Attention!
2.5 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland. Churches are helping but the financial burden is too much.
Consider helping today!

Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

Romans 14

Verse 1

Vv. 1-12.

The first three verses are a sort of heading, in which the apostle expounds the ground of difference, and gives the solution of it provisionally.

Verses 1-2

Vv. 1, 2. “ Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, yet not to enter into discussions of opinions. One hath faith to eat all things; but another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

The participle ἀσθενῶν , being weak, is not altogether synonymous with the adjective ἀσθενής , weak; it denotes one whose faith falters (becomes weak) at a given moment and in a special case. This expression better spares the sensibilities of those here spoken of. The imperative προσλαμβάνεσθε , receive, addressed to the whole church, evidently assumes that those who are recommended to this favorable reception form only a very weak minority at Rome. The Greek expression signifies to take to oneself with tenderness; comp. Rom 15:7 and John 14:3, where it is applied to Christ's conduct in relation to believers.

The last words of the verse have been explained in a multitude of ways. Luther, Olsh.: “but not so as to excite doubts ( διακρίσεις ) in your neighbor's inward thoughts ( διαλογισμῶν ).” There are two reasons opposed to this meaning; διάκρισις does not signify doubt, and διαλογισμός cannot mean simply thought. The word always denotes in the N. T. the activity of the understanding in the service of evil; comp. Luke 2:35; Luke 5:22; 1 Corinthians 3:20; and in our Epistle, Romans 1:21.

Beza, Vulgate: “but not to dispute with them ( διακρίσεις ) regarding the ideas which they form of things ( διαλογισμῶν ).” But διαλογισμός does not denote an idea; it is a reasoning.

Rückert: “but not to reach a still profounder separation of opinions.” But how could it be thought that this would be the result of the reception recommended; and how should the idea: still profounder, have been omitted by the apostle?

Meyer: “but not so as to criticise the thoughts (of your weak brethren).” This meaning would require the singular διάκρισις , criticism, and it does not harmonize with the term διαλογισμός , which applies rather to the reasonings of a proud wisdom than to pious scruples.

The following is the meaning which alone seems to me natural: “but not to get by this very reception into debates ( διακρίσεις ), which would terminate in the end only in vain reasonings ( διαλογισμοί ).” This meaning suits the two substantives used, as well as the plural form of both. After this general recommendation the apostle formulates the point of the question.

Verses 1-23

Twenty-eighth passage (14:1-15:13). Exhortation relative to a particular Difference of View in the Church of Rome.

The following passage is a practical application of the law of love expounded, chaps. 12 and 13. It is an immediate illustration of the selfsacrifice which Paul has just been requiring. This passage, from its connection with a local circumstance, is at the same time the first step of return from the treatise to the letter form; it is, consequently, the transition to the epistolary conclusion of the entire writing. Thus it is that everything is organically bound together in the compositions of the apostle.

What was the subject of the difference of view to which the instruction following refers? Rom 14:2 proves that a certain number of Christians at Rome thought they should abstain from the use of meats and of wine; and it is probable, from Romans 14:5-6, that the same men joined to this abstinence the scrupulous observance of certain days which seemed to them more holy than others. This party does not appear to have been considerable or influential; and Paul, far from treating it as he treated those who corrupted the pure gospel in Galatia, at Corinth, or at Colosse, seems rather inclined to take it under his protection as against the rest of the church. The subject is one on which somewhat divergent views have been expressed. It is difficult to explain the principle which led these people to act thus.

Eichhorn regarded the weak as former Gentiles, who had belonged previously to a school of philosophy with an ascetic tendency, the Neo-Pythagoreans, for example. They imported into the gospel, according to him, certain principles pertaining to their former philosophy.

This opinion is now generally rejected. 1st. There are manifest indications of the Jewish origin of this party. Thus Rom 14:5-6 appear to prove that these same men observed the Jewish feast days, like the heretics of Colosse (see the exegesis). Besides, if the passage, Romans 15:1-13, still forms part of this section, as appears to us unquestionable, it follows that we have to do with a Judeo-Christian party. For this whole passage closes with the celebration of the union of Christians of both origins in one and the same salvation. 2d. Such men would not have taken the modest and timid attitude at Rome which seems to have been that of the weak. On the ground of their pretended superiority, either in holiness or in culture, they would much rather have affected haughty airs in relation to the rest of the church.

Origen and Chrysostom regarded these people as Christians of Jewish origin, and ascribe their kind of life to their attachment to the Mosaic law. But the law did not forbid the eating of flesh, except that of certain (unclean) animals, nor the use of wine, except to certain persons and in certain particular cases. It would therefore be difficult to explain how they could have come by the way of the Levitical ordinances to the principle of entire abstinence.

This reflection and comparison with the passage, 1 Corinthians 8-10., have led many commentators (Clem. of Alex., Flatt, Neand., Philip., etc.) to explain the abstinence of the weak by the fear they felt of unwittingly eating flesh and drinking wines which had been offered to idols. Rather than run such a risk, they preferred to dispense with them altogether. But it should have been easy to find means of avoiding this danger, at least in private meals; and it would be hard to understand how, if the ideas of these people had been the same as those of their scrupulous brethren in the church of Corinth, Paul should not give them any of those explanations which he had given to the latter, and should content himself with striving to preserve peace within the church of Rome. It appears to us very doubtful, besides, whether the weak at Corinth were of Jewish origin. The more we have examined the question, the more have we been led to regard them rather as formerly Gentiles. Finally, the text of Rom 14:14 is incompatible with this opinion. Paul says: “I am persuaded in the Lord that there is nothing unclean of itself. ” These words: of itself, prove that the pollution appeared to the weak as attaching to the very nature of the meats, and not merely contracted by accident.

