Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Romans 14

Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentBeet on the NT

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-12


Him that is weak in faith, receive; so as not to pass judgment on reasonings. One man has faith to eat all things; but the weak one eats herbs. He that eats, let him not despise him that eats not; and he that eats not, let him not judge him that eats: for God has received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s domestic servant? to his own lord, he stands or falls. And he shall be made to stand: for the Lord is able to make him stand. For one man esteems day above day: but another esteems every day. Let each one, in his own mind, be fully assured. He who regards the day, regards it for the Lord. And he that eats, eats for the Lord: for he gives thanks to God. So he that eats not, for the Lord he eats not; and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself; and not one of us dies for himself: For both if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. If then we live, and if we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that both of dead and living He may be Lord. And thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? Or also thou, why dost thou despise thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God. For it is written, “I live,” says the Lord: “to Me shall bow every knee, and every tongue shall make acknowledgment to God.” “Therefore each of us, concerning himself, will give account to God.

Romans 14:1. A new topic, viz. our duty to certain of our fellow-Christians. The repetition of this exhortation in Romans 15:7, marks the completion of the discussion.

Weak in faith: one whose grasp of the teaching of Jesus is not so full and firm as to break down the barriers erected by training and circumstances: contrast Romans 4:19. Cp. 1 Corinthians 8:7-12.

Receive: as a brother in Christ: same word in Romans 14:3; Philemon 1:17; Acts 18:26; Acts 28:2; Acts 17:5.

So as not etc.: in order to avoid pronouncing judgment on matters open to discussion, i.e. on conflicting reasonings. To reject a man because he cannot grasp the Gospel in its fulness, is to pronounce judgment on the thoughts and doubts of his heart. This we have no right to do; and therefore are bound to receive him.

Romans 14:2. Statement of the special case which called forth the above general exhortation.

Has faith etc.: he so fully believes the words of Christ, e.g. Mark 7:15, that he can eat anything without fear of defilement.

Herbs, or vegetables: i.e. as his only food: practical result of the weakness of his faith. This abstinence from all meat and (Romans 14:21) from wine is not explained by the Mosaic distinction of clean and unclean animals. But all is explained if we suppose that Paul refers to the matter discussed in 1 Corinthians 8, where see my notes. The weak brother looks upon everything offered to an idol as forbidden and polluting. This is implied in Deuteronomy 7:25-26; and is confirmed by Acts 15:29. So careful is he to avoid eating in pagan cities such as Rome or Corinth that which, unknown to him, has been consecrated to a false god, that, like Daniel, he abstains from all meat and all wine. And he believes that those men sin who eat all kinds of meat without asking ( 1 Corinthians 10:27) where it came from. But he has not grasped the teaching of Christ in Mark 7:18 : “nothing that enters into a man can defile him.” Else he would know (Titus 1:15) that “to the clean all things are clean.” We are not surprised that the man of strong faith, who knows that an idol is but an empty name, is in danger of looking with contempt (cp. Romans 14:3; Romans 14:10) on this needlessly scrupulous brother. Notice that Paul leaves the right or wrong of the matter an open question, but counsels concession in practice. Neither of these could he do if the continued obligation of the Mosaic distinction of meats were in question: contrast Galatians 2:5; Galatians 5:1-12. But, if he refers to idol sacrifices, his teaching here accords with 1 Corinthians 8-10. And the prohibition to touch that which belongs to an idol, though temporary, rested on deeper grounds than did the Mosaic regulations about food. This explanation is confirmed by the contrast of Jews and Gentiles in Romans 15:8-9; and by the discussion of the same matter at Corinth, where Paul probably wrote this epistle. The absence of any specific mention of idol sacrifices is a very uncertain ground of objection to this view: for Paul’s readers knew to what he referred. The express mention of the matter in 1 Corinthians 8:1 arose probably (cp. 1 Corinthians 7:1) from its having been a matter of special inquiry.

Romans 14:3 a. An exhortation for each of the above classes.

