Romans 14

CHAPTER XIV.

In things indifferent, Christians should not condemn each

other, 1.

Particularly with respect to different kinds of food, 2-4.

And the observation of certain days, 5, 6.

None of us should live unto himself, but unto Christ, who lived

and died for us, 7-9.

We must not judge each other; for all judgment belongs to God,

10-13.

We should not do any thing by which a weak brother may be

stumbled or grieved; lest we destroy him for whom Christ died,

14-16.

The kingdom of God does not consist in outward things, 17, 18.

Christians should endeavour to cultivate peace and brotherly

affection, and rather deny themselves of certain privileges

than be the means of stumbling a weak brother, 19-21.

The necessity of doing all in the spirit of faith, 22, 23.

NOTES ON CHAP. XIV.

It seems very likely, from this and the following chapter, that

there were considerable misunderstandings between the Jewish and

Gentile Christians at Rome, relative to certain customs which were

sacredly observed by the one and disregarded by the other. The

principal subject of dispute was concerning meats and days. The

converted Jew, retaining a veneration for the law of Moses,

abstained from certain meats, and was observant of certain days;

while the converted Gentile, understanding that the Christian

religion laid him under no obligations to such ceremonial points,

had no regard to either. It appears, farther, that mutual

censures and uncharitable judgments prevailed among them, and that

brotherly love and mutual forbearance did not generally prevail.

The apostle, in this part of his epistle, exhorts that in such

things, not essential to religion, and in which both parties, in

their different way of thinking, might have an honest meaning, and

serious regard to God, difference of sentiments might not hinder

Christian fellowship and love; but that they would mutually

forbear each other, make candid allowance, and especially not

carry their Gospel liberty so far as to prejudice a weak brother,

a Jewish Christian, against the Gospel itself, and tempt him to

renounce Christianity. His rules and exhortations are still of

great use, and happy would the Christian world be if they were

more generally practised. See Dr. Taylor, who farther remarks,

that it is probable St. Paul learned all these particulars from

Aquila and Priscilla, who were lately come from Rome, Ac 18:2, 3,

and with whom the apostle was familiar for a considerable time.

This is very likely, as there is no evidence that he had any other

intercourse with the Church at Rome.

Verse 1. Him that is weak in the faith] By this the apostle

most evidently means the converted Jew, who must indeed be weak in

the faith, if he considered this distinction of meats and days

essential to his salvation. See Clarke on Ro 14:21.

Receive ye] Associate with him; receive him into your

religious fellowship; but when there, let all religious

altercations be avoided.

Not to doubtful disputations.] μηειςδιακρισειςδιαλογισμων.

These words have been variously translated and understood. Dr.

Whitby thinks the sense of them to be this; Not discriminating

them by their inward thoughts. Do not reject any from your

Christian communion because of their particular sentiments on

things which are in themselves indifferent. Do not curiously

inquire into their religious scruples, nor condemn them on that

account. Entertain a brother of this kind rather with what may

profit his soul, than with curious disquisitions on speculative

points of doctrine. A good lesson for modern Christians in

general.

Verse 2. One believeth that he may eat all things] He

believes that whatsoever is wholesome and nourishing, whether

herbs or flesh-whether enjoined or forbidden by the Mosaic law-may

be safely and conscientiously used by every Christian.

Another, who is weak, eateth herbs.] Certain Jews, lately

converted to the Christian faith, and having as yet little

knowledge of its doctrines, believe the Mosaic law relative to

clean and unclean meats to be still in force; and therefore, when

they are in a Gentile country, for fear of being defiled, avoid

flesh entirely and live on vegetables. And a Jew when in a

heathen country acts thus, because he cannot tell whether the

flesh which is sold in the market may be of a clean or unclean

beast; whether it may not have been offered to an idol; or whether

the blood may have been taken properly from it.

Verse 3. Let not him that eateth] The Gentile, who eats

flesh, despise him, the Jew, who eateth not flesh, but herbs.

And let not him, the Jew, that eateth not indiscriminately,

judge-condemn him, the Gentile, that eateth indiscriminately

flesh or vegetables.

For God hath received him.] Both being sincere and upright,

and acting in the fear of God, are received as heirs of eternal

life, without any difference on account of these religious

scruples or prejudices.

Verse 4. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?]

