free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!
As in chapter 12, Paul had insisted principally upon moral and religious duties, and in Romans 13:1-14., On those of a political character, he here treats particularly of the duties of church members towards each other, in relation to matters not binding on the conscience. There are two points specially presented: the first is the manner in which scrupulous Christians, who make conscience of matters of indifference, are to be treated, Romans 14:1-12; and the second, the manner in which those who are strong in faith should use their christian liberty, Romans 14:13-23.
Scrupulous Christians, whose consciences are weak, are to be kindly received, and not harshly condemned, Romans 14:1. This direction the apostle enforces in reference to those who were scrupulous as to eating particular kinds of food, and the propriety of neglecting the sacred days appointed in the law of Moses. Such persons are not to be condemned —
1. Because this weakness is not inconsistent with piety; notwithstanding their doubts on these points, God has received them, Romans 14:3.
2. Because one Christian has no right to judge another, (except where Christ has expressly authorized it, and given him the rule of judgment;) to his own master he stands or falls, Romans 14:4.
3. Because such harsh treatment is unnecessary; God can and will preserve such persons, notwithstanding their feebleness, Romans 14:4.
4. Because they act religiously, or out of regard to God, in this matter; and, therefore, live according to the great Christian principle, that no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself, but whether he lives or dies, belongs to God, Romans 14:6-9. On these grounds we should abstain from condemning or treating contemptuously our weaker brethren, remembering that we are all to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, Romans 14:10-13.
As to the use of Christian liberty, the apostle teaches that it is not to be given up or denied; that is, we are not to make things sinful which are in themselves indifferent, Romans 14:14. But it does not follow, that because a thing is not wrong in itself, it is right for us to indulge in it. Our liberty is to be asserted; but it is to be exercised in such a way as not to injure others. We must not put a stumbling block in our brother’s way, Romans 14:12. This consideration of others, in the use of our liberty, is enforced —
1. From the great law of love. It is inconsistent with Christian charity, for our own gratification, to injure a brother for whom Christ died, Romans 14:15.
2. From a regard to the honor of religion. We must not cause that which is good to be evil spoken of, Romans 14:16.
3. From the consideration that religion does not consist in such things, Romans 14:17, Romans 14:18.
4. Because we are bound to promote the peace and edification of the church, Romans 14:19.
5. Though the things in question may be in themselves indifferent, it is morally wrong to indulge in them to the injury of others, Romans 14:20, Romans 14:21.
6. The course enjoined by the apostle requires no concession of principle, or adoption of error.
We can retain our full belief of the indifference of things which God has not pronounced sinful; but those who have not our faith, cannot act upon it, and therefore should not be encouraged so to do, Romans 14:22, Romans 14:23.
Him that is weak in faith receive, but not to doubtful disputations. This verse contains the general direction that weak and scrupulous brethren are to be kindly received, and not harshly condemned. Who these weak brethren were, and what was the nature of their scruples, is matter of doubt. Some say they were Jewish converts, who held to the continued obligation of the ceremonial law. But to this it is objected, that they abstained from all flesh (Romans 14:2), and refused to drink wine (Romans 14:21); things not prohibited in the law of Moses. Others think they were persons who scrupled about the use of such flesh only as had been offered in sacrifice to idols, and of the wine employed in libation to false gods. But for this limitation there is no ground in the context. Eichhorn, Einleitung 3. p. 222, supposes that they were the advocates, of Gentile birth, of the ascetic school of the new Pythagorean philosophy, which had begun to prevail among the heathen, and probably to a certain extent among the Jews. But it is plain that they held to the continued authority of the Jewish law, which converts from among the heathen would not be likely to do. The most probable opinion is, that they were a scrupulous class of Jewish Christians; perhaps of the school of the Essenes, who were more strict and abstemious than the Mosaic ceremonial required. Asceticism, as a form of self-righteousness and will-worship, was one of the earliest, most extensive and persistent heresies in the church. But there is nothing inconsistent with the assumption that the weak brethren here spoken of were scrupulous Jewish Christians. Josephus says, that some of the Jews at Rome lived on fruits exclusively, from fear of eating something unclean. Weak in faith, i.e. weak as to faith (
There is much more doubt as to the meaning of the words (
For one believeth he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs —
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. There is mutual forbearance to be exercised in relation to this subject. The strong are not to despise the weak as superstitious and imbecile; nor the weak to condemn those who disregard their scruples. Points of indifference are not to be allowed to disturb the harmony of Christian fellowship. For God hath received him, i.e. God has recognized him as a Christian, and received him into his kingdom. This reason is not designed to enforce merely the latter of the two duties here enjoined, but is applied to both. As God does not make eating or not eating certain kinds of food a condition of acceptance, Christians ought not to allow it to interfere with their communion as brethren. The Jewish converts were perhaps quite as much disposed to condemn the Gentile Christians, as the latter were to despise the Christian Jews; Paul therefore frames his admonition so as to reach both classes. It appears, however, from the first verse, and from the whole context, that the Gentiles were principally intended.
Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. If God has not made the point in question a term of communion, we have no right to make it a ground of condemnation. We have no right to exercise the office of judge over the servant of another. This is the second reason for mutual forbearance with regard to such matters as divided the Jewish and Gentile converts. It cannot fail to be remarked how differently the apostle speaks of the same things under different circumstances. He who circumcised Timothy, who conformed in many things to the law of Moses, and to the Jews became a Jew, and who here exhorts Christians to regard their external observances as matters of indifference, resisted to the uttermost, as soon as these things were urged as matters of importance, or were insisted upon as necessary to acceptance with God. He would not allow Titus to be circumcised, nor give place even for an hour to false brethren, who had come in privily to act as spies, Galatians 2:3, Galatians 2:5. He warned the Galatians, that if they were circumcised, Christ would profit them nothing; that they renounced the whole method of gratuitous justification, and forfeited its blessings, if they sought acceptance on any such terms. How liberal and how faithful was the apostle! He would concede everything, and become all things to all men, where principle was not at stake; but when it was, he would concede nothing for a moment. What might be safely granted, if asked and given as a matter of indifference, became a fatal apostasy when demanded as a matter of necessity or a condition of salvation.
To his own master he standeth or falleth, i.e. it belongs to his own master to decide his case, to acquit or to condemn. These terms are often used in this judicial sense, Psalms 1:5, Psalms 76:7; Luke 21:36; Revelation 6:17. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand; i.e. he shall stand, or be accepted, for God has the right and the will to make him stand, that is, to acquit and save him. This clause seems designed to urge a further reason for forbearance and kindness towards those who differ from us on matters of indifference. However weak a man’s faith may be, if he is a Christian, he should be recognized and treated as such; for his weakness is not inconsistent with his acceptance with God, and therefore is no ground or necessity for our proceeding against him with severity. The objects of discipline are the reformation of offenders and the purification of the church; but neither of these objects requires the condemnation of those brethren whom God has received. “God is able to make him stand;” he has not only the power, but the disposition and determination. Compare Romans 11:23, “For God is able to graft them in again.” The interpretation given above, according to which standing and falling are understood judicially, is the one commonly adopted. It is how ever objected, that justifying, causing to stand in judgment, is not an act of power but grace. On this ground, standing and falling are taken to refer to continuing or falling away from the Christian life. God is able, notwithstanding their weakness, to cause his feeble children to persevere. But this is against the context. The thing condemned is unrighteous judgments. The brethren are not responsible to each other, or the church, or their scruples. God is the Lord of the conscience. To him they must answer. Before him they stand or fall.
One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike.
Let every man he fully persuaded in his own mind. The principle which the apostle enforces in reference to this case, is the same as that which he enjoined in relation to the other, viz., that one man should not be forced to act according to another man’s conscience, but every one should be satisfied in his own mind, and be careful not to do what he thought wrong.
