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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
Romans 14



Other Authors
Verse 1

1.] The general duty of a reconciling and uncontroversial spirit towards the weak in faith. The δέ binds this on to the general exhortations to mutual charity in ch. 13: q. d. ‘in the particular case of the weak in faith,’ &c.: but also implies a contrast, which seems to be, in allusion to the Christian perfection enjoined in the preceding verses,—‘but do not let your own realization of your state as children of light make you intolerant of short-coming and infirmity in others.’

ἀσθ., see reff.: the particular weakness consisted in a want of broad and independent principle, and a consequent bondage to prejudices.

πίστις therefore is used in a general sense, to indicate the moral soundness conferred by faith,—the whole character of the Christian’s conscience and practice, resting on faith. τῇ, better the faith, than ‘his faith:’ ‘weak in his (subj.) faith’ would be opposed to ‘strong in his (subj.) faith, ‘his faith,’ remaining in substance the same: whereas here the (subj.) faith itself is weak, and ‘weak in the faith’ = holding THE FAITH imperfectly, i.e. not being able to receive the faith in its strength, so as to be above such prejudices.

προσλαμβ.] ‘give him your hand,’ as Syr. (Thol.): ‘count him one of you:’ opposed to rejecting or discouraging him.

μὴ εἰς] but not with a view to: ‘do not adopt him as a brother, in order then to begin’ …

διακρίς. διαλ.] discernments of thoughts, lit.: i.e. disputes in order to settle the points on which he has scruples.’ In both the reff., διάκρισις has the meaning of ‘discernment of,’ ‘the power of distinguishing between.’ And διαλογισμοί in the N. T. implies (ordinarily in a bad sense), ‘thoughts:’ what kind of thoughts, the context must determine. Here, evidently, those scruples in him, in which his weakness consists,—and those more enlightened views in you, by which you would fain remove his scruples. Do not let your association of him among you be with a view to settle these disputes. The above ordinary meanings of the words seem to satisfy the sense, and to agree better with εἰς than ‘ad altercationes disputationum,’ as Beza, or ‘ad certamina cogitationum,’ as Estius:—and are adopted by most of the ancient and modern Commentators.

Verses 1-12

1–12.] Exhortation to mutual forbearances, enforced by the axiom, that every man must serve God according to his own sincere persuasion.

Verses 1-13

Romans 14:1 to Romans 15:13.] ON THE CONDUCT TO BE PURSUED TOWARDS WEAK AND SCRUPULOUS BRETHREN. There is some doubt who the ἀσθενοῦντες τῇ πίστει were, of whom the Apostle here treats; whether they were ascetics, or Judeaizers. Some habits mentioned, as e.g. the abstinence from all meats, and from wine, seem to indicate the former: whereas the observation of days, and the use of such expressions as κοινόν [Romans 14:14], and again the argument of ch. Romans 15:7-13, as plainly point to the latter. The difficulty may be solved by a proper combination of the two views. The over-scrupulous Jew became an ascetic by compulsion. He was afraid of pollution by eating meats sacrificed or wine poured to idols: or even by being brought into contact, in foreign countries, with casual and undiscoverable uncleanness, which in his own land he knew the articles offered for food would be sure not to have incurred. He therefore abstained from all prepared food, and confined himself to that which he could trace from natural growth to his own use. We have examples of this in Daniel (Daniel 1), Tobit (Tobit 1:10-11), [and in] some Jewish priests mentioned by Josephus, Life, § 3, who having been sent prisoners to Rome, οὐκ ἐξελάθοντο τῆς εἰς τὸ θεῖον εὐσεβείας, διετρέφοντο δὲ σύκοις καὶ καρύοις. And Tholuck refers to the Mishna as containing precepts to this effect. All difficulty then is removed, by supposing that of these over-scrupulous Jews some had become converts to the gospel, and with neither the obstinacy of legal Judaizers, nor the pride of ascetics (for these are not hinted at here), but in weakness of faith, and the scruples of an over-tender conscience, retained their habits of abstinence and observation of days. On this account the Apostle characterizes and treats them mildly: not with the severity which he employs towards the Colossian Judaizing ascetics and those mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:1 ff.

The question treated in 1 Corinthians 8 was somewhat different: there it was, concerning meat actually offered to an idol. In 1 Corinthians 10:25-27, he touches the same question as here, and decides against the stricter view. See the whole matter discussed in Tholuck’s Comm. in loc., De Wette’s Handbuch, and Stuart’s Introd. to this chap. in his commentary.