Despise: because he cannot fully grasp the teaching of Christ. This passing exhortation, repeated in Romans 14:10, will be supported by strong arguments in Romans 14:13-23.

Let him not judge: appeal to the weak in faith.

Romans 14:3-4. First argument against judging.

God has received him: into His favour and service: same word and argument in Romans 15:7. Paul assumes, as we ought to do unless we have proof to the contrary, that all church-members are true servants of Christ; and therefore assumes that God has accepted this man against whom the only objection is that he eats meat. A solemn consideration for all who condemn their fellow-Christians. It may be that God has accepted them.

Who art thou etc.? a personal appeal supporting the foregoing argument.

Domestic-servant: same word in Acts 10:7; Luke 16:13; 1 Peter 2:18. We serve Christ under His own eye, as members of His household.

Lord: see under Romans 1:4.

His own lord: developing an idea in another-man’s servant.

He-will-be-made-to-stand: although he eats meat.

The Lord: Christ, as almost always in N.T., except (cp. Romans 14:11) in quotations from O.T.: cp. 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:5. The proof that this man will be made to stand is that his continuance in the Christian ranks is wrought by the power, and therefore depends on the will, of Christ. This being so, He only has a right to pronounce judgment on him.

Romans 14:5. It is uncertain whether the word for is genuine, i.e. whether this verse is given as a reason for the foregoing or merely added without note of connection. The external evidence is almost equally divided. But the insertion of the word for gives, as I understand the argument, the true connection of the verses, a connection however not evident at first sight, and therefore easily overlooked by a copyist. This easy explanation of the omission favours the genuineness of the word; and seems to me to outweigh a slight preponderance possibly of the external evidence. The editors are divided. Tischendorf inserts the word for, as do Lachmann and Westcott, who however put it in brackets and thus mark it as doubtful. Tregelles and R.V. omit it without note. The latter ought at least to have given it a place in their margin.

Esteems: same word as judge in Romans 14:3-4; Romans 14:10; Romans 14:13.

Day above day: he judges one day to be above another. The other man pronounces a like sentence on every day. To which of the two classes in Romans 14:2, these two classes belong, Paul does not say. The order of clauses decides nothing: for it varies in Romans 14:3 and Romans 14:10, as in Romans 10:9 and Romans 10:10. Moreover, Galatians 4:10; Colossians 2:16 suggest irresistibly that Paul did not set day above day. We cannot suppose that he set one day above the others in opposition to some who gave undue sanctity to every day of the week: and of any such we have in the N.T. no hint. To count every moment absolutely devoted to God, and therefore holy in the highest sense, is the very essence of the new life in Christ and is clearly taught in Romans 14:8. Undoubtedly the man to whom all days were sacred would look upon all food as clean. We shall see that this view gives to Paul’s argument the force of a personal appeal. Its bearing on the divine institution of the Lord’s Day, I have discussed in a special note under Galatians 4:11.

Let each etc.: let him form an opinion of his own, so that his action may spring from his own conviction, not from that of others. To do something merely because others think it right, is always humiliating and demoralising. Notice that Paul leaves the matter of days an open question.

Romans 14:6. A comment on the observance of the sacred day, to which is joined a similar comment on the action both of him that eats and of him that eats not.

Regards: same word as mind in Romans 8:5; Romans 12:3; Romans 12:16. He makes the day which he judges (Romans 14:5) to be above other days a special object of thought. But he does this for the Lord, i.e. in order to please his Master, Christ. The words which follow in the A.V. are certainly spurious, and mar the argument. They give undue importance to the matter of days; which is introduced here only to support the argument about eating meat.

And he that eats, like the man who regards the day, eats for the Lord: he believes that his Master has given him this food, and is pleased to see him eat and enjoy it.

For he gives thanks: proof of this.

To God: the Giver of all good. No man thanks God for that which he believes that God has forbidden. Therefore this man’s thanks proves that he believes his eating to be pleasing to God.