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, etc. That is, both parties are actuated by religious motives in what they do; they regulate their conduct by a regard to the will of God, and therefore, although some, from weakness or ignorance, may err as to the rule of duty, they are not to be despised or cast out as evil. The strong should not condemn the scrupulous, nor the scrupulous be censorious towards the strong. This is a fourth argument in favor of the mutual forbearance enjoined in the first verse. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord; for he giveth God thanks, etc. That is, he who disregards the Mosaic distinction between clean and unclean meats, and uses indiscriminately the common articles of food, acts religiously in so doing, as is evident from his giving God thanks. He could not deliberately thank God for what he supposed God had forbidden him to use. In like manner, he that abstains from certain meats, does it religiously, for he also giveth thanks to God; which implies that he regards himself as acting agreeably to the divine will. The Lord is he who died and rose again, that he might be Lord both of the living and the dead. It is to him the believer is responsible, as to the Lord of his inner life.
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself;
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. The same sentiment as in the preceding verse, rather more fully and explicitly stated. In Romans 14:7, Paul had stated, negatively, that the Christian does not live according to his own will, or for his own pleasure; he here states affirmatively, that he does live according to the will of Christ, and for his glory. This being the case, he is a true Christian; he belongs to Christ, and should be so recognized and treated. It is very obvious, especially from the following verse, which speaks of death and resurrection, that Christ is intended in the word Lord, in this verse. It is for Christ, and in subjection to his will, that every Christian endeavors to regulate his heart, his conscience, and his life. This is the profoundest homage the creature can render to his Creator; and as it is the service which the Scriptures require us to render to the Redeemer, it of necessity supposes that Christ is God. This is rendered still plainer by the interchange, throughout the passage (Romans 14:6-9), of the terms Lord and God: ‘He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks. We live unto the Lord; we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose, that he might be the Lord,’ etc. It is clear that, to the apostle’s mind, the idea that Christ is God was perfectly familiar. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. We are not our own, but Christ’s, 1 Corinthians 6:19. This right of possession, and the consequent duty of devotion and obedience, are not founded on creation, but on redemption. We are Christ’s, because he has bought us with a price.
For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived,‹73› that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living. The dominion which Christ, as Mediator or Redeemer, exercises over his people, and which they gladly recognize, is therefore referred to his death and resurrection. By his death he purchased them for his own, and by his resurrection he attained to that exalted station which he no occupies as Lord over all, and received those gifts which enable him to exercise as Mediator this universal dominion. The exaltation and dominion of Christ are frequently represented in the Scriptures, as the reward of his sufferings: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,” etc., Philippians 2:8, Philippians 2:9. This authority of Christ over his people is not confined to this world, but extends beyond the grave. He is Lord both of the dead and the living.
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.‹74› In this and the following verses to the 13th, Paul applies his previous reasoning to the case in hand. If a man is our brother, if God has received him, if he acts from a sincere desire to do the divine will, he should not he condemned, though he may think certain things right which we think wrong; nor should he be despised if he trammels his conscience with unnecessary scruples. The former of these clauses relates to scrupulous Jewish Christians; the latter to the Gentile converts. The last member of the verse applies to both classes. As we are all to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, as he is our sole and final judge, we should not usurp his prerogative, or presume to condemn those whom he has received.
For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess. This quotation is from Isaiah 45:23, “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear.” The apostle, it will be perceived, does not adhere to the words of the passage which he quotes, but contents himself with giving the sense. As I live, being the form of an oath, is a correct exhibition of the meaning of the phrase, I have sworn by myself. And since to swear by any being, is to recognize his power and authority over us, the expressions, every tongue shall swear, and every tongue shall confess, are of similar import. Both indeed are parallel to the clause, every knee shall bow, and are but different forms of expressing the general idea that every one shall submit to God, i.e. recognize his authority as God, the supreme ruler and judge. The apostle evidently considers the recognition of the authority of Christ as being tantamount to submission to God, and he applies without hesitation the declarations of the Old Testament in relation to the universal dominion of Jehovah, in proof of the Redeemer’s sovereignty. In Paul’s estimation, therefore, Jesus Christ was God. This is so obvious, that commentators of all classes recognize the force of the argument hence deduced for the divinity of Christ. Luther says: “So muss Christus rechter Gott sein, weil solches vor seinem Richterstuhl geschehen.” Calvin: “Est etiam insignis locus ad stabiliendam fidem nostram de aeterna Christi divinitate.” Bengel: “Christus est Deus, nam dicitur Dominus et Deus. Ipse est, cui vivimus et morimur. Ipse jurat per se ipsum.” Even Koppe says, “Quae Isaiah 45:23, de Jehova dicuntur, eadem ad Christum transferri ab apostolo, non est mirandum, cum hunc illi artissime conjunctum cogitandum esse, perpetua sit tum Judaeorum, quoties cunque de Messia loquuntur, tum imprimis Pauli et Joanis sententia.” This verse may be considered as in tended to confirm the truth of the declaration at the close of the one preceding: ‘We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; for it is written, To me every knee shall bow.’ And this seems the natural relation of the passage. Calvin understands this verse, however, as designed to enforce humble submission to the judgment of Christ: ‘We should not judge others, since we are to be judged by Christ; and to his judgment we must humbly bow the knee.’ This is indeed clearly implied; but it is rather an accessory idea, than the special design of the passage.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. ‘As, therefore, God is the supreme judge, and we are to render our account to him, we should await his decision, and not presume to act the part of judge over our brethren.’