Who has ever given thee the right to condemn the servant of

another man, in things pertaining to his own master? To his own

master he standeth or falleth. He is to judge him, not thou; thy

intermeddling in this business is both rash and uncharitable.

Yea, he shall be holden up] He is sincere and upright, and

God, who is able to make him stand, will uphold him; and so teach

him that he shall not essentially err. And it is the will of God

that such upright though scrupulous persons should be continued

members of his Church.

Verse 5. One man esteemeth one day above another] Perhaps the

word ημεραν, day, is here taken for time, festival, and such

like, in which sense it is frequently used. Reference is made

here to the Jewish institutions, and especially their festivals;

such as the passover, pentecost, feast of tabernacles, new moons,

jubilee, &c. The converted Jew still thought these of moral

obligation; the Gentile Christian not having been bred up in this

way had no such prejudices. And as those who were the instruments

of bringing him to the knowledge of God gave him no such

injunctions, consequently he paid to these no religious regard.

Another] The converted Gentile esteemeth every day-considers

that all time is the Lord's, and that each day should be devoted

to the glory of God; and that those festivals are not binding on

him.

We add here alike, and make the text say what I am sure was

never intended, viz. that there is no distinction of days, not

even of the Sabbath: and that every Christian is at liberty to

consider even this day to be holy or not holy, as he happens to be

persuaded in his own mind.

That the Sabbath is of lasting obligation may be reasonably

concluded from its institution (See Clarke on Ge 2:3) and

from its typical reference. All allow that the Sabbath is a type of

that rest in glory which remains for the people of God. Now, all

types are intended to continue in full force till the antitype, or

thing signified, take place; consequently, the Sabbath will

continue in force till the consummation of all things. The word

alike should not be added; nor is it acknowledged by any MS. or

ancient version.

Let every man be fully persuaded] With respect to the

propriety or non-propriety of keeping the above festivals, let

every man act from the plenary conviction of his own mind; there

is a sufficient latitude allowed: all may be fully satisfied.

Verse 6. He that regardeth the day] A beautiful apology for

mistaken sincerity and injudicious reformation. Do not condemn

the man for what is indifferent in itself: if he keep these

festivals, his purpose is to honour God by the religious

observance of them. On the other hand, he who finds that he

cannot observe them in honour of God, not believing that God has

enjoined them, he does not observe them at all. In like manner,

he that eateth any creature of God, which is wholesome and proper

food, gives thanks to God as the author of all good. And he who

cannot eat of all indiscriminately, but is regulated by the

precepts in the Mosaic law relative to clean and unclean meats,

also gives God thanks. Both are sincere; both upright; both act

according to their light; God accepts both; and they should bear

with each other.

Verse 7. None of us liveth to himself] The Greek writers use

the phrase, εαυτωζην, to signify acting according to one's own

judgment, following one's own opinion. Christians must act in all

things according to the mind and will of God, and not follow their

own wills. The apostle seems to intimate that in all the above

cases each must endeavour to please God, for he is accountable to

him alone for his conduct in these indifferent things. God is our

master, we must live to him, as we live under his notice and by

his bounty; and when we cease to live among men, we are still in

his hand. Therefore, what we do, or what we leave undone, should

be in reference to that eternity which is ever at hand.

Verse 9. Christ both died and rose] That we are not our own,

but are the Lord's both in life and death, is evident from

this-that Christ lived, and died, and rose again, that he might be

the Lord of the dead and the living; for his power extends equally

over both worlds: separate, as well as embodied spirits, are

under his authority; and he it is who is to raise even the dead to

life: and thus all throughout eternity shall live under his

dominion.

The clause καιανεστη, and rose, is wanting in several

reputable MSS., and certainly is not necessary to the text.

Griesbach omits the words, and reads απεθανεκαιεζησεν, died and

lived; of which Professor White says, lectio indubie genuina:

"this reading is indisputably genuine."

Verse 10. But why dost thou] Christian Jew, observing the

rites of the Mosaic law, judge-condemn thy brother-the Christian

Gentile, who does not think himself bound by this law?

Or why dost thou] Christian Gentile, set at nought thy

Christian Jewish brother, as if he were unworthy of thy regard,

because he does not yet believe that the Gospel has set him free

from the rites and ceremonies of the law?

It is a true saying of Mr. Heylin, on this verse: The

superstitious are prone to judge, and those who are not

superstitious are prone to despise.

