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Introduction to chapter 14: In preparing to study the next chapter, it must be remembered that Paul wrote to a congregation that consisted of people from radically different backgrounds. Converted Jews and Gentiles were worshipping together and the different racial backgrounds created some problems. Some of the problems were matters of opinion and not doctrine. Those from a Jewish background would have been especially sensitive to what food was eaten and to observing certain days. The Gentiles were unconcerned about these things. Since some had one set of beliefs about days and food and others had different opinions, a rift could have been created in the church. Thus, in the next chapter, Paul showed that some things are matters of opinion.
An excellent overview is given in the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (1:171): “In Rome there were apparently two groups of believers, the ‘strong’ and the ‘weak.’ While the ‘strong’ were Christians with a very definite consciousness of authority and freedom, the ‘weak’ were (Jewish Christian) believers who had an uneasy conscience. Because of their pious dread (of impurity and transgression of the law) they ate no meat (Romans 14:2) and kept certain holy days (v. 5). Paul bids the ‘strong’ (among whom he counts himself, 15:1) to accept those in the community who are weak in faith (14:1), and not to despise them (v. 3), just as he encourages the ‘weak’ not to judge those who have different opinions (i.e. those who believe they may eat anything), inasmuch as God has already accepted them (v. 3). One should not place an offense or hindrance in one’s brother’s way (v. 13). This advice is particularly aimed at the ‘strong.’ They should bear with the weakness of the weak and ‘not please themselves’ (15:1), for ‘Christ did not please himself’ (v. 3).”
Matters of opinion need to be judged by the conscience and people can disagree about them. While the word conscience (suneidesis) does not occur in this chapter, the concept or the effects of the conscience are clearly seen. One author (James E. Law, Romans At A Glance) put together a series of charts which is very helpful in trying to understand the differences between what is doctrine, what is an opinion, who is weak, and who is strong. Though many issues change with the passing of time, Law offers some principles that are quite helpful. The following comments come from his section on Romans 14:1-23; no page numbers are given because his book is page less.
When we think of spiritual liberty, we are dealing with an area that lacks Biblical legislation. In fact, three very broad categories for Christians are these: things God has commanded, items God has prohibited, and matters of liberty. Regarding commands, we may look at passages describing how to become a Christian, how to live our daily life for Christ, and how to worship. Under the prohibitions category Christians are to avoid sins like hate, envy, fornication, false teaching, etc. Our areas of liberty include the kind of food we choose to eat, days we may wish to observe, whether or not to marry, our occupation, hobbies, where we live, etc.
For a proper understanding of these areas we must “believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3). Having this knowledge and understanding comes through an intensive study of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15). With our study we recognize that we may draw an incorrect conclusion (1 Corinthians 10:12), and may need to revise our conclusions. Along with these tools we pray for wisdom (James 1:5). Christians use these techniques to divide issues into two categories: what is lawful and what is not lawful. No one has a right to practice what is unlawful. Too, not everyone has the right to practice what is lawful. A practice may be right in and of itself, but if a person’s conscience forbids doing the lawful act, it would be wrong to violate the conscience (Romans 14:23). When we think about our liberties we realize that freedom must always have limits. We have “freedom of speech,” but we have no right to engage in slander. We have “freedom to marry,” but it must be in accordance with New Testament teaching (Matthew 19:9). There is “freedom for males to be circumcised,” but we cannot seek justification through circumcision (Galatians 5:3-4). We are entitled to eat whatever we want (Mark 7:19), but we cannot cause a brother to stumble over our selection and use of food (Romans 14:13; Romans 14:20-21). Christians can have the attitude, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Our liberties are to be subordinate to love. Again and again elevating our liberties above love is wrong (1 Corinthians 6:6-7; 1 Corinthians 8:8-9; 1 Corinthians 8:12-13; 1 Corinthians 9:12; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33).
Much of this chapter deals with judgment, a matter which is just as relevant now as when this material was first written. Several passages show that God’s people will at times need to form a conclusion on certain matters. Christians make judgments, have opinions, and must sometimes be judges. Jesus once asked a person to judge a matter (Luke 7:43), and said right judgment had been made. Jesus again introduced this concept in John 7:24 and referred to making righteous judgment. Peter and John asked non-Christians to make a judgment (Acts 4:19). Certainly in this section of Romans Paul referred to Christians making judgments (Romans 14:5). For other references, see 1 Corinthians 6:2-5; 1 Corinthians 10:15; Acts 15:19; Acts 16:4; Acts 21:25. Towards the end of this book we also read about Christians making judgments (Romans 16:17). Compare too Philippians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; Titus 1:10-13. All of us make judgments (have opinions), and most of us share those opinions at one point or another. If and when this is done in a congregational setting, we should make it clear that what is being said is our judgment and not a “thus saith the Lord.” Paul did this when writing to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:6-8).
While a lot of attention is put upon making judgments (decisions), there is also an emphasis on not being a hypocritical, fault-finding judge (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:37; Colossians 2:16). Just as Joshua was told to not go to the “right or left” (Joshua 1:7), so a balance must be struck when considering matters of judgment. We can help find and maintain this balance by remembering other Christians are servants of God and not us (Romans 14:4). God will accept some people who may make us uncomfortable (Romans 14:4 b). One day we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10), and if we showed no mercy in this life, we can expect a difficult examination before God (James 2:13).
Upon considering all the preceding material, and especially Paul’s point in Romans 14:4 b, we must say there is room for disagreement among God’s people. In Romans 14:1-23, Christians abstained from eating meat (food Jesus had declared clean, Mark 7:19), but the abstainers were still considered Christians (Romans 14:1). Paul did not suggest this congregation divide or withdraw fellowship from those who refused to eat certain foods. Today we must expect similar disagreement because Christians are at different maturity levels (Romans 14:1), and because some issues are matters of opinion (Romans 14:5). When we disagree with people, love must always prevail. Unfortunately, this is not always what occurs (or how people feel) in a local congregation. Strong brethren can feel restricted because sharing their opinions on various matters might cause them to be labeled as “liberal,” “progressive,” etc. Weak brethren may be afraid to share their decisions because they fear of being viewed as weak and immature. Christians need to be frequently reminded of how the church is like a family, and there will be disagreements on various issues. Both the weak and the strong must be willing to express leniency and toleration towards fellow Christians.