Verse 2

2.] The ὃς μέν, the strong in faith, so indicated by what follows, is opposed to ὁ δὲ ἀσθενῶν (not to be taken ὁ δὲ, ἀσθενῶν, κ. τ. λ.), by which τὸν ἀσθενοῦντα of Romans 14:1 is resumed.

πιστεύει φαγεῖν, either believes that he may ( ἐξεῖναι) eat,—or ventures to eat. The latter is favoured by ref. Acts, πιστεύομεν σωθῆναι, ‘we trust to be saved;’ though that also may be expanded into ‘we believe that we shall be saved,’ as E. V.

λάχ. ἐσθ.] See remarks introductory to this chapter.

Verse 3

3.] There is no need to supply πάντα after ἐσθ. and μὴ ἐσθ. I would rather take ὁ ἐσθ. as the eater, and ὁ μὴ ἐσθ. the abstainer.

ἐξουθ., for his weakness of faith,— κρινέτω, for his laxity of practice.

For God has accepted (adopted into his family) him (i.e. the eater, who was judged,—his place in God’s family doubted: not the abstainer, who was only despised, set at nought,—and to whom the words cannot, by the construction, apply.

Verse 4

4.] Who art thou (see ch. Romans 9:20) that judgest the servant of another (viz. as De W., of Christ,—for a κύριος in this passage is marked, Romans 14:8-9, as being Christ,—and the Master is the same throughout. ὁ θεός before is unconnected with this verse)? to his own Master (dat. commodi or incommodi according as στ. or πίπτ. befalls: ‘it is his own master’s matter, and his alone, that’) he stands (‘remains in the place and estimation of a Christian, from which thou wouldest eject him;’ not, as Calv., Grot., Estius, Wolf, al., ‘stands hereafter in the judgment,’ which is not in question here: see 1 Corinthians 10:12) or falls (from his place, see above): but he shall be made to stand (notwithstanding thy doubts of the correctness of his practice): for the Lord (or, his Lord, in allusion to τῷ ἰδίῳ κυρίῳ above) is able to make him stand (in faith and practice. These last words are inapplicable, if standing and falling at the great day are meant). Notice, this argument is entirely directed to the weak, who uncharitably judges the strong,—not vice versâ. The weak imagines that the strong cannot be a true servant of God, nor retain his steadfastness amidst such temptation. To this the Apostle answers, (1) that such judgment belongs only to Christ, whose servant he is: (2) that the Lord’s Almighty Power is able to keep him up, and will do so.

Verse 5

5.] One man (the weak) esteems (selects for honour,— κρίνει ἀξίαν τιμῆς) (one) day above (reff.) (another) day; another (the strong) esteems ( ἀξίαν τιμῆς) every day. Let each be fully satisfied in his own mind. It is an interesting question, what indication is here found of the observance or non-observance of a day of obligation in the apostolic times. The Apostle decides nothing; leaving every man’s own mind to guide him in the point. He classes the observance or non-observance of particular days, with the eating or abstaining from particular meats. In both cases, he is concerned with things which he evidently treats as of absolute indifference in themselves. Now the question is, supposing the divine obligation of one day in seven to have been recognized by him in any form, could he have thus spoken? The obvious inference from his strain of arguing is, that he knew of no such obligation, but believed all times and days to be, to the Christian strong in faith, ALIKE. I do not see how the passage can be otherwise understood. If any one day in the week were invested with the sacred character of the Sabbath, it would have been wholly impossible for the Apostle to commend or uphold the man who judged all days worthy of equal honour,—who as in Romans 14:6 paid no regard to the (any) day. He must have visited him with his strongest disapprobation, as violating a command of God. I therefore infer, that sabbatical obligation to keep any day, whether seventh or first, was not recognized in apostolic times. It must be carefully remembered, that this inference does not concern the question of the observance of the Lord’s Day as an institution of the Christian Church, analogous to the ancient Sabbath, binding on us from considerations of humanity and religious expediency, and by the rules of that branch of the Church in which Providence has placed us, but not in any way inheriting the divinely-appointed obligation of the other, or the strict prohibitions by which its sanctity was defended. The reply commonly furnished to these considerations, viz. that the Apostle was speaking here only of Jewish festivals, and therefore cannot refer to Christian ones, is a quibble of the poorest kind: its assertors themselves distinctly maintaining the obligation of one such Jewish festival on Christians. What I maintain is, that had the Apostle believed as they do, he could not by any possibility have written thus. Besides, in the face of πᾶσαν ἡμέραν, the assertion is altogether unfounded.

Verse 6

6.] The words in brackets were probably omitted from the similar ending φρονεῖ of both clauses having misled some early copyists; but perhaps it may have been intentionally done, after the observation of the Lord’s Day came to be regarded as binding.