Baur, in his Apostel Paulus (I. p. 361 et seq.), has attempted to connect the party of the weak with the Ebionites, who, according to the description given by Epiphanius, abstained from all animal food, or even from food prepared with animal matter. He also cites the Clementine Homilies (dating from Rome in the last third of the second century), in which the Apostle Peter thus describes his mode of life: “I use only bread and oil and a little pulse,” and where it is taught that the use of flesh is contrary to nature, and of diabolical origin. He cites also the saying of Hegesippus regarding James the brother of our Lord: “He ate nothing ἔμφυχον ( animated).” As to wine, this critic refers to the fact that according to Epiphanius, the most austere of the Ebionites celebrated the Eucharist only with unleavened bread and water; which seems to prove that they abstained wholly from wine.

Ritschl ( Enst. der altkath. Kirche, 2d ed. p. 184 et seq.) has given out a somewhat different hypothesis, which has been adopted by many moderns (Mey., Mang., etc.). Our party of the weak at Rome was composed, it is said, of former Essenes. According to this critic, the fundamental idea of the Essene order was to realize a permanent priestly life. Now, it is known that the priests were forbidden ( Lev 10:9 ) to drink wine while they were officiating; the Essene must therefore have abstained from it entirely. Moreover, the priests, being required to eat only food consecrated to God, and Essenism rejecting at the same time the practice of bloody sacrifices, it followed that they could eat no flesh. If, therefore, such men had been sold as prisoners, and carried to Rome as the result of previous wars, then set free and converted to the gospel, they might have carried with them into the church their former mode of life as superior in holiness to that of ordinary Christians. An analogous origin ought probably to be assigned to the sect which some years later troubled the church of Colosse. In general, it is clear that a certain ascetic dualism was in the air at this period. And this was the common source of all the different tendencies which we have mentioned.

Only the question arises (1) Whether, supposing the weak had belonged to one of these parties, Paul could have attached so little importance to the question considered in itself (comp. his polemic in the Epistle to the Colossians); and (2) whether the attitude of such Christians would have been so modest as the following passage supposes?

Perhaps there is a simpler way of explaining the origin of such ideas. We must go back even beyond the law. According to the narrative of Genesis, animal food was not originally allowed to man ( Gen 1:29 ). It was not till after the deluge that it was expressly authorized ( Rom 9:3 ). The invention of wine dates also from this latter epoch, and the abuse of this drink was immediately connected with its discovery. It is easy to understand how such biblical precedents might have taken hold of serious readers of the O. T., and led them to the abstinence of which our text speaks. In this conduct no Christian principle was seriously compromised. It was simply an attempt to return to the primitive regimen, which easily presented itself to the mind as the most normal. And thus is explained why the apostle does not even touch the root of the question, and treats it solely on the side on which it concerns the maintenance of harmony between the members of the church.

To finish at once the exposition of our view, we shall add that, as appears to us, it was in the love-feasts that the difference broke out and gave rise to certain painful manifestations to which the apostle desired to put an end. We think we can give the proof of this as we study chap. 14.

It has been sometimes thought that in the first part of this chapter, Romans 14:1-12, the apostle was addressing the weak, with the view of checking their unjust judgments upon the strong; and in the second, Romans 14:13-23, the strong, to call them to the exercise of charity toward the weak. This view does not seem to me exact, at least as to the first part. Rather Paul begins by addressing both in this part, in order to point out to them the duty of mutual toleration; then he turns specially to the strong in the second part, to remind them of the considerate bearing which love claims of them toward the weak.

Verse 2

Vv. 2. The meaning of πιστεύειν , to believe, is determined by its opposition to ἀσθενῶν , being weak: “who has a faith firm enough to be able to eat anything without scruple.”

Eateth herbs, that is to say, nothing else.

Verse 3

Vv. 3. “ Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not, judge him that eateth; for God hath received him.

This verse contains the theme which is about to be developed down to Romans 14:12. The two propositions are connected in the T. R. by and, and in the Alex. by but. The second reading more strongly, perhaps too strongly, contrasts the two views. The term despise applies well to one who feels himself strong, and regards with a disdainful eye the timid attitude of the weak; the term judge suits the latter, who, not understanding the liberty used by the strong, is disposed to confound it with license.

The last words: God hath received him, may refer to both, or to the latter only (the strong). The following verses being addressed more particularly to the weak, it may possibly be the divine reception of the strong only to which Paul wishes here to refer. A being whom God has taken to Him, whom He has made one of His own, ought not to be judged lightly by his brother, as if he were without master. This is what is developed in the following verse.

Verse 4

Vv. 4. “ Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall stand; for God is powerful to hold him up.

The idea is: It is to the advantage or disadvantage of his master, not of his fellow-servants, that a servant fulfils or neglects his task. The terms standing and falling refer, not to the servant's absolution or condemnation at the judgment, but to his daily faithfulness or unfaithfulness, and to the strengthening or weakening of his inward relation to Christ. What proves this, is the ground for confidence indicated in the words: “Yea, he shall stand; for God is powerful to hold him up.” There is no more need of being held up, or at least of being so by the power of God, in the judgment day. Of course the servant's sincerity, in the line of conduct which he has adopted, is assumed, even if he were in error on a particular point. Paul affirms that the Lord will be able to hold him in communion with Himself.

Here the Lord is probably, as generally in the N. T., Christ. It is He, indeed, who is Master of the house, and for whom the servants labor ( Luk 12:41-48 ).

There is a slight touch of irony in this reason: “Yea, he shall be held up.” It is as if Paul said to the weak: “thou mayest assure thyself about him; for, even if he is mistaken, his Master is powerful enough to avert the bad effects of a piece of flesh.” This argument applies, of course, only to things which arise exclusively on the domain of the individual conscience.