How far should we go in tolerating differences? Perhaps an illustration is the best answer this commentary can give. Imagine a road with a steady stream of traffic. Lines are on the pavement, but the drivers do not stay exactly between the lines. Sometimes they are off to the right, sometimes off to the left, but they are still on the road. When a car leaves the road, it becomes wrecked. In a similar way, Christians will travel the road to salvation, some to the left and some to the right. Unless we can establish that their beliefs and practices have caused them to make “shipwreck of the faith” (1 Timothy 1:19), we have no reason to reject them or withdraw fellowship.
Some have understood these points and quickly concluded that “doctrine does not matter.” Whatever someone wants to believe must be tolerated. This is absolutely false. When writing to Timothy, Paul spoke of a false doctrine which “overthrew” the faith of Christians (2 Timothy 2:17-18). When writing to the Galatians (5:4), Paul spoke of another error that, if embraced, causes Christians to “fall from grace.” When someone is in error, God says correct them (2 Timothy 2:25). Peter said Hell is reserved for false teachers who do not repent (2 Peter 2:1; 2 Peter 2:17); we cannot fellowship and accept those who are not in fellowship with God. If we do not abide in the “doctrine of Christ” (2 John 1:9), we do not have God. Our doctrine is only “sound” (or healthy) if it is of God (Titus 1:9). Godliness as the Bible describes can only come from sound doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3). Incorrect doctrine is from demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
Both common sense and the Bible instruct Christians on how to deal with disagreements. When Christians do not agree, the first steps should be to restudy the topic (2 Timothy 2:15) and pray for wisdom (James 1:5). Additionally, there should be an emphasis on a good attitude towards each other (Romans 14:19) and a well thought out “defense” of the differing views (1 Peter 3:15). God has given a “pattern of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13, ASV). We have a pattern for becoming a Christian (the book of Acts) and how to live and worship as Christians (the New Testament). To see how all this information goes together, examples from Law’s book are given in the following paragraphs.
In a local congregation there is a new Christian; we will call her Sally. Sally came from a religious group which prohibits makeup, jewelry, and bright clothing. After her conversion, she meets up with Bobby and they become great friends. As Sally comes to worship, she sees women wearing bright clothing and all the right accessories; she feels uncomfortable. When the spring sales start, the two ladies go the local mall and Bobby sees Sally repeatedly pick up and put down some flashy accessories. It is clear Sally is thinking about trying to blend in better with her new friends, but her conscience is condemning her. Bobby has already discussed the issue with Sally, but Sally still maintains her uneasiness with bright clothing and a wide range of womanly accessories. Should Bobby and the other ladies at the congregation forego makeup and their wardrobes because of a weak sister?
In another congregation a few states away, elders are preparing to build a new building. Part of the plan includes a gymnasium which will add a half million dollars more to the building project. Everyone is in favor of the project except Jim. He believes this part of the project is a waste; the church building is for the work of the Lord, not entertainment. Though the elders have spoken with Jim on how this facility will be used in multiple ways, Jim believes it is wrong. What should Jim and the elders do?
Hundreds of similar situations could be offered (additional matters are listed below), and there is no way to give a “one answer fits every case” response. Several Biblical truths, however, can be used when people have differing views on a subject. First, is the person being factious about his or her view? Whether a person is right or wrong, a hateful and divisive approach is wrong (Romans 16:17). Second, if a matter is an opinion (though this may not be recognized by one of the parties involved), a local congregation cannot allow itself to let this opinion be regarded as divine law (Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:20-23; Revelation 22:18). Third, there are times when Christians do not give in to a weaker party because doing so would create other and worse difficulties (Galatians 2:3-5). Fourth, we are not under obligation to give up liberties unless the other party’s conscience is violated. It is often the case that others may not like what we do (and this is usually what occurs), but their conscience is not affected. Fifth, some views which people have are false (i.e. opposed to New Testament teaching). If after a patient and long course of study the protester continues to resist the truth, the person may need to be refused (Titus 1:10). Sixth, we must seek to be longsuffering as we deal with those who have differences (Ephesians 4:2-3). Seventh, we must never forget or underestimate God’s help. When writing to the Philippians (Philippians 3:15), Paul suggested that God can and will help people come to an understanding of His word if this is lacking. Compare too Matthew 7:7. Eighth, there is an interesting word in Acts 15:28 (epanankes), and it is found only here in the New Testament. This term has the sense of “absolute necessity.” When questions arise we might ask ourselves (and others), Is it absolutely necessary for someone to have this view? Is having another view so serious that we believe the person’s soul will be eternally damned in Hell, and that if their view is not altered we have no choice but to engage in disfellowship? Ninth, there will be times when Christians choose to separate themselves from other believers (Acts 15:39). If we cannot in good conscience fellowship with brethren who have views other than ours, and we have used all the preceding steps, we may resort to worshipping with brethren of “like faith.” In cases such as this we must still have love and right intentions towards those we have left. Decisions such as this will be based upon the Scriptures, the circumstances for the given situation, and the Christian’s conscience. Each situation is different, and this is illustrated in this chapter. All food is acceptable (Romans 14:14), but Luke tells us Gentiles were prohibited from eating certain food (Acts 15:28-29). Circumstances do not change truth, but they can affect our choices and behavior. Timothy was told that forbidding marriage is a sign of apostasy (1 Timothy 4:3), but Paul recommended against marriage when writing to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:6-8). Tenth, we must always remember that we or those from whom we part company may later change and fellowship may be restored (such happened with Paul, Mark, and Barnabas). Too often brethren demand that someone immediately agree with their view or friendship and fellowship will be severed when they do not believe the issue is a “Heaven or Hell” matter. This is not brotherly love, wisdom, or consistent with the commands to study and seek out God’s will.
Here are some examples of other matters of conscience (opinion): Is it okay for a Christian to be cremated? What parenting techniques should and should not be used to discipline children? There can be disagreements over birth control, how money should be spent (or saved), the kind of music we listen to, which songs we should sing in worship, recreational activities, what kinds of jobs we do (hold), whether we think war is Christian or not Christian and whether the death penalty should or should not be applied. Some believe head coverings should be worn in the church building (1 Corinthians 11:1-34); others do not. Others have strong feelings for or against holidays such as Christmas and Halloween. Many do not agree on which Bible translations should be used or are reliable. In an age of many medical advances, there can be disagreements over medical procedures and new technology. There may be times when we forego liberties out of love because we are to “walk in love” (Romans 14:15). In other cases, the weak must simply bear with the strong.
