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Bible Commentaries
Romans 14

International Critical Commentary NTInternational Critical

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Verses 1-99


14:1-15:13. Receive a scrupulous Christian cordially. Do not be continually condemning him. Some of you have grasped the full meaning of Christian faith, others whose conscience is too tender lay undue stress on particular practices, on rules as to food or the observance of certain days. Do not you whose faith is more robust despise such scruples; nor should they be censorious (vv. 1-5).

Every one should make up his own mind. These things are indifferent in themselves. Only whatever a man does he must look to Christ. In life and death we are all His, whose death and resurrection have made him Lord of all. To Him as to no one else shall we be called upon to give account (vv. 6-12).

We must avoid censoriousness. But equally must we avoid placing obstacles before a fellow-Christian. I believe firmly that nothing is harmful in itself, but it becomes so to the person who considers it harmful. The obligation of love and charity is paramount. Meats are secondary things. Let us have an eye to peace and mutual help. It is not worth while for the sake of a little meat to undo God’s work in a brother’s soul. Far better abstain from flesh and wine altogether (vv. 13-21).

Keep the robuster faith with which you are blest to yourself and God. To hesitate and then eat is to incur guilt; for it is not prompted by strong faith (vv. 22, 23).

This rule of forbearance applies to all classes of the community. The strong should bear the scruples of the weak. We should not seek our own good, but that of others; following the example of Christ as expounded to us in the Scriptures; those Scriptures which were written for our encouragement and consolation. May God, from whom this encouragement comes, grant you all—weak and strong, Jew and Gentile—to be of one mind, uniting in the praise of God (15:1-7).

For Christ has received you all alike. To both Jew and Gentile He has a special mission. To the Jews to exhibit God’s veracity, to the Gentiles to reveal His mercy; that Gentile might unite with Jew, as Psalmist and Prophet foretold, in hymns of praise to the glory of God. May God the giver of hope send it richly upon you (vv. 8-13).

14:1-15:13. The Apostle now passes on to a further point; the proper attitude to adopt towards matters in themselves indifferent, but concerning which some members of the community might have scruples. The subject is one which naturally connects itself with what we have seen to be the leading thought which underlies these concluding chapters, and in fact the whole Epistle, namely, the peace and unity of the Church, and may have been immediately suggested by the words just preceding: St. Paul has been condemning excessive indulgence; he now passes to the opposite extreme, excessive scrupulousness, which he deals with in a very different way. As Augustine points out, he condemns and instructs more openly the ‘strong’ who can bear it, while indirectly showing the error of the ‘weak.’ The arguments throughout are, as we shall see, perfectly general, and the principles applied those characteristic of the moral teaching of the Epistle—the freedom of Christian faith, the comprehensiveness of Christian charity and that duty of peace and unity on which St. Paul never wearies of insisting.

Tertullian (Adv. Marc. v.15) refers to ver. 14:10, and Origen (Comm. in Rom. x.43, Lomm. vii. p. 453) to ver. 23. Of Marcion’s use of the rest of the chapter we know nothing. On chaps. 15, 16, see Introduction, § 9.

1. τὸν δὲ�Romans 4:19; 1 Corinthians 8:7, 1 Corinthians 8:9, 1 Corinthians 8:10, 1 Corinthians 8:11; 1 Corinthians 9:22. ‘Weakness in faith,’ means an inadequate grasp of the great principle of salvation by faith in Christ; the consequence of which will be an anxious desire to make this salvation more certain by the scrupulous fulfilment of formal rules.

προσλαμβάνεσθε, ‘receive into full Christian intercourse and fellowship.’ The word is used (1) of God receiving or helping man: Psa_26 (27) 10 ὁ πατήρ μου καὶ ἡ μήτηρ μου ἐγκατέλιπόν με, ὁ δὲ κύριος προσελάβετό με: so in ver. 3 below and in Clem. Rom. 49:6 ἐν�

