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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Romans 14

 

 

Verse 1

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

The subject here-and on to Romans 15:13 - is the consideration due from stronger Christians to their weaker brethren (with special reference to the Jewish peculiarities), which is but the great law of love (treated of in Romans 13:1-14) in one particular form.

Him that is weak in the faith - rather, 'in faith;' that is, not 'Him that is weak in the truth believed' (as Calvin, Beza, Alford, Webster and Wilkinson), but 'Him whose faith wants that firmness and breadth which would raise him above small scruples.' (So Erasmus, Grotius Estius, Fritzsche, Meyer, DeWette, Tholuck, etc.)

Receive ye (to cordial Christian fellowship), [but] not to doubtful disputations , [ eis (Greek #1519) diakriseis (Greek #1253) dialogismoon (Greek #1261)] - rather, perhaps, 'not to the deciding of doubts, or scruples;' i:e., not for the purpose of arguing him out of them, which indeed usually does the reverse; whereas to receive him to full brotherly confidence and cordial interchange of Christian affection is the most effectual way of drawing them off. Two examples of such scruples are here specified, touching Jewish meats and days. 'The strong,' it will be observed, are those who held these to be abolished under the Gospel; 'the weak' are those who had scruples on this point. Meats (Romans 14:2-4)


Verse 2

For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

[For] (this supplement is superfluous) one believeth that he may eat all things - having learned the lesson taught to Peter (Acts 10:9-16; Acts 10:28).

Another, who is weak, eateth herbs - restricting himself probably to a vegetable diet, for fear of eating what might have been offered to idols, and so would be unclean, (see 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.)


Verse 3

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.

Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge (sit censoriously in judgment upon) him that eateth: for God hath received him - as one of His dear children, who in this matter acts not from laxity, but religious principle.


Verse 4

Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Who art thou that judgest another man's (rather, 'another's') servant? - i:e., CHRIST'S, as the whole context shows, especially Romans 14:8-9.

To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up, [ statheesetai (G2476) de (G1161), 'But stand he shall'] for God - or 'the Lord' (according to what is probably the true reading), that is, his Master, Christ,

Is able to make him stand - able to make good his standing; meaning, not at the day of judgment (of which the apostle comes to treat in Romans 14:10), but here, in the true fellowship of the Church, in spite of thy censures.

Days (Romans 14:5)


Verse 5

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day. The supplement "alike" here injures the sense.

Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind - or be guided in such matters by conscientious conviction.

The Principle to be Regarded in both Cases (Romans 14:6)


Verse 6

He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord - the Lord CHRIST, as before;

And he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it - each doing what he believes to be his Lord's will.

He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. The one gave thanks to God for the flesh which the other scrupled to use-the other did the same for the herbs to which, for conscience' sake, he restricted himself. (The bearing of these statements upon the perpetuity of the Sabbath we reserve for the Remarks at the close of this chapter.)

The General Principles-Individual Responsibility to Christ (Romans 14:7-12)


Verse 7

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

For none of us liveth to himself (see the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:14-15) - to dispose of himself or shape his conduct after his own ideas and inclinations;

And no man ('no one' of us Christians) dieth to himself.


Verse 8

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 whether we live, we live unto the Lord - the Lord Christ; see next verse;

And whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

Nothing but the most vapid explanation of these remarkable words could make them endurable to any Christian ear, if Christ were a mere creature. For Christ is here-in the most emphatic terms, and yet in the most unimpassioned tone-held up as the supreme Object of the Christian's life, and of his death too; and that by the man whose horror of creature-worship was such, that when the poor Lycaonians would have worshipped himself, he rushed forth to arrest the deed, directing them to "the living God" as the only legitimate Object of worship (Acts 14:15). Nor does Paul teach this here, but rather appeals to it as a known and recognized fact of which he had only to remind his readers. And since the apostle, when he wrote these words, had never been at Rome, he could only know that the Roman Christians would assent to this view of Christ, because it was the common teaching of all the accredited preachers of Christianity, and the common faith of all Christians.