14:1-2: But him that is weak in faith receive ye, (yet) not for decision of scruples. 2 One man hath faith to eat all things: but he that is weak eateth herbs.
There were and still are brethren who are “weak in faith.” The weak (astheneo) members of the congregation about whom Paul wrote are identified in verse two-Christians who would only eat herbs. The “strong Christians” ate everything without concern; the weak brethren were Christians who could not conscientiously eat certain foods. Brown (3:995) suggests the terms weak and strong were “catchwords or familiar slogans” and “used by the various groups within the churches of Corinth and Rome.” A weak person was a Christian who had an uneasy conscience about a matter of judgment. Such a person had “not yet reached a full knowledge of the faith” (Brown, 3:995). Compare 1 Corinthians 8:11. In this first verse weak is a present tense verb. It is also found in verses 2 and 21 of this chapter. We can better appreciate the word if we think of first century life. For those living in the midst of Roman culture, much of the meat sold in local stores was associated with idolatry (see 1 Corinthians 8:7). Christians who were weak could not eat this meat and maintain a clear conscience because they believed that eating the meat caused them to be involved with idolatry. If meat could not be eaten in good conscience, these Christians needed to be vegetarians.
On the other hand, there were Christians who were strong in the faith (this description is implied in verse 2). Strong Christians could eat all meats, even if the food had been used in idol worship. The strong Christians saw the meat as food and nothing but food. The weak Christians believed this food was to be avoided. Since these two groups had very different opinions, Paul needed to explain how the church could stay unified even though there was a disagreement about food. If the Greek text is examined, faith is literally “the faith” (the system of faith or “the gospel”). See the commentary on Judges 1:3 for more information on this point.
The opening verses of this chapter contain some valuable lessons, the first of which is related to agreement. No matter where we worship we are not going to fully agree with fellow Christians on matters of opinion. Even in a Christian marriage, a husband and wife will not always agree on matters of opinion. This chapter teaches that this is to be expected and that disagreeing over matters of judgment is okay.
Today, if we would call a Christian weak we would probably injure the person’s feelings. No one wants to be thought of as a weak Christian. Although many would reject this description, the Bible uses this terminology to describe some church members. This description is not degrading. Neither is it mean. Weak, as noted above, does not mean that a Christian is somehow inferior to another member of the church. It does mean a Christian’s conscience will not allow him or her to do what others do. If there is an instance where we are weak, we should be willing to acknowledge that. Refusing to acknowledge we are weak in some area indicates stubbornness and pride.
There must be agreement in the church concerning the “pattern of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13). We must agree that worship is to be in spirit and truth (John 4:24). We must agree on the terms for obeying the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Unity must exist in many areas, but there are some other matters wherein we can disagree. Some subjects that are a matter of opinion are these.
Ø How long should our worship service last?
Ø How long should a preacher stay with (at) a congregation?
Ø How many songs should be sung when we worship?
Ø What kind of church building should we have?
Ø Should we have more than one service on Sunday?
Ø Should we have Bible classes and Vacation Bible School?
Ø How should we celebrate holidays like Easter and Christmas?
Ø Should we eat in a restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages?
Ø Is it right to attend movies produced by the entertainment industry?
Ø Should we have and watch television?
Ø Should a Christian be involved in politics?
There are many matters of opinion wherein Christians may make up their own minds about things. In cases where Christians are weak (they are not comfortable doing what a strong Christian would do), the stronger is to receive the weaker, yet not for decision of scruples (verse 1). God insists stronger brethren receive (take in, do not shun or avoid) the weaker brother. The weaker Christian must be fellowshipped and included in the group.
In addition to fellowshipping each other, God’s people must obey a second command: Do not fellowship him for the decision of scruples (i.e. try to change his mind). A paraphrase (the New Living Translation) brings out the thought quite nicely: “Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.” If this rendering is used, however, it must be remembered the right and wrong are matters related to something as innocent as “meat” (food, verses 2 and 15). Also helpful is the NKJV: “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” “Herbs” (lachanon) is found only a few times in the New Testament (Matthew 13:32; Mark 4:32; Luke 11:42). Before the New Testament was written, this term described “herbs and vegetables cultivated in a field or garden, sold in the market, and prepared in the kitchen” (CBL, GED, 4:38). Many first century groups (academic, philosophical and religious) were composed of vegetarians. Since this is a matter of judgment, it must be treated as a matter of judgment. People may have differing opinions about it but still be faithful children of God. Trying to force a vegetarian to eat meat, or trying to beat him or her into submission through quarrelling, is forbidden. Even though we may be tempted to get a weaker brother to “believe just like us,” trying to change someone’s opinion on a matter that bothers his conscience is wrong. Making such an attempt is a sin.
What Paul wrote does not prohibit us from discussing a matter with someone or even engaging in some teaching. Weak brethren are not helped if we leave them in a state of ignorance. There is a difference between “trying to straighten someone out so he shares our opinion” and teaching a person with love. The former is forbidden; the latter is permitted. If a person believes something is wrong when it really isn’t, this chapter affirms the person may retain their faulty opinion. God does not require every Christian to share the same judgment about matters of opinion, though some seem to think so.
14:3-4: Let not him that eateth set at nought him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand.
The third verse repeats and expands Paul’s thought. Not only is the strong brother to welcome the weak brother, the weak brother is to welcome the strong brother. When Christians differ on matters of opinion, God accepts (has “received”) both Christians. This term (proslambano) has the sense of “receive hospitably” (CBL, GED, 5:343). It is also found in the Philemon letter (Philemon 1:12). When Philemon received his slave Onesimus back, Onesimus was to receive a hospitable welcome to his master’s home. Because God warmly, eagerly and fully accepts both the weak and the strong, there is to be no barrier between the weak and strong (this describes differences concerning matters of judgment-not matters of doctrine). Furthermore, there should be no bad (ill) feelings between the strong and the weak. There should never be a case where someone is disfellowshipped over a matter of personal judgment or a matter where God’s will is not clear.
