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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Romans 14

 

 

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Verse 1

Romans 14:1. Him that is weak in the faith — Whose conscience is scrupulous, or whose mind is doubtful, unsatisfied in, or not well acquainted with the principles of Christianity; particularly that concerning Christian liberty and freedom from the ceremonial law. “The apostle means the Jewish Christian, who, through weakness of understanding, or through prejudice, was ignorant of the doctrine of the gospel concerning meats and days; or whose persuasion of that doctrine was so weak, that it did not influence his conduct. To such persons, though in error, the apostle showed great tenderness, when he represented them as only weak in faith.” Receive ye — With all love and courtesy, into Christian fellowship: but not to doubtful disputations — About questionable points. “The force of the apostle’s admirable reasoning, in favour of candour and mutual condescension, cannot be enervated by saying, as some have done, that here was no separation between Jewish and Gentile Christians. For had the things judged indifferent by the latter, and apprehended sinful by the former, been imposed, a separation of communion must have ensued, and the schism, on the apostle’s principles, would have been chargeable on the imposers.” — Doddridge.


Verses 2-4

Romans 14:2-4. For one believeth that he may eat all things — A converted Gentile, who rightly understands his Christian liberty, is firmly persuaded that he may eat any kind of food indifferently, though forbidden by the ceremonial law, (blood excepted, of which see on Acts 15:20,) without sin. Another, who is weak — A believing Jew, not thoroughly informed of his Christian liberty; eateth herbs — Namely, for fear lest he should offend by eating any meat forbidden by the law, or which was not killed in a legal manner. See Leviticus 17:10-14; Daniel 1:8. Let not him that eateth — That makes use of his liberty to eat any thing that is wholesome indifferently; despise him — As over-scrupulous or superstitious; that eateth not — That forbears the use of such kind of food as is forbidden by the law. And let not him which eateth not — Who, from a scrupulous conscience, abstains from many kinds of food; judge him that eateth — Censure him as profane, or as taking undue liberties. For God hath received him — Acknowledges both the one and the other for his servant, on account of their common faith in Christ, and in the truths and promises of his gospel. This is a powerful argument for our conversing in a friendly manner, and holding communion with those who differ from us in opinion, on some points of lesser importance in religion. Who art thou — Whether weaker or stronger; that judgest another man’s servant — One over whom thou hast no power. To his own master he standeth or falleth — He must abide by Christ’s judgment only, to whom it belongs either to acquit or condemn him. Yea, he shall be holden up — If he offends in no greater points than these in debate among you, he shall be upheld in his Christian profession, and established to eternal salvation. For God is able to make him stand — And certainly will do it, if he continue to act conscientiously and uprightly.


Verse 5-6

Romans 14:5-6. And with respect to days, one man esteemeth one day above another — Thinks that the new moons and Jewish festivals are holier than other days, and ought still to be observed. Another esteemeth every day alike — Holds that the difference of days appointed by Moses has now ceased. The Jewish holydays only being the subject of controversy, what the apostle hath here written concerning them cannot be extended to the sabbath, instituted at the creation, nor to the Christian sabbath, the Lord’s day. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind — That a thing is lawful before he does it, or well satisfied as to the grounds of his practice, that so he may not knowingly offend God. He that regardeth the day — That observes these new moons and festivals; regardeth it unto the Lord — That is, out of a principle of conscience toward God, and with a view to his glory. And he that regardeth not the day — That does not make conscience of observing it; to the Lord he doth not regard it — He also acts from a principle of conscience, and aims at God’s glory. He that eateth — Indifferently of all meats; eateth to the Lord — Endeavours to glorify him, as it becomes a good Christian to do. For he giveth God thanks — For the free use of the creatures, and for his Christian liberty respecting them. And he that eateth not — The food which the law forbids; to the Lord — Out of respect to God’s commands, he eateth not, and giveth God thanks — For his herbs, or that other food is provided, on which he may conveniently subsist, and that he is not forced to eat what he thinks unclean, out of absolute necessity.


Verses 7-9

Romans 14:7-9. For none of us — True Christians, in the things we do, liveth to himself — Is at his own disposal, doth his own will; and no man dieth to himself — Only for his own advantage, and according to his own pleasure, when he will. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord — Spend our lives in his service, and according to his will; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord — Either by sacrificing our lives to his glory, if he demand it of us; or, if we expire in a natural way, by behaving to the last as those who have his love ruling in our hearts, and his sacred cause still in our eye. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s — In consequence of being thus truly devoted to Christ, both in life and death, we have the pleasure of knowing that living or dying we are his servants; yea, and the objects of his favour and care. For to this end — Or purpose; Christ both died — Paying thereby the price of our ransom; and rose — Receiving in consequence thereof his purchase and dominion; and revived — Or liveth, as εζησεν may be rendered, namely, ever liveth, not only to appear in the presence of God as our advocate and intercessor, but that, having subdued our enemies, he might exercise his dominion over us, and be Lord — Of all his redeemed people, both such as are yet alive, and those that are dead. “From this passage, and from Philippians 2:10, where those under the earth are said to bow the knee to Jesus, it may be inferred, that the souls of men at death neither sleep nor fall into a state of insensibility. For if that were the case, Christ could not, with propriety, be said to rule over them, nor they be said to bow the knee to him.” — Macknight.