And he that eats not etc.: the weak and strong put side by side as alike loyal to the great Master; their loyalty being in each case attested by their thanks to God. One man eats meat and thanks God for it: the other abstains in order, as he thinks, to please Christ; and eats his plainer food with equal gratitude.

The argument is this. Evidently the man who pays special honour to one day does so in order to please Christ: his mode of spending the sacred day proves this. He therefore claims our respect for his loyalty to Christ, even if we differ from him about the right way of showing it. His loyalty forbids us to doubt that his Master will support His faithful, though perhaps mistaken, servant. Just so, the man who eats all kinds of meat and thanks God for it may claim that his thanks prove that he believes that by eating he is pleasing God. This argument would have the more weight with the men of weak faith because it describes, in reference to another matter, their own conduct and motive.

If this exposition be correct, the matter of sacred days is introduced merely to illustrate and enforce what Paul has to say about abstinence from meat, the matter he has now in hand. He merely asks the man who eats no meat to credit the man who eats it with a motive as good as that which prompts some to keep a sacred day.

Romans 14:7-8. A broader statement supporting the chief point of Romans 14:6. Not only does the man before us eat for the Lord, but not one of us lives or dies for himself, i.e. to please himself. We both eat and drink and use all the powers which life gives us to work out Christ’s purposes: and, when we die, we pass into another world, in order, in a nobler sphere, to continue the same work. Similar teaching in Romans 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:15.

We are the Lord’s: cp. 1 Corinthians 3:13 : inference from the foregoing. If the purpose of our life and death be to do Christ’s work, then we belong to Him and are His servants. And, if so, none but our Master has a right to judge us.

Romans 14:9. Confirmation of the foregoing description of the aim of our life and death, from the purpose of the death and resurrection of Christ. We were created (Colossians 1:16) for Christ, in order that we may find in His service our highest joy: but sin separated us from Him. To make it just (Romans 3:26) to pardon our sin and to reinstate us in the position for which we were created, God gave Christ to die; and (Romans 4:25) raised Him from the dead in order that His resurrection might be the sure ground of justifying faith: to this end Christ died and lived again.

Dead and living: cp. Luke 20:38. Notice the solemnity of our position as servants of Christ. By judging our brethren, we usurp the place of Him who died and rose from the dead in order that they may be His servants and He their Master.

Romans 14:10. An appeal to both parties, to him who judges and to him who despises. Notice the emphatic repetition of thy brother, one who claims a brother’s affection.

For we all etc.: Paul’s answer to his own questions.

We all: including Paul and those who judge and those who despise their brethren.

Judgment-seat: same word in 2 Corinthians 5:10; Acts 25:6; Acts 25:10; Acts 25:17.

Of God: “who (Romans 2:16) Will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ:” cp. Romans 3:6. That we shall ourselves stand before the bar of God, warns us neither to judge nor despise others.

Romans 14:11. Proof of the foregoing, from Isaiah 45:23.

Every knee… every tongue: visible and audible homage: a close parallel in Philippians 2:11.

Make-acknowledgment: either (Matthew 3:6, etc.) of sins against God; or (Romans 15:9) of the greatness and goodness of God. The latter use is so frequent in the O.T. (e.g. Psalms 105:1; Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1, LXX.) that we must accept it here. These great words describe evidently a voluntary and universal submission. This, we have no reason to expect until the final consummation described in 1 Corinthians 15:28. But Paul quotes words from God asserting solemnly, through the lips of a prophet, that a time will come when universal homage will be paid to Him.

This quotation, which looks forward to a world in which all shall bow to God, must be read in connection with Paul’s solemn words in Philippians 3:19 : “many walk… enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction.” The complete solution of this paradox lies hidden in the purpose of God. It does not imply that all who now live will ultimately bow to Christ.

Romans 14:12. Inference from the quotation.

Each of us about himself: a solitary responsibility.

Account: same word and sense in Matthew 12:36; 1 Peter 4:5; Philippians 4:15; Philippians 4:17. God’s solemn announcement that a time will come when universal homage will be paid to Him implies clearly that He claims this homage: and, if so, He will require an account from everyone who resists this claim. If we walk in the light of that day, we shall see our own littleness and be thus saved from contempt of our brethren; we shall feel our responsibility and thus be kept back from judging them.

