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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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Romans 14


 
Verse 1
But him that is weak in faith receive ye, yet not for the decision of scruples.

The sacred fellowship of Christians must not be broken over differences of opinion regarding things indifferent or secondary. Christ has received all Christians, and the least they can do is to receive each other. How utterly unlike Christ is the bitter and vindictive rejection of a brother in Christ over things involving his weak conscience! Paul's teaching here clearly demands the conclusion that a Christian can be wrong about some things, and yet entitled to full fellowship. The weak brethren in view here were plainly wrong about their vegetarianism, but were to be retained in fellowship despite this. Of course, error in regard to vital truth is not the theme Paul had under consideration here.

Yet not for the decision of scruples ...
is translated in several ways; and perhaps the Holy Spirit chose words with a broad range of meaning in order to include a number of ideas. Without trying to decide which is the correct meaning, that seeming to be an insoluble problem, one might assume that several shades of meaning are intended. The weak brother should be received, but in such a way as not to make his petty scruples the rule of the congregation, and not for the purpose of disputing with him concerning those scruples ("not for doubtful disputations" as some translate), and not for the purpose of subjecting the weak brother to any pressure with regard to changing his scruples. He should be accepted, and loved, scruples and all!


 
Verse 2
One man hath faith to eat all things: but he that is weak eateth herbs.

Thus, it is plainly a vegetarian scruple that Paul was dealing with; and there is no evidence, as some fancy, that they had become so merely by the efforts to avoid eating meat sacrificed to idols; because, in many private situations, no such problem would have been involved. It goes without question that they were wrong in making such a dietary thing into a religious matter; but they had evidently done so. Paul taught that "every creature of God is" good for food (1 Timothy 4:1-5), and Jesus himself had made "all meats clean" (Mark 7:19). The nature of the weakness of those brethren is thus inherent in the fact that, either through ignorance or prejudice, they had not received the teaching of Christ and his apostles on the matters in question. This was a serious weakness; but, in fairness, it must be noted that the apostles themselves had difficulty receiving the full light on this question. Peter, for example, long after Pentecost, still insisted that he had never eaten "anything common or unclean," indicating that be still kept to the scruples of Judaism (Acts 10:14). It has always been an easy error for people to fall into the notion that they might attain heaven on the basis of a certain kind of diet.


 
Verse 3
Let not him that eateth set at naught him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

What a natural thing it was for the Christian of strong faith to set a low value upon a brother with all those silly scruples! How easy it was for the scrupulous to judge others as "liberal" and condemn them for not accepting the more strict behavior! With some Christians thus tempted to set at naught some of their brethren, and others tempted to judge their brethren, the holy fellowship was in danger of being ruptured; and Paul moved to prevent yielding to either temptation upon the consideration that God had received both classes. There is a further echo in this chapter of the Jewish-Gentile relationship, since the Christians of Jewish background were far more likely to be among the scrupulous than were those of Gentile training. Thus, in all probability, their differences were reinforced by racial thoughts and might easily have resulted in division if Paul's instruction had not been provided. From this, the nature of those questions which must be considered insufficient grounds for breaking the fellowship is indicated. Any question arising from the scruples people observe in their private lives, and not resulting in the violation of Christ's commandments, is by such definition secondary and of minor importance.


 
Verse 4
Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand.

The presumption of one Christian judging another overlooks the fact that God judges all, a prerogative categorically withheld from mortal, fallible men, and wisely so. No man is capable of accurate judgment, in things pertaining either to himself or to his fellow Christians; and nothing is quite so detrimental to Christian fellowship as a censorious and condemnatory attitude displayed within the family of the redeemed. Judging the conduct of other Christians is a subject of such universal concern within the church that the collateral scriptures applicable to this question should be remembered here.