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. After drawing the conclusion from the preceding discussion, that we should leave the office of judging in the hands of God, the apostle introduces the second leading topic of the chapter, viz., the manner in which Christian liberty is to be exercised. He teaches that it is not enough that we are persuaded a certain course is, in itself considered, right, in order to authorize us to pursue it. We must be careful that we do not injure others in the use of our liberty. The word (
I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. ‘The distinction between clean and unclean meats is no longer valid. So far the Gentile converts are right. But they should remember that those who consider the law of the Old Testament on this subject as still binding, cannot, with a good conscience, disregard it. The strong should not, therefore, do anything which would be likely to lead such persons to violate their own sense of duty.’ I know and am persuaded by (in) the Lord Jesus, i.e. this knowledge and persuasion I owe to the Lord Jesus; it is not an opinion founded on my own reasonings, but a knowledge derived from divine revelation. That there is nothing unclean of itself. The word (
But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Instead of
Let not your good be evil spoken of; that is, ‘Do not so use your liberty, which is good and valuable, as to make it the occasion of evil, and so liable to censure.’ Thus Calvin and most other commentators. This supposes that the exhortation here given is addressed to the strong in faith. The
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. This is a new reason for forbearance. No principle of duty is sacrificed; nothing essential to religion is disregarded, for religion does not consist in external observances, but in the inward graces of the Spirit. It has already been remarked (Romans 14:4), that with all his desire of peace, no one was more firm and unyielding, when any dereliction of Christian principle was required of him, than the apostle. But the case under consideration is very different. There is no sin in abstaining from certain meats, and therefore, if the good of others require this abstinence, we are bound to exercise it. The phrase, kingdom of God, almost uniformly signifies the kingdom of the Messiah, under some one of its aspects, as consisting of all professing Christians, of all his own people, of glorified believers, or as existing in the heart. It is the spiritual theocracy. The theocracy of the Old Testament was ceremonial and ritual; that of the New is inward and spiritual. Christianity, as we should say, does not consist in things external. Meat and drink, or rather, eating (
For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God and approved of men. This verse is a confirmation of the preceding. These spiritual graces constitute the essential part of religion; for he that experiences and exercises these virtues, is regarded by God as a true Christian, and must commend himself as such to the consciences of his fellow-men. Where these things, therefore, are found, difference of opinion or practice in reference to unessential points, should not be allowed to disturb the harmony of Christian intercourse. It is to be observed, that the exercise of the virtues here spoken of, is represented by the apostle as a service rendered to Christ; “he that in these things serveth Christ,” etc. which implies that Christ has authority over the heart and conscience. Instead of
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things whereby one may edify another. That is, let us earnestly endeavor to promote peace and mutual edification. The things which make for peace, is equivalent to peace itself (
For meat destroy not the work of God. This clause is, by De Brais and many other commentators, considered as a repetition of Romans 14:15. “Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” The work of God then means a Christian brother; see Ephesians 2:10. Others refer the passage to the immediately preceding verses, in which the nature of true religion is exhibited. The work of God, in that case, is piety, and the exhortation is, ‘Do not, for the sake of indulgence in certain kinds of food, injure the cause of true religion, i.e. pull not down what God is building up.’ The figurative expression used by the apostle,
All things (i.e., all kinds of food) are pure; but it is evil (
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. That is, abstaining from flesh, wine, or any thing else which is injurious to our brethren, is right, i.e. morally obligatory; (
