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Bible Commentaries
Romans 14

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

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Verses 1-23


Romans 14:1-23

F. The duty of enlightened Christians towards weak brethren. From moral duties in general of Christians towards each other and towards all the apostle now passes to such as they owe peculiarly to each other as members of a religious community, united by a common faith. He has already (Romans 12:16) admonished his readers to be "of the same mind one toward another;" but, as was remarked under that verse, this did not imply agreement of view on all subjects, such as is impossible where there are many minds. In this chapter he recognizes the impossibility, having immediately before him what was then patent, the inability of some, through prejudice or slowness of conception, to enter into views of the meaning of the gospel which to himself and the more enlightened were apparent. He by no means departs from what he says elsewhere (cf. Galatians 1:6-10) about no denial of fundamental doctrine being allowable in the communion of the Church; but in matters not touching the foundation he does here inculcate a large and generous tolerance. In these, as in all other relations between men on the earth together, the all-inspiring principle of charity is to rule. Who the "weak brethren" were whose scruples he especially inculcates tolerance of in this chapter cannot be decided positively. It will he seen that they were persons who thought it their duty to abstain from animal food, and perhaps also from wine (Romans 14:2, Romans 14:21); and there is allusion also to observance of certain days (Romans 14:5). The views that have been taken are as follows:—

(1) That they were the same class of Jewish Christians as are spoken of in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. as over-scrupulous about eating of things that had been offered in sacrifice to idols.

(2) That they were such as were scrupulous in avoiding unclean meats, forbidden in the Mosaic Law. (Or, as Erasmus and others suggest, views (1) and (2) may be combined.)

(3) That they were ascetics.

In favour of view

(1) is the fact that the drift and tone of the exhortation is exactly the same here as in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13., with similarity also of expressions, such as ὁ ἀσθενῶν, ὁ ἐσθίων βρῶσις, βρῶμα, ἀπολύειν πρόσκομμα, σκανδαλίζειν. Against it are the facts

(a) that in the chapter before us there is no allusion whatever to idol-meats, as there is throughout so markedly in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.; and

(b) that abstinence from all animal food whatever (and apparently from wine too) is spoken of in this chapter. Objection (a) has been met by saying that the ground of the scrupulosity referred to might be so well known that St. Paul did not think it necessary to mention it when he wrote to the Romans. To objection (b) it is replied that there might be some who, in order to guard against the risk of buying at the shambles, or partaking in general society of viands connected with heathen sacrifices, made a point of abstaining from meat altogether, and (it has been suggested) from wine too, which might have been used in libations. This is the view of Clement of Alexandria, Ambrosiastor, and Augustine, among the ancients.

View (2) is that of Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Jerome, and others, among whom Chrysostom accounts for the total abstinence from meat as follows: "There were many of the Jews that believed, who, being still bound in conscience to the Law, even after believing still observed the ordinances about meats, not as yet venturing to depart from the Law; and then, in order not to be conspicuous in abstaining from swine's flesh only, they abstained from all flesh, and ate herbs only, that their practice might seem to be rather fasting, and not observance of the Law" (so also OEcumenius and Theophylact). But this seems to be a conjecture only, and hardly a likely one. And further, it fails to account for abstinence from wine, which seems to be implied; on the part of tome at least, in verse 21.

If the weak brethren were ascetics, according to view (3), it is most probable that they were Jewish Christians who had imbibed the principles of the Essenes. These were a Jewish sect, spoken of especially by josephus, who aimed at scrupulous observance of the Law of Moses, and strict personal purity. With this view they lived in communities under rule, partaking of the simplest fare, and some abstaining from marriage. It does not appear that they were strict vegetarians when living in community; but we are told that they might only eat such meat as had been prepared by their own members, so as to be secure against any pollution, and that, if excommunicated, they were consequently compelled to eat herbs. (For what is known of them, see Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 2.; 8.2-5; 'Ant.,' 13.5. 9; 15.10. 4, 5; 18.1. 2, etc.; Philo, 'Quod Omnis Probus Liber,' see. 12., etc.; Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.,' 5.16, 17.) It is far from unlikely that some of these would be attracted to Christianity; and this especially as some of their principles, as described by Josephus, seem to have been endorsed by Christ himself; and, if so, they would be likely to carry their prejudices with them into the Church, and, when living outside their original communities, they might abstain entirely from flesh as well as wine. Or it might be that other Jews, Essenic in principle and feeling, had sought admission into the Church. Philo, in Eusebius, 'Praep. Evan.,' 8. fin., and Josephus, 'Vit.,' 2. 3, intimate that supra-legal asceticism, under the influence of Essenic principles, was not uncommon in Judaism in their time. The latter (c. 3) speaks of certain priests, his friends, who were so God-fearing that they subsisted on figs and nuts, and (c. 2) of one Banns, who had been his master, who ate no food but vegetables. What is still more to our purpose is that we find evidence of pious ascetics of the same type subsequently among Christians. Origen ('Contra Cels.,' 5.49) speaks of some as living in his time; and even the apostle St. Matthew, and James the Lord's brother, were afterwards credited with a corresponding mode of life. Clement of Alexandria ('Paedag.' 2.1) says of the former, "Matthew the apostle partook of seeds and acorns and herbs, without flesh." Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius (Matthew 2:23), says of the latter that "he drank not wine or strong drinks, nor did he eat animal food; a razor came not upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil; he did not use the bath." It is to be observed that abstinence from ointments was one of the practices of the Essenes (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 8.2. 3). Augustine ('Ad Faust.,' 22.3) transmits the same tradition as to the abstinence of James from flesh and wine. Whatever foundation them might be for these traditions, they at any rate show that in the second century, when Hegesippus wrote, abstinence such as is intimated in this chapter was regarded as a mark of superior sanctity by some Christians. Farther, in the 'Apostolical Canons' (Canon 51.), Christians who abstained from marriage, or flesh, or wine, are allowed to be retained in the communion of the Church as long as they did so by way of religious restraint only. Against the above view of the weak brethren of the chapter before us having been ascetics of the Essenic type, is alleged the strong condemnation of persons supposed to have been of the same sort in Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:16, seq., and 1 Timothy 4:1-5, which is said to be inconsistent with the tender tolerance recommended here. But the teachers referred to in the later Epistles, though inculcating practices similar to those of the "weak brethren," appear to have been heretical theosophists, the germ probably of later Gnosticism. Their tenets may indeed, in part at least, have been developed from Esseuism; but it was no longer mere conscientious scrupulosity, but principles subversive of the faith, that St. Paul set his face against in writing to the Colossians and to Timothy. Canon 51. in the 'Apostolical Canons' above referred to may be adduced as distinguishing between the principles on which asceticism might be practised allowably or otherwise; it being therein laid down that any who abstained from marriage, flesh, or' wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, should be cast out of the Church.

It remains to be observed that there was diffused among the Gentiles also, through the influence of the Neo-Pythagorean philosophy, an asceticism similar to the Essenic, which Eichhoru supposes the "weak brethren" of this chapter to have been affected by, regarding them as mostly Gentile Christians. But Jewish influences are much more probable; the scruples referred to in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. were certainly due to them; and observe 1 Corinthians 8:5 in this chapter, which cannot but refer to Jewish observances. Further, Origen, in the treatise above referred to, expressly distinguishes between Christian and Pythagorean asceticism. His words are, "But see also the difference of the cause of the abstinence from creatures having life as practised by the Pythagoreans and by the ascetics among ourselves. For they abstain because of the fable concerning the transmigration of souls;… but we, though we may practise the like, do it when we keep under the flesh and bring it into subjection" ('Contra Cels.,' 4).

Romans 14:1

Him that is weak in the faith (rather, in faith, or in his faith). The article before πίστει does not denote the faith objectively. Cf. Romans 4:19, μὴ ἀσθενήσας τῆ πίστει. In 1 Corinthians 8:12 it is the conscience that is spoken of as weak, τὴν συνείδησιν ἀσθενοῦσαν. Persons are meant whose faith is not sufficiently strong and enlightened for entering fully into the true spirit of the gospel so as to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials. Receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations; rather, unto—i.e., so as to result in—judgments of thoughts. The Authorized Version has in margin, "to judge his doubtful thoughts," which is probably nearer the true meaning than the text. Διαρίσις means elsewhere dijudicartio (1 Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 5:14), not "disputation" or "doubt" (as has been supposed from the verb διακρίνεσθαι, meaning "to doubt"). "Non dijudicemus cogitationes infirmorum, quasi ferre audeamus sententiam de alieno corde, quod non videtur".