In § 44, Paul speaks chiefly to the men who condemn others for eating all kinds of meat. He tells us incidentally that these scruples arise from weakness of faith. But, instead of dismissing the matter by apostolic authority, he discusses it from the weak brother’s own standpoint. He thus sets us an example of not despising our brethren; and gives us principles valid for various matters in actual life in which we have no express command to guide us. He says, Beware lest you condemn a man for that which Christ accepts as a mark, though perhaps a mistaken one, of loyalty to Himself; and remember how soon you will render an account of your service.

Paul refers here to conduct not inconsistent with loyalty to Christ, and therefore not absolutely sinful. In other cases, e.g. Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:3, he himself condemns the guilty person, and requires the Church to punish, and the members to withdraw from, him.

Verses 13-23


CH. 14:13-23

Let us not then any longer judge one another: but judge this rather, not to set a stumbling-block for thy brother, or a snare. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is common of itself; except that, to him who reckons anything to be common, to that man it is common. For, if because of food thy brother is made sorrowful, no longer dost thou walk according to love. Do not, by thy food, destroy him on whose behalf Christ died. Let not then your good thing be evil spoken of: For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this serves Christ is well-pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore pursue the things of peace and the things of mutual edification. Do not because of food pull down the work of God. All things are clean: but it is evil to the man who eats with stumbling. It is good not to eat meat, nor drink wine, nor anything in which thy brother stumbles. What faith thou hast, have with thyself before God. Happy is he that judges not himself in that which he approves. “But he that doubts, if he eats, stands condemned: because it is not from faith. And all that is not from faith is sin.

Romans 14:13. A practical exhortation summing up Paul’s teaching to the more scrupulous brethren, followed by another to the stronger brethren supporting the exhortation already given to them in Romans 14:1; Romans 14:3; Romans 14:10. Paul thus returns to the first matter of this chapter.

Judge this: make no decision about your brother’s character, but make this decision about your own future conduct: same word in Romans 14:5; 1 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 2:1.

Stumbling-block: against which one may strike his foot: Romans 9:33; Leviticus 19:14.

Set a snare: same words in Judith Romans 14:1: see under Romans 11:9. Resolve to do nothing by which your brother may be hindered or thrown down, or entrapped by the enemy.

Romans 14:14. Am-persuaded: as in Romans 8:38; Romans 15:14.

In the Lord: cp. Romans 9:1. Paul’s assurance comes from his inward union with Christ. Formerly, he was of another opinion.

Common: opposite to clean: cp. Romans 14:20; Acts 10:14-15; Acts 10:28. It denotes something forbidden to the sacred people.

Of itself: limitation to the assertion that nothing is common. It is further expounded in the words following, except etc. In spite of the above universal truth, if anyone eats what he believes to be defiling, he is defiled by it: for he has done what he believes to be wrong: cp. 1 Corinthians 8:7.

Paul here asserts plainly the absolute abrogation of the ceremonial law, of which distinction of food was a conspicuous feature and which forbad to touch things offered to idols: Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 7:25-26. He thus re-echoes Mark 7:1-23; Acts 10:15.

Romans 14:15. For, if etc.: reason for the above exception, viz. because disregard of our brother’s liability to be defiled by that which is in itself clean is inconsistent with love, which is the essence of the new life in Christ.

Because of food: the meat eaten by the man of strong faith. Sorrowful: through spiritual injury. It is the forerunner of destruction. Walk: life looked upon as movement forward, as in Romans 6:4. According to love: love to our brethren guiding our steps. This guiding principle is rejected by those who, rather than give up a certain kind of food, i.e. meat offered to idols, so act as to injure their brethren.

Do not etc.: a direct exhortation, based on the foregoing.

By thy food: emphatic repetition: a contemptuous description of the price of our brother’s destruction.