Verses 10-12

Romans 14:10-12. But why dost thou judge — Or condemn; thy Gentile brother — Because he neglects the distinction of meats and days? Or why dost thou — O Gentile believer; set at naught — And deride, as weak or superstitious, thy Jewish brother, who conscientiously observes that burdensome ritual, from which thou art so happy as to apprehend thyself free? This censoriousness, or contempt, is greatly to be blamed; and, as well as the judging and condemning just mentioned, must very ill become the state in which we are, and must quickly be: for no principle of our common faith is more certain than this, that we shall all stand and take our trial before the judgment-seat of Christ — And it is surely a dangerous presumption to anticipate that judgment. For it is written — In the Jewish Scriptures, (Isaiah 45:23,) As I live, saith the Lord — An oath proper to him, because he only possesseth life infinite and independent; every knee shall bow to me — Shall stoop to my dominion; and every tongue shall confess to God — Shall acknowledge my sovereignty, which shall be done most fully and perfectly at the day of judgment. The Lord grant we may find mercy in that day! And may it also be imparted to those who have differed from us! Yea, to those who have censured and condemned us for things which we have done from a desire to please him, or have refused to do from a fear of offending him. So then every one of us — The high, as well as the low, the rich, as well as the poor; shall give account of himself to God — Of his own conduct, and not of the weaknesses of others; and therefore we should not trouble ourselves about them, but look to ourselves.


Verse 13

Romans 14:13. Let us not therefore judge one another any more — Seeing that judgment belongs to Christ. “The apostle’s meaning is, Since we are all the servants of Christ, and are to be judged by him at the last day, we ought not to usurp his prerogative, by pronouncing one another profane, or bigoted, or wicked, merely because we differ in opinion about matters, concerning which Christ hath commanded us to judge for ourselves. Nevertheless, notorious wickedness, whether in principle or practice, whereby society is injured,” and God dishonoured, “being a matter subject to no doubt, we ought not only to judge and condemn in our own minds every instance thereof, but should rebuke those sharply who are guilty of it.” But judge this rather — Instead of judging others, let us observe this as an important rule for our conduct; that no man put a stumbling-block — Any cause of stumbling; or an occasion to fall — Into sin; in his brother’s way — Hindering him in his way to heaven: let us do nothing, how indifferent soever it may be in itself, which may tend to prejudice, discourage, or mislead any other Christian; especially let us not, by an unseasonable use of our Christian liberty, induce him to act against his conscience, or with a doubting conscience, or unnecessarily move him to hate or judge us.


Verses 14-16

Romans 14:14-16. I know — By the light of reason; and am persuaded — Or assured; by the Lord Jesus — Probably by a particular revelation from him; that there is nothing — No kind of meat; unclean of itself — Or unlawful under the gospel. But to him that esteemeth any thing unclean — That in his conscience accounts it to be so; it is unclean — How indifferent soever it is in itself: and he will contract guilt before God, by allowing himself in it, whether it be to indulge his own taste, or to engage the favour of others, while he hath this inward apprehension of its being unlawful. The reader must observe here, that things clean in themselves, that is, things naturally fit for food, might be made unclean by the positive command of God, as many sorts of food were to the Jews. To such of them as believed that command to be still in force, these kinds of food were really unclean, and could not be eaten without sin. But if thy brother — Thy weak fellow- Christian; be grieved — And thereby cast down, or prejudiced against the Christian society, of which thou art a member; with thy meat — By thine eating that kind of meat, which he judges unlawful to be eaten; or if he be prevailed on by thy example to do that, the lawfulness of which he questions, and thereby his conscience be wounded; now walkest thou not charitably — Tenderly and condescendingly to his infirmity, as charity requires. Destroy not him with thy meat — Be not thou an occasion of sin, condemnation, and wrath to him through thy meat, thy rash and unkind use of such meat as he thinks prohibited; for whom Christ died — Not only submitted to smaller instances of self-denial, but endured all the agonies of crucifixion: do not value thy meat more than Christ valued his life. Here we see that a person, for whom Christ died, may be destroyed; a sure proof that Christ died for all, even for those that perish everlastingly. Let not then your goods — Your Christian liberty, a good which belongs to you; be evil spoken of — Be blamed for being the occasion of so much mischief to your fellow-creatures and fellow-Christians.


