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Bible Commentaries

Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation

Romans 14

Verses 1-5


Verses 1-5

Verses 6-12

Verses 6-12

6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord: and he that eateth, eateth unto the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that doth not eat, unto the Lord he doth not eat, and giveth thanks to God. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether therefore we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might rule over both the dead and the living.

Verse 6:

These verses, of course, contemplate true believers only, those who "give God thanks."

Here we have some regarding the day as holy in itself, Jewish believers especially, not fully delivered from the Law, would have tender consciences about days. But if they knew the Lord, it would be toward the Lord their consciences could be exercised, and they must be considered in love on that account; love would see through their eyes!

Again, there were those with greater knowledge and liberty who "regarded not the day," knowing that every day, for those risen in Christ, is alike: the first day of the week being not a sabbath, but rather the celebration of our Lord's resurrection which delivered us from legal things. Ignatius (martyred about 115 A.D.) said, "Those who were concerned with old things have come to newness of confidence, no longer keeping Sabbaths, but living according to the Lord's Day, on whom our life, as risen again, through Him, depends." And Justin Martyr, (martyred about 168 A.D.) when reproached by Trypho with "giving up the Sabbath," said, "How can we keep the Sabbath, who rest from sin all the days of the week?"

Let those of legal tendencies mark this: that a man may regard not what we regard, and do so "unto the Lord." Then the man who has liberty to eat all things, eats "unto the Lord," and gives God thanks. And again, (let the stronger brother consider) there are those that eat not as "unto the Lord," giving God thanks.

Verses 7, 8, 9:

The argument of verses 7, 8 and 9 is that each one of us is living or dying absolutely unto the Lord,--whose we are. We are not in any sense one another's lords! but belong to Christ alone, who died and lived that He might rule over us all,--and not we be lords of each other! or of the faith of others! Therefore comes the searching question:

Verses 10-12:

But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or thou, again, why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God.

For it is written: As I live, saith the Lord, to Me every knee shall bow, [not to men]. And every tongue shall confess to God. So then each one of us shall give account concerning himself to God--[not to men].

The best manuscripts read "the judgment-seat of God" in verse 10: thus accommodating the words to the quotation from the Old Testament (Isaiah 14:23). This word "God" is also used in Romans 14:12, as we see; although we know from 2 Corinthians 5:10, it will actually be before the judgment-seat of Christ that believers will be called. (Always remembering that Christ is God the Son.) Also, that "the Father has given all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22).

Of course we know from our Lord's words in John 3:18; John 5:24, that condemnatory judgment cannot be applied to believers here, for, "He that believeth on Him is not judged"; "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life." In Revelation 20, also, the saved, the "blessed and holy," partake of the first resurrection; and over them the second death, the penalty of the lost, 1000 years later, has "no authority." Nevertheless, we must not allow this blessed fact to dull the force of the solemn question propounded to us by our beloved apostle Paul, as to how we dare either judge or despise our brother? seeing that such action involves presumptuous forgetfulness both of the fact that we are not judges; and of the other fact that we shall all, though saved, stand before the judgment-seat of God and each "give an account of himself" to Him. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, of this judgment-seat (bema) for believers this is said: "We must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad." In 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, we see that "if any man's work shall abide . . . he shall receive a reward." It is a matter of reward for our service, and not salvation, that is here in question. "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire"-- that is, losing, as one whose house is burned, all his goods, though himself delivered. The whole emphasis here in Romans 14:12, is that each gives an account concerning himself--not of others; and to God instead of to man!

The reading "judgment-seat of Christ," Romans 14:10, would seem to agree both with 2 Corinthians 5:10, and the whole spirit of the preceding verses here, especially verse 9. We know also that the Father has committed to the Son all judgment, both of believers and unbelievers (John 5:22; John 5:27; Acts 17:31). But that it is before God (instead of a fellow-man) that all will bow, is being emphasized; and Christ is God, and will, we believe, as Man be the Judge, even at the Great White Throne of Revelation 20:11-15 No longer, therefore, let us [Christians] be judging one another. But do judge ye this, rather, that no man put an obstacle in his brother's way, or a snare.