μὴ εἰς διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν, ‘but not to pass judgements on their thoughts.’ Receive them as members of the Christian community, but do not let them find that they have been merely received into a society in which their somewhat too scrupulous thoughts are perpetually being condemned. διακρίσεις, from διακρίνω to ‘judge,’ ‘decide,’ ‘distinguish,’ means the expression of judgements or opinions, as Hebrews 5:14 ‘judgement of good or evil,’ 1 Corinthians 12:10 ‘judgement or discernment of spirits.’ διαλογισμῶν means ‘thoughts,’ often, but not necessarily, with the idea of doubt, hesitation (Luke 24:38), disputes (Philippians 2:14; 1 Timothy 2:8), or generally of perverse self-willed speculations. The above interpretation of διακρίσεις is that of most commentators (Mey.-W. Oltr. Va.) and is most in accordance with usage. An equally good sense could be gained by translating (with Lips.) ‘not so as to raise doubts in his mind,’ or (with Gif.) ‘not unto discussions of doubts’; but neither interpretation can be so well supported.

2. The Apostle proceeds to describe the two classes to which he is referring, and then (ver. 3) he gives his commands to both sides.

ὄς μὲν ̣ ̣ ̣ ὁ δὲ�1 Corinthians 12:8-10; Mark 4:4; Luke 8:5. The second ὁ is not for ὃς, but is to be taken with�

πιστεύει, ‘hath faith to eat all things’; his faith, i.e. his grasp and hold of the Christian spirit, is so strong that he recognizes how indifferent all such matters in themselves really are.

λάχανα ἐσθίει, ‘abstains from all flesh meat and eats only vegetables.’ Most commentators have assumed that St. Paul is describing the practice of some definite party in the Roman community and have discussed, with great divergence of opinion, the motive of such a practice. But St. Paul is writing quite generally, and is merely selecting a typical instance to balance the first. He takes, on the one side, the man of thoroughly strong faith, who has grasped the full meaning of his Christianity; and on the other side, one who is, as would generally be admitted, over-scrupulous, and therefore is suitable as the type of any variety of scrupulousness in food which might occur. To both these classes he gives the command of forbearance, and what he says to them will apply to other less extreme cases (see the Discussion on p. 399).

3. ὁ ἐσθίων ̣ ̣ ̣ ὁ δὲ μὴ ἐσθίων. St. Paul uses these expressions to express briefly the two classes with which he is dealing (see ver. 6). Pride and contempt would be the natural failing of the one; a spirit of censoriousness of the other.

ὁ Θεὸς γὰρ αὐτὸν προσελάβετο. See ver. 1. God through Christ has admitted men into His Church without imposing on them minute and formal observances; they are not therefore to be criticized or condemned for neglecting practices which God has not required.

4. σὺ τίς εἶ; St. Paul is still rebuking the ‘weak.’ The man whom he is condemning is not a household slave, but the servant of God; to God therefore he is responsible.

τῷ ἰδίῳ κυρίῳ. Dat. of reference: cf. vv. 5-8. ‘It is to his own master that he is responsible.’ He it is to whom he must show whether he has used or misused his freedom, whether he has had the strength to fulfil his work or whether he has failed. πίπτει (11:11, 11:22) of moral failure; στήκει (1 Corinthians 16:13; Philippians 1:27) of moral stability. In 1 Corinthians 10:12 the two are contrasted, ὥστε ὁ δοκῶν ἑστάναι βλεπέτω μὴ πέσῃ.

σταθήσεται δέ: cf. Matthew 12:25. In spite of your censoriousness he will be held straight, for the same Lord who called him on conditions of freedom to His kingdom is mighty to hold him upright. The Lord will give grace and strength to those whom He has called.

For δυνατεῖ (א A B C D F G), which is an unusual word, later MSS. substituted δυνατός (P, Bas. Chrys.), or δυνατὸς ̣ ̣ ̣ ἐστιν (T R with L and later MSS.). For ὁ Κύριος (א A B C P, Sah. Boh., &c.) ὁ Θεός was introduced from ver. 3 (D E F G L, &c., Vulg., Orig.-lat. Bas. Chrys., &c.), perhaps because of the confusion with τῷ Κυρίῳ above.

5. The Apostle turns to another instance of similar scrupulousness, —the superstitious observance of days. In Galatia he has already had to rebuke this strongly; later he condemns the Colossians for the same reason. Galatians 4:10, Galatians 4:11 ‘Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labour upon you in vain.’ Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:17 ‘Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s.’ St. Paul does not in the Romans condemn any one for adherence to this practice, but simply considers the principles which underlie the question, as illustrating (hence γάρ) the general discussion of the chapter. The fundamental principle is that such things are in themselves indifferent, but that each person must be fully assured in his own conscience that he is doing right.

