Romans 14 - Outline of Romans (Book Notes menu page)
VI. Righteousness Practiced- Application, Service (12:1 - 15:13)
E. In Relation to Other Believers, regarding matters of legitimate disagreement. 14:1 - 15:13
This section, dealing with potential issues of contention between believers, makes practical application of our mutual submission to Christ (12:3-5), and of our mutual love for one another (12:9,16).
  1. Do not judge one another. (14:1-12) - The principle of Conviction (v.5)
  2. Do not hinder one another. (14:13-23) - The principle of Conscience (v.23)
  3. Do not please yourselves. (15:1-13) - The principle of Consideration for the weaker brother (in accord with the example of Christ, who considered us in our weakness, Rom 15:1-3a)
14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye,
[but] not to doubtful disputations.
{ie., ...not for disputes of doubtful things. [NScofRB]}
14:2 For one believeth that he may eat all things:
another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
14:3 Let not him that eateth
{ie., consider of no account, treat with contempt} him that eateth not;
and let not him which eateth not judge
{ie., condemn} him that eateth:
for God hath received him.
14:4 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.
him that is weak in the faith...- ie., the immature or carnal believer (1Cor 3:1-3).
...receive ye...- ie., Take him to yourselves
for the purpose of nourishing and maturing him, as Christ received us (Rom 15:7).
not for disputes of doubtful {disputable} things.-
"The church has no authority to decide questions of personal liberty in things not expressly forbidden in Scripture." [ScofRB]
There are many such issues, upon which believers may hold differing views.
In this discussion, Paul uses two examples: What we eat (v.2), and When we worship (v.5).
Other issues may arise in different times and places. Dr. McGee mentions the differing views (predominant around 1950), between Christians in Texas and California...
  • in Texas- Smoking tobacco was expected, but mixed gender swimming was scandalous.
  • in California- Smoking tobacco was unacceptable, but mixed gender swimming was the norm.
Since the Bible neither condemns nor endorses these practices, believers must determine acceptable (or unacceptable) practice by their own conscience, in the context of their understanding of scriptural principles, and of the prevailing cultural mores of their area.
one believes that he may eat all things... another... eats herbs.-
In NT times, such a difference of opinion might have been in regard to...
  • clean versus unclean meats, as defined by the OT Law (cp. Acts 10:9-16), or
  • meat which had been offered to an idol (1Cor 8:1-8).
Here, the precise issue is not defined. But Paul's example shows...
  1. Both extremes of the issue:
    1. one believer may eat all things (cp. Mark 7:18,19; 1Tim 4:4),
    2. another believer eats herbs (avoiding meat altogether, just to be safe).
  2. Either view is acceptable for the one who holds it. It is a matter of conscience.
him that is weak in the faith... [he] who is weak, eateth herbs.-
  • The person with the more careful position is identified here as the weaker brother.
    This may seem strange, since such a believer may consider himself as the 'more separated,' 'more conservative,' or 'more consecrated' Christian. However, he may actually be "weak in faith, but strong in scruples." [Stifler] He believes unto salvation, but he fails to see that salvation sanctifies all of life, and therefore, he places undue importance upon the observance of his scruples.
  • Such a person is to be received into the congregation, but not for the purpose of arguing him out of his position. The weak cannot be argued out of immaturity. Rather, they must be loved as they grow in the Lord.
let not him... judge him...(v.3)- Neither party has the right to judge the other.
Because, in the case of each believer --
  • God hath received him.- Salvation is by grace through faith. It is not determined by works.
  • The Lord is his master...-
Remember that Paul is dealing, here, with issues of personal practice and non-essential doctrine.
     There are matters that require the Church to act decisively with judgment and discipline. For example: immoral practice (1Cor 5:1-8), and heretical teaching (Rom 16:17,18; Titus 3:10,11; 2Pet 2:1). Where Scripture speaks clearly, it sets the standard for all matters of faith and practice (2Tim 3:16,17).
     Truth and error in such matters are in black and white, night and day contrast. But there are "grey" areas which are not clearly distinguished by the scriptures. In these areas, where certain scriptural principles may be seen as supporting opposing positions, other factors must be considered in deciding the best position or course of action.
14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another:
another esteemeth every day [alike].
Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
14:6 He that regardeth
{ie., sets the mind upon} 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.
one man esteemeth one day above another...-
"The Sabbath is divinely instituted (Mark 2:27,28), but there is not a line or a word in the New Testament as to how it is to be observed. In Judaism, the law of observance was plain enough (Ex 35:2)." [Stifler]
     In the NT, under Grace, believers have liberty to worship whenever it seems right to them. Perhaps it might be on the seventh day of the week (the traditional Sabbath, Acts 16:13), or perhaps on the first day of the week (to commemorate Christ's resurrection, Acts 20:7), or perhaps everyday might be treated as a day of worship (Acts 5:42). Likewise, special recognition may or may not be given to special days (such as the feasts of Israel).
let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.- cp. Col 2:16; 1Joh 3:20,21
The word translated 'fully persuaded' is used, in Rom 4:21, of Abraham's complete confidence in the Lord's faithfulness. Here, it speaks of each believer's complete confidence, or conviction, that his actions are pleasing to the Lord.
