|<< Romans 14 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Romans 14 is designed to settle some difficult and delicate questions that could not but arise between the Jews and Gentiles respecting food and the observance of particular days, rites, etc. The "occasions" of these questions were these: The converts to Christianity were from both Jews and Gentiles. There were many Jews in Rome; and it is probable that no small part of the church was composed of them. The New Testament everywhere shows that they were disposed to bind the Gentile converts to their own customs, and to insist on the observance of the unique laws of Moses; see Acts 15:1-2, etc.; Galatians 2:3-4. The "subjects" on which questions of this kind would be agitated were, circumcision, days of fasting, the distinction of meats, etc. A part of these only are discussed in this chapter. The views of the apostle in regard to "circumcision" had been stated in Romans 3-4. In this chapter he notices the disputes which would be likely to arise on the following subjects;
(1) The use of "meat," evidently referring to the question whether it was lawful to eat the meat that was offered in sacrifice to idols; Romans 14:2.
(2) the distinctions and observances of the days of Jewish fastings, etc., Romans 14:5-6.
(3) the laws observed by the Jews in relation to animals as "clean" or "unclean;" Romans 14:14.
It is probable that these are mere "specimens" adduced by the apostle to settle "principles" of conduct in regard to the Gentiles, and to show to each party how they ought to act in "all" such questions.
The apostle's design here is to allay all these contentions by producing peace, kindness, charity. This he does by the following considerations, namely:
(1) That we have no right to "judge" another man in this case, for he is the servant of God; Romans 14:3-4.
(2) that whatever course is taken in these questions, it is done conscientiously, and with a desire to glorify God. In such a case there should be kindness and charity; Romans 14:6, etc.
(3) that we must stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, and give an account "there;" and that "we," therefore, should not usurp the function of judging; Romans 14:10-13.
(4) that there is really nothing unclean of itself; Romans 14:14.
(5) that religion consisted in more important matters than "such" questions; Romans 14:17-18.
(6) that we should follow after the things of peace, etc.; Romans 14:19-23.
The principles of this chapter are applicable to all "similar" cases of difference of opinion about rites and ceremonies, and unessential doctrines of religion; and we shall see that if they were honestly applied, they would settle no small part of the controversies in the religious world.
1Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
Him that is weak - The design here is to induce Christians to receive to their fellowship those who had scruples about the propriety of certain things, or that might have special prejudices and feelings as the result of education or former habits of belief. The apostle, therefore, begins by admitting that such an one may be "weak," that is, not fully established, or not with so clear and enlarged views about Christian liberty others might have.
In the faith - In believing. This does not refer to "saving faith" in Christ, for he might have that; but to belief in regard "to the things which the apostle specifies," or which would come into controversy. Young converts have often a special delicacy or sensitiveness about the lawfulness of many things in relation to which older Christians may be more fully established. To produce peace, there must be kindness, tenderness, and faithful teaching; not denunciation, or harshness, on one side or the other.
Receive ye - Admit to your society or fellowship: receive him kindly, not meet with a cold and harsh repulse; compare Romans 15:7.
Not to doubtful disputations - The plain meaning of this is, Do not admit him to your society for the purpose of debating the matter in an angry and harsh manner; of repelling him by denunciation; and thus, "by the natural reaction of such a course," confirming him in his doubts. Or, "do not deal with him in such a manner as shall have a tendency to increase his scruples about meats, days, etc." (Stuart.) The "leading" idea here - which all Christians should remember - is, that a harsh and angry denunciation of a man in relation to things not morally wrong, but where he may have honest scruples, will only tend to confirm him more and more in his doubts. To denounce and abuse him will be to confirm him. To receive him affectionately, to admit him to fellowship with us, to talk freely and kindly with him, to do him good, will have a far greater tendency to overcome his scruples. In questions which now occur about modes of "dress," about "measures" and means of promoting revivals, and about rites and ceremonies, this is by far the wisest course, if we wish to overcome the scruples of a brother, and to induce him to think as we do. Greek, "Unto doubts or fluctuations of opinions or reasonings." Various senses have been given to the words, but the above probably expresses the true meaning.
2For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
For one believeth - This was the case with the Gentiles in general, who had none of the scruples of the Jew about the propriety of eating certain kinds of meat. Many of the converts who had been Jews might also have had the same view as the apostle Paul evidently had while the great mass of Jewish converts might have cherished these scruples.
May eat all things - That is, he will not be restrained by any scruples about the lawfulness of certain meats, etc.
Another who is weak - There is reference here, doubt less, to the Jewish convert. The apostle admits that he was "weak," that is, not fully established in the views of Christian liberty. The question with the Jew doubtless was, whether it was lawful to eat the meat which was offered in sacrifice to idols. In those sacrifices a part only of the animal was offered, and the remainder was eaten by the worshippers, or offered for sale in the market like other meat. It became an inquiry whether it was lawful to eat this meat; and the question in the mind of a Jew would arise from the express command of his Law; Exodus 34:15. This question the apostle discussed and settled in 1 Corinthians 10:20-32, which see. In that place the general principle is laid down, that it was lawful to partake of that meat as a man would of any other, "unless it was expressly pointed out to him as having been sacrificed to idols, and unless his partaking of it would be considered as countenancing the idolators in their worship;" Romans 14:28. But with this principle many Jewish converts might not have been acquainted; or what is quite as probable, they might not have been disposed to admit its propriety.
Eateth herbs - Herbs or "vegetables" only; does not partake of meat at all, for "fear" of eating that, inadvertently, which had been offered to idols. The Romans abounded in sacrifices to idols; and it would not be easy to be certain that meat which was offered in the market, or on the table of a friend, had not been offered in this manner. To avoid the possibility of partaking of it, even "ignorantly," they chose to eat no meat at all. The scruples of the Jews on the subject might have arisen in part from the fact that sins of "ignorance" among them subjected them to certain penalties; Leviticus 4:2-3, etc.; Leviticus 5:15; Numbers 15:24, Numbers 15:27-29. Josephus says (Life, Section 3) that in his time there were certain priests of his acquaintance who "supported themselves with figs and nuts." These priests had been sent to Rome to be tried on some charge before Caesar: and it is probable that they abstained from meat because it might have been offered to idols. It is expressly declared of Daniel when in Babylon, that he lived on pulse and water, that he might not "defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank;" Daniel 1:8-16.
3Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Let not him that eateth - That is, he who has no scruples about eating "meat," etc., who is not restrained by the Law of the Jews respecting the Clean and unclean, or by the fact that meat "may" have been offered to idols.
Despise him - Hold him in contempt, as being unnecessarily scrupulous, etc. The word "despise" here is happily chosen. The Gentile would be very likely to "despise" the Jew as being restrained by foolish scruples and mere distinctions in matters of no importance.
Him that eateth not - Him that is restrained by scruples of conscience, and that will eat only "vegetables;" Romans 14:2. The reference here is doubtless to the "Jew.
Judge him - To "judge" here has the force of "condemn." This word also is very happily chosen. The Jew would not be so likely to "despise" the Gentile for what he did as to "judge" or condemn him. He would deem it too serious a matter for contempt. He would regard it as a violation of the Law of God, and would be likely to assume the right of judging his brother, and pronouncing him guilty. The apostle here has happily met the whole case in all disputes about rites, and dress, and scruples in religious matters that are not essential. One party commonly "despises" the other as being needlessly and foolishly scrupulous; and the other makes it a matter of "conscience," too serious for ridicule and contempt; and a matter, to neglect which, is, in their view, deserving of condemnation. The true direction to be given in such a case is, "to the one party," not to treat the scruples of the other with derision and contempt, but with tenderness and indulgence. Let him have his way in it. If he can be "reasoned" out of it, it is well; but to attempt to "laugh" him out of it is unkind, and will tend only to confirm him in his views. And "to the other party," it should be said they have no "right" to judge or condemn another. If I cannot see that the Bible requires a particular cut to my coat, or makes it my duty to observe a particular festival, he has no right to judge me harshly, or to suppose that I am to be rejected and condemned for it. He has a right to "his" opinion; and while I do not "despise" him, he has no right to "judge" me. This is the foundation of true charity; and if this simple rule had been followed, how much strife, and even bloodshed, would it have spared in the church. Most of the contentions among Christians have been on subjects of this nature. Agreeing substantially in the "doctrines" of the Bible, they have been split up into sects on subjects just about as important as those which the apostle discusses in this chapter.
For God hath received him - This is the same word that is translated "receive" in Romans 14:1. It means here that God hath received him kindly; or has acknowledged him as his own friend; or he is a true Christian. These scruples, on the one side or the other, are not inconsistent with true piety; and as "God" has acknowledged him as "his," notwithstanding his opinions on these subjects, so "we" also ought to recognise him as a Christian brother. Other denominations, though they may differ from us on some subjects, may give evidence that they are recognised by God as his, and where there is this evidence, we should neither despise nor judge them.
4Who 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.
Who art thou ... - That is, who gave you this right to sit in judgment on others; compare Luke 12:14. There is reference here particularly to the "Jew," who on account of his ancient privileges, and because he had the Law of God, would assume the prerogative of "judging" in the case, and insist on conformity to his own views; see Acts 15. The doctrine of this Epistle is uniformly, that the Jew had no such privilege, but that in regard to salvation he was on the same level with the Gentile.
That judgest ... - compare James 4:12. This is a principle of common sense and common propriety. It is not ours to sit in judgment on the servant of another man. He has the control over him; and if "he" chooses to forbid his doing anything, or to allow him to do anything, it pertains to "his" affairs not ours. To attempt to control him, is to intermeddle improperly, and to become a "busy-body in other men's matters;" 1 Peter 4:15. Thus, Christians are the servants of God; they are answerable to him; and "we" have no right to usurp "his" place, and to act as if we were "lords over his heritage;" 1 Peter 5:3.
To his own master - The servant is responsible to his master only. So it is with the Christian in regard to God.
He standeth or falleth - He shall be approved or condemned. If his conduct is such as pleases his master, he shall be approved; if not, he will be condemned.
Yea, he shall be holden up - This is spoken of the Christian only. In relation to the servant, he might stand or fall; he might be approved or condemned. The master had no power to keep him in a way of obedience, except by the hope of reward, or the fear of punishment. But it was not so in regard to the Christian. The Jew who was disposed to "condemn" the Gentile might say, that he admitted the general principle which the apostle had stated about the servant; that it was just what he was saying, that he might "fall," and be condemned. But no, says the apostle, this does not follow, in relation to the Christian He shall not fall. God has power to make him stand; to hold him; to keep him from error, and from condemnation, and "he shall be holden up." He shall not be suffered to fall into condemnation, for it is the "purpose" of God to keep him; compare Psalm 1:5. This is one of the incidental but striking evidences that the apostle believed that all Christians should be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Is able - See John 10:29. Though a master cannot exert such an influence over a servant as to "secure" his obedience, yet "God" has this power over his people, and will preserve them in a path of obedience.
5One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
One man esteemeth - Greek "judgeth" κρίνει krinei. The word is here properly translated "esteemeth;" compare Acts 13:46; Acts 16:15. The word originally has the idea of "separating," and then "discerning," in the act of judging. The expression means that one would set a higher value on one day than on another, or would regard it as more sacred than others. This was the case with the "Jews" uniformly, who regarded the days of their festivals, and fasts, and Sabbaths as especially sacred, and who would retain, to no inconsiderable degree, their former views, even after they became converted to Christianity.
Another "esteemeth - That is, the "Gentile" Christian. Not having been brought up amidst the Jewish customs, and not having imbibed their opinions and prejudices, they would not regard these days as having any special sacredness. The appointment of those days had a special reference "to the Jews." They were designed to keep them as a separate people, and to prepare the nation for the "reality," of which their rites were but the shadow. When the Messiah came, the passover, the feast of tabernacles, and the other special festivals of the Jews, of course vanished, and it is perfectly clear that the apostles never intended to inculcate their observance on the Gentile converts. See this subject discussed in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians.
Every day alike - The word "alike" is not in the original, and it may convey an idea which the apostle did not design. The passage means that he regards "every day" as consecrated to the Lord; Romans 14:6. The question has been agitated whether the apostle intends in this to include the Christian Sabbath. Does he mean to say that it is a matter of "indifference" whether this day be observed, or whether it be devoted to ordinary business or amusements? This is a very important question in regard to the Lord's day. That the apostle did not mean to say that it was a matter of indifference whether it should be kept as holy, or devoted to business or amusement, is plain from the following considerations.