In the last proposition, the Greco-Lat. reading ὁ Θεός , God, it seems to me, ought to be preferred to that of the other documents: ὁ κύριος , the Lord; for the act in question is that of strengthening, which is naturally ascribed to God. The reading ὁ κύριος has probably arisen from the τῷ κυρίῳ which precedes.

How easily do these verses find their explanation, if we imagine the church assembled for the love-feast! The majority gives an affectionate welcome to the minority. They sit down altogether for the feast; then immediately the difference breaks out between neighbors. It is the moment for watching: “Well!” says the apostle, “no perverse debates on this occasion; but let each beware of the danger which threatens him at this instant, the one of despising, the other of judging.

Verses 5-6

Vv. 5, 6. “ One man distinguisheth one day from another, the other esteemeth every day alike: let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

Paul here adduces an example taken from the same domain of external practices, and in which the two opposite lines of conduct may be also followed with equal fidelity. The days are those of the Jewish feasts, which Judeo-Christians continued for the most part to observe: Sabbaths, new moons, etc. ( Col 2:15 ). Did this example really exist at Rome, or did the apostle choose it from the life of the church in general, to have the opportunity of better explaining his thought? The first is the more natural supposition. For there must have been in the church of Rome a certain number of Judeo-Christians, though they did not form the majority.

The for, which is read in some MSS., is probably owing to a copyist's habit. The word κρίνειν , to judge, frequently takes the sense of distinguishing. To judge one day among others, may therefore signify: to distinguish it favorably from the others; to set it apart as more worthy to be sanctified. There is a little irony in the second alternative: to discern every day. For it is evident that there is no longer any distinction when all are distinguished. To set apart every day as holy, is no longer to sanctify any one specially. Between the two modes of acting thus expressed, the apostle does not decide. All he asks of any one is, that his practice should obey a personal and deliberate conviction. The expression ἐν τῷ νοί , in his mind, contains the idea of a serious examination; and the term πληροφορεῖσθαι , strictly: to be filled to the brim, denotes a state of conviction which leaves no more room for the least hesitation.

Vv. 6. The apostle states the reason why the two lines of conduct are equally admissible. It is because, opposed as they are, they are inspired by one and the same desire, that of serving the Lord. The second proposition: “He that regardeth not the day”..., is omitted in the Alex. and Greco-Lat. texts. Notwithstanding all the efforts of commentators, and of Hofmann in particular, to justify the absence of this parallel proposition, this reading appears to me untenable. It is necessary strangely to force the meaning of the first alternative: “He that regardeth...regardeth unto the Lord,” to bring it into logical relation to the two ways of acting explained in Romans 14:5. And it is impossible to refer it only to one of them. The confounding of the two φρονεῖ by a careless copyist must have caused the omission, as in so many other similar cases.

The apostle means that the man who, in his religious practice, keeps the Jewish feast-days, does so for the purpose of doing homage to the Lord by resting in Him, as the man who does not observe them does so for the purpose of laboring actively for Him.

It has been concluded from these sayings of Paul, that the obligation to observe Sunday as a day divinely instituted, was not compatible with Christian spirituality, as this was understood by St. Paul. The context does not allow us to draw such a conclusion. The believer who observes Sunday does not in the least do so under the thought of ascribing to this day a superior holiness to that of other days. To him all days are, as the apostle thinks, equal in holy consecration. As rest is not holier than work, no more is Sunday holier than other days. It is another form of consecration, the periodical return of which, like the alternations of sleep and waking, arises from the conditions of our physico-psychical existence. The Christian does not cease to be a man by becoming a spiritual man. And as one day of rest in seven was divinely instituted at the creation in behalf of natural humanity, one does not see why the believer should not require this periodical rest as well as the unregenerate man. “The Sabbath was made for man; ” so long as the Christian preserves his earthly nature, this saying applies to him, and should turn not to the detriment, but to the profit of his spiritual life. The keeping of Sunday thus understood has nothing in common with the Sabbatical observance which divides life into two parts, the one holy, the other profane. It is this legal distinction which Paul excludes in our Rom 14:5 and Colossians 2:0.

In the second part of Romans 14:6, Paul returns to the principal case. He does so simply by the copula καί , and, and not by a ὡσαύτως , likewise; which seems to prove that the example taken from the keeping of days was not a simple comparison chosen at pleasure from the general life of the church, but a case which was really found at Rome itself. As a proof that he who eats (of everything), eats to the Lord, the apostle adduces ( for) the fact that he gives thanks for those meats. The object of this giving of thanks is God, as the author of nature.

In speaking of him who does not eat (of everything), Paul does not say, as in the previous case: “ for he giveth thanks,” but: “ and he giveth thanks.” It was unnecessary, indeed, to prove that by abstaining he did so for the Lord; that was understood of itself. The real meaning of this proposition is therefore: “And he does not the less give thanks, he too, for this frugal repast.”

As to these two thanksgivings, which mark the two different ways of acting with a seal of equal holiness, how much more of a dramatic character do they take when we imagine them as offered by these two classes of believers at the same moment and at the same table!

This so remarkable saying of the apostle furnishes us with the true means of deciding all those questions of casuistry which so often arise in Christian life, and cause the believer so much embarrassment: May I allow myself this or that pleasure? Yes, if I can enjoy it to the Lord, and while giving Him thanks for it; no, if I cannot receive it as a gift from His hand, and bless Him for it. This mode of solution respects at once the rights of the Lord and those of individual liberty.

The contrast between these two ways of acting, partaking and abstaining, which we must beware of converting into a contrast of faithfulness and unfaithfulness, was only the special application of a more general contrast which pervades the whole of human life: that between living and dying. Paul, always under the necessity of embracing questions in all their width, extends in the following verses that which he has just been treating to the entire domain of life and death.