Romans 14:2, Romans 14:3

One believeth that he may eat all things (literally, believeth to—or, hath faith to—eat all things), but he that 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. "He that eateth" is the one that has faith to eat all things; and it is against contempt on his part of the weak in faith that the admonition is mainly directed throughout the chapter (cf. also Romans 15:1). But the weak require an admonition too. Their temptation was to judge those who indulged in freedom which to themselves appeared unlawful; and here, in Romans 14:5, the apostle gives such as did so a sharp reproof. There is a tone of indignation in his σὺ τίς εἷ ὁ κρίνων; reminding us of his tone towards the Judaists in Galatia, who would have crippled Christian liberty. "God hath received him" refers evidently, as appears from its position and from the following verse, to him that eateth. God hath received him to himself in Christ, whosoever may sit in judgment on him. We observe that the verb προσελάβετο is the same as in Romans 14:1 and in Romans 15:7.

Romans 14:4

Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? (observe the emphatic position of σὺ) to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand: for the Lord (better supported than God, as in the Textus Receptus) is able (or, has power) to make him stand. The standing or falling here spoken of may be taken to mean standing firm in, or falling from, a state of grace (cf. Romans 11:20, Romans 11:22), rather than acceptance or rejection at the last judgment. "For God is able," etc., seems to require this meaning. The non-abstainer's freedom does not endanger his position; for God is powerful to sustain him, and to God alone he is accountable.

Romans 14:5

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike in his own mind. To St. Paul himself the observance or non-observance of the days referred to was a matter in itself of no importance. He was content that each person should act up to his own conscientious convictions on the subject.

Romans 14:6

He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord (omit, as ill-supported, as well as unnecessary, and he that regardeth not, etc.); he that eateth, eateth unto the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. Both parties are supposed to be equally desirous of serving God. The eater of whatsoever is set before him is so, as is shown by his thanking God for it—observe "for he giveth," etc.—and no creature of God can be polluting "if received with thanksgiving" (1 Timothy 4:5); the abstainer gives thanks too; and so his dinner of herbs is also hallowed to him. (Though it is not necessary to confine the thought to the practice of saying grace before meat, this is doubtless in view as expressing the asserted thankfulness. For proof of the custom, cf. Matthew 15:36; Act 27:35; 1 Corinthians 10:30; 1 Corinthians 11:24; 1Ti 4:4, 1 Timothy 4:5.) The general principle on which, in eating and drinking, as in all beside, Christians are of necessity supposed to act, and which both parties are to be credited with desiring to carry out, is set forth in Romans 14:7, Romans 14:8, Romans 14:9, which follow.

Romans 14:7, Romans 14:8

For none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. The mention of dying as well as living unto the Lord, though it does not seem needed by the context, makes complete the view of the entire devotion of redeemed Christians to him; and introduces the thought, which follows, of their union with him in his own death as well as in his life.

Romans 14:9

For to this end Christ both died and lived (so certainly, rather than, as in the Textus Receptus, died, and rose, and revived. His living means here his entering on the heavenly life after the human death), that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. "Nam mortem pro salute nostra obeundo dominium sibi acquisivit quod nec morte solveretur; resurgendo autem totam vitam nostram in peculium accepit; morte igitur et resurrectione sua promeritus est ut tam in morte quam in vita gloriae nominis ejus serviamus" (Calvin). For the idea of this whole passage (Romans 14:7-9), cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1Co 7:23; 2 Corinthians 5:15.

The apostle now returns to his immediate subject, warning (as in 2 Corinthians 5:3) the one party against judging and the other against despising, on the ground of all alike having to abide hereafter the Divine judgment (cf. Matthew 7:1, seq.; 1 Corinthians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 4:5). The distinction in 2 Corinthians 5:10 between the two parties, marked in the original by the initial Σὺ δὲ and the following ἢ καὶ σὺ, is somewhat lost in our Authorized Version.

Romans 14:10-13

But thou, why judgest thou thy brother? or thou too, why settest thou at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God (so, rather than of Christ, as in the Textus Receptus). For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God (Isaiah 45:23, quoted very freely from the LXX.). So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us therefore no longer judge one another. This concluding appeal is addressed to both parties. In all that follows St. Paul returns exclusively to the more enlightened ones, whose feelings were in accordance with his own; and he now presses a further thought upon them, namely of the harm they might be doing to the very souls of the weak ones by tempting them, either by word or example, to disobey their own consciences. But judge ye this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block in his brother's way, or an occasion of falling (σκάνδαλον). For the meaning of the word, cf. Luke 17:1; Romans:33; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:23; Revelation 2:14.

Romans 14:14

I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; save that to him who accounteth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. To him it becomes defiling, because partaking of it defiles his conscience (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:7).

Romans 14:15

For (γὰρ here certainly, rather than δὲ as in the Textus Receptus. It introduces a reason for the general admonition beginning at Romans 14:13) if on account of meat (not here, thy meat, as in the Authorized Version) thy brother is grieved, thou no longer walkest charitably (literally, according to love, or charity; i.e. in continuing to set at naught his conscientious scruples). With thy meat destroy not him, for whom Christ died (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:11, Καὶ ἀπολεῖται ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἀδελφὸς … δἰ ὃν Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν). "Destroy" seems to denote causing his moral and religious ruin by shaking his conscientiousness, and perhaps upsetting altogether the faith he has, which, though weak, is real.

Romans 14:16

Let not then your good be evil spoken of. "Your good" is your enlightenment, which is in itself a good thing; but it will be "evil spoken of" as a bad thing, if it leads to superciliousness and uncharitableness.

Romans 14:17, Romans 14:18

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. The concluding clause here has reference to "let not your good," etc., preceding. It is the practical fruits of faith that commend it to men, as well as being the test of its genuineness before God.

Romans 14:19-21

Let us therefore follow after the things that make for (literally, the things of) peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another (literally, the things of the edification of one another). For meat's sake destroy not the work of God. "Destroy," or rather, overthrow—the word is κατάλυε, not ἀππόλλυε as in Romans 14:15—is connected in thought with the edification, or building up (οἰκοδομήν) before spoken of. "The work of God" is that of his grace in the weak Christian's soul, growing, it may be, to full assurance of faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9," ye are God's building"). Upset not the rising structure, which is God's own, as ye may do by putting a stumbling-block in the weak brother's way. All things indeed are pure (i.e. in themselves all God's gifts given for man's service are so); but it is evil to that man who eateth with offence (i.e. if the eating be to himself a stumbling-block. The idea is the same as in Romans 14:14). It is good (καλὸν, not of indispensable obligation, but a right and noble thing to do) neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. The concluding words in italics are of doubtful authority: they are not required for the sense. For St. Paul's expression of his own readiness to deny himself lawful things, if he might so avoid offence to weak brethren, cf. 1 Corinthians 8:13.

Romans 14:22

Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Hast thou an enlightened faith, showing thee the unimportance of these observances? Do not parade it needlessly before men. Θέλεις μαι δεῖξαι ὄτι τέλειος εἶ καὶ ἀπηρτισμένος μὴ ἐμοὶ δείκνοε ἀλλ ἀρκείτω τὸ συνειδός (Chrysostom). Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. Thy weak brother, if he abstains conscientiously, is thus happy; take care that thou art equally so in the exercise of thy freedom; for he that alloweth himself in anything that he is not fully convinced is lawful passes, ipso facto, judgment on himself.

Romans 14:23

But he that doubteth (or, wavereth) is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. For sense of διακρίνεσθαι, cf. Romans 4:20; Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23; James 1:6. Faith here denotes an assured belief that what one does is right; nor is it necessary to give the word a wider or different sense in the concluding clause (Ταῦτα δὲ πάντα περὶ τῆς προκειμένης ὑποθεσεως εἴρηται τῷ Παῦλῳ οὔ περὶ πάντων, Chrysostom). Hence to see in it (as has been done) the doctrine of the sinfulness of all works done apart from faith in Christ is to introduce an idea that is not there.


