The Weak and the Strong, 1-23

Rom 14:1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

Accept him whose faith is weak – ‘To be ‘weak in faith’ in this context does not denote some lack in fundamental Christian belief, but is equivalent to being troubled in conscience. These are people whose grasp of the implications of the gospel is limited, so that their consciences do not allow them to do certain things that are permissible under the new covenant (cf. 1 Cor. 8:7–13).’ (Kruse)

Some argue that to ‘accept’ others in this way is the welcome them into table fellowship.

‘Though forbearance be a great Christian duty, indifference to the distinction between truth and error is not thereby encouraged. The former is, by the tax, made an excuse for the latter. But our apostle, while teaching “the strong” to bear with “the weak,” repeatedly intimates in this chapter where the truth really lay on the points in question, and takes care to call those who took the wrong side “the weak”.’ (Rom 14:1,2,14) (JFB)

Without passing judgment on disputable matters – Whereas some might welcome others in order to set them right on their mistaken beliefs and unnecessary practices, Paul insists that they should be welcomed without such a motivation.

Kruse quotes Augustine: ‘‘Paul says this so that, when something might be done with either good or bad motives, we should leave the judgment to God and not presume to judge the heart of someone else, which we do not see. But when it comes to things which obviously could not have been done with good and innocent intentions, it is not wrong if we pass judgment. So in the matter of food, where it is not known what the motive in eating it is, Paul does not want us to be judges, but God. But in the case of that abominable immorality where a man has taken his stepmother, Paul taught us to judge [1 Cor. 5:1–13]. For that man could not possibly claim that he committed such a gross act of indecency with good intentions. So we must pass judgment on things which are obviously wrong.’

‘The meaning of the injunction seems to be, “Readily admit into fellowship every man who appears to be a sincere believer, though his views may on some points be indistinct, and even incorrect; but let care be taken that neither he be harassed about these opinions, nor the Church harassed by him in reference to them.”‘ (John Brown)


Rom 14:2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

act of eating and drinking is laden with spiritual import, for all of life is illumined and empowered by the Spirit of Jesus. Thus in Rom 14:1-15:13 Paul reveals a number of perspectives on eating and drinking. To be sure, Paul clearly declares that the kingdom of God has to do, not with "food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom 14:17) Nonetheless, he surrounds that declaration with a formidable array of specific comments regarding the meaning of eating and drinking. In eating and drinking, one may honor or dishonor the Lord. (Rom 14:6) Eating and drinking are an occasion for the attitude and expression of gratitude to God (14:6). In eating and drinking one lives unto the Lord and dies unto the Lord. (Rom 14:7-9) Eating and drinking can be an instance of walking in love, or not walking in love (Rom 14:15-16) -as well as of living or not living in peace with others, (Rom 14:19) or of edifying or not edifying the other. (Rom 14:19) Of special interest is the section's concluding appeal to Jesus: (Rom 15:7) "Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you." It is impossible to suppose that Paul, who called believers to follow him in imitating Christ, did not have in mind the common meals in which Jesus participated-often with the rejected ones of contemporary society.

It is significant that all these "meanings" of Christian eating and drinking are otherwise closely associated with the Spirit in Paul (love, peace, edification, gratitude and honoring the Lord). Other Pauline passages, most notably significant elements of 1 Cor 9-11 where the Lord's Supper and common meals are conjoined, offer parallel instruction. In all eating and drinking, the Christian believer is called to be "spiritual," not "unspiritual," (1 Cor 2:14-16) instructed in the mind of Christ.' (1 Cor 2:16) (DPL)

Rom 14:3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.

It is clear from this that Scripture does not either command or forbid vegetarianism.

Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Rom 14:5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

Rom 14:6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Rom 14:7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.

Rom 14:8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Rom 14:9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

Rom 14:10 you, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

See Acts 20:35 n

Rom 14:11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'”

Rom 14:12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Rom 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Rom 14:14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.

Rom 14:15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.

Rom 14:16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.

Rom 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

‘We should be rightly suspicious of forms of theology that place all the emphasis on coherent systems of thought that demand faith, allegiance, and obedience, but do not engage the affections, let alone foster an active sense of the presence of God. If the kingdom of God has to do with “right”]eousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” we must not reduce it to righteousness and systems of thought. The Spirit whom Jesus bequeathed to his followers is the Spirit announced as part of the newness of the new covenant, Eze 36/John 3; Joel 2/Acts 2: not only does he convict the world, Jn 16, he loves in believers, Rom 8:9, leading them, v14 and testifying with their spirit that they are God’s children, v16.’ (Carson, The Gagging of God, 567)

Rom 14:18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Rom 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Rom 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.

Rom 14:21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

Rom 14:22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.

Rom 14:23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Everything that does not come from faith is sin – Tomlinson, (The Post-Evangelical, 137) says that by this Paul ‘means that it is probably more important that we are true to our convictions than whether our convictions ultimately prove to be correct or not’.  While not completely untrue, this is misleading, given that Paul’s whole discussion in this chapter is centred on ‘disputable matters’, v1.

‘This epigram ‘exalts the significance of our conscience. Although…it is not infallible, it is nevertheless sacrosanct, so that to go against it (to act not from faith) is to sin. At the same time, alongside this explicit instruction not to violate our conscience, there is an implicit requirement to educate it.’ (Stott)

‘Paul has advice for the man who is weak in the faith, the man with the scrupulous conscience. It may be that this may disobey or silence his scruples. He may sometimes do something because everyone else is doing it. He may do it because he does not wish to stand in a minority of one. He may do it because he does not wish to be different. He may do it because he does not wish to court ridicule or unpopularity. Paul’s answer is that if, for any of these reasons, a man defies his conscience he is guilty of sin. If a man in his heart of hearts believes a thing to be wrong, if he cannot rid himself of the ineradicable feeling that it is forbidden, then, if he does it, for him it is sin. A neutral thing only becomes a right thing when it is done out of faith, out of the real, reasoned conviction that it is the right thing to do. The only motive for doing anything is that a man believes it to be right. When a thing is done out of social convention, out of fear of unpopularity, to please men, then it is wrong.’ (Cranfield)

R. Kent Hughes summarises: ‘The wise Apostle Paul has detailed four “dos” if we are to build unity amidst our diversity. First, we must determine never to be a source of stumbling. Second, we must live as citizens of the Kingdom of God, concentrating on the eternals rather than the externals. Third, we must actively pursue that which benefits other believers. Fourth, we must do all that we do with a clear conscience.’

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