There must have been a problem with matters of judgment among the Roman Christians. This is indicated by the word “judging” in verse 4 (the word is in the present tense). This tense indicates judgments were being made. The strong were judging the weak and the weak were judging the strong. When this judging is referred to in verse 3, two different words are used. Strong Christians “set at nought” or “despised” (KJV) the vegetarians. This term (exoutheneo) has the sense of contempt, disdain, rejection. The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (2:9) defines it as, “have a low opinion of, scorn, reject contemptuously.” It is not hard to imagine how the strong accused the weak of being unspiritual or spiritually immature. Accusations were not limited to strong Christians (people who were not vegetarians). From the weak were people who “judged” (krino) the strong. Robertson (4:412) noted the difference in words and said, “One side (the meat-eaters) despises the vegetarians, while the vegetarians criticize the meat-eaters.” The weak may have accused the strong of being ungodly bullies who lacked spiritual sensitivity and discernment. The tension between the two groups could have resulted in a church split.
To stop the judging (verse 4), Paul asked this question: Who are you that judges another? Since the present tense is used, there must have been a steady flow of accusations within this congregation. Knowing this can comfort God’s people today in that congregations in the past have sometimes had periods of intense discussions and heated debates. As Christians the words from the Hebrew letter (13:1) always need to be remembered: “Let brotherly love continue.”
The Romans needed to realize they were judging the “servants” of God. Also, the matters troubling these people were opinions and not doctrine. Because of these two facts, Paul asked how a servant could judge a fellow servant on matters of opinion. Surely they understood this was wrong. Only God (James 4:12) has the right to justify or condemn people in matters of judgment. However, God does not use this right. Heaven allows the weak brother to “stand” (be justified) with his opinion just as the strong brother stands (is also justified). Stand (steko) is a present tense verb that occurs at both the beginning and end of this verse. It means “to stand erect” and “not to sin” (Thayer, p. 588). Since God does not judge His people in matters of opinion, how can another human being do this?
Many times in the New Testament servant is the word doulos (a bond servant). This common term is found earlier in this letter (Romans 1:1; Romans 6:16-17; Romans 6:20). New Testament writers also had at their disposal another word for servants (oiketes), and this second term described “closer relations with the family.” Here this second more personal term is used. God’s servants are not mere slaves; they are chosen and favored people. Because Christians have a God who cares deeply about them, we must treat our brethren very, very well, especially when we disagree about a matter of opinion. Lenski (Romans, p. 818) noted how this kind of servant would be “in personal contact with his master. Whose business is it to pass any kind of judgment, either favorable or unfavorable upon such a servant? Certainly the master’s alone.” In the middle of verse 4 is another key word which completes the thought (in the ASV, this is also translated stand). God helps hold up His people whether they are weak or strong. The strong may not believe they need God’s aid, but they do. Such is also true for the weak. Compare Romans 16:25; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Peter 1:5; Judges 1:24.
What Paul said is easy to understand but many fail to apply it. There have been cases where Christians have said: “Agree with us if you want to be part of this group. Change your viewpoint or we will separate ourselves from you.” Paul understood that this was wrong. He refused to coerce or pressure weak Christians to believe something that offended their conscience. We must follow Paul’s example. Weak brethren have liberty just as the strong do, and all must be allowed to enjoy their freedom. Neither the weak nor the strong are to bind or attempt to bind their opinions on each other.
14:5-8: One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day (alike). Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord: and he that eateth, eateth unto the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, unto the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
Paul will return to the subject of eating meats, but in this section of the chapter he turned to a different subject-special days. In the first century, certain days had a lot of religious significance. This was especially true for the Jewish people. The Jews believed certain days should be recognized as special or holy days because of their background. The Gentiles did not share this belief, so this difference was another source of friction and contention. “Esteemeth” (krino) is used twice in this verse. At the start of the verse it means “to esteem one day as better than another,” and the second time it means “to approve each day, i.e. esteem all days alike” (Brown, 2:364).
A specific example of the “day problem” may have been the Sabbath. On the seventh day (Saturday) those from a Jewish background may have wanted to rest, but Gentiles wanted to work. A similar problem could have resulted from the Jewish feasts such as the Passover. Those from a Jewish background may have wanted to observe this day; those from a Gentile background may have wanted to treat the day as any other.
Paul’s solution to these problems is stated in the 5th verse. He said, “Let each man be fully assured in his own mind.” People needed to make their own decisions about special days. Some might choose to celebrate a certain day and others could choose to not celebrate that day. Each Christian had the right to make up his or her own mind about special days and celebrations. The word translated fully assured (epicheireo) means Christians are to act “with a conviction that is thought out, mature, justified in their conscience” (Spicq, 3:121).
This instruction may be applied to the present time. Some Christians like to expend a great deal of time and energy on Christmas. Those who wish to celebrate this holiday have divine permission for their celebration. Those who wish to view Christmas as an ordinary day or season are entitled to their viewpoint. The same is true of Halloween. Some view this day as a time dedicated to the devil and they want nothing to do with it. Others see Halloween as a time of joy and they do not associate it with evil or Satan. God allows Christians to differ about national holidays. The end of this verse says we are to make decisions we are comfortable with when dealing with matters of opinion.
The points made by Paul are further developed in the 6th verse. Here we are told that if someone believes a day is special, or he eats a certain food in good conscience, these actions are done “unto God” and “thanksgiving” is offered. This means both the weak and the strong are sincere in their activities. What is being done is done with a good conscience and no one is guilty of sin. “Regardeth” (phroneo) is defined by Thayer (p. 658) as “to regard a day, observe it as sacred.” The man who eats (the strong brother) is thankful to God for his food. The person who observes a special day (the weak brother) is grateful for his holiday. The verse ends by saying the one who does not eat meat is also thankful. Such a person would have been appreciative for the alternative food (in this case the food was probably vegetables).
Many verses in the New Testament teach the point found in verse 7. Christians belong to someone else-Jesus Christ. We belong to the Lord because He has bought us. Because Christ has purchased His people, “none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself.” This means there is more to our life than our day-to-day existence. God holds the deed to our soul. If we are alive or dead (verse 8), we belong to the Lord. Paul used this fact to show that both strong and weak Christians are bound together by a common owner. Only our owner (the Lord) can make rules regarding matters of opinion. God has ruled that in matters of opinion we get to decide what is right for us.