(1) the discussion had reference only to the special customs of the "Jews," to the rites and practices which "they" would attempt to impose on the Gentiles, and not to any questions which might arise among Christians as "Christians." The inquiry pertained to "meats," and festival observances among the Jews, and to their scruples about partaking of the food offered to idols, etc.; and there is no more propriety in supposing that the subject of the Lord's day is introduced here than that he advances principles respecting "baptism" and "the Lord's supper."
(2) the "Lord's day" was doubtless observed by "all" Christians, whether converted from Jews or Gentiles; see 1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10; compare the notes at John 20:26. The propriety of observing "that day" does not appear to have been a matter of controversy. The only inquiry was, whether it was proper to add to that the observance of the Jewish Sabbaths, and days of festivals and fasts.
(3) it is expressly said that those who did not regard the day regarded it as not to God, or to honor God; Romans 14:6. They did it as a matter of respect to him and his institutions, to promote his glory, and to advance his kingdom. Was this ever done by those who disregard the Christian Sabbath? Is their design ever to promote his honor, and to advance in the knowledge of him, by "neglecting" his holy day? Who knows not that the Christian Sabbath has never been neglected or profaned by any design to glorify the Lord Jesus, or to promote his kingdom? It is for purposes of business, gain, war, amusement, dissipation, visiting, crime. Let the heart be filled with a sincere desire to "honor the Lord Jesus," and the Christian Sabbath will be reverenced, and devoted to the purposes of piety. And if any man is disposed to plead "this passage" as an excuse for violating the Sabbath, and devoting it to pleasure or gain, let him quote it "just as it is," that is, let "him neglect the Sabbath from a conscientious desire to honor Jesus Christ." Unless this is his motive, the passage cannot avail him. But this motive never yet influenced a Sabbath-breaker.
Let every man ... - That is, subjects of this kind are not to be pressed as matters of conscience. Every man is to examine them for himself, and act accordingly. This direction pertains to the subject under discussion, and not to any other. It does not refer to subjects that were "morally" wrong, but to ceremonial observances. If the "Jew" esteemed it wrong to eat meat, he was to abstain from it; if the Gentile esteemed it right, he was to act accordingly. The word "be fully persuaded" denotes the highest conviction, not a matter of opinion or prejudice, but a matter on which the mind is made up by examination; see Romans 4:21; 2 Timothy 4:5. This is the general principle on which Christians are called to act in relation to festival days and fasts in the church. If some Christians deem them to be for edification, and suppose that their piety will be promoted by observing the days which commemorate the birth, and death, and temptations of the Lord Jesus, they are not to be reproached or opposed in their celebration. Nor are they to attempt to impose them on others as a matter of conscience, or to reproach others because they do not observe them.
6He that regardeth 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.
He that regardeth - Greek, "Thinketh of;" or pays attention to; that is, he that "observes" it as a festival, or as holy time.
The day - Any of the days under discussion; the days that the Jews kept as religious occasions.
Regardeth unto the Lord - Regards it as "holy," or as set apart to the service of God. He believes that he is "required" by God to keep it, that is, that the laws of Moses in regard to such days are binding on him.
He that regardeth not the day - Or who does not observe such distinctions of days as are demanded in the laws of Moses.
To the Lord ... - That is, he does not believe that God "requires" such an observance.
He that eateth - The Gentile Christian, who freely eats all kinds of meat; Romans 14:2.
Eateth to the Lord - Because he believes that God does not forbid it; and because he desires, in doing it, to glorify God; 1 Corinthians 10:31. "To eat to the Lord," in this case, is to do it believing that such is his will. In all other cases, it is to do it feeling that we receive our food from him; rendering thanks for his goodness, and desirous of being strengthened that we may do his commands.
He giveth God thanks - This is an incidental proof that it is our duty to give God thanks at our meals for our food. It shows that it was the "practice" of the early Christians, and has the commendation of the apostle. It was, also, uniformly done by the Jews, and by the Lord Jesus; Matthew 14:19; Matthew 26:26; Mark 6:41; Mark 14:22; Luke 9:16; Luke 24:30.
To the Lord he eateth not - He abstains from eating because he believes that God requires him to do it, and with a desire to obey and honor him.
And giveth God thanks - That is, the Jew thanked God for the Law, and for the favor he had bestowed on him in giving him more light than he had the Gentiles. For this privilege they valued themselves highly, and this feeling, no doubt, the converted Jews would continue to retain; deeming themselves as specially favored in having a "special" acquaintance with the Law of God.
7For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
For none of us ... - Whether by nature Jews or Gentiles. In the great principles of religion we are now united. Where there was evidence of a sincere desire to do the will of God there should be charitable feeling, through there was difference of opinion and judgment in many smaller matters. The meaning of the expression is, that no Christian lives to gratify his own inclinations or appetites. He makes it his great aim to do the will of God; to subordinate all his desires to his Law and gospel; and though, therefore, one should eat flesh, and should feel at liberty to devote to common employments time that another deemed sacred, yet it should not be uncharitably set down as a desire to indulge his sensual appetites, or to become rich. Another motive "may be" supposed, and where there is not positive "proof" to the contrary, "should be" supposed; see the beautiful illustration of this in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. To live "to ourselves" is to make it the great object to become rich or honored, or to indulge in the ease, comfort, and pleasures of life. These are the aim of all people but Christians; and in nothing else do Christians more differ from the world than in this; see 1 Peter 4:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23. On no point does it become Christians more to examine themselves than on this. To "live to ourselves" is an evidence that we are strangers to piety. And if it be the great motive of our lives to live at ease Amos 6:1 - to gratify the flesh, to gain property, or to be distinguished in places of fashion and amusement - it is evidence that we know nothing of the power of that gospel which teaches us "to deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily.
No man - No "one," the same Greek word οὐδείς oudeis which is used in the former part of the verse. The word is used only in reference to "Christians" here, and makes no affirmation about other people.
Dieth to himself - See Romans 14:8. This expression is used to denote the "universality" or the "totality" with which Christians belong to God. Every thing is done and suffered with reference to his will. In our conduct, in our property, in our trials, in our death, we are "his;" to be disposed of as he shall please. In the grave, and in the future world, we shall be equally his. As this is the great principle on which "all" Christians live and act, we should be kind and tender toward them, though in some respects they differ from us.