Verse 9

For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

For to this end Christ [both] died, [and rose], and revived - `and lived;' that is, lived again (according to the better reading). The bracketed word "both" [ kai (Greek #2532)], and the clause, "and revived" [ kai (Greek #2532) anestee (Greek #450)], are certainly an addition to the genuine text [ kai (Greek #2532) is found only in C*** (a corrector of about the ninth century), D (about the seventh), L, several cursives, the Vulgate (cod. Amiat.), the Philoxenian Syriac and some Greek fathers; but is missing in 'Aleph (') A B C * D * (and ***), E F G, numerous cursives, two copies of the Old Latin, and the Vulgate (except cod. Amiat.), and several Greek fathers. Kai (Greek #2532) anestee (Greek #450) is found in no Uncial manuscript, and only in some cursives.] That he might be Lord both of the dead and ('of the') living. The grand object of His death was to acquire this absolute Lordship over His redeemed, both in their living and in their dying, as His of right. But why this novel idea here of Christ being Lord over the dead? Does it not seem to contradict what our Lord says. that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living? (Matthew 22:32.) And even if not, what here suggested it to the apostle's mind? The true answer to these questions is finely given by Bengel in the following passage: 'The living and reviving triumph with the living Go'el (Hebrew #1352). The living God is God of the living (Matthew 22:32). The revived Christ is Lord of the reviving. In Romans 14:7-8 Paul places this "life" before "death;" and as he advances in Romans 14:9, places that "life" after "death," as in Romans 8:38 (cf. Rom. 14:34 ). "Christ," says he, "died that He might acquire dominion over the dead;" "Christ revived, that He might acquire dominion over the living." Christ "has died;" therefore "death" (the act, or rather the passive experience of dying, and the state of death) shall not tear us from Him. Christ "is risen;" therefore "life" (in the world to come) shall not tear us from Him. The dominion of Christ over the dead (the author adds) refutes the psycho-pannychia (or the sleep of the soul between death and the resurrection), against which, indeed, the appearance of Moses and Elias (Matthew 17:3), the resurrection of the saints (Matthew 27:52, etc.), and the hope of Paul, etc. (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Hebrews 12:23), constitute solid arguments'-and so on.


Verse 10

But 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.

But why ... The original here is more lively: 'But thou (the weaker believer), why judgest thou thy brother? And thou again, (the stronger), why despisest thou thy brother?'

For we shall all (the strong and the weak together) stand before the judgment seat of Christ - `the judgment seat of God' is beyond all doubt the true reading here. It would have been more natural to have written (as in 2 Corinthians 5:10), the judgment seat of Christ, as the whole preceding context shows that this was what was in the apostle's mind (and hence, doubtless, the reading of the Received Text). Why, then, did he not so write? Evidently to accommodate his statement to the quotation which was to follow, and the inference which he was to draw from it in the following verse:


Verse 11

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

For it is written (Isaiah 45:23), as I live, saith the Lord (Hebrew, Yahweh (H3068)), every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. The passage, as it stands in the prophet, has no immediate reference to any 'day of judgment,' but is a prediction of the ultimate subjugation to the true God (in Christ) of every soul of man; but this of course implies that they shall bow to the award of God upon their character and every soul of man; but this of course implies that they shall bow to the award of God upon their character and actions.


Verse 12

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

So then (infers the apostle) every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Now, if it be remembered that all this is adduced quite incidentally, to show that CHRIST is the absolute Master of all Christians, to rule their judgments and feelings toward each other while "living," and to dispose of them 'dying,' the testimony which it bears to the absolute divinity of Christ will appear remarkable. On any other view, the quotation to show that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God would be a strange proof that Christians are all amenable to Christ.

Subject of Christian Forbearance Resumed (Romans 14:13-23)


Verse 13

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

Let us not therefore judge ('assume the office of judge over') one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock, or an occasion to fall, in his brother's way - a beautiful sort of play upon the word 'judge,' meaning, 'But let this be your judgment, not to put a stumblingblock,' etc.


Verse 14

I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

I know, and am persuaded by (or rather 'in') the Lord Jesus - as "having the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16),

That there is nothing unclean of itself. Hence, it is that he calls those "the strong" who believed in the abolition of all ritual distinctions under the Gospel (see Acts 10:15).

But, [ ei-mee (G1508), 'save that'] to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean:

- q.d., 'and therefore, though you can eat of it without sin, he cannot.'


Verse 15

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

But if thy brother be grieved (has his weak conscience hurt) with [thy] meat , [ dia (Greek #1223) brooma (Greek #1033)] - rather, 'because of meat.' The word "meat" is purposely selected as something contemptible, in contrast with the tremendous risk run for its sake. Accordingly, in the next clause, that idea is brought out with great strength.

Destroy not him with ('by') thy meat for whom Christ died. The worth (as Olshausen says) of even the poorest and weakest brother cannot be more emphatically expressed than by the words, "for whom Christ died." The same sentiment is expressed with equal sharpness in 1 Corinthians 8:11. Whatever tends to make anyone violate his conscience tends to the destruction of his soul; and he who helps, whether wittingly or no, to bring about the one is guilty of aiding to accomplish the other.