φρονῶν, taking account of, ‘regarding.’

εὐχαριστεῖ, adduced as a practice of both parties, shews the universality among the early Christians of thanking God at meals: see 1 Timothy 4:3-4. The εὐχαριστία of the μὴ ἐσθίων was over his ‘dinner of herbs.’

κυρίῳ is CHRIST.

Verse 7

7.] This verse illustrates the κυρίῳ of the former, and at the same time sets in a still plainer light than before, that both parties, the eater and the abstainer, are servants of another, even Christ.

ἑαυτῷ and κυρίῳ are datives commodi: ζῇν and ἀποθνήσκειν represent the whole sum of our course on earth.

Verse 8

8.] The inference,—that we are, under all circumstances, living or dying (and a fortiori eating or abstaining, observing days or not observing them), CHRIST’S: His property.

Verse 9

9.] And this lordship over all was the great end of the Death and Resurrection of Christ. By that Death and Resurrection, the crowning events of his work of Redemption, He was manifested as the righteous Head over the race of man, which now, and in consequence man’s world also, belongs by right to Him alone.

The rec. text here, ἀπέθ. κ. ἀνέστη κ. ἀνέζησεν, may have arisen by the insertion (1) of ἀνέζησεν as clearer than ἔζησεν, and (2) of ἀνέστη from the margin, where it was a gloss (1 Thessalonians 4:14) explaining ἀνέζησεν or ἔζησεν. Or, on the other hand, supposing it to have been the original, ἀνέζησεν may have been altered to ἔζησεν and κ. ἀνέστη left out, to conform it to Romans 14:7-8. In such a case of doubt, the weight of early authority must decide. ἔζησεν, lived, viz. after His death; = ἀνέζησεν. The historical aorist points to a stated event as the commencement of the reviviscence, viz. the Resurrection.

κ. νεκρ. κ. ζώντων] here, for uniformity with what has gone before: in sense comprehending all created beings.

Verse 10

10.] He returns to the duty of abstaining,—the weak, from judging his stronger brother; the strong, from despising the weaker. It seems probable that χριστοῦ has been substituted for θεοῦ in the later MSS. from 2 Corinthians 5:10. The fact of Origen once citing it, decides nothing, in the presence of the expression βήματος τοῦ χριστοῦ in 2 Cor.

Verse 11

11.] The citation is according to the present Alexandrine text, except that our ζῶ ἐγώ = κατʼ ἐμαυτοῦ ὀμνύω.

ἐξομ.] shall praise, see reff. LXX-(117) (118)1.3a following the Heb. has ὀμεῖται ( ὀμνῖται (119)) πᾶσα γλῶσσα τὸν θεόν ( κύριον (120)).

Verse 12

12.] The stress is on περὶ ἑαυτοῦ: and the next verse refers back to it, laying the emphasis on ἀλλήλους. ‘Seeing that our account to God will be of each man’s own self, let us take heed lest by judging one another ( κρίνομεν here in the general sense of ‘pass judgment on,’ including both the ἐξουθενεῖν of the strong and the κρίνειν of the weak) we incur the guilt of ἀπολλύειν one another.’

Verse 13

13.] See above.

The second κρίνατε is used as corresponding to the first, and is in fact a play on it: ‘pulchra mimesis ad id quod præcedit,’ Bengel: see James 2:4 for another instance:—but determine this rather.

πρόσκομμα (see Romans 14:21), an occasion of stumbling, in act: σκάνδαλον (ib.), an occasion of offence, in thought.

Verses 13-23

13–23.] Exhortation to the strong to have regard to the conscientious scruples of the weak, and follow peace, not having respect merely to his own conscience, but to that of the other, which is his rule, and being violated leads to his condemnation.

Verse 14

14.] The general principle laid down, that nothing is by its own means,—i.e. for any thing in itself ( φύσει, Chrys.),—unclean, but only in reference to him who reckons it to be so.

πέπεισμ. ἐν κυρ. ἰησ.] These words give to the persuasion the weight, not merely of Paul’s own λογίζομαι, but of apostolic authority. He is persuaded, in his capacity as connected with Christ Jesus,—as having the mind of Christ.

Verse 15

15.] The reading γάρ, besides the overwhelming authority in its favour, is the more difficult and characteristic. It can hardly (as Meyer and Tholuck) depend on the εἰ μὴ κ. τ. λ., for thus an awkwardness would be introduced into the connexion of the clauses: but I believe it to be elliptical, depending on the suppressed restatement of the precept of Romans 14:13; q. d. ‘But this knowledge is not to be your rule in practice, but rather, &c., as in Romans 14:13; ‘for if,’ &c.