8For 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.
For whether we live - As long as we live.
We live unto the Lord - We live to do his will, and to promote his glory. This is the grand purpose of the life of the Christian. Other people live to gratify themselves; the Christian to do those things which the Lord requires. By "the Lord" here the apostle evidently intends the Lord Jesus, as it is evident from Romans 14:9; and the truth taught here is, that it is the leading and grand purpose of the Christian to do honor to the Saviour. It is this which constitutes his special character, and which distinguishes him from other people.
Whether we die - In the dying state, or in the state of the dead; in the future world. We are "no where" our own. In all conditions we are "his," and bound to do his will. The connection of this declaration with the argument is this: Since we belong to another in every state, and are bound to do his will, we have no right to assume the prerogative of sitting in judgment on another. "We" are subjects, and are bound to do the will of Christ. All other Christians are subjects in like manner, and are answerable, not to us, but directly to the Lord Jesus, and should have the same liberty of conscience that we have. The passage proves also that the soul does not cease to be conscious at death. We are still the Lord's; his even when the body is in the grave; and his in all the future world: see Romans 14:9.
9For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
For to this end - For this purpose or design. The apostle does not say that this was the "only" design of his death, but that it was a main purpose, or an object which he had distinctly in view. This declaration is introduced in order to confirm what he had said in the previous verse, that in all circumstances we are the Lord's. This he shows by the fact that Jesus died "in order" that we "might" be his.
And rose - This expression is rejected by most modern critics. It is wanting in many manuscripts, and has been probably introduced in the text from the margin.
And revived - There is also a variation in the Greek in this place, but not so great as to change the sense materially. It refers to his "resurrection," and means that he was "restored to life" in order that he might exercise dominion over the dead and the living.
That he might be Lord - Greek. That he might "rule over." The Greek word used here implies the idea of his being "proprietor" or "owner" as well as "ruler." It means that he might exercise entire dominion over all, as the sovereign Lawgiver and Lord.
Both of the dead - That is, of those who "are" deceased, or who have gone to another state of existence. This passage proves that those who die are not annihilated; that they do not cease to be conscious; and that they still are under the dominion of the Mediator. Though their bodies moulder in the grave, yet the spirit lives, and is under his control. And though the body dies and returns to its native dust, yet the Lord Jesus is still its Sovereign, and shall raise it up again:
"God our Redeemer lives,
And often from the skies.
Looks down and watches all our dust,
Till he shall bid it rise."
It gives an additional sacredness to the grave when we reflect that the tomb is under the watchful care of the Redeemer. Safe in his hands, the body may sink to its native dust with the assurance that in his own time he will again call it forth, with renovated and immortal powers, to be for ever subject to his will. With this view, we can leave our friends with confidence in his hands when they die, and yield our own bodies cheerfully to the dust when he shall call our spirits hence. But it is not only over the "body" that his dominion is established. This passage proves that the departed souls of the saints are still subject to him; compare Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:27. He not only has "dominion" over those spirits, but he is their protector and Lord. They are safe under his universal dominion. And it does much to alleviate the pains of separation from pious, beloved friends, to reflect that they depart still to love and serve the same Saviour in perfect purity, and unvexed by infirmity and sin. Why should we wish to recall them from his perfect love in the heavens to the poor and imperfect service which they would render if in the land of the living?
And living - To the redeemed, while they remain in this life. He died to "purchase" them to himself, that they might become his obedient subjects; and they are bound to yield obedience by all the sacredness and value of the price which he paid, even his own precious blood; compare 1 Corinthians 6:20, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's;" 1 Corinthians 7:23; Revelation 14:4 (Greek, "bought"); 1 Peter 2:9, (Greek, "purchased"). If it be asked how this "dominion over the dead and the living" is connected with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we may reply,
(1) That it is secured over Christians from the fact that they are "purchased" or "ransomed" by his precious blood; and that they are bound by this sacred consideration to live to him. This obligation every Christian feels 1 Peter 1:18, and its force is continually resting on him. It was by the love of Christ that he was ever brought to love God at all; and his deepest and tenderest obligations to live to him arise from this source; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.
(2) Jesus, by his death and resurrection, established a dominion over the grave. He destroyed him that had the power of death, Hebrews 2:14, and triumphed over him; Colossians 2:15. Satan is a humbled foe; and his sceptre over the grave is wrested from his hands. When Jesus rose, in spite of all the power of Satan and of people, he burst the bands of death, and made an invasion on the dominions of the dead, and showed that he had power to control all.
(3) this dominion of the Lord Jesus is felt by the spirits on high. They are subject to him because he redeemed them; Revelation 5:9.
(4) it is often revealed in the Scriptures that "dominion" was to be given to the Lord Jesus as the reward of his sufferings and death; see the John 17:2, John 17:4-5; John 5:26-29 notes; Philippians 2:5-11 notes; Ephesians 1:20-21 notes; Hebrews 2:9-10; Hebrews 12:2 notes. The "extent" of his dominion as mediator is affirmed, in this place, only to be over the dead and the living; that is, over the human race. Other passages of the Scripture, however, seem to imply that it extends over all worlds.
10But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
But why ... - Since we are all subjects and servants alike, and must all stand at the same tribunal, what right have we to sit in judgment on others?
Thou judge - Thou who art a "Jewish" convert, why dost thou attempt to arraign the "Gentile" disciple, as if he had violated a law of God? compare Romans 14:3.
Thy brother - God has recognised him as his friend Romans 14:3, and he should be regarded by thee as "a brother" in the same family.
Or why dost thou set at nought - Despise Romans 14:3; why dost thou, who art a "Gentile" convert, despise the "Jewish" disciple as being unnecessarily scrupulous and superstitious?
Thy brother - The Jewish convert is now a brother; and all the contempt which you Gentiles once cherished for the Jew should cease, from the fact that "he" is now "a Christian." Nothing will do so much, on the one hand, to prevent a censorious disposition, and on the other, to prevent contempt for those who are in a different rank in life, as to remember that they are "Christians," bought with the same blood, and going to the same heaven as ourselves.
We must all stand ... - That is, we must all be tried alike at the same tribunal; we must answer for our conduct, not to our-fellow man, but to Christ; and it does not become us to sit in judgment on each other.