Destroy: the ultimate result of making him sorrowful by causing him spiritual injury. All such injury tends to, and may end in, final ruin. See note on p. 87. {Romans 2:24} Paul charges the man who eats without taking into account the possible injurious effect of his eating, with spiritual murder of the man of weak faith. That spiritual injury may lead to destruction, is a very strong reason for avoiding whatever may cause injury.

On whose behalf Christ died: an absolute contrast to him who, rather than refrain from certain kinds of meat, so acts as to ruin a brother in Christ.

This verse implies clearly the possibility of the ultimate ruin of those for whom Christ died, of those who are now, as Paul assumes throughout, servants of Christ. If we were sure that God would not permit the injury occasioned by our conduct to go to the length of final ruin, we could not be kept back from it by fear of destroying him for whom Christ died. See note on Final Perseverance on p. 304. {Romans 11:24}

Romans 14:16-19. Great general principles bearing on the case before us.

Your good thing: citizenship in the Kingdom of God, including the strong man’s faith. It is therefore fuller than “my liberty” in 1 Corinthians 10:29.

Evil-spoken-of: literally blasphemed, as in Romans 2:24; Romans 3:8. Another reason for the above exhortation. If you cling, even at the risk of injury to your brother, to your undoubted right to eat what you like, you will lead the heathen to speak evil of that religion which is the common good of weak and strong. They will think that what you value most in the Gospel is that it breaks down the restrictions of Judaism and allows men to eat anything.

Romans 14:17. Further exposition of your good thing.

The Kingdom of God: the eternal kingdom to be set up at the return of Christ, of which we are already citizens: so 1 Corinthians 4:20; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 1:13; Colossians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:18. It is a link connecting the teaching of Paul with the Gospels. Righteousness: doing what God approves, as in Romans 6:16; Romans 6:20. Peace: harmony with our brethren.

Joy in the Holy Spirit: a joy wrought by the Spirit in those to whom He is the element of life and thought, by revealing, through the Gospel of the cross of Christ, God’s love towards them and His purposes of mercy for them: cp. Romans 5:2; Romans 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:6. It is contrasted with the pleasure of eating and drinking as a distinctive mark of the Kingdom of God.

Romans 14:18. Another general principle supporting that in Romans 14:17.

In this: righteousness, peace, and joy, as inseparable elements of the one Christian character: cp. Galatians 5:22.

Serves Christ: the essence of the new life: Romans 14:4; Romans 14:6-9. They who obey Christ by doing right, keeping peace with others, and rejoicing in the Holy Spirit are well-pleasing to God, and therefore citizens of His Kingdom. If so, we can waive our right to eat and drink what we like without losing the full privilege of citizens.

Approved: a good appearance after trial: cognate words in Romans 1:28; Romans 2:18; Romans 12:2; Romans 5:4.

Approved by men: in contrast to evil-spoken-of. If you do right, you will have the intelligent respect of the heathen around: but if you claim to the full your right in the matter of food, without considering the effect on your weaker brethren, you will bring an evil report on that religion which is your chief good.

Romans 14:19. Practical inference from Romans 14:17-18.

The things of peace: all that tends to harmony.

Pursue: as in Romans 12:13 : cp. Hebrews 12:14; 1 Corinthians 14:1.

Edification: literally building-up: so Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 14:3; 1 Corinthians 14:5; 1 Corinthians 14:12; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 4:29. This common metaphor represents the Church and the spiritual life as a building in process of erection: cp. Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 3:9-12; Ephesians 2:21-22. The building makes most progress in those who are at peace with each other. Consequently they who pursue mutual edification will pursue peace.

Romans 14:20-21. Paul now returns to the specific matter in hand, after stating great principles which ought to rule our whole conduct.

Because of food: conspicuous repetition of the chief point in hand.

Pull-down: same word in 2 Corinthians 5:1; Galatians 2:18 : it keeps before us the metaphor of a building.

Do not, for a piece of food, put down what God has built: cp. 1 Corinthians 3:17. This implies that God sometimes permits men, not only to hinder, but to undo, His spiritual work.