We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.] Why

should we then judge and condemn each other? We are accountable

to God for our conduct, and shall be judged at his bar; and let us

consider that whatever measure we mete, the same shall be measured

unto us again.

Verse 12. Every one of us shall give account of himself] We

shall not, at the bar of God, be obliged to account for the

conduct of each other-each shall give account of himself: and let

him take heed that he be prepared to give up his accounts with joy.

Verse 13. Let us not, therefore, judge one another any more]

Let us abandon such rash conduct; it is dangerous, it is

uncharitable: judgment belongs to the Lord, and he will condemn

those only who should not be acquitted.

That no man put a stumbling block] Let both the converted Jew

and Gentile consider that they should labour to promote each

other's spiritual interests, and not be a means of hindering each

other in their Christian course; or of causing them to abandon the

Gospel, on which, and not on questions of rites and ceremonies,

the salvation of their soul depends.

Verse 14. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus] After

reasoning so long and so much with these contending parties on the

subject of their mutual misunderstandings, without attempting to

give any opinion, but merely to show them the folly and

uncharitableness of their conduct, he now expresses himself fully,

and tells them that nothing is unclean of itself, and that he has

the inspiration and authority of Jesus Christ to say so; for to

such an inspiration he must refer in such words as, I know, and am

persuaded by the Lord Jesus. And yet, after having given them

this decisive judgment, through respect to the tender, mistaken

conscience of weak believers, he immediately adds: But to him that

esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean; because

if he act contrary to his conscience, he must necessarily contract

guilt; for he who acts in opposition to his conscience in one case

may do it in another, and thus even the plain declarations of the

word of God may be set aside on things of the utmost importance,

as well as the erroneous though well-intentioned dictates of his

conscience, on matters which he makes of the last consequence;

though others who are better taught know them to be indifferent.

It is dangerous to trifle with conscience, even when erroneous;

it should be borne with and instructed; it must be won over, not

taken by storm. Its feelings should be respected because they

ever refer to God, and have their foundation in his fear. He who

sins against his conscience in things which every one else knows

to be indifferent, will soon do it in those things in which his

salvation is most intimately concerned. It is a great blessing to

have a well-informed conscience; it is a blessing to have a tender

conscience; and even a sore conscience is infinitely better than

none.

Verse 15. If thy brother be grieved] If he think that thou

doest wrong, and he is in consequence stumbled at thy conduct.

Now walkest thou not charitably.] κατααγαπην, According to

love; for love worketh no ill to its neighbour; but by thy eating

some particular kind of meat, on which neither thy life nor

well-being depends, thou workest ill to him by grieving and

distressing his mind; and therefore thou breakest the law of God

in reference to him, while pretending that thy Christian liberty

raises thee above his scruples.

Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.] This

puts the uncharitable conduct of the person in question in the

strongest light, because it supposes that the weak brother may be

so stumbled as to fall and perish finally; even the man for

whom Christ died. To injure a man in his circumstances is bad; to

injure him in his person is worse; to injure him in his reputation

is still worse; and to injure his soul is worst of all. No

wickedness, no malice, can go farther than to injure and destroy

the soul: thy uncharitable conduct may proceed thus far; therefore

thou art highly criminal before God.

From this verse we learn that a man for whom Christ died may

perish, or have his soul destroyed; and destroyed with such a

destruction as implies perdition; the original is very emphatic,

μηεκεινοναπολλυευπερουχριστοςαπεθανε. Christ died in his

stead; do not destroy his soul. The sacrificial death is as

strongly expressed as it can be, and there is no word in the New

Testament that more forcibly implies eternal ruin than the verb

απολλυω, from which is derived that most significant name of the

Devil, οαπολλυων, the DESTROYER, the great universal murderer of

souls.

Verse 16. Let not then your good be evil spoken of] Do not

make such a use of your Christian liberty as to subject the Gospel

itself to reproach. Whatsoever you do, do it in such a manner,

spirit, and time, as to make it productive of the greatest

possible good. There are many who have such an unhappy method of

doing their good acts, as not only to do little or no good by

them, but a great deal of evil. It requires much prudence and

watchfulness to find out the proper time of performing even a good

action.

Verse 17. For the kingdom of God] That holy religion which

God has sent from heaven, and which be intends to make the

instrument of establishing a counterpart of the kingdom of glory

among men: See Clarke on Mt 3:2.