ON JUDGING OTHERS

Jesus said, "Judge not that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1); and, while upon earth, not even the blessed Son of God himself judged people, saying, "I came not to judge the world but to save the world" (John 12:47). This is not a prohibition of discerning other people's actions, but of presuming to utter a condemnation, break the fellowship, or disturb the unity of the church. Any Christian might lawfully make a private, personal, and tentative evaluation of another person's conduct; but he is forbidden to pass judgment, in the sense of stating an opinion, announcing a conclusion, or otherwise making such an appraisal known to others. The trouble with judging is that it breeds a reciprocal adverse judgment from them that are judged, thus multiplying and proliferating all kinds of bitterness, recriminations, and vindictive hatreds. James declared that:

He that speaketh against a brother, or judgeth his brother, speaketh against the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judgest the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. Only one is the lawgiver and judge, even he who is able to save and to destroy: but who art thou that judgest thy neighbor? (James 4:11,12).

Judging fellow Christians tends to freeze them in the line of conduct judged; whereas, by the exercise of patience and forbearance, their undesirable conduct might, in time, become relaxed and changed, due to growth and development. Thus, all judging is premature, as indicated by Paul's command, "Judge nothing before the time" (1 Corinthians 4:5). In the warmth and fellowship of Christian service, many Christians find the grace to grow and develop strength; and it should be remembered that every Christian begins as a babe in Christ.

The admonition against judging is not unconditional, the exception having been noted by Hodge, thus:

One Christian has no right to judge another, except where Christ has expressly authorized it, and given him the rule of judgment. F3

Whiteside also cautioned in regard to this, thus:

This injunction against judging must be confined to such matters as Paul was discussing. How could anyone beware of false prophets, unless we first judge them to be false prophets? (Matthew 7:15). And we must judge a man to be an evil worker, or we could not obey the command to "beware of evil workers" (Philippians 3:2). Neither could we obey Paul's injunction (Rom. 16:17,18) without judging which men belong to the class he mentions. F4

Despite the sad necessity, however, of observing certain exceptions, the master strategy for dealing with weak brethren is that of containing the situation in love and forbearance, wherever possible. Peter wrote that Christians should, above all things:

be fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Another man's servant ...
is an appeal to an earthly situation in which one does not meddle in the business of judging the servants of other people; and thus, how much more appropriate it is for Christians to refrain from judging the servants of the Lord? The power of the Lord to make a man stand, despite his errors, is seen in the strength of believers to remain faithful to the church, a strength which comes only from the Lord, and a strength which exists in some instances coupled with all kinds of weakness, errors, and even sins.


 
Verse 5
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind.

Many Christians of Jewish background had faithfully observed the sabbaths, festivals, and celebrations of the Jewish institutions from childhood, and therefore counted such occasions more holy than others, continuing to mark and observe them even after their acceptance of Christianity, in such a manner "esteeming one day above another." Gentile Christians, on the other hand, more easily accepted the Christian teaching that all time is holy, every day of the week being sacred to the child of God; and thus, in that way, he esteemed "every day alike." The teaching of this verse does not relax the commandments to observe the Christian assembly, observe the Lord's Supper, and lay by in store "on the first day of the week." Nor does "esteeming every day alike" authorize the Lord's Supper to be observed on just any day. Paul was dealing here with an utterly different question, that of the Jewish holy days, such as various sabbaths. The Galatian churches had taken up such observances and were vigorously condemned for it (Galatians 4:10,11).

Let each man be fully assured in his own mind ...
is an appeal for conscientious conduct on the part of every Christian. Although the word "conscience" does not appear in this chapter, it is nevertheless, in a sense, the subject of it, a subject of surpassing importance to every child of God.