     Each individual is to arrive at such a conviction 'in his own mind,' ie., by careful consideration which weighs the issues against scriptural principles. Unfortunately, we often, mistakenly think that we are 'fully persuaded' on a matter, when in reality we are 'wise in our own conceits' (Rom 12:16), which is nothing more than prideful ignorance. Sometimes, this is the result of receiving, as factual, the teachings of another man who himself is mistaken on a matter. We are responsible for testing the teachings that we have received, against the Word, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:10,11).
     While the weaker brother's understanding is maturing, we are not to dispute with him. But neither are we to ignore the matter entirely. Paul devoted quite a bit of teaching toward weighing such "grey" issues, because a misunderstanding in these areas can lead to, or be symptomatic of, more serious error (eg., Gal 4:9-11). Yet, he touched such matters, carefully with consideration of the sensitivities of the weaker brother (eg., v.14; 1Cor 8:1-8). Notice that Paul addressed both sides of the issue. How can we grow in our understanding of God's Truth, and of each other, if we cannot explore the issues together, in love?
he that regardeth {ie., thinks upon, sets the mind upon} the day, regardeth it unto the Lord...-
Right practice is determined by each believer's right relationship to the Lord.
he that eateth... he that eateth not... giveth God thanks.-
There are many other 'grey issues' to which the Bible speaks, but not in specific terms. For example:
  • The Bible tells us to dress modestly, but it does not specify an acceptable skirt length.
  • The Bible is God's Word, but it does not specify which translations are acceptable or unacceptable.
  • On such issues, the Bible does give us certain principles by which we can discern what is pleasing to God. But lacking specific instructions, part of the decision rests upon our human understanding, which may be flawed.
"There is merit neither in breadth of view, nor in narrowness." [Stifler]
The test is that I know, in my heart, that my action honors the Lord. cp. 1Cor 10:31
14:7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
14:8 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.
14:9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived,
{Some translations omit 'and rose': "For to this end, Christ died, and liveth again..." This wording emphasizes that He is Lord of both the dead and the living, for He is the Victor of both realms.}
that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
The meaning of v.7 is not that our lives affect others in society (eg., "No man is an island."),
but that we cannot live our lives apart from Christ.
whether we live... whether we die... we are the Lord's...- cp. Php 1:20,21
The believer is to have the Lord's honor and Will continually in view.
for to this end {ie., purpose} Christ both died and lives again... that He might be Lord...- cp. 1Cor 6:19,20
14:10 But why dost thou judge {ie., condemn} thy brother? {cp. v.3b}
{Addressed to the abstainer, who condemns his brother as a 'liberal' or 'inferior' Christian.}
or why dost thou set at nought {ie., despise} thy brother? {cp. v.3a}
{Addressed to the libertarian, who considers his brother to be 'unthinking' or 'ignorant.'}
"...the brother weak, or the brother strong, who would insist on his own method of living as the rule for all, strikes at the very Lordship of Christ." [Stifler]
    No matter how 'fully persuaded' you or I might be on any 'grey issue,' our understanding is not perfect. There is only One perfect Judge of all matters, and only He can perfectly judge the motives of any man's heart. My own heart may deceive me, but He knows my heart perfectly.
for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
14:11 For it is written, [As] I live, saith the Lord,
every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
{quotes Isa 45:23}
14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
we shall all... every knee... every tongue...-
Without exception, regardless of our position on these matters of disagreement...
  • we must all submit to God.
  • we must all confess that it is His right to judge.
so then, every one of us {ie., believers} shall give account of himself to God.- cp. 2Cor 5:10
If I am to pre-occupy myself with the judgment of Christian conduct,
it is Christ's judgment of my conduct that should concern me.
"Judge not thy brother,
for God will judge him; (v.10)
Judge thyself,
for God will judge thee." (v.12) [Godet, quoted by Stifler]
   2. Do not hinder one another. (Rom 14:13-23) - The principle of Conscience (v.23)
14:13 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.
therefore... let us not judge one another...- ie., because the Lord is the Judge.
but judge this rather...-
I should judge my own conduct as to its effect on weaker brothers. (1Cor 8:8-13; 10:23-33)
14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus,
that [there is] nothing unclean
{ie., common} of itself:
but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean.
14:15 But if thy brother be grieved with [thy] meat,
now walkest thou not charitably
{ie., according to love (GK=agape)}.