Romans 14:1-6

Ceremonial and spiritual religion.

This passage is one of many instances occurring in St. Paul's writings in which circumstances of local and temporary interest suggest the statement of great moral truths and principles, applicable over a far wider area. To us these questions—as to whether certain food should be eaten, and certain days should be observed—seem trifling enough; yet to how grand and comprehensive a law of Christian action do these considerations lead the mind of the deep thinking and far-seeing apostle!

I. THE PRINCIPLE. Our actions should be with a view to the Lord Christ. The motive of Christian conduct is the love of Christ; its aim is the glory of Christ. The personal relation between the Saviour and his people is not such as to lose anything of its dignity and sacredness, when introduced as a motive into the ordinary activity of Christian people. And this principle, so lofty on its Divine side, is most practical upon the human side. Love to Christ, and sympathy with his self-denial, leads his followers to regard the welfare of their brethren, for whom Christ died. Thus Christ's sacrifice becomes the inspiration and the model of ours.

II. THE OUTWORKING OF THE PRINCIPLE. Two special illustrations are mentioned in this passage, from which we may learn how to apply the great Christian law to the varying circumstances of human life.

1. Eating and drinking are necessary acts; but the manner of eating and drinking have often been regarded as associated with religion. Some of the early Christians were so scrupulous that they would eat no flesh, lest they should inadvertently eat what had been offered to idols; others never troubled themselves to inquire about their food. The apostle decides that neither flesh-eater nor herb-eater must despise the other. If each is animated by a regard to God's glory and to Christ's kingdom, each deserves respect and esteem.

2. The observance of sacred days has usually been an outward mark of the religious. Of the primitive Christians some regarded and others disregarded such days. The apostle blamed neither party; if they did what they did conscientiously, and unto the Lord, this was enough. It is not in such observances that true religion consists; but in the spirit that governs actions, and the intention with which they are undertaken.

III. THE UNIVERSAL APPLICABILITY OF THE PRINCIPLE. Occasions are continually arising for remembering the wise counsel of St. Paul. Zealous religionists are wont to push their own views, and zealous controversialists are given to attacking the doctrines and practices of others. Men substitute human dogmas, human fancies, and human remedies for moral and social ills, for the great principles of Christianity. But we shall do well to be guided by liberty for one's self, by consideration for one's neighbours, and by charity with reference to the conduct of our fellow-Christians.

Romans 14:7

Life a trust.

Our life is not a possession to do as we like with. Yet many act as if it were; as if they were at liberty to be idle or to work, to employ their time and their powers in one way or in another, without giving account to any. Christians are summoned to take a different and a nobler view of this earthly existence.


1. Life itself; the successive years and stages of which it is composed.

2. Its advantages; both the capacities and endowments which are natural, and the education and associations which Providence has secured to us.

3. Its opportunities; both of acquiring good and of doing good. It is to be remembered that, strictly speaking, it is not for these, but for the use we make of them, that we are responsible. We are to bear in mind that, though we live, we do not live unto ourselves.


1. The motive and law of this discharge and fulfilment of trust we are to find in Christ. Our life will be lived aright, if its principle be grateful love to him who loved us; if his Spirit and example be our inspiration, if his glory and approval be our aim and hope.

2. The range within which this trust should be fulfilled is a wide one, including our fellow-men, for whom Christ died. In the household, in professional and business life, in the Church, in the nation, the Christian finds a sphere for consistent and unselfish service. The lessons of the parable of the talents may be appropriately studied in this connection.

III. THAT THE TRUST INVOLVES RETRIBUTION. Christ is a Judge as well as a Lord.

Our life must be tested by his scrutinizing, searching eye, his just and faithful judgment. Fidelity will be rewarded, unfaithfulness will be condemned, by him. For the faithful, the unselfish, the benevolent, the serviceable, there is secured the blessed prospect of sharing "the joy of their Lord."

Romans 14:7-9

Life unto the Lord.

This is language which is doubtless deemed by some the language of extravagance and enthusiasm. But, in fact, it is sober enough. Nothing inferior to the law and principle here enounced can be accepted by the Lord Christ as the law and principle of his people's life. And that the standard is one which may be attained is undeniable; St. Paul himself was a living exemplification of its practicability. What he taught that others should be, he was himself.

I. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. We "live unto the Lord." This personal relation between the Saviour and those who are saved by him is a distinctive feature of the new and Christian life. When we consider this expression, what do we find it to involve?

1. We live as in the Lord's sight, with his wise, observant, just, and yet friendly eye upon us.

2. We live under the motive and inspiration of the Lord's love and sacrifice. He has lived and died for us; we live and die unto him.

3. We live in obedience to his will; as the scholar lives to his master, the soldier to his general, the statesman to his country or his king.

4. We live with the help of his Spirit.

5. We live to our Lord's glory; losing sight of all that concerns ourselves, and become absorbed in and devoted to the extension of Christ's kingdom, and the honour of Christ's name. Even thus we do not exhaust the fulness of this noble utterance, "We live unto the Lord."


1. Life, in all its varied experiences, in all its successive stages, is to the Christian life unto the Lord. No aspect, no period, no interest, is exempt; it is the joy of Christ's servant to devote all energies, and to consecrate all influence, that life confers, unto him who redeemed life and made it a new and blessed thing.

2. Death is embraced within the wide range of this principle. An uninspired writer would not have ventured upon so sublime a representation as this. But Paul, who said, "To me to live is Christ," was constrained to add, "To die is gain." So here he says, "We die unto the Lord." This was obviously and beautifully true of those who perished in the discharge of offices suggested by Christian benevolence, and of those who "resisted unto blood, striving against sin," who died as martyrs, as witnesses to the truth. Yet none of any age or condition of life, who died in the discharge of duty however ordinary, were exempt from this privilege of dying unto Christ. It was doubtless often asked concerning a departed brother, "By what death did he glorify God?"

III. THE DIVINE POWER UNDERLYING THIS PRINCIPLE. A principle so contrary to selfish human nature can only be accounted for by a Divine interposition and provision. The apostle traces this:

1. In Christ's death, and:

2. In his resurrection, in virtue of which he has become to man not only the universal Saviour, but the universal Lord.

Romans 14:12

Individual responsibility.

Men are prone to pass judgment one upon another. It is a tendency against which we have all occasion to watch. For our habit is to be lenient to ourselves and severe towards others. A corrective to this tendency is to be found in the great fact that all are accountable to God. Remembering this, we shall not, except where the authoritative society, the ordinance of Heaven, requires it, be willing to pass sentence upon our fellow-men.

I. THE FACT OF JUDGMENT. It is a fact to which conscience, and the constitution of human nature and human society, undeviatingly testify. Men sometimes strive to forget it, but seldom venture to deny it.

1. Judgment involves a Divine Judge. God will judge the world by Jesus Christ, a Judge qualified, both by his Divine knowledge and his human sympathy, for fulfilling this awful office.

2. Judgment involves an accountable moral nature on the part of those who are subjected to it. Man is so fashioned that it is just that he should be judged, He has knowledge of right and wrong, power of independent action arising from his voluntary nature, and the capacity to appreciate inducements to righteousness.

3. Judgment, always a fact, will in the future be explicit, pronounced, and manifested. Doubtless the Judge observes, approves, and censures every day; but there will be a period in which this shall be apparent. "The day will declare it!"

II. THE UNIVERSALITY OF JUDGMENT. Wherever is a moral nature, amenable to law, there responsibility exists, and there the judicial exercise of Divine authority shall take place. Babes, idiots, madmen, are not subject to moral accountability; but all beside—according to light and privilege—must appear for retribution before the bar of God. None is so high in this world as to be superior to justice; none is so low as to escape it. The omniscience of Deity cannot be deceived; the justice of Deity cannot be evaded.


1. Each shall stand alone at the bar; every one shall give account of himself. In this sense, "every man shall bear his own burden." For his own character, and for his own acts, shall each separate person be held responsible.

2. None shall escape responsibility by casting blame upon Providence, by pleading that he was not favourably circumstanced, that he was not one of "the elect."

3. Nor can any evade judgment by throwing the blame of his sin upon society. The influence of others makes human life a discipline, but it does not reduce it to irresponsible mechanism.