14:9-12: For to this end Christ died and lived (again), that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or thou again, why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, And every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Jesus has experienced both life and death. If we live for Him as a Christian, He is our Lord. If we die in His service, He is still our Lord. Paul meant a Christian always has Jesus as Lord and judge (notice how this is stressed in verse 8; Paul used the word “Lord” three times). Paul wanted his readers to know beyond any doubt that Christ, and not a fellow human being, is our judge. A further emphasis of this point is found in verse 9. Three words “might be Lord” come from a single term (kurieuo), a verb, meaning to be Lord over, rule over, have dominion over, or control. Earlier in this book (6:9), Paul used this term to say death has no more dominion over Jesus. Here Spicq (2:352) says it means Jesus “has conquered every sovereignty, and the legitimacy of his dominion can never be contested.”
Because Jesus is the judge, making judgments against each other in matters of opinion is wrong and forbidden (10a). Another forbidden act is setting at nought a fellow Christian. The word “naught” (exoutheneo) meant to despise or treat with contempt. We might think of it as looking down on someone (Earle, p. 208). Other definitions are “have a low opinion of, scorn, reject contemptuously” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 2:9). This is the same word used in verse 3 as well as 1 Corinthians 16:11 (there was a chance Timothy could be despised). Judge and despise are both present tense verbs. Christians are slaves to Christ and we must remember our position (we are servants). This lowly position does not give us the authority to judge others. Neither does it allow us to insist that others accept our opinions on matters of judgment. Others have a right to their opinions on things that are not doctrinal. These differing opinions must be accepted and respected.
The statement “Lord of both the dead and the living” provides us with information about death. Since the dead can only be “ruled over” if they are conscious, this verse teaches that people are conscious after death. Death is the separation of the body and soul; it is not the cessation of the eternal spirit (James 2:26). The Lord continues to rule over man’s eternal spirit after people die. Jesus affirmed this same truth when answering the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23-32). He spoke of men such as Abraham, men who had been dead a long time, but claimed God still ruled over them (notice the present tense in Matthew 22:32 -I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). If death is all there is and an end to our existence, Jesus would have said, “God was.” (For a special study on Hades, the holding place for both the righteous and unrighteous dead, see the commentary on Acts 2:27).
The two questions in the 10th verse were directed to both the strong and the weak. The strong were inclined to set at nought the weak. That is, they looked down upon and rejected the weak. The strong even expressed feelings of contempt toward their weaker brethren. The weak brethren responded with judgment. We can compare this judgment to the charge of liberalism. The weak charged the strong with doctrinal error and apostasy. While these charges are appropriate for doctrinal error, they are not suitable for differences in opinion. For ways to distinguish between doctrine and matters of opinion, see the introductory comments for this chapter.
In verses 11 and 12 Paul provided information about the final judgment. Some believe his quotations from Isaiah 49:18; Isaiah 45:23 show that the final judgment was predicted in the Old Testament. This may be correct. Others like McGuiggan reject this interpretation. If the final judgment is not in view, it is difficult to explain when we will “give an account” for our lives (verse 12).
There is an interesting contrast between Romans 14:11-12 and Philippians 2:11. While men are upon the earth, they “should” confess Christ as Lord and become a child of God (Philippians 2:11). If this is not done, all “will” eventually submit to God’s power and acknowledge Jesus as King of Kings and master of all (Romans 14:11-12). This forced submission will not offer any benefit to the unsaved, but it will cause all to ultimately acknowledge that Jesus is supreme and the one true Lord. “Bow” (kampto) is found only four times in the New Testament. In addition to here, it occurs in Romans 11:4; Ephesians 3:14; Philippians 2:10. It is defined as “a sign of reverence or submission” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 2:248). Each time bow occurs, it is joined with the word “knee” (gonu). In almost every passage that uses knee, the thought is associated with prayer or worship. For the culture in which this was first written, “bowing one’s knee was a respectful acknowledgement of another’s superiority (as in the case of Mark 15:19)” (CBL, GED, 1:641).
If bowing the knee (and this may not be a literal expression) is not enough, “every tongue shall confess to God.” Tongue (glossa) is found about fifty times in the New Testament, and it is the word associated with tongue speaking. Here, however, it is a quote from Isaiah (45:23b): “for the person who must stand before God’s judgment. The same citation is used in the hymn in Philippians 2:10 f. for the recognition of the lordship of Jesus Christ by the cosmic powers” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:252). It is difficult to know what the confession (exomologeo) will be. Two distinct possibilities are “confession of sin to God or acknowledgement to God of who Jesus is” (CBL, GED, 2:479). This same term occurs about twelve other times in the New Testament, and one of these other places is Philippians 2:11. Whatever the confession is, it will be “to God” (i.e. the Father).
14:13-14: Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge ye this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock in his brother’s way, or an occasion of falling. 14 I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself: save that to him who accounteth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Paul has shown that judging each other in matters of opinion is wrong. In the first part of verse 13, this point is stressed even more. The first part of this verse says, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more.” These Christians were in the habit of judging one another in matters of opinion. This had to stop. Robertson (4:414) expresses the idea as, “Let us no longer have the habit of criticizing one another.” This message still needs to be proclaimed in classrooms and pulpits throughout the world.
If these Christians wanted to judge something, they needed to turn their attention to stumbling blocks and an occasion of falling (13b). A “stumbling block” (proskomma) was an impediment or an obstruction. It is putting a “hindrance in the way of a brother” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:173). Gingrich and Danker (p. 716) define it as putting “an obstacle in the brother’s way.” An “occasion of falling” (skandalon) was a “means of falling” (an offense). It can be likened to a snare that “would entice one from the Faith” (CBL, GED, 6:60). Here the snare was based upon “eating habits” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 3:249); i.e. the eating of foods which made some uncomfortable. The end of verse 13 means that instead of judging the opinions of others we must judge ourselves. We must ensure we are not doing things that would lead others into sin, cause a fellow Christian to stumble, or engage in actions that somehow damage another Christian. Our energy for judgment must be focused on ourselves. This thought is developed more fully in the following verses. Paul used food to illustrate his point.
The New Testament writers had more than one word for food. One term (kreas), found only in Romans 14:21 and 1 Corinthians 8:13, described flesh (meat). Among the Gentiles, pork was especially popular. Christians from a Jewish background would not have been accustomed to this type of meat (Leviticus 11:7-8; Isaiah 65:4; Acts 10:14), and this created problems. Another word for food (broma, the term used in verse 13) was a general word for food. It included animal flesh, fruit, vegetables, bread, etc. A good definition for broma is “food, nourishment, or nutrients” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:228).