Not all believers are free of bondage to the law, in their own minds. Gal 5:1
Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
It is no light matter to cause harm to one of God's children. Mat 18:6
     The degree of harm possible is indicated by the word 'destroy' {GK=apollumi, to destroy utterly, to cause to perish}, which is translated "perish" in Joh 3:16. Christ died to save your brother from perishing. Would you cause him to perish for a piece of food?
     "Since Christ was willing to die for that weak brother, certainly we ought to be willing to refrain from eating something or doing something that would hurt him in his Christian walk." [McGee]
14:16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of {GK=blasphemeo, to be a cause of blasphemy}:
'your good' - may refer to...
14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink;
but righteousness,
{cp. Rom 3:21-24}
and peace,
{cp. Rom 5:1}
and joy in the Holy Ghost.
{cp. Rom 5:2}
the kingdom of God...- As used here, this term is not refering to Christ's future earthly kingdom, but
"the heavenly sphere of life, in which God's Word and Spirit govern..." [McGee] cp. Mat 6:33; Joh 3:3
     Entrance into this kingdom is not determined by what we eat or don't eat, etc., but by the righteousness of God (imputed to us by faith), as evidenced by the fruits of the Spirit (imparted to us by faith).
14:18 For he that in these things serveth Christ [is] acceptable to God,
and approved of men.
acceptable {GK=euarestos, well pleasing} to God...-
The basis of acceptance before God ('serving Christ... in these things,' ie., in righteousness, peace, joy...v.17) is not the product of my separation (ie., of what I do or don't do), but the product of justification by faith, and sanctification by faith.
approved {GK=dokimos, tested and found acceptable} of men.-
The world may neither applaud you, nor agree with you, but they are able to discern the regenerate from the hypocrite.
They recognize genuine faith when they see genuine love. cp. Joh 13:35
14:19 Let us therefore follow after {ie., 'eagerly pursue'}
the things which make for peace,
{as opposed to pursuing the things that cause quarrels with another believer, cp. Eph 4:3}
and things wherewith one may edify {ie., build up} another. {cp. Rom 15:1,2; Eph 4:12-16}
14:20 For meat destroy not the work of God.
This word for 'destroy' {GK=kataluo, to throw down} is the opposite of 'edify.'
All things indeed [are] pure; {cp. 1Cor 6:12,13}
but [it is] evil for that man who eateth with offence
{GK=proskomman, stumbling}.
Such a man stumbles himself, because he does what his conscience does not allow.
14:21 [It is] good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine,
nor [any thing] whereby thy brother stumbleth,
stumbleth {GK=proskopto, to trip on an obstacle (of which he should have been aware)}-
ie., to do what he considers to be wrong.
cp. the noun form of this word, in v.13 ('stumblingblock') and v.20 ('offence').
or is offended,
{GK=skandalizo, to trip or be trapped in a snare (which was baited)}-
ie., 'to be induced to sin by the example of another';
or, 'to do what he considers to be wrong because another brother considers it to be right.'
cp. v.13 (where noun form is translated 'an occasion to fall'); 1Cor 8:13 (where verb form is trans. 'to offend')
or is made weak.
{GK=astheneo, to be without strength, weak, feeble} - (ie., in his faith & walk)
See Heb 12:13, where 'your' is plural. The believer is not only to make a clear path for his own feet, but also for his brother's feet, that together, they may avoid 'a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall' (v.13).
14:22 Hast thou faith? have [it] to thyself before God.
Just as the truly wise or wealthy do not parade their assets, the believer whose confidence in the justifying work of Christ allows him liberty in matters of food and drink, will exercise that liberty judiciously.
Happy [is] he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
My exercise of 'liberty in practice' can result in self-condemnation --
   -- if I am not fully persuaded that my action is acceptable before God. v.5, 14
   -- if a brother is encouraged to violate his conscience because of my action. v.15
14:23 And he that doubteth is damned {ie., condemned (by his own conscience)} if he eat,
because [he eateth] not of faith:
for whatsoever [is] not of faith is sin.
Does your conduct match what you believe God would have you do? If not, it is sin.
Christian liberty, based on the completeness of the salvation in Christ,
is exercised within the limitations of --
  1. faith - The Christian is to walk by faith, governing his life by God's Word and Will.
    Even the silence of scripture on a matter is authoritative. Man has no right to impose restrictions which God has not decreed. In such cases, God guides the believer by the Holy Spirit, and through his conscience. 'Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.' v.5
  2. love - for other believers, whose faith, while saving, has not yet grasped the breadth of that salvation (Rom 12:9,10,16). The 'strong' brothers are to help the weak brothers to 'grow in faith' while encouraging them to live within the constraints of what they understand to be God's Will. Rom 15:1

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