4. Nor can any escape by casting censure upon the Church. Whether or not professing Christians have done their duty by one another, the fact of individual responsibility remains unaffected.


1. TO all hearers of the gospel this fact is a reason for accepting the good tidings of reconciliation.

2. To all Christians it supplies a motive to watchfulness and diligence.

Romans 14:17, Romans 14:18

The kingdom of God.

Christianity furnishes a moral perspective. It throws all things into their proper relations to one another, and elevates those things which are of supreme importance to the loftiest position of eminence. Instead of occupying themselves about outward actions, ceremonial observances, and ritual distinctions, Christians are in this passage recommended to aspire to those virtues which are of highest importance in the sight of God, and which bear the most powerfully upon the welfare of human society.

I. CHRISTIANITY CREATES A SPIRITUAL KINGDOM. It is not, like many human religions, a system of regulations as to conduct or observances. It is not "eating and drinking." It is a kingdom conceived in the Divine mind, and worthy of its Divine Author; a kingdom established upon the mediation of a Divine Saviour; a kingdom consisting in the rule of spiritual powers and principles. It is a kingdom over spiritual natures, acting by spiritual agencies, and issuing in spiritual subjection and obedience. At the same time, it is a kingdom whose subjects are governed in their whole life by the power it introduces and applies to the inner nature. It is a kingdom in a measure realized in human society, and destined to be perfected in the glorious future.


1. In relation to God—righteousness. His law of justice is obeyed. Introduced into right and harmonious relations with the supreme Ruler, the subject of the kingdom practises righteousness in human relationships. Righteousness is what man was made for, or is what the Christian attains to.

2. In relation to men—peace. Strife and hatred are the curse of human society. Christianity alone has discovered and applied the principle which remedies this evil. True peace is based on righteousness, on the prevalence of those principles which are in harmony with the nature of God and the constitution of human society.

3. In the heart of the subject—joy. Cheerfulness, serenity, happiness,—these are the portion of the sincere believer in Christ, the loyal subject of Christ. "Rejoice evermore!" is the Christian admonition; "alway rejoicing!" is the Christian motto. The power of the Holy Spirit accounts for this change from the forced gaiety of the worldling, and the cold gloom of the sceptic, to the gladness of him who is at peace with God, and who cherishes a good hope of eternal life.

III. THE RESULTS OF THIS KINGDOM. These are very fully stated in Romans 14:18.

1. Christ is served. If he is the Lord and Head of the kingdom, this must be so. His Name is honoured and his cause promoted where truly Christian virtues prevail.

2. God is pleased. For the purposes of his holy benevolence are fulfilled, and his Son is glorified and his creatures blessed.

3. The approval of men is secured. It cannot be otherwise when dispositions and practices prevail which are corrective of human ills and promotive of human rectitude, concord, and happiness.

Romans 14:18

The double aspect of Christian service.

The apostle's mind was as powerful and active in a practical as in a speculative direction. Christ's law had been, "By their fruits ye shall know them." And in this verse, Paul, reiterating his Master's principles, vindicates the principles of the new faith by appealing to the excellence of the fruits of the Spirit.


1. It involves a personal relation between Master and servant.

2. It involves an acknowledgment of Divine authority.

3. It involves a powerful motive to a consecrated life.

4. It involves the inclusion of all activities and relationships within its sphere.


1. For it resembles that of Christ himself, who came to do the will of him who sent him, and who "pleased the Father alway," in whom the Father was "well pleased."

2. It is in conformity to the Divine will. It is the prerogative of the spiritual nature of man that it is capable of apprehending and voluntarily accepting and obeying the perfect will of God.

3. It tends to the Divine glory. This is by no other means so effectively promoted as by the willing consecration to the Lord of all intelligent and moral natures.


1. Even those who do not render it themselves, approve it in others.

2. Even those who verbally censure, in their inner conscience commend it.

3. Legislators and rulers approve it, as contributive to the harmony and just development of human society at large.


Romans 14:1-9

The Christian's dependence and the Christian's independence.

The composite character of the Christian community at Rome—the Jewish origin of many of its members on the one hand, and contact with heathenism on the other—had doubtless given rise to differences of opinion. Some there were who still retained their Jewish prejudices and ideas. They abstained from meats. They observed special days. They were inclined to judge harshly and even to look down upon those who did not think and act as they did (Romans 14:3). And, on the other hand, those who partook of all meats, and regarded all days as alike, were disposed to find fault with those who attached a religious significance to the partaking of food and the observing of days. The apostle here lays down some general principles which are of use in all such cases where differences of opinion arise about non-essentials.

I. THE CHRISTIAN'S DEPENDENCE. "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living" (Romans 14:7-9). There is no such thing as absolute independence. The relation of each individual to Christ, dependence on him and responsibility to him, is here asserted.

1. We depend upon the Lord's death. In the cross is our hope of forgiveness, pardon, cleansing.

2. We depend upon the Lord's resurrection. In his resurrection is our hope and assurance of the life and immortality beyond. "Because I live, ye shall live also."

3. We depend upon the Lord's continual intercession. In his intercession is our hope and assurance of answered prayer.

4. We depend upon the Lord's continued gifts to us. The Lord's day; the Word of the Lord; the Lord's house; the Lord's Supper;—how much our spiritual life is dependent upon these precious blessings provided for us by our Lord and Master! "Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."

5. This dependence upon Christ brings with it corresponding obligations. "Ye are not your own, for ye are bedight with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:20).

II. THE CHRISTIAN'S INDEPENDENCE. The independence of the Christian is the correlative of his dependence. He is dependent upon Christ, and therefore he is:

1. Independent of external circumstances. "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." And again, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." Even death can bring no alarm to those who can say, "We are the Lord's;" for Christ is the Conqueror of death.

2. Independent of human criticism. "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" (Romans 14:3); "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or faileth" (Romans 14:4); "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). Here the apostle asserts the great principle of liberty of conscience, and inculcates the great duty of charity and toleration. Alas! how often the principle and the duty have been forgotten in the Christian Church! Christian men have excommunicated one another and treated one another as enemies because they differed on some minor detail of doctrine, of government, or of worship.. Even the Protestant Churches, and Protestant Christians, one of whose distinctive principles is liberty of conscience, have sometimes failed to extend to others that toleration which they claim for themselves. "God alone is Lord of the conscience," says the Westminster Confession of Faith, "and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men."—C.H.I.

Romans 14:7

The influence of our lives upon others.

"None of us liveth to himself." The apostle, as we have seen, was here enforcing certain Christian duties, and he strengthened his exhortation by reminding his readers that they were not their own, but Christ's. But the words are capable of a wider application.

I. THE INFLUENCE WHICH ONE MAN MAY EXERCISE FOR GOOD. Many who would like to do good are sometimes disposed to say, "What use can I be in the world? What influence can my life have upon others? What good can I do to others? I am too young. I am too humble. I have no intellectual gifts. I have no opportunities such as some people have of exercising influence upon others." This is to underestimate the influence of the individual life. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the life of each of us, whether we are rich or poor, learned or unlearned, young or old, is exercising some influence upon others. It is not necessary that we should know another in order to exercise an influence upon him. Thousands of men are influenced by persons whom they never saw. The Reformation began at Cambridge University very early in the sixteenth century by Bilney, a solitary student, reading a Greek Testament with Latin translation and notes, which Erasmus had published. Bilney had never seen Erasmus, but the quiet work of Erasmus was the means of bringing Bilney to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. Bilney, again, influenced Latimer, who was one of the fathers of the English Reformation, and who suffered martyrdom for the truth. Thus the Reformation in England may be largely traced to the quiet work of Erasmus as he sat at his desk, and used his vast learning and intellect to make the Word of God more familiar to the people of his time. A young American student, more than seventy years ago, happened to read a printed sermon which had fallen into his hands. The sermon was entitled "The Star in the East," by Dr. Claudius Buchanan, and described the progress of the gospel in India, and the evidence there afforded of its Divine power. That sermon, by a man whom he had never seen, fell into the young student's soul like a spark into tinder, and in six months Adoniram Judson resolved to become a missionary to the heathen. That little printed sermon, preached in England, perhaps, with no apparent fruit, became, through God's blessing, the beginning of the great work of American foreign missions. You may not be an Erasmus or a Claudius Buchanan. But God may have as great a work for you to do as he had for them. What an influence for good Christian parents may exercise upon their children, with far-reaching results to the world! The faithful sabbath-school teacher may leaven with gospel truth young minds that may yet control the destinies of a nation. Young women, by the power of their own Christian character, may change for the better the muddy current of many a godless life. The great matter is for every one of us to live near to God, to cultivate a Christ-like character, and then our life is sure to be a blessing. You must walk with God if you would have weight with men. Personal holiness is the key to personal influence for good.