Various commentators have discussed the relation of these directions to Ecclesiastical ordinances, and have attempted to make a distinction between the Jewish rites which are condemned and Christian rites which are enjoined. (So Jerome, Contra Iovinian. ii. 16, quoted by Liddon ad loc.: non inter ieiunia et saturitatem aequalia mente dispensat; sed contra eos loquitur, qui in Christum credentes, adhuc iudaizabant.) No such distinction is possible. The Apostle is dealing with principles, not with special rites, and he lays down the principle that these things in themselves are indifferent; while the whole tenor of his argument is against scrupulousness in any form. So these same principles would apply equally to the scrupulous observance of Ecclesiastical rules, whether as in some places of Sunday, or as in others of Saints’ days or Fast days. Such observances if undertaken in a scrupulous spirit are opposed to the very essence of Christian freedom. When once this principle has been grasped a loyal free adhesion to the rules of the Church becomes possible. The Jew and the scrupulous Christian kept their rules of days and seasons, because they believed that their salvation depended on an exact adherence to formal ordinances. The Christian who has grasped the freedom of the Gospel recognizes the indifference in themselves of all such ordinances; but he voluntarily submits to the rules of his Church out of respect for its authority, and he recognizes the value of an external discipline. The Apostolical Constitutions, which representing an early system of Christian discipline, seem to recognize these principles, for they strongly condemn abstinence from food if influenced by any feeling of abhorrence from it, although not if undertaken for the purpose of discipline.

Tisch. (Exo_8) reads here ὃς μὲν γάρ with א A C P, Vulg. Boh. (which he quotes incorrectly on the other side), Bas. Ambrstr. Jo.-Damasc. The γάρ is omitted by אc B D E F G, Syrr., Orig.-lat. Chrys. Thdrt. T. R. RV. and inserted between brackets by WH. Lachmann. The insertion is probably right; the balance of external evidence being in its favour, for B here is clearly Western in character.

κρίνει, ‘estimates,’ ‘approves of’: Plat. Phil. p. 57 E is quoted. παρά, ‘passing by’ and so ‘in preference to.’

πληροφορείσθω. The difference between the Christian and the Jew or the heathen, between the man whose rule is one of faith and the man subject to law, is, that while for the latter there are definite and often minute regulations he must follow, for the former the only laws are great and broad principles. He has the guidance of the Spirit; he must do what his νοῦς, his highest intellectual faculty, tells him to be right. On the word πληροφορείσθω see on 4:21 and cf. Clem. Rom. 42 πληροφορηθέντες διὰ τῆς�

ἀπέθανε καὶ ἔζησεν must refer to Christ’s death and resurrection. ἔζησεν cannot refer to the life of Christ on earth, (1) because of the order of words which St. Paul has purposely and deliberately varied from the order ζῶμεν καὶ�Romans 8:34; 2 Corinthians 4:10, 2 Corinthians 4:11); (3) because of the tense; the aorist ἔζησεν could be used of a single definite act which was the beginning of a new life, it could not be used of the continuous life on earth.

νεκρῶν καὶ ζώντων. The inversion of the usual order is owing to the order of words in the previous part of the sentence,�Philippians 2:9, Philippians 2:11.

For Χριστός the T. R. with later MSS., Syrr., Iren.-lat. reads καὶ Χριστός�

παραστησόμεθα τῷ βήματι τοῦ Θεοῦ. Cf. Acts 27:24 Καίσαρί σε δεῖ παραστῆναι. For βῆμα, in the sense of a judge’s official seat, see Matthew 27:19; Job 19:13, &c. God is here mentioned as Judge because (see 2:16) He judges the world through Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 the expression is τοὺς γὰρ πάντας ἡμᾶς φανερωθῆναι δεῖ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ βήματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ. It is quite impossible to follow Liddon in taking Θεοῦ of Christ in his Divine nature; that would be contrary to all Pauline usage: but it is important to notice how easily St. Paul passes from Χριστός to Θεός. The Father and the Son were in his mind so united in function that They may often be interchanged. God, or Christ, or God through Christ, will judge the world. Our life is in God, or in Christ, or with Christ in God. The union of man with God depends upon the intimate union of the Father and the Son.