There is an ellipsis in the middle clause of this verse which has been variously supplied. ‘Nor to drink wine, nor to (drink) any thing;’ others, ‘nor to (do) any thing whereby,’ etc. According to the first method of supplying the ellipsis, the meaning is, ‘We should not drink wine nor any other intoxicating drink, when our doing so is injurious to others.’ But the latter method is more natural and forcible, and includes the other, ‘We should do nothing which injures others.’ The ground on which some of the early Christians thought it incumbent on them to abstain from wine, was not any general ascetic principle, but because they feared they might be led to use wine which had been offered to the gods; to which they had the same objection as to meat which had been presented in sacrifice. “Augustinus de moribus Manichaeorum, 2:14, Eo tempore, quo haec scribebat apostolus, multa immoliticia caro in macello vendebatur. Et quia vino etiam libabatur Diis gentilium, multi fratres infirmiores, qui etiam rebus his venalibus utebantur, penitus a carnibus se et vino cohibere maluerunt, quam vel nescientes incidere in eam, quam putabant, cum idolis communicationem.” — Wetstein.
Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth. Paul presents in this verse, more distinctly than he had before done, the idea that he required no concession of principle or renunciation of truth. He did not wish them to believe a thing to be sinful which was not sinful, or to trammel their own consciences with the scruples of their weaker brethren. He simply required them to use their liberty in a considerate and charitable manner. He, therefore, here says, ‘Hast thou faith? (i.e., a firm persuasion, e.g., of the lawfulness of all kinds of meat) it is well, do not renounce it, but retain it and use it piously, as in the sight of God.’ Instead of reading the first clause interrogatively, Hast thou faith? it may be read, Thou hast faith. It is then presented in the form of an objection, which a Gentile convert might be disposed to make to the direction of the apostle to accommodate his conduct to the scruples of others. ‘Thou hast faith, thou mayest say; well, have it, I do not call upon thee to renounce it.’ By faith here seems clearly to be understood the faith of which Paul had been speaking in the context; a faith which some Christians had, and others had not, viz., a firm belief “that there is nothing (no meat) unclean of itself.” Have it to thyself, (
Blessed is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth. That is, blessed is the man that has a good conscience; who does not allow himself to do what he secretly condemns. The faith, therefore, of which the apostle had spoken, is a great blessing. It is a source of great happiness to be sure that what we do is right, and, therefore, the firm conviction to which some Christians had attained, was not to be undervalued or renounced. Compare Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 16:3, for a similar use of the word (
But he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. That is, however sure a man may be that what he does is right, he cannot expect others to act on his faith. If a man thinks a thing to be wrong, to him it is wrong. He, therefore, who is uncertain whether God has commanded him to abstain from certain meats, and who notwithstanding indulges in them, evidently sins; he brings himself under condemnation. Because whatever is not of faith is sin; i.e., whatever we do which we are not certain is right, to us is wrong. The sentiment of this verse, therefore, is nearly the same as of Romans 14:14. “To him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” There is evidently a sinful disregard of the divine authority on the part of a man who does anything which he supposes God has forbidden, or which he is not certain he has allowed. The principle of morals contained in this verse is so obvious, that it occurs frequently in the writings of ancient philosophers. Cicero de Officiis, lib. 1, c. 9. Quodcirca bene praecipiunt, qui vetant quidquam agere, quod dubites aequum sit, an iniqunm. Aequitas enim lucet ipsa per se: dubitatio cogitationem significat injuriae. This passage has an obvious bearing on the design of the apostle. He wished to convince the stronger Christians that it was unreasonable in them to expect their weaker brethren to act according to their faith; and that it was sinful in them so to use their liberty as to induce these scrupulous Christians to violate their own consciences.‹75›
1. The fellowship of the saints is not to be broken for unessential matters; in other words, we have no right to make any thing a condition of Christian communion which is compatible with piety. Paul evidently argues on the principle that if a man is a true Christian, he should be recognized and treated as such. If God has received him, we should receive him, Romans 14:1-12.