Verses 13-23

Verses 13-23

14 I [personally] know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself: save that to him who reckoneth anything to be. unclean, to that one it is unclean. 15 For if because of thy food thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love. Destroy not with thy food that one for whom Christ died!. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of. 17 For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For the one herein serving Christ is well-pleasing to God, and approved of men. 19 So then let us pursue things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one. another. 20 Overthrow not for food's sake the work of God? All things indeed are clean; howbeit it is evil for that man who eateth with stumbling. 21 It is noble not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor [to do] anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended or is made weak. 22 The faith which thou hast, have thou to thyself before God. Blessed is he that doth not judge himself in that which he alloweth! 23 But he that doubteth is condemned ifhe eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Verse 13:

No longer, therefore, let us [Christians] be judging one another. But do judge ye this, rather, that no man put a stumbling-block in his brother's way, or an occasion of falling.

Here now is indeed a field for judging! And it is ourselves, not our brother, which we are to judge! And it is ours to see to it that no one of us is, or is doing, aught that binders or stumbles any brother. If these comments persuade any Christian to stop judging others and begin to judge himself, it will indeed be a fruit unto God! A stumbling-block is something in us that grieves a weaker brother; an occasion of falling, signifies that which we may freely do, but which another, undertaking, may in doing act against his own conscience, and therefore sin. Literally, the word means "snare," or "trap."

Verse 14:

I know [personally], and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself: save that to him that reckoneth anything to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.

Paul states in verse 14 his own knowledge and liberty,-- which is our pattern. Note carefully that knowledge comes first: "I know." "Persuasion in the Lord Jesus," that is, full heart liberty, or freedom of conscience, is second. There must be both,--not only knowledge of the Christian's freedom, but heart and conscience persuasion, if we would walk in the liberty that belongs to the Christian. To such a one, nothing is unclean "of itself." Distinction of meats (as under Judaism) is entirely gone; distinction of days (as under Judaism) is entirely gone. It is only to those whose lack of knowledge or weakness of conscience "accounts" or holds a thing to be unclean,--or, as we say, "wrong," that it is so. What a glorious deliverance! No place is left for "religious fussing." Christ, and the freedom that is in Him, fills all heaven, our whole horizon, at every moment: "To me, to live is Christ."

But to the conscience not yet delivered (and real freedom of conscience is more rare than we think!) many things seem to be "unclean" in themselves: that is, Christians feel it is "wrong" to do them. You and I may have full light to the contrary: yea, these also may see the written Word that "nothing is unclean in itself" in this dispensation. But the conscience cannot be commanded. It must be persuaded, by the blessed Spirit--in the Lord Jesus. When one is thus set free, his walk is not forced, but happy and natural.

Verse 15:

For if because of meat thy brother is grieved, [Two stages are noted in the words grieved' and destroy.' When one man sees another do that which his own conscience condemns, it causes him pain (he is grieved); but when he is further led on from this to do himself what his conscience condemns, he is in danger of a worse fate; he is morally ruined and undone (destroyed). The work of redemption that Christ has wrought for him is cancelled, and all that great and beneficent scheme is hindered of its operation by an act of thoughtlessness or want of consideration on the part of a fellow Christian"--Sanday.] thou art no longer walking according to love. Do not with thy meat destroy that one for whom Christ died. "If Christ so loved as to die for him, how base in you or me not to submit to the smallest self-denial for his welfare!" This verse often occasions the question, How could a "brother" be in danger of destruction? Let me quote on this passage from Charles Hodge, one of the greatest Calvinistic writers: "Believers (the elect) are constantly spoken of (in Scripture) as in danger of perdition. They are saved only if they continue stedfast (in faith). If they apostatize, they perish. If the Scriptures tell the people of God what is the tendency of their sins as to themselves, they may tell them what is the tendency of such sins as to others. Saints are preserved not in spite of apostasy, but from apostasy." To this agree Paul's words: "Ye are saved if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you" (1 Corinthians 15:2). "If so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:23). Before us, in verse 15, lies the awful fact that the destruction of one who is called a brother lies within the power of our use of our liberty--if it causes him to "stumble."