βρῶμα, barely put, to make the contrast greater between the slight occasion, and the great mischief done. The mere λυπεῖν your brother, is an offence against love: how much greater an offence then, if this λυπεῖν end in ἀπολλύειν—in ruining (causing to act against his conscience, and so to commit sin and be in danger of quenching God’s Spirit within him) by a MEAL of thine, a brother, for whom Christ died! “Ne pluris feceris tuum cibum, quam Christus vitam suam.” Bengel. See an exact parallel in 1 Corinthians 8:10-11.

Verse 16

16.] Your strength of faith (Orig(121), Calv., Beza, Grot., Estius, Bengel, Olsh., al., interpret τὸ ἀγ. ‘your freedom,’ as in 1 Corinthians 10:29; but here the contrast is between the weak and the strong:—so De W. Chrys. leaves it doubtful: ἢ τὴν πίστιν φησίν, ἢ τὴν μέλλουσαν ἐλπίδα τῶν ἐπάθλων, ἢ τὴν ἀπηρτισμένην εὐσέβειαν) is a good thing; let it not pass into bad repute: use it so that it may be honoured, and encourage others.

Verse 17

17.] For it is not worth while to let it be disgraced and become useless for such a trifle; for no part of the advance of Christ’s gospel can be bound up in, or consist in, meat and drink: but in righteousness ( ὁ ἐνάρετος βίος, Chrys., but of course to be taken in union with the doctrine of the former part of the Epistle—righteousness by justification,—bringing forth the fruits of faith, which would be hindered by faith itself being disturbed), and peace ( ἡ πρὸς τὸν ἀδελφὸν εἰρήνη, ᾗ ἐναντιοῦται αὕτη ἡ φιλονεικία, id.) and joy ( ἡ ἐκ τῆς ὁμονοίας χαρά, ἣν ἀναιρεῖ αὕτη ἡ ἐπίπληξις, id.) in the Holy Ghost: in connexion with, under the indwelling and influence of, as χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ (Philippians 4:4) and the expressions ἐν κυρ., ἐν χριστῷ, generally:—not, as De W., ‘joy which has its ground in the Holy Ghost,’ though this is true. So, on the other hand, a man under the influence of, possessed by an evil spirit, is called ἄνθρωπος ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ, Mark 1:23.

Verse 18

18.] The reading τούτῳ is too strongly supported to be rejected for the rec. τούτοις, as is done by Thol. and De Wette, because the latter is the easier reading, and might refer to δικ. εἰρ. and χαρ. I have therefore adopted it. But I do not understand it (as Orig(122), al.) of πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. It would be unnatural that a subordinate member of the former sentence, belonging only to χαρά, should be at once raised to be the emphatic one in this, and the three graces just emphatically mentioned, lost sight of. I believe τούτῳ to express the aggregate of the three, and ἐν τούτῳ to be equivalent to οὕτως, as Baumg.-Crusius.

δόκ. τ. ἀνθρ., as a man of peace and uprightness: οὐ γὰρ οὕτω σε θαυμάσονται τῆς τελειότητος, ὡς τῆς εἰρήνης κ. τῆς ὁμονοίας πάντες· τούτου μὲν γὰρ τοῦ καλοῦ πάντες ἀπολαύσονται, ἐκείνου δὲ οὐδὲ εἷς. Chrys. Hom. xxvi. p. 713.

Verse 19

19.] Inference from the foregoing two verses— οἰκοδ. τ. εἰς ἀλλ., edification towards one another, i.e. the work of edification, finding its exercise in our mutual intercourse and allowances. So τῇ ἀγάπῃ εἰς ἀλλ., 1 Thessalonians 3:12.

Verse 20

20.] τὸ ἔργον τ. θεοῦ has been variously understood: by Fritz. and Baumg.-Crusius, as = δικαιος. εἰρήνη, κ. χαρά: by Meyer and Krehl, as = the Christian status of the offended brother, so as to be parallel to Romans 14:15; by Theodoret and Reiche, as = the faith of thy fellow-Christian: by Morus, Rosenm., al., as = ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θ., ‘the spread of the Gospel.’ But I believe the expression οἰκοδομή having just preceded is the clue to the right meaning: and that τὸ ἔργον = τὴν οἰκοδομήν in the Apostle’s mind. He calls Christians in 1 Corinthians 3:9, θεοῦ γεώργιον, θεοῦ οἰκοδομή. Thus it will mean, thy fellow-Christian, as a plant of God’s planting, a building of God’s raising. So, nearly, De Wette and Tholuck. All things indeed are pure, but (it is) evil to the man (‘there is criminality in the man;’ Meyer supplies τὸ καθαρόν, Grot. τὸ βρῶμα, Fritz. τὸ πάντα φαγεῖν: but nothing need be supplied, any more than to καλόν) who eats with offence (i.e. giving offence to his weak brother, as Theodoret, Calv., Beza, Grot., Estius, Bengel, Thol., De Wette, al. That this is the right interpretation is shewn by the sentence standing between two others both addressed to the strong who is in danger of offending the weak. But Chrys., Theophyl., Œc(123), Meyer, al., take the sense of ‘receiving offence,’ and understand it of the weak).