Is not meat and drink] It consists not in these outward and

indifferent things. It neither particularly enjoins nor

particularly forbids such.

But righteousness] Pardon of sin, and holiness of heart and

life.

And peace] In the soul, from a sense of God's mercy; peace

regulating, ruling, and harmonizing the heart.

And joy in the Holy Ghost.] Solid spiritual happiness; a joy

which springs from a clear sense of God's mercy; the love of God

being shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. In a word, it

is happiness brought into the soul by the Holy Spirit, and

maintained there by the same influence. This is a genuine

counterpart of heaven; righteousness without sin, PEACE without

inward disturbance, JOY without any kind of mental agony or

distressing fear. See Clarke on Mt 3:2.

Verse 18. For he that in these things] The man, whether Jew

or Gentile, who in these things-righteousness, peace, and joy in

the Holy Ghost, serveth Christ-acts according to his doctrine, is

acceptable to God; for he has not only the form of godliness in

thus serving Christ, but he has the power, the very spirit and

essence of it, in having righteousness, and peace, and joy in the

Holy Ghost; and therefore the whole frame of his mind, as well as

his acts, must be acceptable to God.-And approved of men; for

although religion may be persecuted, yet the righteous man, who is

continually labouring for the public good, will be generally

esteemed. This was a very common form of speech among the Jews;

that he who was a conscientious observer of the law, was pleasing

to God and approved of men. See several examples in Schoettgen.

Verse 19. Let us therefore follow] Far from contending about

meats, drinks, and festival times, in which it is not likely that

the Jews and Gentiles will soon agree, let us endeavour to the

utmost of our power to promote peace and unanimity, that we may be

instrumental in edifying each other, in promoting religious

knowledge and piety instead of being stumbling-blocks in each

other's way.

Verse 20. For meat destroy not the work of God] Do not hinder

the progress of the Gospel either in your own souls or in those of

others, by contending about lawful or unlawful meats. And do not

destroy the soul of thy Christian brother, Ro 14:15, by offending

him so as to induce him to apostatize.

All things indeed are pure] This is a repetition of the

sentiment delivered, Ro 14:14, in different words. Nothing that

is proper for aliment is unlawful to be eaten; but it is

evil for that man who eateth with offence-the man who either eats

contrary to his own conscience, or so as to grieve and stumble

another, does an evil act; and however lawful the thing may be in

itself, his conduct does not please God.

Verse 21. It is good neither to eat flesh, &c.] The spirit

and self-denying principles of the Gospel teach us, that we should

not only avoid every thing in eating or drinking which may be an

occasion of offence or apostasy to our brethren, but even to lay

down our lives for them should it be necessary.

Whereby thy brother stumbleth] προσκοπτει, from προς, against,

and κοπτω, to strike, to hit the foot against a stone in

walking, so as to halt, and be impeded in one's journey. It here

means, spiritually, any thing by which a man is so perplexed in

his mind as to be prevented from making due progress in the Divine

life. Any thing by which he is caused to halt, to be undecisive,

and undetermined; and under such an influence no man has ever yet

grown in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Or is offended] ησκανδαλιζεται, from σκανδαλον, a

stumbling-block; any thing by which a person is caused to fall,

especially into a snare, trap, or gin. Originally the word

signified the piece of wood or key in a trap, which being

trodden on caused the animal to fall into a pit, or the trap to

close upon him. In the New Testament it generally refers to total

apostasy from the Christian religion; and this appears to be its

meaning in this place.

Or is made weak.] ηασθενει, from α, negative, and

σθενος, strength; without mental vigour; without power

sufficiently to distinguish between right and wrong, good and

evil, lawful and unlawful. To get under the dominion of an

erroneous conscience, so as to judge that to be evil or unlawful

which is not so. The two last terms are omitted by two excellent

MSS. (the Codex Alexandrinus and the Codex Ephraim,) by the Syriac

of Erpen, the Coptic and the Ethiopic, and by some of the

primitive fathers. It is very likely that they were added by some

early hand by way of illustration. Griesbach has left them in the

text with a note of doubtfulness.

Verse 22. Hast thou faith?] The term faith seems to signify

in this place a full persuasion in a man's mind that he is right,

that what he does is lawful, and has the approbation of God and

his conscience. Dr. Taylor has a judicious note on this passage.