When Paul penned this letter, he affirmed his right to eat any type of food (14a). He both “knew” and was “persuaded” (peitho, a verb that has the sense of being convinced) that all foods had divine approval. Because both verbs are in the perfect tense, Paul had come to this conclusion in the past and he was still persuaded it was true. He knew any kind of food is acceptable because the Old Testament law has been removed (Romans 7:1-4). The Law of Moses has been abolished and Christians are now under a New Testament. This new law says all foods are acceptable (Mark 7:19). While Paul realized all food may be eaten with God’s approval, he also understood that not every Christian was comfortable with doing this. There was even a time when Peter did not understand or make use of this truth (Acts 10:13-15). A Christian from a Jewish background may have had lingering questions about eating food that had been forbidden since childhood. This conviction would have made some Christians from a Jewish background weak in the sense that they could not eat certain foods and have a clean conscience. Paul said if people thought it was wrong to eat certain foods, it was wrong (wrong for them, not everyone else). People were to live in such a way that they could have a clean conscience. If a strong Christian insisted a weak Christian eat certain food(s), a stumbling block would be put before the weak brother. This was also wrong.
These Christians had no right to impose their personal ideas or beliefs on other members of the congregation. If a man wanted to avoid doing some things (and one of these things was not eating meat-“to him it is unclean,” 14b), this was acceptable. If a person wanted to teach his opinion as the only right way to do things, this was wrong. Anyone who taught that some forms of food had to be avoided taught a demonic doctrine (1 Timothy 4:1-4). This belief could be a personal conviction, but it could not be a law that was bound upon other members of the church. Unclean (koinos) can be defined as “profane” (Gingrich and Danker, p. 438). Kittle’s comment (abridged edition, p. 448) gets to the heart of the matter: “Weaker brethren may still think in these terms, and allowance must be made for them, but they are objectively mistaken (Romans 14:14).”
14:15-16: For if because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love. Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
The weak were warned about trying to impose their convictions about food on others. Similar instructions were given to the strong. Those who believed that all food is suitable for eating were to avoid grieving (a present tense verb) a fellow church member. Grieving (lupeo) has varying shades of meaning in the New Testament. In its most intense sense it is applied to Jesus and His time in the Garden (Matthew 26:37). Here the sense is something like “hurt feelings.” Other definitions would be “injured/deeply troubled” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 2:363). We may illustrate the thought with an example. Suppose a church member is opposed to roast beef (he thinks eating this type of meat is wrong). He would be weak with respect to roast beef. What if a strong Christian invited this weak brother to have lunch at Arby’s and have a giant roast beef sandwich? This invitation would grieve the weak Christian. Failing to take the weak Christian’s convictions into account or flaunting the fact that others eat roast beef at Arby’s would create a stumbling block for the weak Christian. The lack of love and consideration for a fellow Christian’s opinions is deplorable (15a). This must not be found in the church.
Christians are to show “love” (agape) towards all people (13:8). Christian love prevents Christians from hurting those who have a tender conscience. The end of verse 15 accentuates the point even more by saying, “Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died.” Strong Christians may know that certain actions are acceptable to God and they can conscientiously engage in these practices. However, those who do so must be mindful of those who do not share their confidence and convictions. It is better to forego some of our liberties if engaging in something means we will hurt or destroy a fellow Christian. Love also means the strong will not boast about how they can do things that bother other Christians. Christian love even prohibits strong Christians from having a condescending attitude towards those who do not share their convictions. McGuiggan (p. 395) asked an excellent question: “What will we take in exchange for a brother’s soul? Would it be food? Drink? Money? Being right? What is so valuable that it destroys the soul of another Christian? We cannot run roughshod over fellow brethren and please God.”
The word translated “destroy” (apollumi) “literally means to ‘destroy utterly.’ It is used frequently in the New Testament of sinners perishing without salvation. This makes it clear that it is not a matter of a weak brother having his life wasted or his reputation ruined. Our selfish liberties may cause his soul to perish” (CBL, Romans, p. 219). If we injure or ruin another Christian, we can expect to face God’s judgment. Christ died “for” (on behalf of) a weak Christian. If we negatively impact a weak Christian, we essentially interfere with the Lord’s saving work and He will surely not be pleased with our negative interference.
The information in verse 16 is easily related to the previous verses. Christians must not let their “good” (this word may describe our salvation, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:6) be “evil spoken of” (blasphemeo). This term was used by Jesus when He spoke of blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:10). Blasphemo “occurs more often than one might suspect-35 times-in the New Testament, being found in 14 books by 8 writers” (CBL, GED, 1:563). Here it warns Christians “against any behavior that gives occasion for their salvation…to be slandered or brought into ill repute among non-Christians and thus to become a subject for scorn and ridicule” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:220). Even though some Christians may do or believe things a weak Christian would not do or believe, these beliefs or actions should never bring injury to another believer. No one should ever be able to point to a strong Christian and say, “You are damaging a fellow Christian with your opinions and actions.” Too, our actions should never leave us open to charges from non-Christians (compare 1 Timothy 3:7; 1 Timothy 3:9-10). Any Christian who is truly strong will defend, protect, and compassionately love those who are weak. The strong have liberties, but if these rights crush and hurt a son or daughter of God, or would subject our life to ridicule and slander from the unsaved, it is better to abandon the freedom (compare verse 21).
14:17-18: for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he that herein serveth Christ is well-pleasing to God, and approved of men.
The kingdom of God is not “eating and drinking.” That is, there is more to Christianity than food and beverages. Thus, if eating certain foods would destroy a Christian, or engaging in other activities would bring about a similar consequence, the food or activity should be abandoned. The kingdom is far greater than any freedom or opinion we possess.
Paul understood that God’s kingdom is about “righteousness” (right conduct by its citizens), “peace,” and “joy.” When Christians insist that others agree with their opinions (this insistence is often made by the weak), or trample others with their confidence about things (this is usually done by the strong), there is little righteousness, peace, and joy in the kingdom (church). Insisting on our rights or opinions causes us to lose sight of what the kingdom is. In this passage (as well as some other places), the kingdom refers to the church.