Verse 16

Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

Let not then your good - i:e., this liberty of yours as to Jewish meats and days, well founded though it be,

Be evil spoken of - by reason of the evil it does to others.


Verse 17

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

For the kingdom of God - or, as we should say, Religion; i:e., the proper business and blessedness for which Christians are formed into a community of renewed men in thorough subjection to God (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:20),

Is not meat and drink, [ broosis (G1035) kai (G2532) posis (G4213), 'eating and drinking,'] but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit - a beautiful and comprehensive division of living Christianity. The first - "righteousness" - has respect to God, denoting here 'rectitude,' in its widest sense (as in Matthew 6:33); the second - "peace" - has respect to our neighbours, denoting 'concord' among brethren (as is plain from Romans 14:19 : cf. Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 1:4; Colossians 1:15); the third - "joy in the Holy Spirit" - has respect to ourselves. This phrase, "joy in the Holy Spirit," represents Christians as so thinking and feeling, under the workings of the Holy Spirit, that their joy may be viewed rather as that of the blessed Agent who inspires it than their own. (See the note at Romans 8:15; at Galatians 5:25; and at Jude 1:20.)


Verse 18

For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

For he that in these things ('in this' is the true reading; meaning, in this threefold life,) serveth Christ.

Observe here again how, though we do these three things as a "kingdom of God," yet it is "Christ" that we serve in so doing; the apostle passing here from God to Christ as naturally as before from Christ to God-in a way inconceivable, if Christ had been viewed as a mere creature (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:21).

Is acceptable to God, and approved of men - for these are the things which God delights in, and men are constrained to approve (compare Proverbs 3:4; Luke 2:52; Acts 2:47; Acts 19:20).


Verse 19

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another - more simply, 'the things of peace, and the things of mutual edification.'


Verse 20

For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

For ('For the sake of') meat destroy not the work of God - see the note at Romans 14:15. The apostle sees in whatever tends to violate a brother's conscience the incipient destruction of God's work (for every converted man is such) - on the same principle as "he that hateth his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15). All things indeed are pure - `clean;' the ritual distinctions being at an end;

But it is evil for that man (there is criminality in the man) who eateth with offence - i:e., so as to stumble a weak brother.


Verse 21

It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor [any thing] ('nor to do anything') whereby ('wherein') thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak - rather, 'is weak.' These three words, it has been remarked, are each intentionally weaker than the other: q.d., 'Which may cause a brother to stumble, or even be obstructed in his Christian course; nay-though neither of these may follow-wherein he continues weak; unable wholly to disregard the example, and yet unprepared to follow it.' But this injunction to abstain from flesh, from wine, and from 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 to be considered not as prescriptions for one's entire life-time, even to promote the good of men on a large scale, but simply as cautions against the too free use of Christian liberty in matters where other Christians, through weakness, are not persuaded that such liberty is divinely allowed. How far the principle involved in this may be legitimately extended, we do not inquire here; but ere we consider that question, it is of great importance to fix how far it is here actually expressed, and what is the precise nature of the illustrations given of it.


Verse 22

Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

Hast thou faith? (on such matters): have it to thyself (within thine own breast) before God - a most important clause. It is not mere sincerity, or a private opinion, of which the apostle speaks: it is conviction as to what is the truth and will of God. If thou hast formed this conviction in the sight of God, keep thyself in this frame before Him. Of course, this is not to be over-pressed, as if it were wrong to discuss such points at all with our weaker brethren. All that is here condemned is such a zeal for small points as endangers Christian love.

Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth - allows himself to do nothing, about the lawfulness of which he has scruples; does only what he neither nor fears to be sinful.


Verse 23

And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

And (rather, 'But') he that doubteth is damned (see the note on the word "damnation," Romans 13:2)

If he eat, because [he eateth] not of faith (on the meaning of "faith" here, see the note at Romans 14:22):

For whatsoever is not of faith is sin - a maxim of unspeakable importance in the Christian life.

Remarks:

(1) Whatever rigid sticklers for the necessity of orthodoxy on every truth of the Bible and every point of the Christian Faith may say, nothing can be clearer from this chapter than that some points in Christianity are unessential to Christian fellowship; so that, though one may he in error upon them, he is not on that account to be excluded either from the communion of the Church or from the full confidence of those who have more light. Those, therefore, who-affecting more than ordinary zeal for the honour and truth of God-deny the validity of this distinction between essential and non-essential truths must settle the question, not with us, but with the apostle.

