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Bible Commentaries
Romans 14

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

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Verses 1-23

In chapter 14 and the first seven verses of chapter 15 the Holy Spirit emphasizes the believer’s responsibilities toward his weaker brethren. He is to walk charitably toward those who have less light than himself.

The weak in faith, that is, those whose uninstructed consciences cause them to be in trouble as to things indifferent, are to be received and owned as in this full Christian position and not to be judged for their questionings or doubtful thoughts. The principle is a most far-reaching one, and indicates the breadth of Christian charity that should prevail over the spirit of legality into which it is so easy to fall. Light is not the ground of reception to Christian privileges, but life. All those who are children of God are to be recognized as fellow-members of the Body, and unless living in evident wickedness, to be accorded their blood-bought place in the Christian company. Wickedness and weakness are not to be confounded. The wicked person is to be put away (see 1Cornthians Chapter), but the weak brother is to be received and protected.

Of course it is not reception into fellowship that is here in view. The one who was weak in faith was already inside. He must not be looked upon coldly and judged for his doubtful thoughts (see margin), but received cordially, and his weak conscience carefully considered. It might be one who is still under law as to things clean and unclean or one who has difficulty regarding holy days. In the former case the brother who is strong in the liberty that is in Christ believes he may, as a Christian, eat all things, raising no questions as to their ceremonial cleanness. The weak brother is so afraid of defilement he subsists on a vegetable diet rather than possibly partake of what has been offered to idols or is not “Kosher” - that is, clean according to Levitical law.

The one who is “strong” must not look with contempt upon his over-scrupulous brother. On the other hand, the weak one is forbidden to accuse the stronger of insincerity or inconsistency.

Or if it be a question of days and one brother with a legal conscience possibly still holds to the sanctity of the Jewish Sabbath, while another sees all days as now alike and to be devoted to the glory of God, each must seek to act as before Him and be “fully persuaded in his own mind.”

Who has given one servant to regulate another? Both are accountable to one Master, and He recognizes integrity of heart, and will uphold His own. Where there is sincerity and it is the glory of the Lord that each has in view, both must endeavor to act as in His presence. There can be no question but that the principle here enunciated if firmly held would make for fuller fellowship among saints and save from many heart-burnings.

We do not live for ourselves. Whether we will or no we are constantly affecting others for good or ill. Let us then recognize our individual responsibility to the Lord, whose we are and whom we are to serve, whether in life or in death. “For to this end Christ both died and rose that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.” The words, “and revived,” are a needless interpolation omitted from all critical versions.

At the judgment-seat of God (according to the best reading), where Christ Himself is the Arbiter, all will come out, and He will show what was in accord with His mind. Till then we can afford to wait, realizing that we must all give account of ourselves to Him. In view of this, “Let us not judge one another any more,” but let there be individual self-judgment, each one striving so to walk as not to put any occasion to fall in a weak brother’s way.

Even where one is clear that his own behavior is consistent with Christian liberty, let him not flaunt that liberty before the weak lest he “destroy one for whom Christ died.” See also 1 Corinthians 8:11. It is of course the ruin of his testimony that is in view. Emboldened by the example of the strong one he may venture to go beyond the dictates of conscience and so bring himself under a sense of condemnation, or he may become discouraged, thinking others inconsistent, and so drift from the Christian company.

After all, questions of meats and drinks are but of minor importance. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink”-i.e., has not to do with temporalities as have all merely human kingdoms-but it is spiritual in character and has to do with “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Where one is exercised as to these things (even though mistaken as to others) he serves Christ, and is acceptable to God and approved of men.

Every right-thinking person appreciates sincerity. “Let us therefore follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

It is far better to abstain from ought that would trouble the conscience of a weak brother than to turn him aside by insisting on liberty, and so be responsible for his failure and the break-down of his discipleship.

If one has faith that he can safely do what another condemns, let him have it to himself before God and not flaunt it flagrantly before the weak. But let him be sure he is not self-condemned while he professes to be clear; for he who persists in a certain course concerning which he is not really at ease before God does not truly act in faith, and so is condemned (not “damned” of course-for this word properly refers to eternal judgment), because “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” That is to say, if I act contrary to what I believe to be right, even though there be nothing morally wrong in my behavior, I am really sinning against conscience and thus against God.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Romans 14". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/romans-14.html. 1914.
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