11For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
For it is written - This passage is recorded in Isaiah 45:23. It is not quoted literally, but the sense is preserved. In Isaiah there can be no doubt that it refers to Yahweh. The speaker expressly calls himself Yahweh, the name which is appropriate to God alone, and which is never applied to a creature; Romans 14:18. In the place before us, the words are applied by Paul expressly to Christ; compare Romans 14:10. This mode of quotation is a strong incidental proof that the apostle regarded the Lord Jesus as divine. On no other principle could he have made these quotations.
As I live - The Hebrew is, "I have sworn by myself." One expression is equivalent to the other. An "oath" of God is often expressed by the phrase "as I live;" Numbers 14:21; Isaiah 49:18; Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 14:16, etc.
Saith the Lord - These words are not in the Hebrew text, but are added by the apostle to show that the passage quoted was spoken by the Lord, the Messiah; compare Isaiah 45:18, Isaiah 45:22.
Every knee shall bow to me - To bow the knee" is an act expressing homage, submission, or adoration. It means that every person shall acknowledge him as God, and admit his right to universal dominion. The passage in Isaiah refers particularly to the homage which "his own people" should render to him; or rather, it means that all who are saved shall acknowledge "him" as their God and Saviour. The original reference was not to "all men," but only to those who should be saved; Isaiah 45:17, Isaiah 45:21-22, Isaiah 45:24. In this sense the apostle uses it; not as denoting that "all men" should confess to God, but that all "Christians," whether Jewish or Gentile converts, should alike give account to Him. "They" should all bow before their common God, and acknowledge "his" dominion over them. The passage originally did not refer particularly to the day of judgment, but expressed the truth that all believers should acknowledge his dominion. It is as applicable, however, to the judgment, as to any other act of homage which his people will render.
Every tongue shall confess to God - In the Hebrew, "Every tongue shall swear." Not swear "by God," but "to him;" that is, pay to him our vows, or "answer to him on oath" for our conduct; and this is the same as confessing to him, or acknowledging him as our Judge.
12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
So then - Wherefore; or according to the doctrine of the Old Testament.
Every one of us - That is, every Christian; for the connection requires us to understand the argument only of Christians. At the same time it is a truth abundantly revealed elsewhere, that "all men" shall give account of their conduct to God; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25; Ecclesiastes 12:14.
Give account of himself - That is, of his character and conduct; his words and actions; his plans and purposes. In the fearful arraignment of that day every work and purpose shall be brought forth, and tried by the unerring standard of justice. As we shall be called to so fearful an account with God, we should not be engaged in condemning our brethren, but should examine whether we are prepared to give up our account with joy, and not with grief.
To God - The judgment will be conducted by the Lord Jesus; Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 17:31. All judgment is committed to the Son; John 5:22, John 5:27. Still we may be said to give account to God,
(1) Because He "appointed" the Messiah to be the Judge Act 17:31; and,
(2) Because the Judge himself is divine.
The Lord Jesus being God as well as man, the account will be rendered directly to the Creator as well as the Redeemer of the world. In this passage there are "two" incidental proofs of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. "First," the fact that the apostle applies to him language which in the prophecy is expressly spoken by "Yahweh;" and, "Secondly," the fact that Jesus is declared to be the Judge of all. No being that is not "omniscient" can be qualified to judge the secrets of all people. None who has not "seen" human purposes at all times, and in all places; who has not been a witness of the conduct by day and by night; who has not been present with all the race at all times, and who in the great day cannot discern the true character of the soul, can be qualified to conduct the general judgment. Yet none can possess these qualifications but God. The Lord Jesus, "the judge of quick and dead" 2 Timothy 4:1, is therefore divine.
13Let 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.
Let us not therefore judge ... - Since we are to give account of ourselves at the same tribunal; since we must be there on the same "level," let us not suppose that we have a right here to sit in judgment on our fellow-Christians.
But judge this rather - If disposed to "judge," let us be employed in a better kind of judging; let us come "to a determination" not to injure the cause of Christ. This is an instance of the happy "turn" which the apostle would give to a discussion. Some people have an irresistible propensity to sit in judgment, to pronounce opinions. Let them make good use of that. It will be well to exercise it on what can do no injury, and which may turn to good account. Instead of forming a judgment about "others," let the man form a determination about his own conduct.
That no man ... - A "stumbling-block" literally means anything laid in a man's path, over which he may fall. In the Scriptures, however, the word is used commonly in a figurative sense to denote anything which shall cause him to "sin," as sin is often represented by "falling;" see the note at Matthew 5:29. And the passage means that we should resolve to act so as not "by any means" to be the occasion of leading our brethren into sin, either by our example, or by a severe and harsh judgment, provoking them to anger, or exciting jealousies, and envyings, and suspicions. No better rule than this could be given to promote peace. If every Christian, instead of judging his brethren severely, would resolve that "he" would so live as to promote peace, and so as not to lead others into sin, it would tend more, perhaps, than any other thing to advance the harmony and purity of the church of Christ.
14I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
I know - This is an admission made to the "Gentile" convert, who believed that it was lawful to partake of food of every kind. This the apostle concedes; and says he is fully apprized of this. But though he knew this, yet he goes on to say Romans 14:15, that it would be well to regard the conscientious scruples of others on the subject. It may be remarked here that the apostle Paul had formerly quite as many scruples as any of his brethren had then. But his views had been changed.
And am persuaded - Am convinced.
By the Lord Jesus - This does not mean by any "personal" instruction received from the Lord Jesus, but by all the knowledge which he had received by inspiration of the nature of the Christian religion. The gospel of Jesus had taught him that the rites of the Mosaic economy had been abolished, and among those rites were the rules respecting clean and unclean beasts, etc.
There is nothing unclean - Greek "common." This word was used by the Jews to denote what was "unclean," because, in their apprehension, whatever was partaken by the multitude, or all people, must be impure. Hence, the words "common" and "impure" are often used as expressing the same thing. It denotes what was forbidden by the laws of Moses.
To him that esteemeth ... - He makes it a matter of conscience. He regards certain meats as forbidden by God; and while he so regards them, it would be wrong for him to partake of them. Man may be in error, but it would not be proper for him to act in violation of what he "supposes" God requires.
15But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
But if thy brother ... - This address is to the "Gentile" convert. In the previous verse, Paul admitted. that the prejudice of the Jew was not well-founded. But admitting that still the question was, "how" he should be treated while he had that prejudice. The apostle here shows the Gentile that "he" ought not so to act as unnecessarily to wound his feelings, or to grieve him.
