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Bible Commentaries

Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Romans 14

Verse 7


‘None of us liveth to himself.’

Romans 14:7

Twofold is the mystery bound up in each human life:—

( a) It is lived out alone.

( b) It is bound up with others.

It is this second aspect which the text brings before us. It shows us the existence of subtle force called influence.

What are the conditions under which alone influence can be used for God’s glory?

I. Never seek for influence for its own, or rather for our own, sake. This would be to make it a caricature of the true thing.

II. Influence will come in inverse ratio to the degree in which we seek for it. Here, as elsewhere, humility is the groundwork of Christian virtues.

III. Influence must flow from what we are.—‘What you are, that you are,’ says Thomas à Kempis. It is easy to be busy about other people’s reformation and to neglect ourselves. We do not want plans: let us be at our dear Lord’s feet, and let Him lift us up.

IV. Influence must flow from union with Christ.—It is being more than doing that is wanted in these days.

—Rev. H. B. Bromby.


‘Man is by his natural genius a social being. From the beginning of things it was ordained by God that he should not live alone. The story of Eve’s creation from one of the ribs of Adam has this everlasting spiritual truth underlying it. It is thus that the one is very closely bound up and intimately connected with the other. Man cannot live without his fellow-man, and further, he cannot come into this world and live in this world without being first of all touched by or touching somebody else.’



The power of association dominates the whole of human life.

I. In our troubles and sorrows is it not to the power of association that we make our appeal? We go to somebody and look for sympathy. Have some of you never experienced that wonderful sense of relief and ease and spiritual refreshment when you unburden some terrible trouble you have upon you into the ears of love and sympathy? It is so true that ‘one touch of nature makes the whole world kin.’

II. In our joys.—To what do we attribute our happiness? Is it not to the power of association—that power which unites like with like, that mutual resolve of souls to stand by one another in fair weather or in foul? In all this there is the power of association, complete and beautiful. No man has yet lived who has found complete satisfaction in a self-centred life. True joy is to be found only in the power of association, and particularly in the gift of genuine and ennobling friendship.

III. In worship.—The power of association is clear and unmistakable. Look at the elaborate ritual of the Jewish Church. All religion in the old worship of God appealed directly, materially, to the sense of touch. There is the catalogue of things clean or unclean to be used or abstained from, eaten or left alone; the elaborate rules for the cleansing of things and of people. In all these injunctions we find that everything needed to be without blemish, perfect, whole—everything appealing to the sense of, touch. What is the spiritual teaching of that? Simply this: that we must not give to God anything that is imperfect, only that which is whole. So also all the ritual of the Christian Church appeals to the power of association to touch and to quicken our spirits, to remind us where we are and what we are doing. Whatever is done here is intended first of all to solemnise our thoughts. We come into Church and we say, This place surely has been consecrated to the service of God; surely this is God’s house, this is the gate of heaven. What is it that makes you feel this except the power of association?

—Rev. R. W. Wright.


‘How often little things are indicative of a man’s character. Some small attention when we least expect it, some kind word in the midst of trouble, some generous thought anticipating a need, some manly shake of the hand—these things influence many lives in a way undreamed of by those who have so acted. Hinges are but small things compared with the great doors that hang upon them, but it is upon the hinges that the door depends for the opening and closing thereof. A drop of oil may make all the difference to a great locomotive engine. Is not this so, too, with the gigantic piece of mechanism called human society? We can all be lubricators of the wheels of life. Yes, voluntary influence does not always indicate what a man is, but involuntary influence always does. Our involuntary influence is as much the outcome of our character as the scent is the outcome of a plant’s life. It cannot be imprisoned.’

Verse 8


‘Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.’

Romans 14:8

You see the immediate and all-momentous point of the text.

I. We Christians are the vassals of a Lord.—We belong. Never for one moment, never, in any relation of life, or of death, are we out of that connection. Redeemed, saved, we are by that very fact annexed. Believer, thou art, thou must be—it cannot be otherwise—thy Redeemer’s property. Joined to Him for safety, thou art joined to Him also, and of course, for service. Believing, thou belongest. Whether thou livest, thou livest in relation to the Lord. Whether thou diest, thou diest in relation to the Lord. He died, and rose, and revived, precisely for this end, ‘that He might be Lord of thee, dead and living.’

II. Is it bondage?—No, it is perfect freedom. For, rightly seen, it is perfect adjustment. It is the liberty of the living limb, indissolubly, vitally, articulated to the vitalizing Head. This is the one true ideal of human life—to be the Lord’s.

III. And this, as it is the ideal of life, is also—and necessarily—life’s, and death’s, one sure secret of a never-disappointed peace.—We stand in spirit beside an open grave, and ah, what thoughts as of disappointment, as of frustration, are ready to arise! ‘He came up and was cut down like a flower; he fled as a shadow.’ Yes, as to what we see. But no, as to the plan and purpose of Him to Whom the departed belonged, and belongs for ever. Trust the possession to be handled aright by the all-wise Possessor. He has not broken it. He has not thrown it away. No, He has done exactly the opposite; He has put it by. It is His still, and for eternity; His there, as much as here. Not by accident, but on purpose. He has abruptly transferred His servant; keeping him all the while fast in His hand. For not only whether we live, but whether we die, we do it ‘to the Lord’; He died, and rose, that He might still be ‘Lord of us, dead as well as living.’

Bishop H. C. G. Moule.

Verse 12


‘So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.’

Romans 14:12

An analogy is continually being drawn by Christ and the Apostles between commerce and the Christian life. Learn some lessons from this analogy.

I. Our business in life, whatever it may be, has something to do with religion.—A man must not think that he puts off his religion on Monday; he has to carry it into his whole life.

II. Business-like qualities are sorely needed in the Christian life.—Care, diligence, foresight, calculation, judgment, trustworthiness, these are all qualities which are highly developed in the commercial world. When we turn to the Kingdom of Heaven, the lives of Christian people, how often we find that these very qualities are deficient or rare! They go through their life without a thought for the future, with no estimate of their true position before God, thinking perhaps that they are doing God’s work, and yet indulging all the time in their own fads and fancies. What a rude awakening it will be in the last day when they come to give account of themselves to God, and think what they have got of real abiding value remaining with them from this transient life. They will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. There is such a thing as speculation in the world of commerce. It is so also with the moral life and the spiritual life. We think of the many sects which have sprung up, of the fashionable crazes of the present time: Spiritualism, Theosophy, Christian Science, etc. What is all this but a sort of rage of speculation showing itself in a different form, trying to find some short and ready road to heaven, gratifying the love of originality by following these fads and fancies and crude beliefs? Thus it is that men come to neglect the true, well-tried principles of religion and Christian faith in which, perhaps, they were brought up.

III. As in worldly matters so in spiritual matters, there is a reward to be gained.—What is a man’s object, what he works for? The Christian life has also a special object—that is, to lay up treasures in heaven. This treasure must be laid up. It is a thing which cannot be seen, it is an invisible thing that resides in the soul; nevertheless it is a very real thing.

IV. The comparison of the spiritual life and the secular life shows that sin is a debt.—We are debtors in the sight of God. Not only is there a credit but a debit side in the bank of life. All good left undone is a debt. The grand total is swollen up by many small amounts. Why is it a debt? It is because God is our Creator, God has lent us all things. The loan of life He will ask for again. We must render Him account for advantages of being born in a certain position, for our very selves. God expects something in return. Every man shall give account of himself. The day of reckoning may be long in coming, but it will come.

Rev. F. W. Parkes.

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Romans 14". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.