II. THE INFLUENCE WHICH ONE MAN MAY EXERCISE FOR EVIL, The wise man says, "One sinner destroyeth much good." Everyday experience will supply many illustrations of this truth. One bad man, one bad woman, will be a centre of corruption to the whole circle in which they move. One bad boy often corrupts a whole school. How terrible is the power of evil to propagate itself! How terrible is the guilt of those who have become the corrupters of others! The evil that we do has consequences far beyond the injury that we may do to ourselves.

Unto a loving mother oft

We all have sent, without a doubt,

Full many a hard and careless word,

That now we never can rub out;

For cruel words cut deeper far

Than diamond on the window-pane;

And, oft recalled in after-years,

They wound her o'er and o'er again.

"So, in our daily walk and life,

We write and do and say the thing

We never can undo nor stay

With any future sorrowing.

We carve ourselves on beating hearts!

Ah! then, how wise to pause and doubt,

To blend with love and thought our words,

Because we cannot rub them out!"

The great poet of Scotland, Robert Burns, on his dying bed wished that he could have recalled some of the foolish things that he had written. But it was too late. Better far to leave the wrong undone than afterwards to regret the doing of it. "None of us liveth to himself," should be constantly before our minds as a restraining memory to keep us from evil, and an inspiring memory that will cheer us on to make the world better than we have found it.—C.H.I.

Romans 14:10-23 (with Romans 15:1-3)

Three laws of Christian life.

In these closing verses of the fourteenth chapter and the opening verses of the fifteenth, three principles are laid down, one or other or all of which would cover almost every case of difference between fellow-Christians. These are—

I. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY. Where we differ from our fellow-Christians in details of doctrine, worship, or practice, we are very prone to be uncharitable in our judgments. We are inclined to doubt their Christianity because they do not just see as we do on such matters. One great fact the apostle would have us remember when we are tempted to condemn our brethren. It is the fact of the judgement to come. "Why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ" (Romans 14:10). "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more" (Romans 14:12, Romans 14:13). It is not we who are to be the judges of our fellow-Christians, but God. We should not like that they would be our judges: then why should we judge them? The thought that we ourselves must stand before a higher judgment-seat, where all our sins and secret thoughts and unchristian motives shall be known, should make us more cautious in our condemnation of others. And, as regards our fellow-Christians, is it not enough for us that God will judge them? Surely we may leave their trial with confidence in his hands.

II. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN SELF-DENIAL. There is a gradual progress in the principles here laid down. First of all, it is shown that we ought not to judge our brethren. This is a purely negative command. The next command is somewhat more positive. "But judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way" (Romans 14:13). The apostle enforces the exhortation to Christian self-denial by three special reasons.

1. The Christian should not injure those whom Christ has died to save. "Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died" (Romans 14:15). This is the true basis of total abstinence. "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak" (Romans 14:21).

2. The Christian has higher enjoyments than those of selfish indulgence. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17). The giving up of a merely bodily comfort or enjoyment should not be a great hardship to the Christian. God is able to give us much more than this.

3. The example of Christ is an example of self-denial. "For even Christ pleased not himself" (Romans 15:3). Self-denial is an essential part of truly following Christ. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." This law of Christian self-denial covers a wide field. Not merely abstinence from meats and drinks, from bodily indulgences which do harm to others; but also to put a bridle on our tongues, lest by our words we should give offence to others; to abstain from gratifying even lawful desires and wishes where the attainment of our purpose would cause pain or injury to others;—this is self-denial, this is to follow the example of Christ. Self-pleasing is a besetting sin with most of us.

III. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN HELPFULNESS. Here the apostle takes another forward step. Here he states a still higher principle. "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" (Romans 14:19); "Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification" (Romans 15:2). Here is the truly positive principle of Christian life. The Christian life should not be merely an abstinence from evil, but a positive doing of what is good. We should not merely refrain from injuring our neighbours, but we should be actively engaged, as Christians, in rendering them all the spiritual help we can. As a rule, our Christianity is negative rather than positive. It is too selfish. Many Christians are perfectly content with attaining the salvation of their own souls, and going through the world as harmlessly as possible. This, after all, is but a low type of Christianity True Christianity, the Christianity of the sermon on the mount, is as the salt, the light, the leaven; an active, helpful, beneficent influence upon those around us.—C.H.I.


Romans 14:1-23

Christian liberty.

The general treatment of the ethics of the gospel is concluded, and now the apostle deals with a particular application which the condition of the Church at Rome required. There were some there, a minority probably, who were more or less in subjection to the spirit of the old Judaic economy, making distinctions of meats and of days. And when they came together for the Christian love-feasts, the differences were of awkward consequence. The stronger ones doubted whether they should admit these, so weak in the faith, as they deemed them; the weaker ones were scandalized at the unscrupulousness, as they thought it, of the strong, or perhaps, overborne by the weight of their example, against their own convictions they joined in the common meal. Was there not grievous wrong in this? The stronger ones despising the weak, and overbearing their scruples, by disputations, perhaps by ridicule; the weaker ones, grieved in their hearts, and judging the strong, or otherwise, to their own condemnation, sinking their scruples and joining in the feast? But surely the Divine ethics of the gospel can meet this case: the apostle applies them. He will espouse, not the scruples of the weak, but their weakness, as against the Overbearing ridicule of the strong; but first, to guard himself and them, he will defend the liberty of the strong as against the censorious judgments of the weak.

I. THE DUTY OF THE WEAK. The weaker man had his scruples; his strong judgments as to this or that mode of outward living being right, and this or that wrong. And he was quick to condemn the man whose opinions and practices were unlike his own. Not so, says the apostle.

1. He has another Master. Certainly he has yielded himself to Christ, and Christ, not another, must measure the fidelity of his service. If faithful, he abides his servant; if unfaithful, he falls. But he shall not fall. The heart is right, and even if the freedom of outward observance were a mistaken freedom, Christ is not such a Master as to cast him off for a mistake. No; "he shall be made to stand." Is not this the determining principle of the Christian life? Not the minute observance, right or wrong, but the motive, makes the Christian man. It matters nothing comparatively whether we eat or do not eat, whether we observe days or observe them not, whether we live or die: "none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself." The aim of the whole life is Christ-wards, and the aim, not the details, determines the life.

2. He has another Judge. This follows from the former. If Christ be the Master now, he shall judge the service itself at the last. And if we may not measure the fidelity of another's servant, neither may we pass sentence on his deeds. No; "the day shall declare it, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Corinthians 3:13). For it is true that the details of the life will be taken into account, but not by our brethren: "Each one of us shall give account of himself to God."

II. THE DUTY OF THE STRONG. So, then, the weak are warned not to judge the men of liberty; and the men of liberty, men of strength as they thought themselves, are to show their strength by gentleness, and their liberty by self-sacrifice. For the conscience of the weak, if erring, was to be respected, and neither were they to be grieved by a needless exhibition of the liberty of the strong, nor above all led to sin against their convictions by the example or ridicule of the preponderant party.

1. They were not to be grieved. Could the stronger ones ruthlessly cause pain to the scrupulous ones by their own seeming unscrupulousness? That was not walking in love. And for the sake of showing that they could eat meat! Away the thought: this was not God's kingdom. Let them rather know that, eating or not eating, to respect the rights of others, to have peace with all, and to rejoice with a common joy in God,—this was God's kingdom. So also would their spirit commend itself to men and to God. Christians then indeed; as Christ died for the weaker ones, so they sacrificing their liberty for them.

2. They were not to be made to fall. Let them know that, innocent as their eating of flesh might be, it was not innocent to the doubting man, and each one's conscience must approve his own deeds, or he is condemned. Nay, he falls! Oh, surely they were not prepared for that? For this was, not merely to destroy the weak brother's peace and charity of heart, but to overthrow the work of God in him! And all for the sake of meat! Better sacrifice all your liberty than this. Have your faith to yourself; have all tender solicitude for your weak brother's conscience.