Be grieved - Be pained; as a conscientious man always is, when he sees another, and especially a Christian brother, do anything which "he" esteems to be wrong. The "pain" would be real, though the "opinion" from which it arose might not be well founded.
With thy meat - Greek, On account of meat, or food; that is, because "you" eat what he regards as unclean.
Now walkest - To "walk," in the Sacred Scriptures, often denotes to act, or to do a thing; Mark 7:5; Acts 21:21; Romans 6:4; Romans 8:1, Romans 8:4. Here it means that if the Gentile convert persevered in the use of such food, notwithstanding the conscientious scruples of the Jew, he violated the law of love.
Charitably - Greek, According to charity, or love; that is, he would violate that law which required him to sacrifice his own comfort to promote the happiness of his brother; 1 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Corinthians 10:24, 1 Corinthians 10:28-29; Philippians 2:4, Philippians 2:21.
Destroy not him - The word "destroy" here refers, doubtless, to the ruin of the soul in hell. It properly denotes ruin or destruction, and is applied to the ruin or "corruption" of various things, in the New Testament. To life Matthew 10:39; to a reward, in the sense of "losing" it Mark 10:41; Luke 15:4; to food John 6:27; to the Israelites represented as lost or wandering Matthew 10:6; to "wisdom" that is rendered "vain" 1 Corinthians 1:9; to "bottles," rendered "useless" Matthew 9:17, etc. But it is also frequently applied to destruction in hell, to the everlasting ruin of the soul; Matthew 10:28, "Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell;" Matthew 18:14; John 3:15; Romans 2:12. That "this" is its meaning here is apparent from the parallel place in 1 Corinthians 8:11, "And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish." If it be asked how the eating of meat by the Gentile convert could be connected with the perdition of the Jew, I reply, that the apostle supposes that in this way an occasion of stumbling would be afforded to him, and he would come into condemnation. He might be led by example to partake against his own conscience, or he might be excited to anger, disgust, and apostasy from the Christian faith. Though the apostle believed that all who were true Christians would be saved, Romans 8:30-39, yet he believed that it would be brought about by the use of means, and that nothing should be done that would tend to hinder or endanger their salvation; Hebrews 6:4-9; Hebrews 2:1. God does not bring his people to heaven without the use of "means adapted to the end," and one of those means is that employed here to warn professing Christians against such conduct as might jeopard the salvation of their brethren.
For whom Christ died - The apostle speaks here of the possibility of endangering the salvation of those for whom Christ died, just as he does respecting the salvation of those who are in fact Christians. By those for whom Christ died, he undoubtedly refers here to "true Christians," for the whole discussion relates to them, and them only; compare Romans 14:3-4, Romans 14:7-8. This passage should not be brought, therefore, to prove that Christ died for all people, or for any who shall finally perish. Such a doctrine is undoubtedly true (in this sense; that there is in the death of Christ a "sufficiency for all," and that the "offer" is to all.) (compare 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 John 2:2; 2 Peter 2:1), but it is not the truth which is taught here. The design is to show the criminality of a course that would tend to the ruin of a brother. For these weak brethren, Christ laid down his precious life. He loved them; and shall we, to gratify our appetites, pursue a course which will tend to defeat the work of Christ, and ruin the souls redeemed by his blood?
16Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
Let not then your good ... - That which you esteem to be right, and which may be right in itself. You are not bound by the ceremonial law. You are free from the yoke of bondage This freedom you esteem to be a good - a favor - a high privilege. And so it is; but you should not make such a use of it as to do injury to others.
Be evil spoken of - Greek, Be blasphemed. Do not so use your Christian liberty as to give occasion for railing and unkind remarks from your brethren, so as to produce contention and strife, and thus to give rise to evil reports among the wicked about the tendency of the Christian religion, as if it were adapted only to promote controversy. How much strife would have been avoided if all Christians had regarded this plain rule. In relation to dress, and rites, and ceremonies in the church, we may be conscious that we are right; but an obstinate adherence to them may only give rise to contention and angry discussions, and to evil reports among men, of the tendency of religion. In such a case we should yield our private, unimportant personal indulgence to the good of the cause of religion and of peace.
17For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
For the kingdom of God - For an explanation of this phrase, see the note at Matthew 3:2. Here it means that the uniquenesses of the kingdom of God, or of the Church of Christ on earth, do not consist in observing the distinctions between meats and drinks, it was true that by these things the Jews had been particularly characterized, but the Christian church was to be distinguished in a different manner.
Is not - Does not consist in, or is not distinguished by.
Meat and drink - In observing distinctions between different kinds of food, or making such observances a matter of conscience as the Jews did. Moses did not prescribe any particular drink or prohibit any, but the Nazarites abstained from wine and all kinds of strong liquors; and it is not improbable that the Jews had invented some distinctions on this subject which they judged to be of importance. Hence, it is said in Colossians 2:16, "Let no man judge you in meat or in drink;" compare 1 Corinthians 8:8; 1 Corinthians 4:20.
But righteousness - This word here means "virtue, integrity," a faithful discharge of all the duties which we owe to God or to our fellow-men. It means that the Christian must so live as to be appropriately denominated a righteous man, and not a man whose whole attention is absorbed by the mere ceremonies and outward forms of religion. To produce this, we are told, was the main design, and the principal teaching of the gospel; Titus 2:12; Compare Romans 8:13; 1 Peter 2:11. Thus, it is said 1 John 2:29, "Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of God;" 1 John 3:10, "Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God;" compare 1 John 3:7; 1 Corinthians 15:34; 2 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:7, 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:9; Ephesians 6:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 1 Peter 2:24; Ephesians 4:24. He that is a righteous man, whose characteristic it is to lead a holy life, is a Christian. If his great aim is to do the will of God, and if he seeks to discharge with fidelity all his duties to God and man, he is renewed. On that righteousness he will not "depend" for salvation Philippians 3:8-9, but he will regard this character and this disposition as evidence that he is a Christian, and that the Lord Jesus is made unto him" wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;" 1 Corinthians 1:30.
And peace - This word, in this place, does not refer to the internal "peace" and happiness which the Christian has in his own mind (compare the notes at Romans 5:1); but to peace or concord in opposition to "contention" among brethren. The tendency and design of the kingdom of God is to produce concord and love, and to put an end to alienation and strife. Even though, therefore, there might be ground for the opinions which some cherished in regard to rites, yet it was of more importance to maintain peace than obstinately to press those matters at the expense of strife and contention. That the tendency of the gospel is to promote peace, and to induce people to lay aside all causes of contention and bitter strife, is apparent from the following passages of the New Testament; 1 Corinthians 7:15; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; 2 Timothy 2:22; James 3:18; Matthew 5:9; Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:8; John 13:34-35; John 17:21-23. This is the second evidence of piety on which Christians should examine their hearts - a disposition to promote the peace of Jerusalem; Psalm 122:6; Psalm 37:11. A contentious, quarrelsome spirit; a disposition to magnify trifles; to make the Shibboleth of party an occasion of alienation, and heart-burning, and discord; to sow dissensions on account of unimportant points of doctrine or of discipline, is full proof that there is no attachment to Him who is the Prince of peace. Such a disposition does infinite dishonor to the cause of religion, and perhaps has done more to retard its progress than all other causes put together. Contentions commonly arise from some small matter in doctrine, in dress, in ceremonies; and often the smaller the matter the more fierce the controversy, until he spirit of religion disappears, and desolation comes over the face of Zion:
"The Spirit, like a peaceful dove,
Flies from the realms of noise and strife."
And joy - This refers, doubtless, to the "personal" happiness produced in the mind by the influence of the gospel; see the notes at Romans 5:1-5.
In the Holy Ghost - Produced "by" the Holy Spirit; Romans 5:5; compare Galatians 5:22-23.
18For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
In these things - In righteousness, peace, and joy.
Serveth Christ - Or obeys Christ, who has commanded them. He receives Christ as his "master" or "teacher" and does his will in regard to them. To do these things is to do honor to Christ, and to show the excellency of his religion.
Is acceptable to God - Whether he be converted from the Jews or the Gentiles.
And approved of men - That is, people will "approve" of such conduct; they will esteem it to be right, and to be in accordance with the spirit of Christianity. He does not say that the wicked world will "love" such a life, but it will commend itself to them as such a life as people ought to lead.
19Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
Let us therefore follow ... - The object of this verse is to persuade the church at Rome to lay aside their causes of contention, and to live in harmony. This exhortation is founded on the considerations which the apostle had presented, and may be regarded as the conclusion to which the argument had conducted him.
The things which make for peace - The high purposes and objects of the Christian religion, and not those smaller matters which produce strife. If men aim at the great objects proposed by the Christian religion, they will live in peace. If they seek to promote their private ends, to follow their own passions and prejudices, they will be involved in strife and contention. There "are" great common objects before "all" Christians in which they can unite, and in the pursuit of which they will cultivate a spirit of peace. Let them all strive for holiness; let them seek to spread the gospel; let them engage in circulating the Bible, or in doing good in any way to others, and their smaller matters of difference will sink into comparative unimportance, and they will unite in one grand purpose of saving the world. Christians have more things in which they "agree" than in which they differ. The points in which they are agreed are of infinite importance; the points on which they differ are commonly some minor matters in which they may "agree to differ," and still cherish love for all who bear the image of Christ.
And things wherewith ... - That is, those things by which we may render "aid" to our brethren; the doctrines, exhortations, counsels, and other helps which may benefit them in their Christian life.
May edify - The word "edify" means properly to "build," as a house; then to "rebuild" or "reconstruct;" then to adorn or ornament; then to do any thing that will confer favor or advantage, or which will further an object. Applied to the church, it means to do anything by teaching, counsel, advice, etc. which will tend to promote its great object; to aid Christians, to enable them to surmount difficulties, to remove their ignorance, etc.; Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 14:4. In these expressions the idea of a "building" is retained, reared on a firm, tried cornerstone, the Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 2:20; Isaiah 28:16. Compare Romans 9:33. Christians are thus regarded, according to Paul's noble idea Ephesians 2:20-22, as one great temple erected for the glory of God, having no separate interest, but as united for one object, and therefore bound to do all that is possible, that each other may be suited to their appropriate place, and perform their appropriate function in perfecting and adorning this temple of God.
20For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
For meat - By your obstinate, pertinacious attachment to your own opinions about the distinctions of meat and drinks, do not pursue such a course as to lead a brother into sin, and ruin his soul. Here is a new argument presented why Christians should pursue a course of charity - that the opposite would tend to the ruin of the brother's soul.
Destroy not - The word here is what properly is applied to pulling down an edifice; and the apostle continues the figure which he used in the previous verse. Do not pull down or destroy the "temple" which God is rearing.
The work of God - The work of God is what God does, and here especially refers to his work in rearing "his church." The "Christian" is regarded specially as the work of God, as God renews his heart and makes him what he is. Hence, he is called God's "building" 1 Corinthians 3:9, and his "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" Ephesians 2:10, and is denominated "a new creature;" 2 Corinthians 5:17. The meaning is, "Do not so conduct yourself, in regard to the distinction of meats into clean and unclean, as to cause your brother to sin, and to impair or ruin the work of religion which God is carrying on in his soul." The expression does not refer to "man" as being the work of God, but to the "piety" of the Christian; to what God, by his Spirit, is producing in the heart of the believer.
All things are indeed pure - Compare Romans 14:14. This is a concession to those whom he was exhorting to peace. All things under the Christian dispensation are lawful to be eaten. The distinctions of the Levitical law are not binding on Christians.
But it is evil - Though pure in itself, yet it may become an occasion of sin, if another is grieved by it. It is evil to the man who pursues a course that will give offence to a brother; that will pain him, or tend to drive him off from the church, or lead him any way into sin.
With offence - So as to offend a brother, such as he esteems to be sin, and by which he will be grieved.
21It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
It is good - It is right; or it is better. This verse is an explanation or enlarged specification of the meaning of the former.
To eat flesh - That is, such flesh as the "Jewish" convert regarded as unclean; Romans 14:2.