This does not touch the security of those born of God and "sealed to the day of redemption." God says even of the carnal Corinthians, that "God was faithful, through whom they were called," "who would confirm them unto the end" (1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:9). But we are not saved as automatons! God gives us a gospel to be believed, and a walk to be walked, corresponding to that gospel. That God can (and often does) rescue those whose walk is a failure is seen in the stern, but saving dealing with the brother of 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. But this same epistle records the solemn warning quoted above: "Ye are saved if ye hold fast the words." Modernists, like all infidels, make light of "holding fast the pattern of sound words" (2 Timothy 1:13). But God told earnest, praying Cornelius to send for Peter, who should "speak unto him words, by which he should be saved" (Acts 11:13; Acts 11:14). Faith begins and lives by God's words only!

Verse 16:

Let not then your good be evil spoken of-- (literally, blasphemed): "Good" here refers to the use of Christian liberty by those who are strong of faith, which is indeed good and delightful to God in itself; but in the use of which one must take heed that it be not judged and spoken evil of by the weaker brethren. We must always have the weaker in mind. You may have very blessed liberty in Christ; and that is good! But watch, in using your freedom, lest some one not having your freedom calls your path wickedness! Don't lose your liberty, but use it carefully. (See verse 22 (Romans 14:22).)

Verse 17:

Now Paul writes a great verse, giving such a reason for this careful walk as ought to win all of us:

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For the one thus serving Christ, is well pleasing to God, and approved of men.

In saying the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, Paul at one word sweeps the whole Christian platform clear of the rubbish of all the traditions of men. Men bow, for example, to the Pope's "no-meat-on-Fridays." But let these mark well that all such things have nothing whatever to do with the kingdom of God! The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Man cannot even see the kingdom of God except by a new, "down from above" (anothen) BIRTH (John 3:3)! And, since the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, believers are said to be in the Spirit--no longer in the flesh--to which the earthly distinctions of meats and days pertained.

And note, that the words here are not, righteousness in Christ --referring to our standing; but righteousness in the Holy Spirit--referring to our walk! Also, joy in the Holy Spirit. We cannot too strongly emphasize this fact--that "the kingdom of God," now, is altogether in the Spirit! This leaves forms and ceremonies, days and seasons, unclean meats and clean meats, absolutely out! Such things are not Christian. They are Jewish or pagan, now! Such "religious" distinctions as these concerning eating and drinking are certainly not at all in the Holy Ghost--where all the saints now are (Romans 8:9), and in whose energy all the real operations of "the kingdom of God" now are!

Verse 18:

The one herein serving Christ--This word herein refers to the state of righteousness of life, peace of heart, and joy in God which those walking in the Spirit display. And the words serving Christ further prove that verse 17 has reference to practical walk, not to our standing in Christ. One thus walking, we see, is well-pleasing to God, and approved of men. Our Lord said, "If any man serve Me, him will the Father honor" (John 12:26). Nothing really pleases God, (since Christ the Son has been manifested, and become obedient to the Father even unto death), but to have men know and serve Christ--whose yoke is easy! But such service is made possible only since the coming of the Holy Spirit: therefore, "righteousness, peace, joy, in the Holy Spirit" is that service of Christ which delights God. And approved of men--Men will not always admit it, but they approve a believer who walks righteously, in Divine peace, and joy. Mere religious professors, men despise: but, while they may and often do persecute the one who walks in the Spirit, they at heart approve such,--yes, and only such! Let us ask ourselves. Does my walk please God? Is it approved in the hearts of men?

Verse 19:

So then let us pursue the things that belong to peace, and things whereby we shall build up one another.

The word "pursue" is a strong word, generally used for persecute, follow hard after, as in hunting. Compare Chapter 12:13b (Romans 12:13), "given to (literally, pursuing) hospitality": Philippians 3:14 : "I press toward the mark." Peter says, "Let him seek peace and pursue it"--same word. See also 1 Timothy 6:10, and 2 Timothy 2:22. So let us pursue the things of peace and of helping others. There is no more direct and effectual path away from yourself!

"Pursuing peace" is the negative side--refusing to engage in selfish conflict. Pursuing "edifying things" is the positive side. You must study the state and need of others, and "build up their need." See Ephesians 4:29, margin.