Θεοῦ must be accepted as against Χριστοῦ on decisive authority. The latter reading arose from a desire to assimilate the expression to 2 Corinthians 5:10.

11. St. Paul supports his statement of the universal character of God’s judgement by quoting Isaiah 45:23 (freely acc. to the LXX). In the O. T. the words describe the expectation of the universal character of Messianic rule, and the Apostle sees their complete fulfilment at the final judgement.

ἐξομολογήσεται τῷ Θεῷ, ‘shall give praise to God,’ according to the usual LXX meaning; cf. 15:9, which is quoted from Ps. 17:50 (18:50).

ζῶ ἐ͂γώ, λέγω Κύριος is substituted for κατʼ ἐμαυτοῦ ὀμνὑω, cf. Numbers 14:28 &c.; for πᾶσα γλῶσσα κ.τ.λ. the LXX reads ὀμεῖται π. γ. τὸν Θεόν.

12. The conclusion is: it is to God and not to man that each of us has to give account. If Θεῷ be read (see below), it may again be noted how easily St. Paul passes from Κύριος to Θεός (see on ver. 10 and cf. 14:3 with 15:7).

There are several minor variations of text. οὖν is omitted by B D F G P and perhaps the Latin authorities, which read itaque. For δώσει of the T. R. WH. read�

κρίνατε: for the play on words cf. 12:3, 14, 13:1. ‘Do not therefore judge one another, but judge this for yourself, i. e. determine this as your course of conduct’: cf. 2 Corinthians 2:1.

τὸ μὴ τιθέναι … τῷ�Matthew 18:6 f. See also his treatment of the same question in 1 Corinthians 8:9 f.

πρόσκομμα … ἤ should perhaps be omitted with B, Arm. Pesh. As Weiss points out, the fact that ἤ is omitted in all authorities which omit πρ. proves that the words cannot have been left out accidentally. πρόσκομμα would come in from 1 Corinthians 8:9 and ver. 20 below.

14. In order to emphasize the real motive which should influence Christians, namely, respect for the feelings of others, the indifference of all such things in themselves is emphatically stated.

ἐν Κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ. The natural meaning of these words is the same as that of ἐν Χρ. (9:1); to St. Paul the indifference of all meats in themselves is a natural deduction from his faith and life in Christ. It may be doubted whether he is here referring expressly to the words of Christ (Mark 7:15; Matthew 15:11); when doing so his formula is παρέλαβον�

κοινόν. The technical term to express those customs and habits, which, although ‘common’ to the world, were forbidden to the pious Jew. Jos. Ant. XIII, i. 1 τὸν κοινὸν βίον προῃρημένους: 1 Macc. 1:47, 62; Acts 10:14 ὅτι οὐδέποτε ἔφαγον πᾶν κοινὸν καὶ�

διʼ ἑαυτοῦ, ‘in itself,’ ‘in its own nature.’

That διʼ ἑαυτοῦ is the right reading is shown by (1) the authority of א B C also of א (Cod. Patiriensis, see Introduction, § 7) supported by many later MSS., the Vulgate, and the two earliest commentators Orig.-lat. In Domine ergo Iesu nihil commune per semetipsum, hoc est natura sui dicitur, and Chrys. τῇ φύσει φησὶν οὐδὲν�

ὑπὲρ οὗ Χριστὸς�1 Corinthians 8:10, 1 Corinthians 8:11. Christ died to save this man from his sins, and will you for his sake not give up some favourite food?

16. μὴ βλασφημείσθω κ.τ.λ. Let not that good of yours, i. e. your consciousness of Christian freedom (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:29 ἡ ἐλευθερία μου), become a cause of reproach. St. Paul is addressing the strong, as elsewhere in this paragraph, and the context seems clearly to point, at least primarily, to opinions within the community, not to the reputation of the community with the outside world. The above interpretation, therefore (which is that of Gifford and Vaughan), is better than that which would refer the passage to the reputation of the Christian community amongst those not belonging to it (Mey-W. Lips. Liddon).