All things clean: parallel to Romans 14:14.

But it is evil etc.: an exception to the foregoing universal assertion.

Eats with stumbling: whose eating occasions, and is thus accompanied by, the spiritual fall of another or of himself. Such eating is a stone against which he or others strike their foot; and is therefore evil. On the other hand, it is good even to go so far as not to eat meat, nor to drink wine, nor to take anything else, if they hinder or ensnare our brother or weaken his spiritual life.

Wine: offered to idols: cp. Deuteronomy 32:38; Isaiah 57:6. The danger referred to arises from the force of example; as explained in 1 Corinthians 8:10. What we do, others will do, even though they believe it to be wrong, because they see us do it. Thus our conduct, in itself right, will lead to what in their case is wrong. Our love to our brethren binds us to refrain from such action.

On the bearing of this principle on total abstinence from intoxicants, see my note under 1 Corinthians 8:13.

The evidence for and against the words or is ensnared or is weak is equally balanced. Tischendorf and Westcott omit them; as do the Revisers. But these last note them in the margin as added by “many ancient authorities.” Tregelles inserts them, but expresses doubt in his margin. They add nothing to the sense.

Romans 14:22-23. An appeal to the man who has faith, in support of the foregoing principle.

Have with thyself: do not announce it by claiming all the privileges it confers. For faith is in itself so good that we can afford to forgo some points of its outward manifestation and be satisfied to enjoy it in our own hearts before God.

Happy is he etc.: proof how good faith is. A man of weak faith, even when he has decided that an action is right, is uncertain in his decision; and is ever sitting in judgment on himself and asking whether he is doing right. Consequently he is full of moral doubt and weakness. But the man who has obtained by faith a firm hold of God’s revealed will forms a stedfast decision and dismisses all doubt. He does what he approves without judging himself.

But he that doubts etc.: further proof of the value of faith by description of the man weak in faith.

If he eats, he is condemned by God to suffer spiritual loss, because his conduct does not spring from faith, i.e. from an assurance that he is doing right.

And all etc.: a universal truth explaining why he that does that about which he stands in doubt is condemned. Such action does not flow from loyalty to Christ, and therefore partakes of the nature of sin. This verse is a warning to the man of weak faith that so long as he doubts he is bound to abstain.

From this section we learn that we may, without design and without knowing it, not only injure but destroy those who are now servants of Christ; and may do this by actions in themselves lawful, and even by claiming the rights which the Gospel has given us. Paul’s argument is a development, in view of these solemn truths, of the great commandment quoted in Romans 13:9. A link of connection is found in Romans 14:15, “not according to love.” If any act of ours is likely to injure a brother, we are bound, by the law of love, to refrain from it. This obligation, Paul strengthens, by reminding us that Christ died for this weak brother; that men are watching our conduct, and will judge us accordingly; that, to surrender our right to do as we like, by no means implies a surrender of our rights as citizens of the Kingdom; and that our faith gives us inward advantages over the weak brother so great that we can afford to make this minor sacrifice for his good. For these reasons we are bound to consider in all we do, not merely whether our actions are right in themselves, but what will be their effect upon others. This great principle has a wide and various bearing on the details of every-day life.

This principle admits of what seems to be an exception but is really a further development. It often happens that an action is an occasion of harm to one man and a means of good to another. For example, in the case before us, Paul would have to consider whether abstinence from meat would lessen his bodily strength, and thus inflict on those for whom he lived and worked an injury greater than that occasioned to the weaker brother by the example of Paul eating meat. We must ask whether on the whole an action is likely to do more good or harm; and act accordingly. And thus, though we shall sometimes do that which may occasion injury to some of our brethren, we shall always act from the same divine principle of universal love. Under 1 Corinthians 11:1, I have given a summary of a similar argument on the same subject.

Some MSS., versions, and fathers, put after Romans 14:23 the words of Romans 16:25-27 : see my note.

Bibliographical Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 14". Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jbc/romans-14.html. 1877-90.
Ads FreeProfile