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE CONSCIENCE

From Romans 2, it has already appeared that conscience, like memory, reason, and imagination, is a noble endowment of humanity, and one that sets people apart from the lower orders of creation. The function of this priceless faculty, as noted by R. C. Bell, is:

Not to ascertain the truthfulness of things, but to see that its owner is true to himself and follows his convictions; that, in violating his conscience, a man so destroys his moral integrity as to make moral, spiritual living impossible; and, therefore, the most deadly thing a man can do is to trifle with his conscience; for, in so doing, he is tampering with the compass of his soul. F5

The man who violates his conscience, as well as the person who might have influenced him to violate it, are both guilty of sin in such a transgression, as pointed out by an apostle,

If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things (1 John 3:20).

Thinking that a thing is right cannot make it so; but thinking that a thing is wrong can indeed make it so for him who thus thinks. For further considerations on this subject, see my Commentary on Hebrews, p. 198.


 
Verse 6
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto tke Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, unto the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

Godet's sharp comment on this is:

The apostle states the reason why the two lines of conduct are equally admissible. It is because, opposed as they are, they are inspired by one and the same desire, that of serving the Lord. F6

It might be added that both lines of behavior were followed in good conscience, and also that this establishes the principle that sincere and conscientious behavior on the part of Christians (in all matters indifferent) is of greater importance than correctness in all opinions held. No man may actually suppose that all of his opinions are accurate; but any Christian may walk before the Lord in purity of intention and conscience. One of the glorious facts of Christian service is that God judges Christians with more regard to their sincere purpose than with reference to the degree of perfection in their attainment. It was this fact which enabled Paul to address the Corinthian church, which Was about as poor a specimen of Christian community as might have been found anywhere, in these significant words, "I thank my God always concerning you" (1 Corinthians 1:4).


 
Verse 7
For none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself.

In a sense, every man is his brother's keeper, a responsibility denied by Cain (Genesis 4:9), and by many others in all generations; but that is not the principal idea of this verse, which is explained in the verse following. Paul meant here that whatever a man does, or however he lives, it is his relationship to the Lord that determines all. Not merely such things as eating, not eating, observing days, or not observing days, but life itself is sustained in a holy sense of belonging, not to one's self, but to the Lord.


 
Verse 8
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

Paul had already written that "neither life nor death" could separate the believer from the Lord (Romans 8:38), and here again is the same thought in other words. Life has many tedious and toilsome duties, but everything the child of God does is done in service to the Lord. In New Testament times, even such a thing as slave labor was discharged with that in view (Ephesians 6:6-8). What a golden glory this sheds upon all lifes' prosaic sands! What a silver lining this bestows upon every cloud. Even death itself here appears in a new dimension, for Christians are the Lord's even in death. Paul himself lived in daily contemplation of death, living a life that was constantly threatened and in jeopardy every hour. Enemies without and within, perilous travels, serpents, shipwrecks, robbers, and plots of murder made danger his daily bread; but here surfaces the secret spring of his life's overflowing optimism and the source of his granite endurance. He was the Lord's, not merely in life, but in death as well. Every child of God may claim the same legacy.

O death where is thy victory? O death where is thy sting? ... But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

 
Verse 9
For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Man's tragic need is so overwhelmingly great that the remedy required is absolutely supernatural. Any system of philosophy or religion that operates only during man's mortal life is worthless at last. The distinction of Christianity is that the Saviour is Lord of life and death, both alike lying totally within the perimeter of his omnipotent love and power. In such a sovereignty as Paul expressed here concerning Christ, he partakes of the godhead, as he himself said, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:32), Paul's words here in no wise contradicting that, because two different sectors of the same meaning are spoken of, Paul having in mind the Christians who have passed through death, and Christ's reference being to the state of them that have passed through it, their state being in no sense one of annihilation but a state of abeyance awaiting the judgment. Both statements emphasize the sovereignty of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ over the totality of life and death. Thus, life and death are viewed in scripture as two states of existence, both of which are under divine authority and control. It is also evident that God's purpose of demonstrating this authority and control was served by the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Godet expressed it thus:

By transversing all domains of existence himself, he has so won them, that in passing through them in our turn as believers, we never cease to be his, and have him as our Lord. F7


 
Verse 10
But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or again, why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.