Verses 7-8

Vv. 7, 8. “ For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For, whether we live, we live unto the Lord; whether we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

In everything that concerns the active use of life (such as the enjoyment of a kind of food), as well as in everything connected with the wasting of it, of which death is the termination (such as abstinence), the Christian depends not on his own will, but on the Lord's. Paul does not mean to say thereby how we ought to act. For in that case the following verse would require to be connected with this one by therefore, and not by for. It is a fact which he expresses; he supposes it realized in the life of his readers. The truth of this supposition follows from the meaning of the word ἡμῶν , us, us believers. Faith, if it is real, implies this consequence. Once we are believers, the current of life with all it embraces, and the current of death with all that accelerates it, tend no longer self-ward, as in our natural existence. Consequently we cannot be called by men to give account of our conduct, though it may differ from theirs.

Verse 8

Vv. 8. The proof of Rom 14:7 is given in Romans 14:8 ( for). Our life and death being through the fact of faith at the Lord's service, the contrast between living and dying is thus completely dependent on the higher direction impressed on our being. Comp. 2Co 5:15 and Romans 12:1. For the believer to live, is to serve Christ; to die, is to be united to Him more perfectly (Philippians 1:21-24; 2Co 5:6-9 ). Hence it follows ( οὖν , therefore) that he remains in every state of the case the Lord's property. As the dative τῷ κυρίῳ , to the Lord, in the first part of the verse, expressed consecration; so the genitive τοῦ κυρίου , literally, of the Lord, in the last proposition, expresses possession. We remain His in both cases. The bond which unites us to Him can only be strengthened by the so varied circumstances summed up in the two words: life and death.

The first and third time we should probably read the subjunctive ἀποθνήσκωμεν ; for ἐάν , if, whether, is construed in the N. T. only with the subjunctive. But the second time the indicative ἀποθνήσκομεν must certainly be read; for it is a fact which Paul is stating. Those who have read the subjunctive, have mistaken it for an exhortation.

The solidity of the bond of possession which unites the believer to the Lord, rests on his side on the subjective fact of faith, but on the Lord's side on an objective fact which nothing can shake: the sovereignty of the glorified Christ, in virtue of which He evermore controls the contrast between life and death ( Rom 14:9 ).

Verse 9

Vv. 9. “ For to this end Christ died and revived;that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.

With the view of securing the possession of His own, whether as living or dead, Jesus began by resolving in His own person the contrast between life and death. He did so by dying and reviving.

For what is one raised again except a dead man living? Thus it is that He reigns simultaneously over the two domains of being through which His own are called to pass, and that He can fulfil His promise to them, John 10:28: “None shall pluck them out of my hand.” Comp. also John 11:25-26. Of the three principal readings presented by the documents, the simplest and most agreeable to the context is certainly the Alexandrine reading: “He died and revived.” These two terms correspond to the living and the dead. This very simple relation has been changed in the other readings. The word rose again, in the Byz. reading, has evidently been introduced to form the transition between these: died and revived. The reading of two Greco-Lats. and of Irenaeus: “lived, died, and rose again,” has certainly arisen from the desire to call up here the earthly life of Jesus; which was not necessary, since the domain of the living belongs now to Jesus, not in virtue of His earthly existence, but in consequence of His present life as the glorified One. To understand this saying rightly, Eph 4:10 should be compared, where the apostle, after pointing to Christ “descended into the lowest parts (the abode of the dead),” then “ascended to the highest heavens,” adds: “that He might fill all things.” Which signifies that by traversing all the domains of existence Himself, He has so won them, that in passing through them in our turn as believers, we never cease to be His, and to have Him as our Lord. Hence the inference expressed Romans 14:10.

Verse 10

Vv. 10. “ But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or thou also, why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand at the judgment-seat of Christ.

The δέ , but, contrasts the incompetent judgment of a brother, with the judgment of this one Lord.

The first question is addressed to the weak; comp. Romans 14:3. The second, connected by: or thou also, to the strong. The also is explained by the fact that contempt is likewise a mode of judging. No one ought to be withdrawn from his rightful judge, who is the Lord alone.

The all is prefixed to remind us that no one will escape from that judge. It is well said, no doubt, John 5:24, that the believer “shall not come into judgment;” but that does not mean that he shall not appear before the tribunal ( 2Co 5:10 ). Only he will appear there to be owned as one who has already voluntarily judged himself by the light of Christ's word and under the discipline of His Spirit; comp. Joh 12:48 and 1 Corinthians 11:31.

The Alexs. and Greco-Lats. read τοῦ Θεοῦ : “the judgment-seat of God. ” This expression must then be explained in the sense: the divine tribunal, where Christ will sit as God's representative. For never is God Himself represented as seated on the judgment throne. But is it not the two following verses which have given rise to this reading?

Verses 11-12

Vv. 11, 12. “ For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

In Romans 14:11, Paul quotes Isaiah 45:23, where the universal homage is described, which all creatures will render to God at the end of the world. This homage supposes and implies the judgment, by which they shall all have been brought to His feet. If we read of Christ, and not of God, at the end of Romans 14:10, it must be held that the apostle sees this last royal manifestation of Jehovah, proclaimed by Isaiah, finding its realization in Christ; comp., indeed, Philippians 2:10-11, where the words of Isaiah in our verse are applied to Jesus glorified.

The form of affirmation in the original text is: I have sworn by myself. Paul substitutes, unintentionally no doubt, a somewhat different form of oath, but one which is also frequent in the O. T.: “I am living that”...the meaning of which is: “As truly as I am the eternally living One, so truly shall this come to pass.” The words: saith the Lord, are here added by the apostle. Then he substitutes for the expression: shall swear by me (as the one true God), the term “shall do me homage” ( ἐξομολογεῖσθαι ). This word, which strictly signifies to confess, might allude to the judgment which will lay every man low in the conviction of his guilt, and draw forth from the heart of all an acknowledgment of God's holiness and righteousness. But all that this term expresses may simply be the homage of adoration, which proclaims God as the one being worthy to be glorified; comp. Luke 2:38; Philippians 2:11.

The words to God are the paraphrase of the to me, in Isaiah.

In Romans 14:12, Paul applies to every individual in particular what has just been said of all in general. The preceding context signified: “Judge not thy brother, for God will judge him; ” this verse signifies: “Judge thyself, for God will judge thee.

Paul here repeats the expression τῷ Θεῶ , to God, rather than say τῷ Χριστῷ , to Christ, because he wishes to contrast in a general way divine, the alone truly just judgment, with human judgments.

Verse 13

Vv. 13. “ Let us not, therefore, judge one another any more, but judge this rather: that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

The first proposition sums up the whole of the first part of the chapter; for it is still addressed to both parties; it forms at the same time the transition to the second. The object of the verb: one another, proves that the term judge here includes the contempt of the strong for the weak, as well as the condemnation which these take the liberty of pronouncing on the former.

From the second proposition of the verse onward, the apostle turns to the strong exclusively. He makes a sort of play on the meaning of the word κρίνειν , to judge: “Do not judge one another; but, if you will judge absolutely, judge as follows.” Judge the second time has the meaning of decide; comp. Titus 3:12.

The wise decision to take is, according to Paul, to avoid anything that might cause a shock ( πρόσκομμα ), or even a fall ( σκάνδαλον ), to your neighbor. There must be, whatever Meyer may say, a difference of meaning between the two substantives; not only because Paul does not use pleonasms, but also on account of the particle ἤ , or, which undoubtedly expresses a gradation: or even. One strikes against ( προσκόπτειν ), the result is a wound; but one stumbles against an obstacle ( σκανδαλίζεσθαι ), the result is a fall. The second case is evidently graver than the first. It is easy even to recognize in these two terms the theme of the two following developments: the first relates to the wounded feeling of the weak, with all its vexing consequences; the second to the sin which one is in danger of making him commit by leading him into an act contrary to his conscience. The first of these evils, as we have said, is referred to in Romans 14:14-19 a.

Verses 13-23

Vv. 13-23.

After having addressed the strong and the weak simultaneously, the apostle further addresses a warning to the former, to induce them not to use their liberty except in conformity with the law of love. As is observed by Hofmann, he had nothing similar to recommend to the weak; for he who is inwardly bound cannot change his conduct, while the strong man who feels himself free may at pleasure make use of his right or waive it in practice. To induce the strong believer to make sacrifice of his liberty, the apostle brings to bear on him the two following motives: 1st. Romans 14:13-19 a, the duty of not wounding the heart of the weak or producing inward irritation; 2d. Romans 14:19-23, the fear of destroying God's work within him by leading him to do something against his conscience.

Verses 14-15

Vv. 14, 15. “ I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself:except that to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, it is unclean. Now if thy brother be grieved because of food, thou walkest no more charitably. Destroy not by thy food, him for whom Christ died.

Paul does not wish to discuss the matter; but yet he cannot conceal his conviction; and he expresses it in passing, in Romans 14:14, as a concession he must make on the side of the strong. At bottom, it is they who are right. Οἶδα , I know, indicates a rational, theoretic conviction, such as even a Jew, trained by the O. T. to a true spirituality, might reach. The second verb πέπεισμαι , I am persuaded, goes further; it indicates that this conviction has penetrated to his very conscience, and set it practically free from all perplexity. The words: in the Lord Jesus, remind us that it is He who has put an end to the obligations imposed by the ceremonial law. The emancipation which faith finds in Him arises not only from His doctrine (Matthew 15:11, for example), but above all from the redemption wrought by Him. This clause: in the Lord Jesus, bears on the second verb; there is nothing except the possession of salvation which can practically give full liberty to the soul.

Several ancient commentators have referred the words δἰ αὐτοῦ , to Jesus Christ: “Through Him there is no longer anything unclean.” But the negative form of the proposition is not favorable to this sense. Paul would rather have said: “everything is clean through Him.” It is more natural to understand this δἰ αὐτοῦ in the sense of: of itself (as would obviously be the case with the reading δἰ ἑαυτοῦ ): “Nothing is unclean in its own nature (in the matter of food);” comp. 1 Corinthians 10:26; 1 Timothy 4:4-5; Titus 1:15.

The restriction εἰ μή , except, applies to the idea of uncleanness in general, without taking account of the limitation of itself. This slightly incorrect use of εἰ μή has given rise, though erroneously, to the belief that this particle might signify but; comp. Matthew 12:4; Luke 4:26-27; John 5:19; Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:16, etc.

This restriction, whereby Paul reminds us that what is regarded as unclean becomes really so to him who uses it under this idea, paves the way for indicating the voluntary limits which the strong should be able to impose on himself in the exercise of his liberty.

Verse 15

Vv. 15. If this verse be connected with the preceding by for, with the majority of the Mjj., it is very difficult to understand their logical relation. Meyer paraprhases thus: “It is not without reason that I remind you of that (the preceding restriction); for love is bound to take account of such a scruple.” Hofmann rightly judges this explanation of the for impossible; but is his own less so? He takes the phrase following in the interrogative sense: “ For, if thy brother is grieved thereby, wouldest thou for this error on his part henceforth cease to walk toward him in love?” It is difficult to imagine anything more forced. We must therefore, though the T. R. δέ , now then or but, has only a single Mj. (L) in its favor, prefer this reading (Reiche, Rück., De W., Philip.). This δέ may be taken in the sense of now then, or in that of but. The adversative sense seems to me preferable. The but refers to the first part of Romans 14:14: “I know that nothing is unclean..., but if, nevertheless...The meaning is excellent, and the construction the more admissible because the second part of Rom 14:14 was a simple parenthesis. Λυπεῖται , is grieved, hurt; this word expresses the painful and bitter feeling produced in the heart of the weak by the spectacle of the free and bold eating of the strong.

With the words: “Thou walkest no more ( οὐκέτι ) charitably,” we must evidently understand the idea: when thou actest thus. The threat, added by the apostle, of compromising thereby our neighbor's salvation, is so grave, that it is not explicable at the first glance, and one is tempted to refer it to the sin which the weak believer would commit by imitating the strong; comp. Romans 14:20. But it is not till afterward that Paul comes to this side of the question, and it is far from probable that the weak man, at the very time when he is wounded by the conduct of the strong, could be tempted to imitate him. These words therefore refer to the profound irritation, the hurtful judgments, the breach of brotherly ties, which must result from such wounding. The asyndeton is striking: it shows Paul's emotion when writing these last words.... “By thy meat make him perish whom Christ saved by His death!” The whole scene supposed by this verse is infinitely better understood if it is placed in the full love-feast, than if the strong and the weak are supposed taking their meal at their own houses. The following verses (Romans 14:16-19 a) complete by some secondary considerations the principal motive which has been expressed at the end of Romans 14:15.

Verse 16

Vv. 16. “ Let not, then, the good you enjoy be evil spoken of.

The expression your good has been applied to the kingdom of God (Meyer), or to faith (De Wette), or to the gospel (Philip.), or to the superiority of the Christian to the non-Christian (Hofmann). But all these meanings want appropriateness. The context itself shows that the subject in question is Christian liberty (Orig., Calv., Thol., etc.). The you applies not to all believers, but to the strong only. Paul recommends them not to use their liberty so as to provoke the indignation and blame of their weaker brethren. The blessing they enjoy ought not to be changed by their lack of charity into a source of cursing. Carefully comp. 1 Corinthians 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 10:29-30.

Verse 17

Vv. 17. “ For the kingdom of God is not food or drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Nothing could be simpler than the connection of this verse with the preceding. The force from above, which is the essence of the kingdom of God, does not consist in being able to eat or drink more or less freely and regardlessly toward our neighbor, but in realizing in life the three dispositions mentioned, by triumphing over our own tastes and vanity. The three terms: righteousness, peace, joy, ought, according to the context, to be taken in the social sense, which is only an application of their religious sense. Righteousness: moral rectitude whereby we render to our neighbor what is his due here particularly respect for his convictions. Peace: good harmony between all the members of the church. Joy: that individual and collective exultation which prevails among believers when brotherly communion makes its sweetness felt, and no one is saddened. By such dispositions the soul finds itself raised to a sphere where all sacrifices become easy, and charity reigns without obstacle. Such is the reality of the kingdom of God on the earth. Would it not then be folly to seek it in the inconsiderate use of some meat or drink, at the expense of those the only true blessings?

By the words: in the Holy Spirit, Paul indicates the source of these virtues: it is this divine guest who, by His presence, produces them in the church; the instant He retires grieved, He carries them with Him.

It is incomprehensible how this passage has not succeeded in moving Meyer from the interpretation of the term kingdom of God, which he has adopted once for all in his commentary, applying it invariably to the future Messianic kingdom.

Verse 18

Vv. 18. “ For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God and approved of men.

So true is it that it is in these dispositions the kingdom of God consists, that the goodwill of God and men rests only on him who cultivates them. If we read ἐν τούτῳ , we may refer the pronoun ( him or that) either to the principle expressed in Romans 14:17 (“thus”), or to the Holy Spirit. The first meaning is forced; it would have required κατὰ τοῦτο , according to (this principle). Nor is the second less so; for it would be the merest commonplace to say that he who serves Christ in the Holy Spirit is acceptable to God. We must therefore read, with the T. R. and the Byzs., ἐν τούτοις , in these dispositions. Such a man is acceptable to God, who reads the heart, and he enjoys merited consideration even in the judgment of men. Every one, Christian or non-Christian, recognizes him to be a man really animated with power from above, the opposite of a fool or a boaster; δόκιμος : an approved Christian, who has stood the test of trial.

Verses 19-20

Vv. 19, 20. “ Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things which pertain to mutual edification.For food destroy not the work of God; all things indeed are pure, but a thing becomes evil for that man who eateth in a state of scandal.

Ver. 19 forms the transition from the first to the second reason; 19a repeats the first: the obligation to preserve harmony in the church? 19b introduces the second: the obligation to do nothing which might be injurious to our neighbor's edification. The call, therefore, is no longer merely to avoid what may wound and vex our neighbor, but also to respect and not compromise the work of God already wrought in his heart. It is obvious, as Meyer acknowledges, that we must read διώκωμεν , let us seek, and not διώκομεν , we seek. The Greco-Latin reading, according to which we should require to read φυλάξωμεν , let us keep, as the verb of the last proposition of the verse: “Let us keep the things which are for edification,” may very probably be authentic. The omission of this verb would be explained by the fact that the copyists did not understand that the apostle was passing to a new reason.

Verse 20

Vv. 20. The asyndeton between Rom 14:19-20 proves how acutely the apostle is alive to the responsibility of the strong: destroy the work of God! In Romans 14:14, where it was personal pain, wounding, which was referred to, the apostle spoke of making the brother himself perish. Here, where the occasioning of a scandal is the matter in question, he does not speak any more of the person, but of the work of God in the person.

It matters not that food is free from uncleanness in itself; it is no longer so as soon as man uses it against his conscience. Rückert has taken the word κακόν , evil, as the attribute of a verb understood: “ Eating becomes evil for the man who does it against his conscience.” Meyer prefers to take from the preceding proposition the understood subject τὸ καθαρόν , what is clean in itself: “Even the food which is clean of itself becomes evil when it is eaten thus.” But it seems to me simpler to make κακόν the subject: “ There is evil (sin) for him who eateth in such circumstances.” Διὰ προσκόμματος , in a state of scandal. On this use of the διά , comp. Romans 2:27. Is the reference to the strong man, who eats while occasioning scandal, or to the weak brother, who lets himself be drawn into eating by succumbing to the scandal? Evidently the second. Paul is not speaking here of the evil which the strong believer does to himself, but of that which he does to his brother carried away into sin.

We may be astonished to find the apostle regarding the salvation of the weak as compromised by this one trespass. But is not one voluntary sin interposing between Christ and the believer enough to disunite them, and if this sin is not blotted out, and the state is prolonged, to plunge him again in death?

Verse 21

Vv. 21. “ It is good not to eat flesh and not to drink wine, and [to do nothing] whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or even is made weak.

The word καλόν , it is good, honorable, is tacitly opposed to the notion of humiliation, which in the eyes of the strong attached to abstinence. There is nothing, except what is honorable, Paul means, in abstaining when we sacrifice our liberty to charity.

Before the pronoun ἐν ᾧ , wherein, we must understand the verb ποιεῖν τι , to do anything.

Of the three verbs which the T. R. reads, the first refers to the wounding of the heart caused to our neighbor by conduct which he disapproves; the second, to the sin which he would be led to commit by being drawn away to do what his conscience condemns; the third, to the want of regard for the scruples with which he is affected through weakness of faith. So: to make him judge ill of you; to make him do what he condemns, or to do in his presence something which raises a scruple in him. The η , or, which connects the two last verbs, should be translated by: or even only.

The reading λυπεῖται , is grieved, instead of προσκόπτει , is offended, in the Sinaït., is certainly mistaken. As to the omission of the last two verbs in the Alex. text, it is probably the effect of an oversight; for the verb προσκόπτειν , to be offended, would not completely sum up the warning given to the strong (see at Rom 14:13 ).

The last two verses are the conclusion and summary of the entire chapter. Rom 14:22 applies to the strong; Rom 14:23 to the weak.

Verses 22-23

Vv. 22, 23. “ As to thee, thou hast faith;have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that thing which he approveth! But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith. Whatsoever is not done by faith is sin.

The proposition: thou hast faith, might be taken in the interrogative sense; but there is more force in the simple affirmation. The Alexs. read ἥν , which, after πίστιν , faith. The meaning in that case is: “The faith which thou hast, keep.” The ancient versions do not favor this reading, and neither is it in keeping with the context, which requires that the two cases treated should be put expressly face to face with one another, with a view to the definite counsel to be stated for each. The words keep, etc. allude to the sacrifice which Paul had asked the strong to make in his external conduct. Paul reminds him that he does not in the least ask the abandonment of his internal conviction, and invites him to preserve it intact in his heart under the eye of God.

By the last words: Happy..., he gives him to understand that it is a feeling of gratitude and not of pride, with which he ought to be inspired by the degree of faith, and of liberty in faith, to which he has attained. Here, as elsewhere, the word κρίνειν must be translated by judge, and not by condemn. “To condemn oneself in what he adopts as good,” would be a contradictory idea. The subject in question is a simple inquiry as to the course which has been adopted once for all. Happy the man who no longer feels any scruple, nor puts any question of conscience to himself regarding the resolution he has taken. Δοκιμάζειν , to find good after examination.

Vv. 23 applies to the opposite case: that of doubt in regard to the line to be followed. Conscience has not reached oneness with itself; hence the term διακρίνεσθαι , to be divided into two men, the one of whom says yes, the other no.

Many give to the word πίστις , faith, the abstract sense of conviction. But there is nothing to authorize us to take from the word so common in Paul its religious signification. It refers, as always, to the acceptance of the salvation won by Christ. What a man cannot do as His redeemed one and in the joy of His salvation, must not be done at all. Otherwise this act, of which faith is not the soul, becomes sin, and may lead to the result indicated Romans 14:20: the total destruction of God's work in us.

Of the position of the doxology, Romans 16:25-27, at the end of chap. xiv.

A considerable number of documents place here, after Romans 14:23, the three doxological verses which, in the generally Received text, close the Epistle ( Rom 16:25-27 ). These are the Mj. L, nearly 220 Mnn., the Lectionaria, the Philoxenian Syriac version, some ancient MSS. mentioned by Origen, finally, the Fathers of the Greek Church (Chrysostom, Cyril, Theodoret, etc. There may be added the MS. G and the Latin translation which accompanies it (g), which leave a blank here, as well as the Mjj. A and P and three Mnn., which read these three verses in both places. We shall complete these indications when we come to Romans 16:25. Should it be held that these verses have their original place here, and were afterward transposed from it to the end of the Epistle? Or did they, on the contrary, form originally the conclusion of the letter, and have certain copyists transferred them to this place for some reason or other? Or, finally, should we regard this passage as a later interpolation, which was placed sometimes at the end of chap. 14, sometimes at the end of chap. 16? There might be a fourth supposition, viz., that the apostle himself repeated at the end of his letter this passage, placed originally at the end of our chapter. But such a repetition would be without example or object. As to the apostolic origin of the passage, we shall examine it at Romans 16:27.