Verse 21

21.] It is good not to eat meats nor to drink wine, nor (to do any thing: the ellipsis is a harsh one. Fritzsche says, “aut supple φαγεῖν ἢ πιεῖν τοῦτο, ἐν ᾧ κ. τ. λ., as Thl., Beng., Flatt, al.,—or ποιεῖν (or πράσσειν) τοῦτο ἐν ᾧ κ. τ. λ., as Grot. Meyer, &c. Præfero illud, quoniam per totum hunc locum de cibo potuque agitur.” But why should not the Apostle, as so often, be deducing a general duty from the particular subject?) in (by) which thy brother stumbles, or is offended (see on Romans 14:13), or is weak (Thol. remarks that the three verbs form a climax ad infra).

Verse 22

22.] The faith which thou hast (this reading, which is the more probable on critical grounds, was perhaps changed into the σὺ πίστιν ἔχεις of the rec. on account of the position of the σύ. But this is quite in St. Paul’s manner: cf. Romans 14:4; 1 Corinthians 15:36; 2 Corinthians 2:10. However, the other reading is very ancient, and it is impossible to decide positively between them. If it is taken, the interrogative rendering, “Hast thou faith?” better suits the lively character of the address than the affirmative, “Thou hast faith”) have (it) to thyself (reff.) before God. Chrys., who does not read the last words ( ἐν. τ. θ.), says, πίστιν ἐνταῦθα οὐ τὴν περὶ δογμάτων, ἀλλὰ τὴν περὶ τῆς προκειμένης ὑποθέσεως λέγει …, ἐκείνη μὲν γὰρ μὴ ὁμολογουμένη καταστρέφει, αὕτη δὲ ὁμολογουμένη ἀκαίρως. Hom. xxvi. p. 714. ‘Before God,’—because He is the object of faith: hardly, as Erasm., “comprimens inanem gloriam quæ solet esse comes scientiæ,”—for there is no trace of a depreciation of the strong in faith in the chapter,—only a caution as to their conduct in regard of their weaker brethren.

With μακάριος begins the closing and general sentence of the Apostle with regard to both: it is a blessed thing to have no scruples (the strong in faith is in a situation to be envied) about things in which we allow ourselves (Olsh. refers to the addition in the Codex Bezæ at Luke 6:4,—where our Lord is related to have seen a man tilling his land on the Sabbath, and to have said to him, εἰ μὲν οἶδας τί ποιεῖς, μακάριος εἶ, εἰ δὲ μὴ οἶδας, ἐπικατάρατος, καὶ παραβάτης εἶ τοῦ νόμου):

Verse 23

23.] but he that doubteth (the situation just described not being his), incurs condemnation if he eat (the case in point particularized), because (he eats) not from faith (i.e. as before,—see Chrys. above,—from a persuasion of rectitude grounded on and consonant with his life of faith. That ‘faith in the Son of God’ by which the Apostle describes his own life in the flesh as being lived (Galatians 2:20), informing and penetrating the motives and the conscience, will not include, will not sanction, an act done against the testimony of the conscience): but (introducing an axiom, as Hebrews 8:13) all that is not from (grounded in, and therefore consonant with) faith (the great element in which the Christian lives and moves and desires and hopes), is sin. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, al., have taken this text as shewing that ‘omnis infidelium vita peccatum est.’ Whether that be the case or not, cannot be determined from this passage, any more than from Hebrews 11:6, because neither here nor there is the ‘infidelis’ in question. Here the Apostle has in view two Christians, both living by faith, and by faith doing acts pleasing to God: and he reminds them that whatever they do out of harmony with this great principle of their spiritual lives, belongs to the category of sin. In Hebrews 11 the Writer is speaking of one who had the testimony of having (eminently) pleased God: this, he says, he did by faith; for without faith it is impossible to please Him. The question touching the ‘infidelis,’ must be settled by another enquiry: Can he whom we thus name have faith,—such a faith as may enable him to do acts which are not sinful? a question impossible for us to solve.


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 14:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

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