The plaintive manner of Paul's question shows not merely disapproval, but wonder and incredulity that people could be so oblivious to their own need of mercy in the impending judgment, and so unreasonably conceited as to busy themselves with judging their fellow Christians. Thus, in this another instance, looms the large problem which is never very far out of sight in this entire epistle, namely, that of human pride and conceit. In fact, careful study of Romans shows quite clearly that practically all of it bears on this very thing. In the early chapters, the inclusion of all under sin, and the great emphasis throughout that salvation may not be deserved or earned by any, and the efforts in Rom. 10-11 to remove the emerging conceit of the Gentiles, the blunt warning against it in Rom.12:16, and bearing on it throughout that entire chapter, as well as the outcropping of the problem here - all these things show how full was the apostolic awareness of this universal human trait and how thoroughly Paul strove to destroy it. As Greathouse observed:

We are responsible to Christ: we shall appear before him; there is therefore no place for uncharitable judgments or self-righteous exclusiveness between Christian men. F8

The judgment seat of God ...
What an antidote for conceit that is! This is the same as "the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:10); and, again from Greathouse:

Notice how easily Paul passes from "Lord" to "God." The Father and the Son were so united in his mind that they were often interchanged. God, or Christ, or God through Christ will judge the world. Our life is in God, or in Christ, or with Christ in God. The union of man with God depends upon the intimate union of the Father and the Son. F9

The direction of the thought here through the twelfth verse is: stop judging thy brother, for God will judge him AND YOU!


 
Verse 11
For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, And every tongue shall confess to God.

This quotation from Isa. 45:23 was frequently in the apostle's thoughts, as, for example, when he wrote the Philippians:

In the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10,11).

As Lenski truly observed:

In neither Isaiah nor here nor in Philippians (a most pertinent parallel) are "every knee" and "every tongue" restricted to the godly. Paul cites the passage here where he speaks only of Christians; but that means that what the Lord said about every person applies also to every Christian. To bend the knee to God and to confess him signify only that at the time of the last judgment all men shall acknowledge him as God; in more detail, "that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." F10

The composite picture of the final judgment, as gleaned from many scriptures, conclusively shows that infidelity will at last perish in the cataclysmic events of the Second Advent, when Jesus Christ shall suddenly appear with ten thousand of his holy angels to take vengeance upon them that know not God and obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus. It will be a day of overwhelming sorrow for rebellious and wicked men; for Christ's second coming shall not be realized by some universal blossoming of social peace and good will among people, nor by the emergence of some more noble and just society, but it will be a day of terror and remorse.

Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).

That the quotation here from Isaiah has reference to the final judgment is implicit in the fact that only then could such a thing be. Certainly, NOW, there is no such thing as the universal acknowledgment of God, nor has there ever been; and, therefore, the great assize was the scene envisioned here.


 
Verse 12
So then each one of us must give an account of himself to God.

The Lordship of Jesus Christ, the inevitability of final judgment, the responsibility of every man to bear his own burden and give an account of himself to God, the certainty of every man's need of mercy at last, and the common tie of filial love within the redeemed community - these and a thousand other considerations should make an end of censorious judgments passed upon the strong and deprecatory judgments upon the weak, and deal a mortal blow upon the human conceit in which such judgments are invariably formed.

As Thomas said:

Earthly Christians are not lords to pass judgment upon their fellows; and, although Christians are to judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), that time has not yet come. F11

With this verse, Paul ended one phase of teaching regarding weak brethren and strong brethren and passed to a consideration of the more comprehensive doctrine of Christian liberty and the proper exercise of it.


 
Verse 13
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge ye this rather, that no man put a stumbling block in his brother's way, or an occasion of falling.