(2) Acceptance with God is the only proper criterion of right to Christian fellowship. Whom God receives, men cannot lawfully reject (Romans 14:3-4).

(3) As there is much self-pleasing in setting up narrow standards of Christian fellowship, so one of the best preservatives against the temptation to do this will be found in the continual remembrance that CHRIST is the one Object for whom all Christians live, and to whom all Christians die: this will be such a living and exalted bond of union between the strong and the weak as will overshadow all their lesser differences and gradually absorb them (Romans 14:7-9).

(4) From what said in Romans 14:5 about the observance of days, Alford judges it impossible that sabbatical obligation to keep any day, whether seventh or first, was recognized in apostolic times. But this is precarious. ground. Were it not as legitimate to argue that our Lord could never have said. "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath," and that "The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath day" (Mark 2:27-28 : see the notes at Matthew 12:1-8, p. 70), if it was so speedily to vanish away, as if His lordship over it consisted only in His right to abolish it. Neither of these ways of settling the question of 'the perpetuity of a day of holy rest' will satisfy the thorough inquirer, who will think it his duty to look at all sides of the subject; and whoever considers how inadequate any considerations of mere expediency must prove-when once the belief in its essential sacredness is destroyed-to uphold that observance of the Lord's Day which all devout minds regard as essential to the best interests of religion and morality, will be slow to think that the apostle meant the Sabbath to be ranked by his readers among those vanished Jewish festival days which only weakness could imagine to be still in force-a weakness which those who had more light ought, out of love merely, to bear with.

(5) The consideration of the common Judgment seat at which the strong and the weak shall stand together will be found another preservative against the unlovely disposition to sit in judgment one on another (Romans 14:10-12).

(6) How brightly does the supreme divinity of Christ shine out in this chapter! The exposition itself supersedes further illustration here.

(7) Though forbearance is a great Christian duty, indifference to the distinction between truth and error is not thereby encouraged. The former is, by the lax, made an excuse for the latter. But our apostle, while teaching 'the strong' to bear with the "weak," repeatedly intimates in this chapter where the truth really lay on the points in question, and take, care to call those who took the wrong side the "weak,"

(8) With what holy jealousy ought the purity of the conscience to be guarded, since every deliberate violation of it is incipient perdition! (Romans 14:15; Romans 14:20.) Some who seem to be more jealous for the honour of certain doctrines than for the souls of men, enervate this terrific truth by asking how it bears upon the 'Perseverance of the saints;' the advocates of that doctrine thinking it necessary to explain away what is meant by "destroying the work of God" (Romans 14:20), and by "destroying him for whom Christ died" (Romans 14:15), for fear of the doctrinal consequences of taking it nakedly; while the opponents of that doctrine are ready to ask, How could the apostle have used such language if he had believed that such a catastrophe was impossible? The true answer to both lies in dismissing the question as impertinent. The apostle is enunciating a great and eternal principle in Christian ethics-that the willed violation of conscience contains within itself a seed of destruction; or, to express it otherwise, that the total destruction of the work of God in the renewed soul, and, consequently, the loss of that soul for eternity, needs only the carrying out to its full effect of such violation of the conscience. Whether such effects do take place, in point of fact, the apostle gives not the most distant hint here; and therefore that point must be settled elsewhere. But, beyond all doubt, as the position we have laid down is emphatically expressed by the apostle, so the interests of all who call themselves Christians require it to be proclaimed and pressed on every suitable occasion.

(9) Zeal for comparatively small points of truth in a poor substitute for the substantial and catholic and abiding realities of the Christian life (Romans 14:17-18).

(10) "Peace" among the followers of Christ is a blessing too precious to themselves, and, as a testimony to them that are without, too important to be ruptured for trifles, even though some lesser truths be involved in these (Romans 14:19-20). Nor are those truths themselves disparaged or endangered thereby, but the reverse.

(11) Many things which are lawful are not expedient. In the use of any liberty, therefore, our question should be, not simply, Is this lawful? but even if so, Can it be used with safety to a brother's conscience? How will it affect my brother's soul? (Romans 14:21.) It is permitted to no Christian to say, with Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9.)

(12) Whenever we are in doubt as to a point of duty-where abstinence is manifestly sinless, but compliance not clearly lawful-the safe course is ever to be preferred, for to do otherwise is itself sinful.

(13) How exalted and beautiful are the ethics of Christianity-by a few great principles teaching us how to steer our course amidst practical difficulties, with equal regard to Christian liberty, love, and confidence!

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 14:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/romans-14.html. 1871-8.

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