Then receive the brother, care for him, sacrifice your freedom for him. For while faith, liberty, strength, are good, the best of all is love!—T.F.L.


Romans 14:5

Individual decision.

Questions concerning conduct greatly interest and occupy the minds of the majority. They involve the translation of abstract principle into concrete rules, and the visible concrete stirs us more deeply than abstractions. Yet it is these matters of application and detail which have often rent and grievously damaged the fellowship of the saints. The wise, magnanimous prudence of the apostle lays down one duty in relation to these vexed questions, which crop up today in modem forms. For instance, many are perplexed as to the rigid obligatoriness of sabbath observance, as to what is implied in keeping a day of rest as "the Lord's day." Others moot the topic of contributions for religious purposes, whether a tithe is the scriptural proportion, and how far this is compulsory. Other subjects coming under the same category are amusements, abstinence from spirituous liquors, business policy, and politics.

I. EACH HAS TO SETTLE SUCH QUESTIONS FOR HIMSELF. "Let each be assured in his own mind." Others cannot do our part in investigation and decision. No one is authorized to come between us and God in such matters; even the apostle does not intrude on the province of several judgement. We must decide what our conscience prescribes, and where our conception of Christian service requires us to draw the line. Only let each see to it that he be not satisfied with giving the least amount or rendering the slightest obedience possible. He is wrong and condemns himself who asks, "How near the dangerous cliff can I walk without peril?" or, "What is the minimum religious work I can undertake as a servant of Christ?' We need to study Scripture, to prayerfully ponder on its law of life, its principles, and the illustrations afforded by the lives and acts of the noblest heroes. Nor are we precluded from seeking the help and enlightenment which other books and companions may furnish. Yet the conclusion come to must be felt to be our own, in harmony with the dictates of our conscience, and ratified by our independent judgment. Then we may go fearlessly forward. Men differ in the conclusions they reach honestly enough, according to their breadth of intellect, their natural temperament, their surroundings, and their education, mental and experimental.

II. WE CANNOT BE ENDLESSLY ARGUING THESE QUESTIONS. He who is ever debating with himself settles nothing. He wastes his brief moments in deciding what to think and do, instead of beginning at once the discharge of his duties and the exercise of his gifts. Much in Christian doctrine and practice is unambiguous. To cultivate love, peace, godliness, to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit in activity, benevolence, holiness,—the rightness of this needs no process of reasoning. The man possessed by an idea is the man who influences his fellows; not he who is sure of nothing, who has only conundrums to propound instead of a way of salvation to proclaim and suggestions for usefulness to enforce. The ring of conviction in the voice begets assent and confidence in the hearers. "We believe, and therefore we speak," this is the preaching which is mighty unto conversion. A dainty scepticism has but negative chilling power. Doubters can hardly be fruit-bearers. Once a decision has been arrived at, the reasons on which it was founded may not be always present to the mind, but the impression remains. This does not forbid a growth of opinion, the gaining of a wider outlook and clearer penetration modifying previous conclusions. Time and experience confirm or alter views by imperceptible degrees, without the ferment that attends constant restlessness of debate.

III. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO IMPOSE OUR PARTICULAR JUDGMENT AND EXAMPLE AS ARTICLES OF FAITH ON OUR FELLOW-MEMBERS. There must be mutual concessions. Let not the strong contemn the weak as narrow-minded, nor the scrupulous censure the liberty of others as an infraction of Christian morals. Teetotallers err when they pass strictures on non-abstainers, and the latter are equally guilty when they ridicule the former's self-denial. The good of the society, though best secured by the welfare of each unit composing the alliance, is yet of greater worth than the satisfaction and triumph of any separate section. "Follow after the things which make for peace." Divine charity, which bears long with all sorts and conditions of men, is reflected in the membership which knows how to be tolerant without laxity, and comprehensive without indefiniteness. The building up of the temple of God will take long if we are always deliberating on the right of individual stones to a place in the structure. Is the mark of the Master-mason on the stone? Has God received such? Then it is not for us to question or exclude.—S.R.A.

Romans 14:9

The dominion of Christ.

It is characteristic of apostolic ethics to turn from details of conduct to the main principles which should permeate every Christian life. The central truth governing all religious behaviour is our relationship to God, as manifested and actualized in Christ Jesus. Thus the historical facts of Christ's death and resurrection necessarily give rise to doctrine, and they cannot be separated from our belief without tending to overthrow the whole edifice of Christian living based on Christ as its Foundation. It matters comparatively little whether a man eats meat or abstains from it, observes certain days or disregards their special sanctity, provided that the scruple alleged or the freedom enjoyed is conscientious, springing out of his conception of the nature of the religion Jesus Christ has revealed. It is not for others to despise the punctilious or to blame the informal. Each will be judged by his Master. That Master is Lord of both quick and dead; he presides not only over our earthly life, but over our departure to the larger life. Christians may differ in point of intellectual attainment and particular opinion, but every face believingly turned to the Sun of Righteousness reflects some of its glory; every worshipper is brought near to every other as he gathers at the feet of the Infinite Object of adoration and praise.


1. Christian freedom is not unconditional liberty. "Ye are not your own" is the watchword of grateful service. The emancipation of a slave does not set him free from all law; he is released from degrading servitude to be useful to his country and king. Modern civilization teaches the compatibility of numerous statutes with true essential freedom. The rule of Christ is recognized and illustrated in the Acts of the Apostles, "Thou, Lord, show which of these two thou hast chosen;" "The Lord added to them daily." "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" is the first question of the new life. There would be no difficulty in any department of Church-fellowship if the authority of Christ were fully recognized. "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." Finances, activity, brotherly regard, all flourish where hearts are surrendered in entirety to the sway of Christ.

2. This Lordship means protection as well as government. As under Roman law' each noble patrician had his clients, whose wrongs he redressed and whose interests he promoted, so the Saviour throws the aegis of his love over his subjects, directing them by his wisdom, shielding them by his interposition. "Fear not; no man shall set on thee to harm thee." The very end of government is the welfare of the governed. Old ideas that the monarch has no duties and the people no rights have passed for ever; and we are warranted in seizing nobler conceptions of the sovereignty of God than prevailed when despotism reigned unquestioned. Let men beware lest they lop off limbs from the body of Christ, and by their divisions and excommunications rend his seamless garment.

3. The dominion of Christ may well console us as we think of the dead. He is the Lord of all worlds, has "all authority in heaven and earth." His voice comforts the bereaved, sounding amid the stillness of the sepulchre, "Fear not: I have the keys of death and of Hades." "He is not the Lord of the dead, but of the living.' The dead pass not into a dreary unillumined state; they "depart to be with Christ." And where mournful reflections on wasted lives, sudden departures, check hopeful sorrow, and memory emits little fragrance from the past; yet we may leave all in his hands who, as the supreme Architect of humanity, rejoices in restoration rather than destruction. "Shall not the Judge … do right?"


1. By stooping to the condition of his subjects. He is Lord by creation, but still more by virtue of his redemptive work. Well has he earned his title who entered into our humbling nature, tasted our sorrows, and drank the cup of bitterness as our Sin Offering. He himself passed through the gloomy portals of death, and in rising again revealed both the love and the might of God. Only he can be a true Master who first subordinated himself to service. For the suffering of death is he crowned with glory and honour. He can declare, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore." "Because I live, ye shall live also."

2. After this model, service to the Church becomes the stepping-stone to honor. Christ has furnished the pattern to his followers according to which office and rank are conferred. He who is most profitable to the body is to be most esteemed by the members. Empty sinecures are unknown in his kingdom. And if we would benefit our fellows, we must by real sympathy share their need and trouble. "He that will be greatest, let him be your minister." Christ rose as the Firstfruits, and in Christ shall all be made alive, but every man in his own rank.—S.R.A.

Romans 14:17

Essentials of the kingdom of God.

Differences of opinion respecting festivals to be observed and foods to be abstained from were certain to arise in communities composed of Jews of every sect and Gentiles of every race. And we may be thankful that these differences manifested themselves so early in the primitive Church, since they furnished an occasion for a deliverance by the apostle on such a theme. We are glad to have such a valuable weighty aphorism as that of the text. The apostle's firmness and meekness equally display themselves. He wants none to suffer bondage, nor yet does he permit their liberty in Christ to be harmful to their brethren, and thus a topic of reproach in the world outside. And he makes the position clear by distinguishing between what is fundamental in religion, and what is temporary, local, and adventitious.

I. THE NON-ESSENTIALS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The "kingdom of God" is a comprehensive phrase, denoting the new sovereignty established by Christ in the hearts of individuals where he rules in power and grace, and likewise embracing the whole company of those throughout the globe who, by personal reception of the truth, have entered into a society with duties and privileges emanating from the Kingship of the Redeemer. The code of life lays down no hard specific rules of abstinence or conformity. "Eating and drinking" are no necessary part of Christian living. It is the spirit in which certain actions are performed or certain privtions submitted to rather than the things themselves which make men Christians. External observances do not constitute religion. They are a visible embodiment of it, but not its vital principle. Let us not set too high an estimate on rites and ceremonies and forms of worship, or we may glorify the husk to the neglect of the kernel, and the shapely bark may conceal a rotten tree. Ordinances of touching, tasting, handling, concern things that perish in the using. Discussions respecting amusements, pleasures, occupations, as to which may lawfully be enjoyed and which not, seldom advance any man's obedience to Christ; they are the fringe, not the vesture, of religion, and talk concerning them is apt to degenerate into trifling and casuistry. Let each decide for himself with prayerful meditation what his course shall be, and try to secure the best, most lasting possessions. He who is always deliberating about the necessary outworks will never reach the heart of the palace of truth.

II. WHEREIN THE KINGDOM OF GOD CONSISTS. Having dismissed the negative aspect of Christianity, the apostle proceeds to set forth the main qualities of the Christian life. These are "righteousness," just, honourable dealing, keeping the commandments of God with a pure conscience, mindful of the claims of God and our neighbours. Also "peace," the tranquillity of the child resting on the Father's bosom, unruffled by storms without, not over-anxious about daily cares, nor depressed by bereavements or affliction. And "joy," which is peace brimming over into exultation, triumphant like snow brightened by the sunlight, even made rosy by the setting rays. These are spiritual qualities. They are spiritual in source and nature, are "fruits of the indwelling Spirit," are enjoyed and perfected "in the Holy Ghost." Righteousness is not the laborious toil of the legalist; nor is peace the apathy of the stoic or the sleepy contentment of the epicurean; nor is joy the momentary excitement of the sensualist. They are pure inward feelings, springs that flow spontaneously into outward behaviour. They are very practical, dealing not with abstruse or knotty points of conduct, but with qualifications easily understood, and unambiguous as to the method of attainment. It is not holding a certain creed, but cultivating a certain disposition and character. They tend to the harmony and usefulness of the Church. Dissension is impossible where these graces prevail. Unprofitable arguing is abandoned for mutual comfort and service. Engaged upon the higher business of the kingdom, petty details sink into their rightful insignificance, minor matters settle themselves. Would that the Church had attended to this dictum of the apostle, and been ever distinguished by these amiable virtues, instead of one section quarrelling with and persecuting another, making Church history a weariness to read, and confirming rather than quieting the doubts of the sceptical! Volumes of theology are not so powerful to convince of the truth of Christianity as a holy life. Men quickly discriminate between ritualism and religion, and detect the asceticism which mortifies the body, yet nourishes the pride of the soul.—S.R.A.

Romans 14:21

A self-denying ordinance.

A society is formed for mutual help. The prosperity of the whole is a prime factor in all our working and living. Wondrous the effect of the gospel in levelling distinctions of class, in banishing national enmities, and in making Jew and Gentile realize their adoption into the same family of God, their oneness of blood, their community of interests.

I. THE STRONGER CAN HELP THE WEAKER, AND THE HIGHER STOOP TO THE POSITION OF THE LOWER, MORE EASILY THAN VICE VERSA. It is the glory of the greater to include the less. And the man of far-reaching spiritual views can accommodate himself to his less intellectual brother more readily than the latter can lay aside his prejudices and rejoice in the removal of all restrictions. Hence those in our assemblies capable of assimilating the richest food placed before them are called upon to remember the plainer fare that suits the spiritual digestion of their brethren. Those who delight in climbing to the peaks of spiritual knowledge can learn to moderate their ardour, and sit with their fellows in happy concord in the plain, because otherwise there can be no general assembly, many being devoid of the strength and agility needful for an ascent to the summit. Our exhortation and worship must ever, though not exclusively, take account of the weaker and less educated, the children and the simple.

II. IT IS SAFER TO ERR ON THE SIDE OF SELF-REPRESSION RATHER THAN OF LIBERTY. Every man endowed by the Spirit with a clearness and amplitude of vision that discriminates between the essential and the non-essential may refuse to have his freedom compulsorily narrowed by others. But he does well, and acts in the spirit of Christ who "pleased not himself," if he spontaneously renounces part of his privileges, in order that he may remove a possible stumbling-block from his brother's path. And there is a danger of man's natural tendency to self-assertion leading him to a violation of conscience. "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in the thing which he alloweth" implies the possibility of insisting on freedom with low motives. An instructive tradition of Christ is recorded by Codex Bezae after Romans 14:4 in Luke 6:1-49.: "On the same day he beheld a man working on the sabbath, and said unto him, Blessed art thou if thou knowest what thou doest: but if thou knowest not, thou art cursed and a transgressor of the Law." To disregard days and unclean food without a perception of the reason found in Christ's universal cleansing and sanctification is not to justify, but to aggravate, the offence. To act against a conscientious feeling is always wrong. Many a man who boasts of his ability to pass unscathed through a fiery ordeal is being singed and maimed by his recklessness.

III. TO HARM A BROTHER IS TO WOUND CHRIST. "Destroy not thy brother, for whom Christ died." See in the weakest member of the community the face and form of thy Lord! The essence of Christianity is self-abnegation; love makes the sacrifice welcome. Christ in us is our better self. and self-love wards off self-injury. The leader of a band anxious for its prosperity end progress feels a pang when any element of discord or weakness is introduced. Jesus Christ is the sensitive Head of the Church, and the inefficiency of any member is a grief to him; the suffering of any limb impairs his joy. Could we more often place ourselves in thought in his position, we should quickly abate aught that lessens the unity and power of the body of Christ. Every pastor of a flock, every teacher of a class, has to think of the effect of his example, lest what he might enjoy without risk himself should exert a dangerous influence on others. It is more blessed to yield than to receive a concession.—S.R.A.


Romans 14:1-12

The risen Saviour as Lord of the conscience.

The apostle, as we have just seen, has been discussing the neighbourly character of Christian living, and showing that the Christ-like soul will love his neighbour as himself, and do no ill to him. And this leads by an easy transition to the whole class of weak consciences, and how they are to be dealt with. For there are people painfully scrupulous, who have come, for example, to fancy that vegetarianism is the only lawful system of diet; or to fancy that holy days ought to be strictly kept; and there is a terrible temptation for strong-minded people to judge harshly the weaker brethren, and so to bring about endless friction in Church and private relations. It is with this whole practical question that the apostle here deals. Differences of opinion upon non-essentials must not break up the brotherly feeling; and Paul shows with wonderful power where the safety lies. It is in the assertion of Christ's Lordship over the conscience.

I. LET US BE CLEAR ABOUT WHO ARE THE WEAK AND WHO ARE THE STRONG. (Romans 14:1-6.) We are all creatures of association, and so some of these primitive Christians came to think that meat which had been offered to an idol was thereby polluted, and so unfit for Christian use. Not knowing, therefore, where the meat offered for sale in the shambles had previously been, and naturally suspecting that it may have been in the idol's temple, they thought it prudent to become strict vegetarians, rather than run the risk of defilement. They would not touch, taste, or handle flesh-meat, but confined themselves to vegetables. Others had no such scruples, but ate whatever was laid before them, asking no questions for conscience' sake. Now, the apostle manifestly regards the scrupulous vegetarians as weaker in conscience than the Christian who allowed none of these scruples to affect him. Again, some were scrupulous about holy days. New moons and set feasts, characteristic of paganism as well as of Judaism, claimed regard from weak and uncertain consciences; while others of stronger make regarded all days as alike. The question as to the Lord's day does not seem to be here involved at all, though Robertson of Brighton has based a whole sermon on the supposition, The over-scrupulous in these instances were the weak; the others, more certain of their line of action, were the strong.

II. THERE IS A GREAT TEMPTATION IN THE STRONG TO RIDICULE THE WEAK. The strong are tempted to despise the weak, to judge and ridicule their scruples; and, if there is not watchfulness, there will be constant friction between them. Now, this is a menace to the peace of the Church; and Paul has hero to guard against it. There is a great danger in the indulgence of scorn. A weak brother, if "roasted" and ridiculed by the stronger, may be made a burden to himself, and his personal peace be sacrificed on the altar of his neighbour's criticism. Hence in this passage Paul argues:

1. There should be as little controversy as possible within the Church. The weak brother is to be received, but not to doubtful disputations. He is not to be involved in profitless disputes. The Church is wise which discourages debates between brethren.

2. There should be mutual respect for conscientious difference of opinion. If each man is fully persuaded in his own mind, as Paul declares he ought to be, then let the weak brother admit that his less scrupulous brother has reached his opinion before God, and that God is the only competent Judge of his conduct, while the strong brother is to give the weak one credit for similar conscientiousness. It is a great matter gained if each lays his brother's case before the Lord, and prays and hopes that God will enable him to stand. It is a great thing gained when we are able to see guilt in contemptuous judgment. £

III. IN THE RISEN SAVIOUR EACH ONE MUST RECOGNIZE THE LORD OF HIS CONSCIENCE. (Romans 14:7-9.) To Jesus, our risen Saviour. and to him alone, are we responsible, and so let us live, and die unto him. Now, it is important for us to appreciate the purpose of Christ's death and resurrection. It was no less than this, to secure universal dominion over man both here and hereafter. "The Redeemer's dominion over men is forcibly declared to have been the end of his ministry on earth. The apostle's words are very express and emphatic. To this end that signifies, in language as strong as could be used to note design, that the purpose of the Passion was the attainment of universal dominion over the human race in time and in eternity. To this end, and no other; for this purpose, and nothing short of it; with this design, embracing and consummating all other designs. But we must view it under two aspects—it was a purpose aimed at before the death; in the Resurrection it was a purpose reached. He died that he might have the dominion; he lived that he might exercise it." £ Now, of this mighty realm of the risen Christ, the dead constitute the vast majority. "What, in comparison of the uncounted hosts, numbered only by the Infinite Mind, are the few hundreds of millions that any moment are called the living? It is in the realm of the shades that we contemplate our great family in its vastest dimensions, as it has from the first generation been gaining on the numbers of the living, and swelling onwards to the stupendous whole bound up in the federal headship of the first and second Adam." £ a Now, in all this vast domain, there is but one rightful Lord of the conscience; there may be other lords with dominion, and they may be many; but in the realm of conscience there is only one Lord, and he is the risen Saviour! £

IV. THIS LORDSHIP OF JESUS LEADS DIRECTLY TO THE CHRISTIAN IDEA OF LIFE AS A LIFE UNTO OUR LORD. (Romans 14:8.) We cannot live unto ourselves, even if we tried. We cannot coop up our life so as that it should have no relations to any but ourselves. We must live to influence others; we ought to live for the glory of our risen Lord. In the Christian idea of life "nothing is indifferent, nothing self-willed; all is consecrated to Heaven. The scruples of the weak rise from the fear of God, and are, therefore, to be considered sacred; the freedom of the strong rises from the dedication to the Lord, and is, therefore, equally sacred. Life, with its energies and purposes, is one prolonged act of consecration. Death, with its silent endurance and great transition, is a consecration too.'' £ As another has faithfully put it, "As he always exists, as a Christian, in and by his Master, so he always exists for his Master. He has, in the reality of the matter, no dissociated and independent interest. Not only in preaching and teaching, and bearing articulate witness to Jesus Christ, does he, if his life is true to its idea and its secret, 'live not unto himself;' not with aims which terminate for one moment in his own credit, for example, or his own comfort. Equally in the engagements of domestic life, of business life, of public affairs; equally (to look towards the humbler walks of duty) in the day's work of the Christian servant, or peasant, or artisan; 'whether he lives, he lives unto the Master, or whether he dies, he dies unto the Master;' whether he wakes or sleeps, whether he toils or rests, whether it be the term or the vacation of life, 'whether he eats or drinks, or whatsoever he does,' he is the Master's property for the Master's use.

"'Teach me, my God and King,

In all things thee to see,

And what I do in anything

To do it as to thee.

"A servant with this clause

Makes drudgery divine;

Who sweeps a room as for thy laws

Makes that and th' action fine.'"

V. INSTEAD OF JUDGING OTHERS, WE OUGHT TO THINK OF BEING JUDGED AT THE JUDGMENT-BAR OF JESUS OURSELVES. (Romans 14:10-12.) Paul points the lesson home. He would have his readers to give up the judgment-seat and think of the judgment-bar. Better to think how we shall meet Christ's scrutiny ourselves than be contemptuously condemning weak brethren around us. Leave the weak and the strong with the Lord, who is no respecter of persons, and let us judge ourselves only, and make sure of a proper appearing at the judgment-bar of Christ. Thus, when all relations are carried up to the feet of Christ, peace is preserved and progress through self-knowledge secured!—R.M.E.

Romans 14:13-23

Deference to weak consciences, not condemnation of them.

Having taken his readers up to the judgment-bar of Jesus, the only Lord of the conscience, he now proceeds to show how we are to help weak brethren. It will not be by condemning their scruples, but by following Christ in seeking their salvation. We are to defer to conscience so far as our weaker brother's spiritual interests are concerned, and surrender meat or wine, if by our total abstinence we can promote his salvation.

I. WE ARE BOUND TO CONSIDER WHETHER OUR MANNER OF LIVING MAY NOT BE A STUMBLING-BLOCK TO OUR WEAK BROTHER. Having taken his readers to Christ's judgment-bar, he now asks them to examine themselves as to the influence of their mode of living. Is their freedom an offence to the weak? Then in the spirit of the Master, who gave his life to save the weak brother, they ought to surrender their freedom in deference to their scruples. Surely, if Jesus surrendered life for the weak brother, dying to redeem him, we ought to be ready to surrender meat or to surrender wine, if by so doing we can promote our weaker brother's welfare. Paul's position was a noble one. He knew that nothing was unclean of itself. He was none of your squeamish and scrupulous individuals. He could eat whatever was set before him; he could drink without the least excess. But he was ready to surrender both meat and wine for the weak brother's sake. And this is the very spirit of Christ. It is here that we base our temperance reformation; not on partaking being a sin, but being inexpedient in view of the weak brother's dangers. £

II. DOUBT AS TO OUR DUTY SHOULD LEAD US TO ABSTAIN RATHER THAN INDULGE UNTIL WE ARE FULLY PERSUADED IN OUR OWN MINDS. The apostle wants every man to be fully persuaded in his own mind as to his course of action. One who is not, one who has no real faith in the course of action he is pursuing, is self condemned. Paul wishes to bring all such to the side of abstinence. Better abstain from meat or drink until such times as the path of duty is clear. Now, there are multitudes that act quite differently. They go on indulging themselves because they have not made up their minds. Now, this is moral indifference, and deserves reprobation.

III. THE DEATH OF CHRIST IS THE GREAT MORAL LEVER WITH CONSCIENTIOUS SOULS. The apostle bases his whole plea for the endangered brother on the death of Christ for him. If Christ died for him, we should surely abstain for him. The death of Jesus is thus seen to be the great moral leverage for the world. Into the midst of things indifferent—for "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost"—the self-sacrifice of our Master enters and compels conscientious souls to make some sacrifices for the sake of the brethren. Their edification becomes our aim, since the things are indifferent. We are not selfishly to assert our liberty, but self-denyingly we are to forego it, and bind ourselves to abstinence for whatever may be a brother's snare. If we could get such a deference to conscience practised in the Christian Church, society would very soon be regenerated.—R.M.E.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Romans 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/romans-14.html. 1897.
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