The phrase “in the Holy Spirit” describes living as a Christian. This is clear from Paul’s use of the same phrase in the book of Ephesians. According to Ephesians 6:18 members of the church are to both “watch” and be “praying at all seasons in the Spirit.” Since in the spirit is joined with “all seasons” in Ephesians 6:18, this is not mystical, supernatural, or unexplainable. Also, since the word watch is used in conjunction with this phrase, being in the Spirit cannot describe a loss of control-a claim made by some members of the Pentecostal movement. The command to watch in Ephesians 6:18 further implies we are in control of ourselves when we are in the Spirit.
In Ephesians 5:18 this phrase is used to present a contrast. Instead of living in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2), Christians have been made alive to live with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). Because we have left the old life, we refuse to follow the ways of the world. This includes avoidance of things associated with “riot” (see Ephesians 5:18). Instead of living a life of sin and following the ways of Satan, Christians are to be filled with the Spirit (the ways of God). Living in the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit are different ways to express living the Christian life. This was what the Romans needed to do so there would be no problems between the weak and the strong. For more information about this subject, see the commentary on Judges 1:20.
There are members of the church who do not walk (live) in the Spirit (17b). Many want their own way and insist that fellow church members accept their opinions on matters of judgment. Some get their way by claiming to be weak. Some affirm they will be offended if certain things are not done as they want or deem best. If the truth were told, many who claim to be weak are not weak. These people are stubborn, self-centered, and full of pride. When these individuals disguise their intentions by pretending to be weak, we have no obligation to accommodate them. Neither does this chapter require us to go along with every crank that has a half-baked idea or opinion. We must carefully distinguish between those who are weak and those who are obstinate, selfish, and opinionated, and the Scriptures will help us do this. According to Philippians 3:15, God can be involved in helping people determine what is and what is not critical regarding our beliefs and practices. Through God’s providence we can come to a deeper and fuller understanding of the Scriptures. As questions arise and are considered, we must always remember the difference between renouncing liberties for those who are weak and giving in to people who do not like a decision. Too many congregations have been guided or overtaken by people who condemn every idea and opinion but theirs. When Christians have differing views about various matters, sometimes both sides can be accommodated. A Catholic lady once refused to visit a certain religious group because it did not have “kneelers.” She believed it was disrespectful to pray in a posture other than on the knees. Should the congregation that did not have kneelers have rebuffed her belief or tried to accommodate her? It would have been wrong to insist that all worshippers use kneelers, but one could have been made available to her and any one else who wanted one. When we find Christians who are weaker brethren, there must be a spirit of “us” and a desire for truth and unity, not an “us versus you” mentality. Agape love solves a lot of problems. For additional suggestions on how to work through differences, see the introductory comments on this chapter.
Verse 18 refers to Christians “serving” (douleuo, a present tense verb) “Christ.” Matthew is the first New Testament book to use this term (Matthew 6:24). He recorded the Lord saying we cannot serve two masters. Neither can we serve (same word and same verse) money. When meeting with the Ephesian elders Paul applied this term to his Christian life (Acts 20:19). Prior to this place in the book of Romans this term occurs in Romans 6:6; Romans 7:6; Romans 7:25; Romans 9:12; Romans 12:11. After this verse it is found in Romans 16:18. See too how it is used in 1 Thessalonians 1:9. Brown (3:596) offers this comment on serving in the present text: “Christ’s redemption frees one for obedient service under the command of the Kyrios” (Lord, BP).
Christians who serve are “well-pleasing” (euarestos) to God. In the KJV this term is rendered “acceptable.” Other places which use this word reveal other aspects of the Christian life which are also well-pleasing to God. In Romans 12:1 well-pleasing is applied to our bodies. When writing to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 5:9), Paul associated this word with a Christian’s labor. In the Philippians letter it is associated with sacrifice (Philippians 4:18). Well-pleasing is joined with obedience in Colossians 3:20 and good works done through Christ (Hebrews 13:21). Living as verse 18 describes will leave us “approved of men.” Who are these men? Lard (p 426) rightly said, “it is not necessary to restrict the word ‘men’ to christians (sic). The meaning appears to be this: It is the general sentiment of mankind that he is worthy of approval who is righteous in conduct, and who at the same time so acts as to occasion others peace and joy, and not grief. Such a man is approved by the world.” Compare this to a qualification for elders (1 Timothy 3:7).
14:19-21: So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another. 20 Overthrow not for meat’s sake the work of God. All things indeed are clean; howbeit it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21 It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor (to do anything) whereby thy brother stumbleth.
One of the things that must concern every Christian is “peace” in the church. Strife and contention are out of place in the Lord’s body. Instead of attacking and injuring each other (as people in the world often do), Christians are to “edify” (oikodome) one another. We cannot have a good relationship with God if we have a sour relationship with our brethren. Perhaps to convey the intensity of the thought, Paul used a special word (dioko) which is translated “follow.” Most of the places where this term occurs use this word to describe persecution (see how this word is used in Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 5:44). There are some instances of the word having a different but still intense meaning (i.e. the quest for Christian values). For this passage it can be understood as “strive for something” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:338). It is a present tense verb, and it tells us to always strive for peace and edification within the church. Compare this to what is said in Romans 12:18.
In light of the preceding material it is clear that we must promote peace and harmony by letting fellow Christians maintain their individual convictions on matters of opinion. The weak can bear with the strong and the strong can bear with the weak in matters of judgment. We should do everything we can to encourage and not discourage fellow Christians.
The material in verses 20 and 21 expands this thought even more, and the wording from Today’s Living Bible simplifies the point quite well: “Don’t undo the work of God for a chunk of meat” (or any other food, BP). Christians are forbidden from using food or anything else to “overthrow” the “work of God.” The work of God is a metonymy for Christians. If any of our opinions would damage the body of Christ, or cause a single Christian to stumble, our opinion must be sacrificed. We either keep some opinions to ourselves, do not engage in things that bother weak brethren, or avoid discussing matters that would cause a fellow Christian to stumble.
The reason for our care and caution is found at the end of verse 20. If a weak brother believes something is wrong (let’s use apple cider as an example), and we cause him to drink some, he has committed an “offence” (proskomma, the same term used in verse 13). Leading another brother to do what his conscience condemns is “evil.” The weak brother (in the illustration given) sins because he is conscientiously opposed to drinking apple cider.
The strong Christian also sins because he forced the weak brother to violate his conscience. By itself, apple cider is not sinful (20a, “all things indeed are clean”). It can become wrong if someone has a personal conviction against it. If stronger brethren would be aware of this conviction, they would not serve, offer, buy, or even drink this beverage in the presence of a weak brother. Bringing apple cider to a fellowship meal at the church building would be unthinkable. This is the entire point made in verse 21. All Christians are to treat each other with consideration and love.
Although this is how Christians are supposed to behave, we live in a time when many insist on having and using all their “rights.” Americans are taught to exercise their rights. We are repeatedly told that if we do not use all of our rights, we are being cheated. Giving up any right is bad. Giving in to others is wrong. These attitudes are inconsistent with this chapter, but they have often slipped into the church. When this type of thinking is found, it needs to be condemned and eradicated. Insistence on our rights, when they injure a fellow Christian, is a violation of the golden rule. This is also an excellent way to destroy the soul of a weak brother or sister in the Lord-an act God hates (1 Corinthians 3:17). We must resist the temptation to have and use our rights, if having and using liberties will injure another believer.
The information in verses 19-21 illustrates true Bible love. There were Christians who could not eat “flesh” (kreas, a word denoting animal flesh) in good conscience. Among the Gentiles, pork was a common food. After becoming Christians Gentiles would have surely expected to continue eating this type of meat, but many Jews would not have been comfortable eating or having pork at the table because they had been accustomed to treating it as forbidden (Leviticus 11:7-8; Isaiah 65:4; Acts 10:14). Jesus “made all meats clean” (Mark 7:19), but some Jews still had difficulty accepting certain foods.
When we are given the choice of surrendering our rights or injuring a fellow Christian, faithful Christians will quickly and willing give up their rights. We will go out of our way to avoid injuring a fellow Christian. Even though there is often a cost to edifying each other (verse 19), Christians are willing to pay this price. Jesus once said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). If we are willing to give our life for a fellow Christian, will we not also surrender some rights if this helps another child of God? If fellow Christians did not need to be edified, and there were no weak brethren, our lives would be a lot easier. Our lives are not easy. There are members of the church who are weak and they need to be edified. These facts show why every Christian must still follow the instructions in this chapter.
Many who have studied this material have been fascinated by the reference to “wine” in verse 21. Some have suggested that since Paul spoke of wine this shows the first Christians drank alcohol. This has caused some to conclude that if the first Christians drank alcohol we can drink it too. Those who make this argument, if they are mindful of this chapter, must also affirm that social drinking is only permitted if there is not a weaker brother (someone who is conscientiously opposed to Christians drinking alcohol). An argument against drinking alcohol may be based upon the weaker brother principle. Many Christians view alcohol as a tool of the devil and consider it to be a sinful pleasure from the world. Those who believe Christianity and alcohol are compatible can and will injure a weaker brother.
To determine what Paul meant by the word wine, we must study the original term (oinos). This word described both “vine-juice” (grape juice) and intoxicating beverages. In Matthew 9:17 oinos describes a non-intoxicating drink. Jesus knew people did not put new wine (oinos) into old containers. Why not? The wine expands. Since the old containers had previously expanded and were brittle, they would break when the “new wine” expanded. What kind of oinos (wine) expands-grape juice or alcohol? The answer is grape juice. Carbon Dioxide causes grape juice to swell during the fermentation process. The reference in Matthew 9:1-38 proves that oinos is sometimes used to describe a non-alcoholic drink. In order to say the wine in Romans 14:21 was alcoholic, there must be proof. Since there is no proof that oinos in Romans 14:21 was alcoholic, affirming that these Christians drank alcohol is only an assumption.
The wine in this chapter may have been an illustration. Jesus once used a dishonest man for an illustration (Luke 16:1-10). This illustration caused people to understand the point, but Jesus did not endorse the man’s deceitfulness. Paul may have used the same teaching technique. Those who believe that they are strong and have the freedom to drink socially (casually) should consider how they would feel if they saw their preacher coming out of a liquor store with a full case of beer in his hands. Would the strong be bothered by such a sight? What if this imaginary preacher opened up a can of the beer and drank it on the street corner? Would the strong be upset? If we were to go to a preacher’s house and he offered us a beer, would this seem odd? Would we be offended and shocked?
Many who view social drinking as a matter of judgment would reel with shock if they saw their minister buying or drinking alcohol. When it comes to a minister buying booze, many instantly become weak and would insist that such a minister be fired. Many who drink in moderation cannot stand the idea of their evangelist buying alcohol. If it is wrong for the preacher to drink in moderation, it is wrong for every other member of the church. Alcohol, in all quantities, is to be avoided by Christians. For more information on alcohol and Christians, see the commentary on 1 Timothy 3:1-16 and the special study at Titus 2:3.
14:22-23: The faith which thou hast, have thou to thyself before God. Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that which he approveth. 23 But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because (he eateth) not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
There are times when Christians have different opinions on matters of judgment. Paul knew this and thus concluded, Whatever you believe [regarding matters of judgment] is between you and God. In matters of opinion, our conscience can be our guide (our conscience “approves” us). Because we have the right to individual opinions, we do not judge ourselves in these matters (i.e. matters of opinion). Because opinions are individual, Christians should make their own judgments about personal matters. They should make individual judgments that leave them with a clear conscience. If we do this, we will be “happy” (makarios, the same word translated blessed in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3-5, etc.).
It should be remembered that if we are personally opposed to something (verse 23), and we engage in the activity anyway, we are “condemned.” We cannot violate our conscience and stay in good standing with God. God wants His people to have a clear conscience. Even the Hebrew writer (10:22) commented upon the importance of having a clean conscience. “Doubteth” (diakrino) is also used in James 1:6 (God wants His people to have conviction, no doubts or wavering). Paul used this same term in Romans 4:20 to describe Abraham’s faith. Here doubting is a present tense verb.
The last statement in verse 23 means, “When in doubt, don’t.” If we are not confident and sure about engaging in a certain act, we need to avoid it. In matters not related to church doctrine, Christian living, or salvation, our conscience must be our guide. This guide will only work if we train it; this training comes by reading and knowing God’s word.
The final thought from these verses is found at the start of verse 22. Our personal convictions on matters of opinion must be between God and us. This fact is one more reminder that we have no right to bind our opinions upon others. This also suggests that if we approve of some things that are not endorsed by others (i.e. weak brethren who would be offended by certain things), either we do these things in private or we avoid them. According to Paul, even the strong Christian has the right to be “happy…in what he approveth” (verse 22). The KJV says “alloweth.”
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Price, Brad "Commentary on Romans 14". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany