ. τ. λ. Though there is nothing which in itself has this character, some things may have it subjectively, i.e., in the judgment of a particular person who cannot help (from some imperfection of conscience) regarding them so; to him ( ἐκείνῳ emphatic) they are what his conscience makes them; and his conscience (unenlightened as it is) is entitled to respect. For εἰ μὴ cf. Matthew 12:14, Galatians 2:16.


Verse 15

Romans 14:15. Many expositors here supply something; e.g., “You must have respect therefore for his scruples, although you may not share them, for if,” etc. (Sanday and Headlam); but it seems simpler to connect the γὰρ with the leading idea in the writer’s mind, Put no stumbling-block before a brother, for, etc. διὰ βρῶμα is contemptuous: “for the sake of food” thy brother is grieved. βρῶμα is the food which the strong eats in spite of his brother’s scruples. λυπεῖται need not imply that the weak is induced, against his conscience, to eat also (though that is contemplated as following); it may quite well express the uneasiness and distress with which the weak sees the strong pursue a line of conduct which his conscience cannot approve. Even to cause such pain as this is a violation of the law of Christ. He who does it has ceased to walk κατὰ ἀγάπην, according to love, which is the supreme Christian rule. In the sense of this, and at the same time aware that the weak in these circumstances may easily be cajoled or overborne into doing what his conscience disapproves, the Apostle exclaims abruptly, μὴ τῷ βρώματί σου ἐκεῖνον ἀπόλλυε ὑπὲρ οὗ χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν. To tamper with conscience, it is here implied, is ruin: and the selfish man who so uses his Christian liberty as to lead a weak brother to tamper with his conscience is art and part in that ruin. The wanton contempt such liberty shows for the spirit and example of Christ is emphasised both here and in 1 Corinthians 8:11 f. Ne pluris feceris tuum cibum quam Christus vitam suam.


Verse 16

Romans 14:16. μὴ βλασφημείσθω οὖν ὑμῶν τὸ ἀγαθόν. τὸ ἀγαθόν is somewhat in definite. It has been taken (1) as the good common to all Christians—the Messianic salvation—which will be blasphemed by the non-Christian, when they see the wantonness with which Christians rob each other of it by such conduct as Paul reprobates in Romans 14:15; and (2) as Christian liberty, the freedom of conscience which has been won by Christ, but which will inevitably get a bad name if it is exercised in an inconsiderate loveless fashion. The latter meaning alone seems relevant. For βλασφ. see 1 Corinthians 10:30.


Verse 17

Romans 14:17. Insistence and strife on such matters are inconsistent with Christianity: οὐ γάρ ἐστιν κ. τ. λ. Usually in Paul βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ is transcendent; the kingdom is that which comes with the second advent, and is the inheritance of believers; it is essentially (as it is called in 2 Timothy 4:18) a βασ. ἐπουράνιον. See 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9 f., 1 Corinthians 15:50, Galatians 5:21. This use of the expression, however, does not exclude another, which is more akin to what we find in the Gospels, and regards the Kingdom of God as in some sense also present: we have examples of this here, and in 1 Corinthians 4:20 : perhaps also in Acts 20:25. No doubt for Paul the transcendent associations would always cling to the name, so that we should lose a great deal of what it meant for him if we translated it by “the Christian religion” or any such form of words. It always included the reference to the glory to be revealed. βρῶσις κ. πόσις: eating and drinking—the acts, as opposed to βρῶμα, Romans 14:15, the thing eaten. ἀλλὰ δικαιοσύνη κ. εἰρήνη κ. χαρὰ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ: are these words ethical or religious? Does δικ. denote “justification,” the right relation of man to God? or “righteousness,” in the sense of just dealing? Is εἰρήνη peace with God, the result of justification (as in Romans 5:1), or peace among the members of the Church, the result of consideration for each other? The true answer must be that Paul did not thus distinguish ethical and religious: the words are religious primarily, but the ethical meaning is so far from being excluded by the religious that it is secured by it, and by it alone. That the religious import ought to be put in the forefront is shown by χαρὰ ἐν πν. ἁγ. which is a grace, not a virtue. In comparison with these great spiritual blessings, what Christian could trouble the Church about eating or drinking? For their sake, no self-denial is too great.


Verse 18

Romans 14:18. ἐν τούτῳ: “on the principle implied by these virtues” (Sanday and Headlam). One may serve Christ either eating or abstaining, but no one can serve Him whose conduct exhibits indifference to righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. δόκιμος τοῖς ἀνθρώποις: so that there can be no occasion given to any one to blaspheme. Cf. Romans 16:10, 2 Timothy 2:15, James 1:12. A sound Christian character wins even the world’s approval.


Verse 19

Romans 14:19. ἄρα οὖν: see Romans 14:12. τὰ τῆς εἰρήνης is not materially different from τὴν εἰρήνην: all that belongs to, makes for, peace: we cannot argue from its use here that the word must have exactly the same shade of meaning in Romans 14:17. διώκωμεν: the indicative διώκομεν is very strongly supported, and would indicate the actual pursuit of all true Christians: “Our aim is peace,” and τὰ τῆς οἰκοδομῆς τῆς εἰς ἀλλήλους = mutual upbuilding. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 14:26. The practical rule implied here is that, when anything is morally indifferent to me, before I act on that conviction, I must ask how such action will affect the peace of the Church, and the Christian growth of others.


Verse 20

Romans 14:20. Paul repeats the rule of Romans 14:15. μὴ κατάλυε: the opposite of οἰκοδομεῖν. See Matthew 26:61, Galatians 2:18. τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ (1 Corinthians 3:9) what God has wrought, i.e., the Christian Church (which is destroyed by such wanton conduct) or the Christian character and standing of an individual (which may be ruined in the same way). πάντα μὲν καθαρὰ: this is the principle of the strong, which Paul concedes ( μὲν); the difficulty is to get the enlightened to understand that an abstract principle can never be the rule of Christian conduct. The Christian, of course, admits the principle, but he must act from love. To know that all things are clean does not (as is often assumed) settle what the Christian has to do in any given case. It does not define his duty, but only makes clear his responsibility. Acknowledging that principle, and looking with love at other Christians, and the effect of any given line of conduct on them, he has to define his duty for himself. All meat is clean, but not all eating. On the contrary ( ἀλλὰ), κακὸν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τῷ διὰ προσκόμματος ἐσθίοντι; sin is involved in the case of the man who eats with offence. Some take this as a warning to the weak; but the whole tone of the passage, which is rather a warning to the strong, and the verse immediately following, which surely continues the meaning and is also addressed to the strong, decide against this. The man who eats with offence is therefore the man by whose eating another is made to stumble. For διὰ προσκόμματος see Romans 2:27, Winer, p. 475.


Verse 21

Romans 14:21. A maxim for the strong. For καλὸν cf. Mark 14:6. Abstinence in order that others may not be made to stumble is morally noble. ἐν : usually προσκόπτειν takes the Dat(38), Romans 9:32 1 Peter 2:8. That there were those in the Church at Rome who had scruples as to the use of flesh and wine, see on Romans 14:2. Paul would not have written the chapter at all unless there had been scruples of some kind; and he would not have taken these examples if the scruples had concerned something quite different.


Verse 22

Romans 14:22. The true text is σὺ πίστιν ἣν ἔχεις: “the faith that thou hast, have thou to thyself in the sight of God”. The verse is still addressed to the strong. The faith he has is the enlightened faith which enables him to see that all things are clean; such faith does not lose its value though it is not flaunted in reckless action. On κατὰ σεαυτὸν Wetstein quotes Heliod. Romans 7:16 : κατὰ σεαυτὸν ἔχε καὶ μηδενὶ φράζε. Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:28 ( ἑαυτῷ δὲ λαλείτω καὶ τῷ θεῷ). ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ reminds the strong once more (Romans 14:10) that the fullest freedom must be balanced by the fullest sense of responsibility to God. In another sense than that of 1 Corinthians 9:21 the Christian made free by faith must feel himself ( μὴ ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλʼ ἔννομος χριστοῦ. μακάριος μὴ κρίνων ἑαυτὸν ἐν δοκιμάζει: “a motive to charitable self-restraint addressed to the strong in faith” (Gifford). It is a rare felicity (this is always what μακάριος denotes) to have a conscience untroubled by scruples—in Paul’s words, not to judge oneself in the matter which one approves (sc., by his own practice); and he who has this felicity should ask no more. In particular, he should not run the risk of injuring a brother’s conscience, merely for the sake of exercising in a special way the spiritual freedom which he has the happiness to possess—whether he exercises it in that way or not.


Verse 23

Romans 14:23. δὲ διακρινόμενος ἐὰν φάγῃ κατακέκριται: such, on the other hand, is the unhappy situation of the weak—a new motive for charity. For διακριν. cf. Romans 4:20, James 1:6, Mark 11:23. The weak Christian cannot be clear in his own mind that it is permissible to do as the strong does; it may be, he thinks one moment, and the next, it may not be; and if he follows the strong and eats in this state of mind, κατακέκριται he is condemned. The condemnation is absolute: it is not only that his own conscience pronounces clearly against him after the act, but that such action incurs the condemnation of God. It is inconsistent with that conscientiousness through which alone man can be trained in goodness; the moral life would become chaotic and irredeemable if conscience were always to be treated so. ὅτι οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως, sc., ἔφαγεν. The man is condemned because he did not eat ἐκ πίστεως: and this is generalised in the last clause πᾶν δὲ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως ἁμαρτία ἐστίν. All that is not of faith is sin; and therefore this eating, as not of faith, is sin. It is impossible to give πίστις here a narrower sense than Christianity: see Romans 14:1. Everything a Christian man does that cannot justify itself to him on the ground of his relation to Christ is sin. It is too indefinite to render omne quod non est ex fide as Thomas Aquinas does by omne quod est contra conscientiam: it would need to be contra Christianam conscientiam. All a man cannot do remembering that he is Christ’s—all he cannot do with the judgment-seat (Romans 14:10) and the Cross (Romans 14:15) and all their restraints and inspirations present to his mind—is sin. Of course this is addressed to Christians, and there is no rule in it for judging the character or conduct of those who do not know Christ. To argue from it that works done before justification are sin, or that the virtues of the heathen are glittering vices, is to misapply it altogether.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 14:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-14.html. 1897-1910.


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Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
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