Paul here included himself, not as a confession of guilt in the matter of the judgments he was condemning, but in order to make a more delicate and persuasive appeal to his readers (just as he doubtless did in Hebrews 2:1-3); but, as noted by Lenski,

Exhortations against wrong are in place for all of us, if for no other reason, then at least that we may keep on avoiding wrong. F12

Lenski also has a very dramatic translation of this verse, thus:

But rather make this your judgment not to place a stumbling block or a deathtrap for your brother.

In this, and to the end of the chapter, Paul spoke of the proper use of Christian liberty. Having shown that it is sinful to judge fellow Christians concerning things immaterial and unessential, he proceeded to show how the governing principle in such forbearance is that of love for men who are beneficiaries of the blood of Christ, who have been redeemed from sin and made to stand in the body of Christ himself.

It is no trivial matter to cause a brother to stumble. The "falling" here means falling from God's grace, falling away from the eternal inheritance, and falling so as to be lost eternally. Such consequence as this can follow the contemptuous "setting at naught" of a weak brother, in which case the disaster recoils in damnation upon the head of the "strong" offender, involving both in ruin. "Setting at naught" is a dangerous and deadly sin.


 
Verse 14
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself: save to him who accounteth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

See under Rom. 14:2 and Rom. 14:5, regarding clean meats and the power of conscience to make even an innocent action wrong. Paul did not here place himself upon either side of such a question and refrained utterly from making it a matter of faith. It was all a question of knowledge, and the weak brother simply did not have sufficient information, a deficiency that Paul sought to supply, not through any arrogant pronouncements of his own, but by humbly calling attention to the things he had received from the Lord. Paul did not cease to identify himself with a weak brother, while in the very act of correcting his deficiency of knowledge, and thus succeeded in projecting an attitude which said, whether or not the weak brother can be taught out of his ignorance, he is still loved and esteemed as a brother. There are no "elite" in Christ's kingdom, whether from distinctions of knowledge, wealth, power, office, or anything else. All are one in Christ.

Macknight's paraphrase of this verse is:

I know by the light of reason, and am persuaded by revelation from the Lord Jesus, that there is no kind of meat unclean naturally. Nevertheless, to him that believeth certain kinds to be unclean, to that man they are unclean; and he will sin if he eat them, either to indulge his own taste or to gain the favor of others. F13


 
Verse 15
For if because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love. Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died.

With regard to how the weak brother may be grieved, Greathouse has:

For one thing, it will pain his overly sensitive conscience to see you do what he (however wrongly) regards as sinful. But the real damage occurs when he is emboldened by your example to do what he believes God has forbidden him to do. He who eats with a bad conscience is a waverer who is condemned by his doubts. F14

Thou walkest no longer in love ...
is a serious charge. The Christian's credential of the hope of glory lies specifically in this, that he shall love the brethren. As an apostle said,

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death (1 John 3:14).

The so-called fault, therefore, of setting a brother at naught, is no minor thing at all, but a mortal sin. Stated here in the negative, "Thou walkest not in love," this vice of not loving a brother was positively stated by John in the very next verse, thus:

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Paul was in complete harmony with John and all the apostles in denouncing lovelessness as a fatal offense.

Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died ...
shows the fruit of a loveless attitude. It will destroy a fellow child of God. Paul wrote the same to the Corinthians, thus:

For through thy knowledge he that is weak perisheth, the brother for whose take Christ died. And thus, sinning against the brethren, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, ye sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:11,12).

"Destroy" in this place is therefore synonymous with "perish" in the admonition to Corinth. These warnings teach emphatically that a brother's soul may be lost because of a loveless attitude on the part of some "strong" Christian, who by such lovelessness himself incurs the penalty of sinning "against Christ."