Nor to drink wine - Wine was a common drink among the Jews, and usually esteemed lawful. But the Nazarites were not allowed to drink it Numbers 6:3, and the Rechabites Jeremiah 35 drank no wine, and it is possible that some of the early converts regarded it as unlawful for Christians to drink it. Wine was moreover used in libations in pagan worship, and perhaps the Jewish coverts might be scrupulous about its use from this cause. The caution here shows us what should be done "now" in regard to the use of wine. It may not be possible to prove that wine is absolutely unlawful, but still many friends of "temperance" regard it as such, and are grieved at its use. They esteem the habit of using it as tending to intemperance, and as encouraging those who cannot afford expensive liquors. Besides, the wines which are now used are different from those which were common among the ancients. That was the pure juice of the grape. That which is now in common use is mingled with alcohol, and with other intoxicating ingredients. Little or none of the wine which comes to this country is pure. And in this state of the case, does not the command of the apostle here require the friends of temperance to abstain even from the use of wine?
Nor anything - Any article of food or drink, or any course of conduct. So valuable is peace, and so desirable is it not to offend a brother, that we should rather deny ourselves to any extent, than to be the occasion of offences and scandals in the church.
Stumbleth - For the difference between this word and the word "offended," see the note at Romans 11:11. It means here that by eating, a Jewish convert might be led to eat also, contrary to his own conviction of what was right, and thus be led into sin.
Or is made weak - That is, shaken, or rendered "less stable" in his opinion or conduct. By being led to imitate the Gentile convert, he would become less firm and established; he would violate his own conscience; his course would be attended with regrets and with doubts about its propriety, and thus he would be made "weak." In this verse we have an eminent instance of the charity of the apostle, and of his spirit of concession and kindness. If this were regarded by all Christians, it would save no small amount of strife, and heart-burnings, and contention. Let a man begin to act on the principle that peace is to be promoted, that other Christians are not to be offended, and what a change would it at once produce in the churches, and what an influence would it exert over the life!
22Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
Hast thou faith? - The word "faith" here refers only to the subject under discussion - to the subject of meats, drinks, etc. Do you believe that it is right to eat all kinds of food, etc. The apostle had admitted that this was the true doctrine; but he maintains that it should be so held as not to give offence.
Have it to thyself - Do not obtrude your faith or opinion on others. Be satisfied with cherishing the opinion, and acting on it in private, without bringing it forward to produce disturbance in the church.
Before God - Where God only is the witness. God sees your sincerity, and will approve your opinion. That opinion cherish and act on, yet so as not to give offence, and to produce disturbance in the church. God sees your sincerity; he sees that you are right; and you will not offend him. Your brethren do "not" see that you are right, and they will be offended.
Happy is he ... - This state of mind, the apostle says, is one that is attended with peace and happiness; and this is a "further" reason why they should indulge their opinion in private, without obtruding it on others. They were conscious of doing right, and that consciousness was attended with peace. This fact he states in the form of a universal proposition, as applicable not only to "this" case, but to "all" cases; compare 1 John 3:21.
Condemneth not himself - Whose conscience does not reprove him.
In that which he alloweth - Which he "approves," or which he "does." Who has a clear conscience in his opinions and conduct. Many people indulge in practices which their consciences condemn, many in practices of which they are in doubt. But the way to be happy is to have a "clear conscience" in what we do; or in other words, if we have "doubts" about a course of conduct, it is not safe to indulge in that course, but it should be at once abandoned. Many people are engaged in "business" about which they have many doubts; many Christians are in doubt about certain courses of life. But they can have "no doubt" about the propriety of abstaining from them. They who are engaged in the slave-trade; or they who are engaged in the manufacture or sale of ardent spirits; or they who frequent the theater or the ball-room, or who run the round of fashionable amusements, if professing Christians, must often be troubled with "many" doubts about the propriety of their manner of life. But they can have no doubt about the propriety of an "opposite" course. Perhaps a single inquiry would settle all debate in regard to these things: "Did anyone ever become a slave-dealer, or a dealer in ardent spirits, or go to the theater, for engage in scenes of splendid amusements, with any belief that he was imitating the Lord Jesus Christ, or with any desire to honor him or his religion?" But one answer would be given to this question; and in view of it, how striking is the remark of Paul, "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in what he alloweth."
23And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
He that doubteth - He that is not fully satisfied in his mind; who does not do it with a clear conscience. The margin has it rendered correctly, "He that discerneth and putteth a difference between meats." He that conscientiously believes, as the Jew did, that the Levitical law respecting the difference between meats was binding on Christians.
Is damned - We apply this word almost exclusively to the future punishment of the wicked in hell. But it is of importance to remember, in reading the Bible, that this is not of necessity its meaning. It means properly to "condemn;" and here it means only that the person who should thus violate the dictates of his conscience would incur guilt, and would be blameworthy in doing it. But it does not affirm that he would inevitably sink to hell. The same construction is to be put on the expression in 1 Corinthians 11:29, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself."
For whatsoever ... - "Whatever is not done with a full conviction that it is right, is sinful; whatever is done when a man doubts whether it is right, is sin." This is evidently the fair interpretation of this place. Such the connection requires. It does not affirm that all or any of the actions of impenitent and unbelieving people are sinful, which is true, but not the truth taught here; nor does it affirm that all acts which are not performed by those who have faith in the Lord Jesus, are sinful; but the discussion pertains to Christians; and the whole scope of the passage requires us to understand the apostle as simply saying that a man should not do a thing doubting its correctness; that he should have a strong conviction that what he does is right; and that if he has "not" this conviction, it is sinful. The rule is of universal application. In all cases, if a man does a thing which he does not "believe" to be right, it is a sin, and his conscience will condemn him for it. It may be proper, however, to observe that the converse of this is not always true, that if a man believes a thing to be right, that therefore it is not sin. For many of the persecutors were conscientious John 16:2; Acts 26:9; and the murderers of the Son of God did it ignorantly Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8; and yet were adjudged as guilty of enormous crimes; compare Luke 11:50-51; Acts 2:23, Acts 2:37.
In this chapter we have a remarkably fine discussion of the nature of Christian charity. Differences of "opinion" will arise, and people will be divided into various sects; but if the rules which are laid down in this chapter were followed, the contentions, and altercations, and strifes among Christians would cease. Had these rules been applied to the controversies about rites, and forms, and festivals, that have arisen, peace might have been preserved. Amid all such differences, the great question is, whether there is true love to the Lord Jesus. If there is, the apostle teaches us that we have no right to judge a brother, or despise him, or contend harshly with him. Our object should be to promote peace, to aid him in his efforts to become holy, and to seek to build him up in holy faith.