17. Do not lay such stress on this freedom of yours as to cause a breach in the harmony of the Church; for eating and drinking are not the principle of that kingdom which you hope to inherit.

ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ. An echo of our Lord’s teaching. The phrase is used normally in St. Paul of that Messianic kingdom which is to be the reward and goal of the Christian life; so especially 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 6:10, where it is laid down that certain classes shall have no part in it. Hence it comes to mean the principles or ideas on which that kingdom is founded, and which are already exhibited in this world (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:20). The term is, of course, derived through the words of Christ from the current Jewish conceptions of an actual earthly kingdom; how far exactly such conceptions have been spiritualized in St. Paul it may be difficult to say.

βρῶσις καὶ πόσις. If, as is probable, the weak brethren are conceived of as having Judaizing tendencies, there is a special point in this expression. ‘If you lay so much stress on eating and drinking as to make a point of indulging in what you will at all costs, you are in danger of falling into the Judaizing course of interpreting the Messianic prophecies literally, and imagining the Messianic kingdom to be one of material plenty’ (Iren. V. xxxiii. 3).

These words are often quoted as condemning any form of scrupulousness concerning eating and drinking; but that is not St. Paul’s idea. He means that ‘eating and drinking’ are in themselves so unimportant that every scruple should be respected, and every form of food willingly given up. They are absolutely insignificant in comparison with ‘righteousness’ and ‘peace’ and ‘joy.’

δικαιοσύνη κ.τ.λ. This passage describes man’s life in the kingdom, and these words denote not the relation of the Christian to God, but his life in relation to others. δικαιοσύνη therefore is not used in its technical sense of the relation between God and man, but means righteousness or just dealing; εἰρήνη is the state of peace with one another which should characterize Christians; χαρά is the joy which comes from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the community; cf. Acts 2:46 μετελάμβανον τροφῆς ἐν�

18. The same statement is generalized. The man who, on the principle implied by these virtues (ἐν τούτῳ, not ἐν τούτοις), is Christ’s servant, i. e. who serves Christ by being righteous and conciliatory and charitable towards others, not by harshly emphasizing his Christian freedom, is not only well-pleasing to God, but will gain the approval of men.

δόκιμος τοῖς�2 Timothy 2:15).

19. οἰκοδομῆς: cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26 πάντα πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν γινέσθω, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 οἰκοδομεῖτε εἷς τὸν ἕνα.

διώκομεν (א A B F G L P ב) is really more expressive than the somewhat obvious correction διώκωμεν (C D E, Latt.). D E F G add φυλάξωμεν after�

20. κατάλυε … ἔργον keeps up the metaphor suggested by οἰκοδομῆς. ‘Build up, do not destroy, that Christian community which God has founded in Christ.’ Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9 Θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί. Θεοῦ γεώργιον, Θεοῦ οἰκοδομή ἐστε. The words εἰρήνη and οἰκοδομή both point to the community rather than the individual Christian.

πάντα μὲν καθαρά: cf. 1 Corinthians 10:23 πάντα ἔξεστιν,�

ἀλλὰ κακόν: the subject to this must be supplied from πάντα. It is a nice question to decide to whom these words refer. (1) Are they addressed to the strong, those who by eating are likely to give offence to others (so Va. Oltr., and the majority of commentaries)? or (2) are they addressed to the weak, those who by eating what they think it wrong to eat injure their own consciences (so Gif. Mey.-W.. and others)? In the former case διὰ προσκόμματος (on the διά cf. 2:27, 4:11) means ‘so as to cause offence,’ in the latter ‘so as to take offence’ (Tyndale, ‘who eateth with hurt of his conscience’). Perhaps the transition to ver. 21 is slightly better if we take (1).

21. A thing in itself indifferent may be wrong if it injures the consciences of others; on the other hand, to give up what will injure others is a noble act.

καλόν: cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1 and for the thought 1 Corinthians 8:13 διόπερ, εἰ βρῶμα σκανδαλίζει τὸν�

The T. R. adds after προσκόπτει the gloss ἣ σκανδαλίζεται ἣ�

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Romans 14". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/romans-14.html. 1896-1924.
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