 
Verses 16, 17
Let not your good be evil spoken of: for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The sin against Christ through lovelessness among Christians is an evil that reaches far beyond the congregation itself, bringing into dishonor and ineffectiveness the missionary outreach of the church, and actually resulting in blasphemy of outsiders against the Christian message. "Your" in this verse is plural, contrasting with the singular pronoun in Rom. 14:15, and indicates that Paul here shifted the thought away from the individual consequences of setting at naught and judging the ,brethren and directed it to a consideration of the harm to the entire church which resulted from such violations of the principle of unity and love. When Christians are divided and viciously attack each other over such things as clothing, hair styles, dietary habits, etc., outsiders certainly make sport of their Christianity, the Christians themselves furnishing the basis of their deprecations, and thus becoming the principal hindrance of their missionary impact upon their community.

"Joy" here is a subjective condition within the hearts of Christians, and from this it is likely that righteousness and peace are likewise subjective and refer to the righteous behavior and the inward peace of children of God. By contrast, God's kingdom is far more than the privilege of merely eating and drinking what pleases one. The sacred privileges of the kingdom and the blessed fruit of the indwelling Spirit of God are of such surpassing benefit that any adjustment of the strong Christian's behavior to accommodate the conscience of the weak is a trifle indeed. The great concern is not the exercise of liberty in such matters as food and drink, but the holy joy of the sacred communion of the fellowship in Christ.


 
Verse 18
For he that herein serveth Christ is well-pleasing to God, and approved of men.

In the two previous verses, Paul had in view the evil speaking of outsiders against the church which violated the principles taught here; here the approval of people in general is promised to churches which honor the commandment to walk in love, even toward the weak brother. As Murray noted:

We may not rightly restrict the approval in view to those who are of the household of faith. The damage which befalls the church through inconsiderate conduct of strong believers has its repercussions in the judgments of those outside; and the good name of the church as the community of love and concord should be maintained so that adversaries may not have an occasion to speak reproachfully. F15

Conversely, nothing is so capable of endearing a congregation to the community at large as a reputation of loving concern for one another in the congregation itself. Many have been won to an acceptance of Christianity through the glowing warmth of a true fellowship of loving concern among a community of Christians. Paul was careful, here, to avoid making the reaction of outsiders the principal concern. That must ever be the approval of God.


 
Verse 19
So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another.

The admonition of these words demands that a true Christian follow a constructive program of doing the things that produce harmony, induce fellowship, and lead to fuller appreciation and love among the brethren. Again from Murray,

The practical rule applied here is that when anything is morally indifferent to me, before I act on the conviction, I must ask how such action will affect the peace of the church, and the Christian growth of others. F16

Instead of channeling all his activities along the lines of what is personally pleasing to himself, the genuine Christian must so order his behavior as to make it a constructive and positive force of building love and harmony within the sacred body of the church, consciously directing all of his words and deeds to that end.

Edify one another ...
The root from which this word comes has reference to construction, as in the erection of a building, being related to the word "edifice," and thus conveying the thought of building up the church, instead of tearing it down. There are almost unlimited areas of thought and discussion which are absolutely without profit and can lead only to doubts, questionings, and loss of faith. These shall be avoided at all cost. Paul here prescribed, as a substitute for such negative activities, the positive and constructive type of behavior which is consciously directed to building up and strengthening one's fellow Christians. This is a far different thing from merely refraining from what would do them harm. Every man should ask himself, "What am I doing to build up the church?"


 
Verse 20
Overthrow not for meat's sake the work of God. All things indeed are clean; howbeit it is evil for that man who eateth with offense.

Rom. 14:14-15 carry exactly this same admonition, which is repeated here for emphasis. Even if a Christian may conscientiously do certain things (eating meat is here only an example), he should avoid doing so under any circumstance that might jeopardize the conscience of others. A parallel case is seen in Paul's word to Corinth:

If one of them that believeth not biddeth you to a feast, and ye are disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no questions for conscience' sake. But if any man say unto you, This hath been offered in sacrifice, eat not, for his sake that showed it, and for conscience' sake: conscience, I say, not thine own, but the other's (1 Corinthians 10:27-29).

 
Verse 21
It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor to do anything whereby thy brother stumbleth.

This verse is significant in the broadening of the principles under discussion to include "anything" of a like immaterial or unessential nature, the doing of which might involve the disapproving conscience of another. A present-day application of this requires that no Christian, even if he is convinced that he may drink wine, should ever do so in a situation offensive to the consciences of brethren who hold that it is a sin so to do. Significantly, Paul here placed that very question, regarding the drinking of wine, in the category of things indifferent; but, in every generation, there have been Christians who would have it otherwise; and, in regard to them, "It is good not to drink wine." Besides that, the wine of Paul's day bore little resemblance to the burning liquors which today are sold under such a label. The mention of drinking wine is the first in this chapter and shows that the problems in view here were somewhat different from those of Corinth and Galatia.


 
Verse 22
The faith which thou hast, have to thyself before God. Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that which he approveth.

Have to thyself before God ...
is a vindication of the strong in their possession of Christian liberty. They truly enjoy this liberty in God's presence and are not called upon to surrender it; but, of course, they must not flaunt it to the discomfiture and destruction of the weak. As Denny observed:

Rom. 14:22a is another exhortation to the strong and means that they are not to parade and protest their rights to the detriment of the weak and with the evil consequences delineated in the preceding verses. F17

Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that which he approveth ...
is rendered in some of the ancient manuscripts as "Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that which he putteth to the test," the same suggesting that the idea here is, "Happy is the man who does not condemn himself by overriding his own conscience to test things he inwardly believes to be wrong." There is a type of person who may be unduly influenced by what is held to be popular and who may thus go beyond his conscience in order to conform to the behavior pattern of others. Sanday was convinced of a different shade of meaning here, which, whether correct or not, is permissible. Thus:

In the acts which he permits himself, he is a happy man who can eat what he pleases, and drink what he please, without any qualms of conscience to condemn him while he does so. F18


 
Verse 23
But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: and whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Once again, Paul affirmed the supremacy of a good conscience. Doubters who, through a desire to be popular, or other insufficient reasons, might override their own consciences, stand condemned. If one has been brought up to believe that certain things are wrong, being thereby in conscience opposed to the doing of them, he cannot merely wave such scruples aside. True, if through the word of God, he has learned and truly believes that old scruples are no longer binding, then he may go beyond them, or act contrary to them; in such a case, to use Paul's words, he would be eating "of faith." But, if such knowledge and faith are not in him, the old prohibition stands for him; and he may not go beyond them and thus involve himself in condemnation.

Whatsoever is not of faith is sin ...
is enunciated here as a general principle, but only as a general principle covering this particular kind of case. Where the conscience is in doubt, the definition of proper conduct must be made on the basis of what the word of God says; and, lacking any clear knowledge of what the word says, or, if knowing it, lacking full confidence and faith in it, the person is bound by his scruple. This principle does not extend to situations where the conscience is not threatened. Thus, from Sanday:

Nothing is said about those cases in which conscience is either not appealed to at all, or approves of what is done. Hence St. Augustine was wrong in arguing from this verse that even good actions, when done by unbelievers, were of the nature of sin. F19

Godet's comment on this was:

What a man cannot do as His redeemed one and in the joy of His salvation, must not be done at all. Otherwise this act, of which faith is not the soul, becomes sin, and may lead to the result indicated in Rom. 14:20: the total destruction of God's work in us. F20

R. C. Bell had the following pertinent remarks:

Who can read this chapter without realizing that Christian doctrines are of unequal value, and that big and little things should never exchange places? Men must not make things tests of fellowship which God does not make conditions of salvation; because, in so doing, they reject those whom God receives and make divisions in the church over trifles. To separate believers from unbelievers is right, but to separate believers from other believers is wrong. Blessed is the Christian who keeps Christian things in Christian proportions. F21

In the light of the solemn admonitions of this great chapter, how shall we behold the divisions among brethren over such matters as supporting a radio program, teaching the Bible in classes, supporting orphan homes, etc., except as tragic examples of failure to heed the warnings of the Holy Spirit?

Regarding the doxology which, in some manuscripts, concludes this chapter, it is appropriate to remark that Rom. 15:1 continues with no break in the thought and is such a logical continuation of the thought in this chapter that one is justified in supposing that Paul never even caught his breath between them. For more on this, see under Rom. 16:27.


Footnotes for Romans 14
1: Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), p. 417.
2: Richard A. Batey, The Letter of Paul to the Romans (Austin, Texas: The R. B. Sweet Company, 1969), p. 165.
3: Charles Hodge, op. cit., p. 416.
4: Robertson L. Whiteside, A New Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to Saints in Rome (Denton, Texas: Miss Inys Whiteside, 1945), p. 271.
5: R. C. Bell, Studies in Romans (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1957), p. 161.
6: F. Godet, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), p. 456.
7: Ibid., p. 458.
8: William M. Greathouse, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1968), p. 280.
9: Ibid.
10: R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1963), p. 830.
11: Griffith Thomas, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 370.
12: R. C. H. Lenski, loc. cit.
13: James Macknight, Apostolic Epistles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1960), p. 128.
14: William M. Greathouse, op. cit., p. 262.
15: John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), p. 195.
16: Ibid.
17: James Denny, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1947), p. 706.
18: W. Sanday, Ellicott's Bible Commentary on the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 260.
19: Ibid., p. 261.
20: F. Godet, op. cit., p. 464.
21: R. C. Bell, op. cit., p. 169.
22: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 703.
23: Moses E. Lard, op. cit., p. 362.
24: C. K. Barrett, op. cit., p. 218.
25: Richard Trench, Notes on the Parables (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1953), p. 164.
26: R. L. Whiteside, op. cit., p. 241.
27: Moses E. Lard, op, cit., p. 370.
28: J. W. McGarvey and Phillip Y. Pendleton, The Standard Bible Commentary (Cincinnati, Ohio, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1916), p. 473.
29: John Locke, Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul (Boston: 1832), p. 359.
30: Charles Hodge, op. cit., p. 273.
31: John Murray, op. cit., p. 302.
32: Charles Hodge, op. cit., p. 272.
33: The Emphatic Greek Diaglott, p. 531.
34: Charles Hodge, op. cit., p. 270.
35: John Locke, Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul (Boston, Mass., 1832), p. 331.
36: Emil Brunner, op. cit., p. 75.
37: James Macknight, Apostolical Epistles (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1960), p. 98.
38: Ibid.
39: John Locke, op. cit., p. 332.
40: F. Godet, op. cit., p. 315.
41: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 98.
42: John Locke, op. cit., p. 332.
43: Emil Brunner, op. cit., p. 75.
44: Ibid.
45: W. Sanday, op. cit., p. 237.
46: Moses E. Lard, Commentary on Paul's Letter to Romans (Cincinnati, Ohio: Christian Board of Publication, 1914), p. 277.
47: John Locke, op. cit., p. 333.
48: F. Godet, op. cit., p. 321.
49: John Locke, op. cit., p. 334.
50: Emil Brunner, op. cit., p. 77.
51: Sir Francis Bacon, in Bartlett's Quotations, p. 109.
52: Moses E. Lard, op. cit., p. 280.
53: Ibid.
54: Ibid., p. 281.
55: F. Godet, op. cit., p. 325.
56: John Locke, op. cit., p. 334.
57: F. Godet, op. cit., p. 323.
58: W. Sanday, op. cit., p. 238.
59: Moses E. Lard, op. cit., p. 285.
60: John Locke, op. cit., p. 335.
61: Ibid.
62: R. L. Whiteside, op. cit., p. 193.
63: H. C. G. Moule, op. cit., pp. 242-243.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 14". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ro&chapter=014>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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