2. The true criterion of a Christian character is found in the governing purpose of the life. He that lives unto the Lord, i.e. he who makes the will of Christ the rule of his conduct, and the glory of Christ his constant object, is a true Christian, although from weakness or ignorance he may sometimes mistake the rule of duty, and consider certain things obligatory which Christ has never commanded, Romans 14:6-8.
3. Jesus Christ must be truly God,
1. Because he is the Lord, according to whose will and for whose glory we are to live, Romans 14:6-8.
2. Because he exercises an universal dominion over the living and the dead, Romans 14:9.
3. Because he is the final judge of all men, Romans 14:10.
4. Because passages of the Old Testament which are spoken of Jehovah, are by the apostle applied to Christ, Romans 14:11.
5. Because, throughout this passage, Paul speaks of God and Christ indiscriminately, in a manner which shows that he regarded Christ as God.
To live unto Christ is to live unto God; to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ is to give an account unto God; to submit to Christ is to bow the knee to Jehovah.
4. The gospel does not make religion to consist in external observances. “Meat commendeth us not to God; for neither if we eat are we the better; neither if we eat not are we the worse,” Romans 14:6, Romans 14:7.
5. Though a thing may be lawful, it is not always expedient. The use of the liberty which every Christian enjoys under the gospel, is to be regulated by the law of love; hence it is often morally wrong to do what, in itself considered, may be innocent, Romans 14:15, Romans 14:20, Romans 14:21.
6. It is a great error in morals, and a great practical evil, to make that sinful which is in fact innocent. Christian love never requires this or any other sacrifice of truth. Paul would not consent, for the sake of avoiding offense, that eating all kinds of food, even what had been offered to idols, or disregarding sacred festivals of human appointment, should be made a sin; he strenuously and openly maintained the reverse. He represents those who thought differently, as weak in faith, as being under an error, from which more knowledge and more piety would free them. Concession to their weakness he enjoins on a principle perfectly consistent with the assertion of the truth, and with the preservation of Christian liberty, Romans 14:13-23.
7. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. It is wrong to do anything which we think to be wrong. The converse of this proposition, however, is not true. It is not always right to do what we think to be right. Paul, before his conversion, thought it right to persecute Christians; the Jews thought they did God service when they cast the disciples of the Savior out of the synagogue. The cases, therefore, are not parallel. When we do what we think God has forbidden, we are evidently guilty of disobedience or contempt of the divine authority. But when we do what we think he has required, we may act under a culpable mistake; or, although we may have the judgment that the act in itself is right, our motives for doing it may be very wicked. The state of mind under which Paul and other Jews persecuted the early Christians, was evil, though the persecution itself they regarded as a duty. It is impossible that a man should have right motives for doing a wrong action; for the very mistake as to what is right, vitiates the motives. The mistake implies a wrong state of mind; and, on the other hand, the misapprehension of truth produces a wrong state of mind. There may, therefore, be a very sinful zeal for God and religion (see Romans 10:2); and no man will be able to plead at the bar of judgment, his good intention as an excuse for evil conduct, Romans 14:23.
1. Christians should not allow anything to alienate them from their brethren, who afford credible evidence that they are the servants of God. Owing to ignorance, early prejudice, weakness of faith, and other causes, there may and must exist a diversity of opinion and practice on minor points of duty. But this diversity is no sufficient reason for rejecting from Christian fellowship any member of the family of Christ. It is, however, one thing to recognize a man as a Christian, and another to recognize him as a suitable minister of a church, organized on a particular form of government and system of doctrines, Romans 14:1-12.
2. A denunciatory or censorious spirit is hostile to the spirit of the gospel. It is an encroachment on the prerogatives of the only Judge of the heart and conscience: it blinds the mind to moral distinctions, and prevents the discernment between matters unessential and those vitally important; and it leads us to forget our own accountableness, and to over look our own faults, in our zeal to denounce those of others, Romans 14:4-10.