Verse 17-18

Romans 14:17-18. For the kingdom of God — Into which we enter by believing in Christ, and becoming his subjects, or which thereby enters into us, and is set up in our hearts, namely, true religion; is not — Does not consist in; meat and drink — Or in any ceremonial observances whatever; but righteousness — The righteousness of faith, love, and obedience; or justification, sanctification, and a holy conduct; see notes on Romans 5:21; Romans 10:4; peace — With God, peace of conscience, and tranquillity of mind, the consequence of these three branches of righteousness; and joy in the Holy Ghost — Joy arising from a sense of the forgiveness of our sins; (Psalms 32:1;) and of the favour of God; (Psalms 4:6-7;) from a lively hope of the glory of God; (Romans 5:2;) from the testimony of a good conscience; (2 Corinthians 1:12;) and from communion with God, and an earnest of our future inheritance in our hearts; (Ephesians 1:14; Philippians 2:1.) He that in these things — In this righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; serveth Christ — Lives in obedience to his commands, and dedicates his soul and body, faculties and members, to serve his cause and interest in that line of life to which he believes God hath called him; is acceptable to God — Whether he abstains from the liberties in question, or allows himself in them; and approved of men — Namely, of truly wise and good men; how much soever the ignorant and wicked may censure such a man as an enthusiast, fanatic, or hypocrite, he will not want the approbation of those who are truly enlightened by the truth, and regenerated by the grace of God.


Verses 19-21

Romans 14:19-21. Let us therefore — In consistency with these certain and momentous truths; follow after the things which make for peace — Which tend to procure, preserve, and promote peace among the faithful; and things wherewith one may edify another, may build him up in faith and holiness. Observe, reader, peace and edification are closely connected: practical divinity tends equally to peace and edification. Controversial divinity less directly tends to edification, although sometimes we, as they of old, Nehemiah 4:17, cannot build without it. For meat — For so small a matter as the eating a little meat; or, for the use of any indifferent thing, destroy not the work of God — That work which he builds in the soul by faith, and in the church by concord: do nothing toward destroying it. All things indeed are pure — All meats are, in themselves, lawful; but it, the eating what a person thinks to be prohibited, is evil, sinful, and hurtful, to that man who eateth with offence — So as to offend another thereby, or contrary to the dictates of his own conscience, and insnaring to the consciences of others, And in this view I may affirm, It is good, pleasing to God, and profitable for edification, and therefore every Christian’s duty, neither to eat flesh, &c. — Not only to abstain from what is forbidden in the law of Moses, but from every other thing which gives offence; whereby thy brother stumbleth — By imitating thee against his conscience, contrary to righteousness; or is offended at what thou dost to the loss of his peace; or is made weak, hesitating between imitation and abhorrence, to the loss of that joy in the Lord, which was his strength. Macknight interprets the clause rather differently, thus: “The first of these words, προσκοπτει, stumbleth, (which signifies to dash one’s foot against something without falling, or being much hurt,) expresses the case of a person who, being tempted to commit sin, yields a little to the temptation, but recovers himself: the second, σκανδαλιζεται, from σκαζω, to halt, (meaning to fall and be lamed by stumbling,) expresses the case of one who, through temptation, actually commits sin contrary to his knowledge and conviction: the third, ασθενει, (which signifies to be weakened in consequence of such a fall,) expresses the condition of a person who, by sinning, hath his piety so weakened, that he is in danger of apostatizing.”


Verse 22-23

Romans 14:22-23. Hast thou faith — That these things are lawful? Have it to thyself, before God — In circumstances like these keep it to thyself, and do not offend others by it. Happy is he that condemneth not himself — For using his liberty in an undue manner, respecting those things which he practises, or judges lawful in themselves. Or, as others understand the apostle, that condemneth not himself by an improper use of even innocent things. And happy is he who is free from a doubting conscience, which he that hath may allow the action which he does, and yet condemn himself for it, and thereby make himself miserable. And he that doubteth — Namely, whether it be lawful for him to eat, (or do any other thing,) or not, is damned — Or condemned, contracts guilt and wounds his conscience; if he eat — That which he doubts of, or does that the lawfulness of which he questions; because he eateth not of faith — With a persuasion of its lawfulness. For whatsoever is not of faith is sin — Whatever a man does without a full persuasion that it is lawful, it is sin to him. The reader will observe that here, as in Romans 14:22, faith does not signify the believing in Christ, and in the truths and promises of his gospel, but a persuasion that what one doth is lawful. And thus understood, the apostle’s declaration is perfectly just in every case; because if a man acts without that persuasion, he acts without any principle of virtue, being guided merely by his own inclinations. And therefore, although what he doth may, in some instances, be materially right, it is sin in the sight of God, as being done without a sense of duty. From this it follows, that if a person acts contrary to his conscience in anything, he is exceedingly blameable.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 14:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/romans-14.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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