The question has more importance than appears at the first glance; for it has a somewhat close connection with that of the authenticity of chaps. 15, 16. If the apostle closed chap. 14 with this formula of adoration, it is probable that he meant thereby to terminate his Epistle; consequently all that follows would be open to the suspicion of being unauthentic. True, Reuss says, that even though the last three verses were placed at the end of chap xiv., “there would arise therefrom no prejudice unfavorable to the authenticity of chap. 15;” the apostle might have intended “to lay down the pen and close his discourse with a short prayer; then he bethought himself to add a few pages.” We doubt, however, whether a real example of such procedure can be quoted, and we think that if the true position of these three verses was indeed at the end of chap. 14, the fact would prove indirectly either that chaps. 15 and 16 are the work of an interpolator, or that, if they proceeded from the apostle's pen, they belonged originally to some other writing, whence they were transferred to this.

Let us examine the different hypotheses made on this subject:

1st. Hofmann has attempted to bring these three verses into the apostolic text by making them the transition from chap. 14 to chap. 15. According to him, the expression: “To Him that is of power to stablish you” ( Rom 16:25 ), is in close connection with the discussion of chap. 14 relative to the strong and the weak; and the dative τῷ δυναμένῳ , to Him that is of power...is dependent on the verb ὀφείλομεν , we owe ( Rom 15:1 ): “We owe to Him that is of power to stablish us to concur in His work by bearing the burdens of the weak.” The relation is ingeniously discovered; but this explanation is nevertheless inadmissible. Not only would this dative: to Him that is of power, be separated from the verb on which it depends by a doxological amplification out of all proportion, but especially the δέ , now then, which accompanies the verb we owe, indicates clearly the beginning of a new sentence.

2d. Baur, Volkmar, Lucht, place the doxology here, but as a later interpolation, and infer from this fact the total or almost total unauthenticity of chaps. 15 and 16. According to Lucht, the true conclusion of the Epistle, which immediately followed Romans 14:23, was suppressed by the elders of the church of Rome as too severe for the weak of chap. 14. But it was discovered again afterward in the archives of this church, and amplified in two different ways, in the form of the doxology Romans 16:25-27, and in the more extended form of the passage Rom 15:1 to Romans 16:24; these two conclusions, at first distinct, were afterward fused into one, which produced the now generally received form. Volkmar enters still more into detail. The true apostolic conclusion may, according to him, be found with certainty and in a complete form in chaps. 15 and 16. It consists of the two passages Rom 15:33 to Romans 16:2, and Romans 16:21-24. The rest of these two chapters embraces additions intended to co-operate in the pacification of the church. They proceed principally from two authors, the one in the east, who added the doxology about 145; the other in the west, who composed nearly all the rest about 120.

We are struck at once with the arbitrariness there is in the hypothesis of Lucht. What! elders take the liberty of suppressing the end of the apostolic writing! Then they preserve it in the archives of the church, and it becomes in the hands of some writer or other, along with some fragments of an Epistle to the Ephesians, the theme of our last two chapters! This is a romance which in any case could only gain some historical probability if we were to discover in chaps. 15 and 16 very positive proofs of their unauthenticity. Volkmar holds that the authentic conclusion has been wholly preserved, though mixed with a conglomerate of diverse interpolations. But would this close be sufficient? The apostle had introduced his didactic treatise with a long preamble in the letter form ( Rom 1:1-15 ). Was it possible that in closing the writing he should not return, at least for a few moments, to the epistolary form with which he had begun? Now it is evident that the few words which Volkmar preserves as authentic by no means correspond to a preamble at once so grave and affectionate as the beginning of the Epistle. And it is impossible to understand how Paul could pass suddenly from the end of the practical treatise: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” ( Rom 14:23 ), to the words which, according to Volkmar, immediately followed: “The God of peace be with you all! Amen. I commend unto you Phoebe”...No, it was not thus the apostle composed.

3d. Since, then, it is impossible to find a place for this doxology in the didactic tissue of chaps. 14 and 15; and since, on the other hand, it cannot be held that it indicates the conclusion of the Epistle (at the end of chap. 14) it only remains to have recourse to a third solution. The weight of critical authorities makes the balance incline in favor of the position of these three verses at the end of chap. 16. What circumstance could have led to their migration, in a certain number of documents, to the end of chap. 14? If we keep account of the fact demonstrated by the study of the text of the whole N. T., that most of the errors of the Byz. documents arise from the tendency to adapt the text to the necessities of public reading, we shall be led to the supposition that in very ancient times the reading of our Epistle in the assemblies of the church stopped at the end of chap. 14, because from that point the didactic part, properly so called, terminated. But the reading could not end so abruptly. There was written therefore on the margin, for the use of the reader, the doxology which closed the entire Epistle; and, as has so often happened, it passed from the margin into the text at this place. So it has come about that it is found here in the documents of Byz. origin, and particularly in the Lectionaria, or collections of passages intended for public reading. It is objected, no doubt, that chaps. 15 and 16 appear in all our ancient lectionaries. But the period at which the omission of these two chapters would have taken place is long anterior to the date of the collections of pericopes which have been preserved to us. This way of explaining the transposition of the doxology seems to us preferable to the reasons stated by Meyer. If it is so, we understand how this doxology is found in both places at once in some documents, and how it is wholly wanting in some others. Certain copyists, doubtful about the position to be given to it, put it in both places; certain others, made suspicious by this double position, rejected it altogether. It is singular, we acknowledge, that it was not rather placed after Rom 14:13 of chap. 15, so as to embrace also in the public reading the passage we are now going to study ( Rom 15:1-13 ). It is impossible at this date to discover the circumstance which has led to the choice rather of the end of chap. 14

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 14". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/romans-14.html.