"There is no necessity," says he, " for reading the first clause

interrogatively; and it seems to be more agreeable to the

structure of the Greek to render it, Thou hast faith; as if he had

said: 'I own thou hast a right persuasion.' Farther, there is an

anadiplosis in εχεις, and εχε the first simply signifies thou

hast, the latter, hold fast. Thou hast a right persuasion

concerning thy Christian liberty; and I advise thee to hold that

persuasion steadfastly, with respect to thyself in the sight of

God. εχω have, has frequently this emphatical signification.

See Mt 25:29, &c."

Happy is he that condemneth not, &c.] That man only can enjoy

peace of conscience who acts according to the full persuasion

which God has given him of the lawfulness of his conduct: whereas

he must be miserable who allows himself in the practice of any

thing for which his conscience upbraids and accuses him. This is

a most excellent maxim, and every genuine Christian should be

careful to try every part of his conduct by it. If a man have not

peace in his own bosom, he cannot be happy; and no man can have

peace who sins against his conscience. If a man's passions or

appetite allow or instigate him to a particular thing, let him

take good heed that his conscience approve what his passions

allow, and that he live not the subject of continual

self-condemnation and reproach. Even the man who has the too

scrupulous conscience had better, in such matters as are in

question, obey its erroneous dictates than violate this moral

feeling, and live only to condemn the actions he is constantly

performing.

Verse 23. And he that doubteth] This verse is a necessary

part of the preceding, and should be read thus: But he that

doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith.

The meaning is sufficiently plain. He that feeds on any kind of

meats prohibited by the Mosaic law, with the persuasion in his

mind that he may be wrong in so doing, is condemned by his

conscience for doing that which he has reason to think God has

forbidden.

For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.] Whatever he does,

without a full persuasion of its lawfulness, (see Ro 14:22) is to

him sin; for he does it under a conviction that he may be wrong in

so doing. Therefore, if he makes a distinction in his own

conscience between different kinds of meats, and yet eats of all

indifferently, he is a sinner before God; because he eats either

through false shame, base compliance, or an unbridled appetite;

and any of these is in itself a sin against the sincerity,

ingenuousness, and self-denying principles of the Gospel of

Christ.

Some think that these words have a more extensive

signification, and that they apply to all who have not true

religion, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; every work of such

persons being sinful in the sight of a holy God, because it does

not proceed from a pure motive. On this ground our Church says,

Art. xiii, "Works done before the grace of Christ and the

inspiration of his Spirit are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as

they are not of faith in Jesus Christ; yes, for that they are not

done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt

not but they have the nature of sin." To this we may add, that

without faith it is impossible to please God; every thing is wrong

where this principle is wanting.

There are few readers who have not remarked that the last three

verses of this epistle (Ro 16:25-27) appear to stand in their

present place without any obvious connection; and apparently after

the epistle is concluded. And it is well known to critics, that

two MSS. in uncial letters, the Cod. A and I, with upwards of 100

others, together with the Slavonic, the later Syriac and Arabic,

add those verses at the end of the fourteenth chapter. The

transposition is acknowledged by Cyril, Chrysostom, Theodoret,

OEcumenius, Theophylact, Theodulus, Damascenus, and Tertullian;

see Wetstein. Griesbach inserts them at the end of this chapter

as their proper place; and most learned men approve of this

transposition. It may be necessary to repeat the words here that

the reader may see with what propriety they connect with the

subject which terminates the fourteenth chapter as it now stands.

Ro 14:23:

And he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not

of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Ro 16:25:

Now, to him that is of power to stablish you according to my

Gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, (according to the

revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world

began,

Ro 16:26:

But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets,

according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to

all nations for the obedience of faith;)

Ro 16:27:

To God only wise be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.

Ro 15:1:

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak,

&c.

These words certainly connect better with the close of the

fourteenth chapter and the beginning of the fifteenth than they do

with the conclusion of the sixteenth, where they are now generally

found; but I shall defer my observations upon them till I come to

that place, with only this remark, that the stablishing mentioned

Ro 16:25,

corresponds well with the doubting, Ro 14:23,

and indeed the whole matter of these verses agrees so well with

the subject so largely handled in the preceding chapter, that

there can be very little doubt of their being in their proper

place if joined to the end of this chapter, as they are in the

preceding MSS. and versions.

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