3. It is sinful to indulge contempt for those whom we suppose to be our inferiors, Romans 14:3, Romans 14:10.
4. Christians should remember that, living or dying, they are the Lord’s. This imposes the obligation to observe his will and to seek his glory; and it affords the assurance that the Lord will provide for all their wants. This peculiar propriety in his own people, Christ has obtained by his death and resurrection, Romans 14:8, Romans 14:9.
5. We should stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and not allow our consciences to be brought under the yoke of bondage to human opinions. There is a strong tendency in men to treat, as matters of conscience, things which God has never enjoined. Wherever this disposition has been indulged or submitted to, it has resulted in bringing one class of men under the most degrading bondage to another; and in the still more serious evil of leading them to disregard the authority of God. Multitudes who would be shocked at the thought of eating meat on Friday, commit the greatest moral offenses without the slightest compunction. It is, therefore, of great importance to keep the conscience free; under no subjection but to truth and God. This is necessary, not only on account of its influence on our own moral feelings, but also because nothing but truth can really do good. To advocate even a good cause with bad arguments does great harm, by exciting unnecessary opposition; by making good men, who oppose the arguments, appear to oppose the truth; by introducing a false standard of duty; by failing to enlist the support of an enlightened conscience, and by the necessary forfeiture of the confidence of the intelligent and well informed. The cause of benevolence, therefore, instead of being promoted, is injured by all exaggerations, erroneous statements, and false principles, on the part of its advocates, Romans 14:14, Romans 14:22.
6. It is obviously incumbent on every man to endeavor to obtain and promote right views of duty, not only for his own sake, but for the sake of others. It is often necessary to assert our Christian liberty at the expense of incurring censure, and offending even good men, in order that right principles of duty may be preserved. Our Savior consented to be regarded as a Sabbath-breaker, and even a “wine-bibber and friend of publicans and sinners;” but wisdom was justified of her children. Christ did not in these cases see fit to accommodate his conduct to the rule of duty set up, and conscientiously regarded as correct by those around him. He saw that more good would arise from a practical disregard of the false opinions of the Jews, as to the manner in which the Sabbath was to be kept, and as to the degree of intercourse which was allowed with wicked men, than from concession to their prejudices. Enlightened benevolence often requires a similar course of conduct, and a similar exercise of self-denial on the part of his disciples.
7. While Christian liberty is to be maintained, and right principles of duty inculcated, every concession consistent with truth and good morals should be made for the sake of peace and the welfare of others. It is important, however, that the duty of making such concessions should be placed on the right ground, and be urged in a right spirit, not as a thing to be demanded, but as that which the law of love requires. In this way success is more certain and more extensive, and the concomitant results are all good. It may at times be a difficult practical question, whether most good would result from compliance with the prejudices of others, or from disregarding them. But where there is a sincere desire to do right, and a willingness to sacrifice our own inclinations for the good of others, connected with prayer for divine direction, there can be little danger of serious mistake. Evil is much more likely to arise from a disregard of the opinions and the welfare of our brethren, and from a reliance on our own judgment, than from any course requiring self-denial, Romans 14:13, Romans 14:15, Romans 14:20, Romans 14:21.
8. Conscience, or a sense of duty, is not the only, and perhaps not the most important principle to be appealed to in support of benevolent enterprises. It comes in aid, and gives its sanction to all other right motives, but we find the sacred writers appealing most frequently to the benevolent and pious feelings; to the example of Christ; to a sense of our obligations to him; to the mutual relation of Christians, and their common connection with the Redeemer, etc., as motives to self-denial and devotedness, Romans 14:15, Romans 14:21.
9. As the religion of the gospel consists in the inward graces of the Holy Spirit, all who have these graces should be recognized as genuine Christians; being acceptable to God, they should be loved and cherished by his people, notwithstanding their weakness or errors, Romans 14:17, Romans 14:18.
10. The peace and edification of the church are to be sought at all sacrifices except those of truth and duty; and the work of God is not to be destroyed or injured for the sake of any personal or party interests, Romans 14:13, Romans 14:20.
11. An enlightened conscience is a great blessing; it secures the liberty of the soul from bondage to the opinions of men, and from the self-inflicted pains of a scrupulous and morbid state of moral feeling; it promotes the right exercise of all the virtuous affections, and the right discharge of all relative duties, Romans 14:22.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 14". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent