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Bible Commentaries
Romans 14

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-23

Chapter 14

In the fourteenth chapter Paul deals now with another issue.

Him that is weak in the faith receive, but not to doubtful disputations ( Romans 14:1 ).

Don't get into arguments with them, doubtful disputations, a person who is weak in the faith. And in this case, the person weak in the faith is the one who has very limited or narrow convictions.

For one man believes that he can eat anything: another, who is weak in the faith, is a vegetarian ( Romans 14:2 ).

There are some religious groups today that advocate being a vegetarian. There are some who believe that we should follow the dietary law of Moses, and thus, we shouldn't eat lobster or shrimp or pork or the other forbidden unclean animals of the Old Testament. But there are others who say, "I like pork chops and I like lobster." So those that are strong in the faith, eat meat. Those that are weak in the faith, eat vegetables.

Now should we get into big fights and arguments over this? Should I say to that vegetarian, "Oh, that is stupid. There is nothing wrong with eating meat, that is just plain dumb"? Should he point his finger and say, "Ah-ha, you can't be a Christian because you are eating meat, man God is going to damn you to hell because you are eating meat"? It is sad that these kinds of things have brought this kind of division within the church. Because someone is convicted of something and they want to convict everybody else of the same thing, or make everybody yield to their convictions.

Paul says,

Let not him that eats [eats the meat] despise him that doesn't eat meat; and let not him which eats not the meat judge him that eats: for God has received him ( Romans 14:3 ).

So in this matter our convictions are to be personal things. In these areas where the scripture does not give us precise definite teaching. There is a latitude. I am to have sympathetic understanding towards those whose convictions are narrower than mine. I am also to have a sympathetic understanding for those whose convictions are broader than mine. That is where I have my problems. I can sympathize with a person who is a vegetarian. That is all right. You don't want to eat meat. That is fine. But some fellow who has convictions that are a little broader than mine and is doing some of the things that I don't feel that I can do as a child of God, I have an awfully hard time not judging him. How can he do that? So that is where my problem lies, no problem dealing with those who have stronger convictions as long as they leave me alone. Don't lay your trip on me. But when it is the other way around, how I would love to lay my trip on some people. Rebuke them for the things they are doing which they feel the liberty to do.

Now, naturally this is in scriptural limitations. There are things that the scripture tells us are wrong and with that there is no question. But in these areas where the scripture does not speak specifically, then we are to have this latitude in the receiving of each other.

For who are you to judge another man's servant? ( Romans 14:4 )

Who are you to judge me? I am not your servant. Now, if I were your servant then you would have a right to judge me. But I am the Lord's servant, therefore the Lord is my judge and He shall judge me. In the same token, you are not my servant, so I have no right to judge you. Again, you are the Lord's servant so He will judge you.

before a man's own master he either stands or falls. Yes, he will be held up: for God is able to make him stand ( Romans 14:4 ).

God has helped a lot of people to stand when I was sure they were going to fall. The way they were living, I knew they were going down the tube, but God held them up and He was able to make them stand. And to the surprise of a lot of people, He has helped me to stand.

On the issue of eating meat, but then it also goes over on the issue of the respect of the holy day.

One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind ( Romans 14:5 ).

Now, on what day are we to worship the Lord? On Saturday or on Sunday? If we worship on Saturday, are we then to follow the Jewish custom of the day begins at sundown and should we began worshipping God on Friday evening as the sun goes down and worship until Saturday evening sundown? Or is Sunday the day that we should worship the Lord? There are those who are very vehement in their feeling that Saturday is the only day to worship the Lord, and if you worship the Lord on Sunday that is paramount to taking the mark of the beast, for Sunday worship is the mark of the beast because Sunday was actually named after the sun god-Sunday. And thus, it was after the sun god. Thus, we ought to worship on Saturday, but they don't tell you that is named after the god Saturn.

One man esteems one day above another. "Oh, this is the only day." I am in the second category here myself. Another esteems every day alike--that is me. It don't matter. I worship God on Saturday, or Monday, or Wednesday or whenever. Doesn't matter to me what day I worship God; I worship the Lord everyday. As far as I am concerned, every day is the Lord's day; I live my life for Him. So, I worship the Lord every morning. I worship the Lord all of the time, and every day is alike to me. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

He that regards the day, regards it unto the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks. For none of us live to himself, and no man dies to himself. For 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 14:6-8 ).

And this, of course, is my feeling entirely. My life I live for the Lord, I am not living for myself. I won't die for myself. But whether I live or die, I am the Lord's.

For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nought your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God ( Romans 14:9-11 ).

Paul is really discouraging this practice that we have so often of judging each other within the body. To commit that judgement unto the Lord, because we are all going to appear before this judgement seat of Christ. He is the one that we must answer to. He is our Lord, the one that we serve, and thus, the one to whom we will ultimately answer.

For every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord. And thus, my relationship to Him is something that He will judge.

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way ( Romans 14:12-13 ).

Let's not judge each other, but as we are living together, let's let love be the rule of life. Loving our neighbor as ourself, and in love. Let's not do something that will cause a brother who is weaker to stumble. You may have liberty in a certain area, don't flaunt that liberty before a weak brother, nor should you try to argue a person out of their convictions. If a person comes to me and says, "I believe it is a sin to eat salt." Then it would be wrong for me to try and argue him into the folly of that kind of a position. Why, there is nothing wrong with salt. It is calcium chloride; there is nothing wrong with that. It might bother your heart a bit if you get too much, moderation. And I might try and talk him out of his conviction. I shouldn't, because if he feels that it is a sin to eat salt, to him it is a sin, because that is the way he feels. I say, "Oh, try a little salt," and I shake a little salt on his potato. Potatoes are so flat without salt. "Just try a little salt." I am encouraging him into something that he has conviction against and he takes that potato and says, "Oh, that is good. My flesh can go for that." But then every time he is using salt, because he has that conviction, and thinks, "Oh, I am a sinner." And he is troubled now with his conscience and I have stumbled him. I have caused him to stumble. Therefore, you can come to me and tell me any kind of weird conviction you have and I will sympathize with you. I won't try and talk you out of your convictions. I don't think that that is my place. We are not to put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in our brother's way.

For I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteems any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean ( Romans 14:14 ).

Now Paul is saying, basically, "Look, I can eat ham. I can eat pork chops. It is not unclean of itself. It is not going to damn me. I know that. I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus there is nothing unclean of itself, but if a man esteems it to be unclean, to him it is unclean." Here is the matter of faith, and herein I feel that the church has done a great disservice. In preaching conviction, or convictions on people for some of the things that they do that are not things that are relative to the person's eternal salvation. When I was growing up as a child, over and over and over again I heard it preached that you could not go to heaven if you smoked. That this was a damning sin and no person who smoked could expect to enter the kingdom of heaven. I heard that preached so much that I was convicted that it was true. Now, in a sense I am glad that I had that preaching, because it kept me from ever smoking a cigarette. I have never smoked one in my entire life, and I don't feel I have missed a thing. I am happy that I don't smoke. But not for spiritual reasons, but for physical reasons, and I happen to distaste smoking extremely.

I think the closest I have come to putting my fist in somebody's face was over a cigar on an airplane. Our whole compartment stinking, because one stubborn character wanted to enjoy the pleasure of his cigar. I made it very unpleasurable for him. Not for spiritual reasons.

Now many of the young people who were my contemporary's who went to church with me, and as they were growing up, as boys do, they began to experiment and pick up cigarette butts and light 'em and smoke them. I grew up in the days of the depression. You couldn't go out and buy a pack of cigarettes. Nobody had that kind of money, and a lot of them started smoking. But, coincidentally, when they are starting to smoke, they also left their walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, because they believed that you could not be saved and smoke because that was what was preached at them. So the minute they started to smoke they left their fellowship with the Lord, because they felt that fellowship with the Lord was impossible as long as you were smoking. And so I grew up in that kind of background. Imagine my shock when I heard that Spurgeon smoked cigars. I can't believe it. He is the guy that I admired the greatest preacher almost in the history of the church. G. Campbell Morgan had a pipe, oh no, how could you? Smoking is not a damning sin, unless you believe it is. But if you believe it is, then it can be, you see. If a man esteems a thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Now I definitely esteem it to be unclean, therefore I could not. If I smoked it would be a sign of my rebellion against God. But on the same token, I can accept the fact that Christian's do smoke.

Now, I appreciate your graciousness for not smoking around me. I am sincere in that I hate smoke. I hate the smell of someone else's smoke. And I appreciate that they don't smoke around me, but I also respect their problem. I would not and do not condemn their smoking as long as they don't do it around me, and then my condemnation is not spiritual, it is just purely physical. I am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteems anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

But if your brother is grieved over your liberty to eat meat, now you are not walking in love. Don't destroy him with your liberty to eat meat, for whom Christ died ( Romans 14:15 ).

We are not to flaunt again our Christian liberty before the weaker brother. If it offends him, if it is hurting him in his walk to see my liberty, then I should not exercise my liberty before him. Why should I destroy one for whom Christ died just because I feel, "Well, I have a right to eat meat anytime I want"?

Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat or drink ( Romans 14:16-17 );

These are not the true issues of the kingdom. People like to make them the issues. They are not. The kingdom of God is:

righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he that in these things serves Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things whereby we may build up one another. And for your liberty in eating meat do not destroy the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eats with offense ( Romans 14:17-20 ).

It is evil if I would exercise my liberty in such a way as to offend a weaker brother in Christ.

It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak ( Romans 14:21 ).

Thus, I live in the law of love a more stringent life than my own convictions. Because I would not want to do something that would stumble someone else. Though I feel a personal liberty that I could do those things without hindering my fellowship with Jesus Christ, I will not do them for love and for love's sake. So that I would not be a stumbling block to someone else.

Somewhere and somehow I guess a rumor got out that I had a drinking problem. But I actually quit drinking Coke about five years ago, and that is the worse thing I ever drink. That doesn't sound right does it? But, again, I grew up under the law. And, again, I am thankful, because I have never tasted an alcoholic drink in my life, so that is the kind of problem I have with it. Nor would I, because I don't need it for one, and two, I realize . . . and I do realize that if I would exercise liberty in Christ, and say, "Oh, I can have a champagne or I can have wine or something with my meal," that there may be weaker persons seeing us and feel embolden to do so and be destroyed. Now, we do go to the airport for lunch every once in a while and it is a champagne brunch on Sunday. They do give us sparkling apple cider or grape juice. It could be that someone saw me drinking my sparkling apple cider and thought that I was drinking, but such is not the case. They would have noticed my little grandchildren beside me were drinking the same stuff.

Do you have faith? then have it to yourself before God ( Romans 14:22 ).

Let it be a personal thing, don't do it openly where it can hinder someone else.

For happy is he that condemns not himself in the thing which he allows ( Romans 14:22 ).

It is great to have, really, that kind of faith in God that nothing really comes between you and God. As they sang tonight, "Happy is the one whose sins, freely are forgiven, whose innocents has been declared by the Lord of heaven." It is great, happy is the man whose heart does not condemn him the things that he allows.

But he that doubts is damned if he eats, because he is not eating of faith: for whatever is not of faith is sin [to that individual] ( Romans 14:23 ).

If you can't do it in faith, if you are being condemned as you do it, then to you it is sin. For him that esteems something to be unclean, to him it is unclean. So my Christian liberties, how am I to exercise it before God in private. Not to stumble someone else by those liberties that I may feel. Again, the whole ideal goes back to chapter 13, "walk in love, for he who loves has fulfilled the whole law." Loving one another, walking in a loving relationship with each another, and because of my love for you and my love for Jesus Christ, not doing anything that I know could be offensive to or might stumble you in your walk. Because of love, living a life more stringent than my own personal convictions so that I would not stumble a weaker brother. God help us to live and to walk in love, even as we are commanded.

Father, we thank You tonight for Your Word and guide unto life. Help us, Lord, to walk in the path in which it leads us. Following after righteousness, and walking in love. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Romans 14". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/romans-14.html. 2014.
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