Verse 20:

Overthrow not for food's sake the work of God! Let us not be as unregardful of our brother as was Esau of God Himself! The "work of God" here refers to the operations of the Spirit of God within the soul--"the fabric which the grace of God has begun, and which the edification of Christians by each other may help to raise." Or, which the selfish refusal to walk in love may pull down! For we find more people stumbling at the inconsistencies, and lack of love, in professing Christians, than at all things else. Let us follow Paul: "Though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more . . . Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor's good . . . even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many that they may be saved" (1 Corinthians 9:19; 1 Corinthians 10:24; 1 Corinthians 10:33).

All things indeed are clean; howbeit it is evil for the man who eateth with stumbling--All meats, all food, is indeed (in itself) clean, but to him that eats with a bad conscience, everything is evil. God indeed plainly says, concerning those who "command to abstain from meats," that such are "giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons, because He Himself created meats to be "received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth" (1 Timothy 4:1-5). But if one have not the assurance in his own conscience freely to obey this "command" of God, let him not violate his conscience; but wait humbly upon God, by His Word to strengthen him, and bring him into true Christian liberty. Otherwise his eating or drinking is not "with thanksgiving," but in mere self-indulgence.

Verse 21:

It is noble not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor [to do] anything whereby thy brother is made to stumble, or is ensnared, or is [made] weak--It has been remarked that in each of these three things, the effect is less than in the preceding one,--thus greatly strengthening and enlarging the exhortation. First, do not cause thy brother, by thy use of thy liberty, or in any conduct of thine, to have his fatal fall; second, do not even obstruct his Christian course by doing what might act as a snare to your brother, inducing him to act beyond his conscience; third, do not use your liberty, if your weaker brother, although he sees you are right, is not yet strong enough to follow you: and would therefore become disappointed and discouraged if he see you do so. "Wait for me!" did not your childhood's brother often call out to you? So let us "wait for one another" in the spiritual life! Be conformed to his weakness for the present, and accommodate your walk to his, lest he remain weak. [Brown (in Jamleson, Fausset & Brown) well says, "This injunction to abstain from flesh and wine and whatsoever may hurt the conscience of a brother, must be properly understood. Manifestly the apostle is treating of the regulation of the Christian's conduct with reference simply to the prejudices of the weak in faith; and his directions are not to be considered as principles for one's entire lifetime, but simply as caution against too free use of Christian liberty in matters where other Christians, through weakness, are not persuaded that such liberty is Divinely allowed."]

Verse 22:

Hast thou faith? Have [it] to thyself before God. Blessed is he that doth not judge himself in the acts which he alloweth [in his own life].

"It is much more blessed to have a liberty before God which we do not use on account of our brother's weakness, than to insist on our liberty, though it be distinctly given. The man whom Paul declares happy' is he who can eat what he pleases and drink what he pleases, without any qualms of conscience to condemn him while he does so." These words (from Sanday) are true. The word translated "allows," or "permits," or "approves," is literally, "puts to the test." The picture is of a man having before him a question of conscience (of days, meats, or whatever), whose decisions in the use of his liberty are such that he does not go beyond his knowledge, and persuasion in the Lord Jesus (verse 14). For, though he have in his mind that he is free in such or such a matter, if his conscience check him, he "judges" himself if he rushes ahead in an action. To the strong believer the apostle speaks this word: "Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God." You have probably known people whom in this sense you did not know! They had learned, yet were content not publicly to use, that great liberty of faith into which God had led them. It is blessed to have faith. It is yet more blessed to have that faith "before God"--when using the freedom it gives might perplex another!

Verse 23:

But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Of course the word "damned" (for "condemned") of the King James Version, is not the meaning here. But what is meant is the state of conscious condemnation into which one falls who goes beyond his faith in the exercise of his liberty. For he who acts thus enters the realm of self-will, the lawlessness (anomia) which God declares is sin (1 John 3:4).

The apostle's definition of sin here as "what is not of faith" is most searching. It will drive us to our knees. It reaches everything in our lives concerning which our conscience is not at rest, in which we do not have faith to proceed, in which we cannot walk with God.

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Bibliographical Information
Newell, William. "Commentary on Romans 14". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. 1938.