In what appears to be a very logical
sequence of presentations, this chapter, like the two before it, deals
primarily with Christian living and the discharge of the responsibilities
that belong to the Christian. While chapter twelve mentioned many matters
in general, and chapter thirteen was more specific in dealing with the
Christian and his relationship to civil authority, and also attitudes and
actions toward opponents, this chapter has to do with the Christian and
his conduct and attitude toward his own brethren who might not be as strong
and well-grounded in Christ as he is fortunate to be.
We also must approach this chapter
cautiously because many have taken certain statements of this chapter and
wrested them so as to make these statements seem to mean what is diametrically
opposite to the spirit and requirements of Christianity. So often when
men are determined to "do their own thing and go their own way," having
little to no real respect for the Scriptures, but at the same time realizing
the value of having Biblical support for what they think and do, they will
take sentences out of context and assign meanings to them that actually
lead in the opposite direction of the truth. Chapter fourteen has often
been so abused by those who are very liberal and permissive in their thinking,
and who relegate the doctrinal demands of the gospel to an insignificant
and unimportant position.
1 Him that is weak in
the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
The words are obviously addressed to someone
other than those who are weak in the faith, but to those who are strong
in the faith, with the knowledge and ability to apply to their lives the
faith, the religion of Christ. They are addressed to those who are stronger.
Weak ones are not to be disdained or viewed with contempt. They are to
be received because they are brothers. Surely, they lack maturity, and
there is much room and need for growth. The mere fact that one is weak
in the faith is no cause to refuse him.
We must not gather from this passage
that God is pleased when one remains weak in the faith even while he has
opportunities to grow strong in the faith. The receiving of a weak brother
necessarily indicates the weakness is neither deliberate nor because of
neglect, not feigned nor pretended, but because of the lack of time and
opportunity to grow. Those who are in the Lord's church for years on end
and are satisfied to remain weak, confused, unlearned, and who are really
doing relatively little to improve their situation can hardly be considered
as the "weak" under discussion here.
Verses 2, 3
2 For one believeth
that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let 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.
Paul gives this illustration that defines
more clearly the principle of receiving a weak brother. It is on the subject
of food. Certain foods were forbidden among the Jews by the Mosaic law.
Certain meats were called "unclean." Some brethren stoutly believed that
they ought never eat any meat whatever. They were strictly vegetarians.
Upon becoming Christians they were not likely to discard that strong conviction
readily. Like so many other things, when one becomes a Christian he must
grow out of some ideas he formerly held and grow into an acceptance of
the truth in all matters. Whether to eat meat or not eat meat was not a
matter that was morally or religiously right or wrong in itself. To eat
was not wrong. To refuse to eat was not wrong. This is a very important
element in the context of this discussion, and it shall be mentioned repeatedly
lest we be inclined to overlook it. Overlooking it is at the heart of much
of the abuse of this chapter. The principles being presented and illustrated
in this chapter regarding the conduct of brethren who are stronger toward
brethren who are weaker are not to be applied to matters where there is
a right and wrong, a truth or error situation. It deals with a matter of
indifference. Some falsely conclude that regardless of what one does or
believes they should be received. This is not what is being taught. The
problems and issues under consideration are those of indifference. It is
only a matter of the conscience of those involved that is being discussed.
God has not demanded meat to be eaten, nor has He demanded only herbs be
eaten. He has neither forbidden nor commanded concerning such things under
the dispensation of Jesus Christ as was true for the Jews under the law
given through Moses. Paul makes it plain that there is nothing wrong with
eating meat if one chooses to eat meat in First Timothy 4:3-4. He even
warns against those who would forbid others to eat meat in First Timothy
The question here is similar, though
not identical, with the problem discussed in First Corinthians, chapter
eight. There the problem was not only the eating of meat, but the eating
of the meat of animals that has been sacrificed to idols. The thrust of
the teaching in First Corinthians was that there was nothing wrong of the
meat itself that would prohibit the Christian from eating it for food,
even though it may have been once offered to idols. One was not necessarily
showing any honor or respect to the idol to which the animal had been offered
if he simply purchased the meat for food after it was placed on the market.
If that practice proved to be an occasion of stumbling for a weaker brother
who did not understand this, however, that was another matter. Then that
practice ought to be discarded. Paul said he would rather never eat meat
again than to cause a weak brother to fall and be offended. The overriding
message is the same here in Romans fourteen. It has to do with the conduct
and attitude a brother has toward those of the brotherhood who have yet
not matured sufficiently to be able to discern between matters of right
and wrong on the one hand, and matters of indifference on the other. For
the sake of the weak one, however, the safest course is directed.
The situation was one where the weak
one, in his limited knowledge, ought not condemn his brother for eating
meat because there was actually nothing wrong in doing so. On the other
hand, the stronger brother ought not condemn the weaker one either for
the simple fact he is weak, and needs to grow in his understanding. To
unnecessarily offend him in his weakness might well cost him his soul.
Let me express it even another way.
The strong brother had the "right" to eat the meat because he understood
there was nothing wrong in doing so. But he must be willing to sacrifice
his "right" if it would offend a weaker brother, and if he did not, he
would be wrong.
Some have objected to this teaching
on the grounds that it infringes upon one's liberty in Christ. One might
object that this deprives stronger brethren of those things they ought
be permitted to do. Sometimes we hear people talking about their "liberty
in Christ." It causes one to wonder if they really know whereof they speak.
The liberty in Christ that we enjoy as Christians is liberty or freedom
from sin, liberty to do what is right in the sight of God, liberty to voluntarily
be concerned about the feelings and spiritual welfare of others. In Christ
we are never at liberty to do just as we please regardless of others.
It is not uncommon that the very ones
who cry loudest about their "liberty in Christ" are doing many things in
which they have no liberty whatever to be involved. For instance, we are
not at liberty to reduce the worship of Christ to an entertainment, or
a disorderly hand clapping, foot stomping session of emotionalism. We are
not at liberty to dress whatever way we please, go anywhere we wish, say
whatever comes to mind, even pray and preach in whatever fashion and message
that strikes us as being acceptable to the "in" generation. Such things
are sometimes done by those who cry "liberty in Christ," but their liberty
does not extend that far. Even if it did, since they claim many times to
be so much more "spiritual," mature, and loving than others, they have
a duty to restrain themselves for the sake of the "weak."
Some advocates of "liberty in Christ"
are not beyond insisting they can do whatever they wish, have their women
to preach, take the Lord's Supper on days other than the first day of the
week, and demand that you sit by quietly as they denounce, ridicule, degrade,
and belittle with trite words, uncouth manners, and misrepresentations
those things that others have done and learned from Scripture that they
consider holy and sacred. This is certainly not the instruction of Romans,
chapter fourteen, and the so-called "new" approach some take to this chapter,
and their misappropriation of its verses, is a crime against brethren as
well as a sin against God and disrespect for His Word.
What is being taught here is that
out of consideration for a weaker brother the stronger brother may well
forego some of his "rights." This means he will not demand his "rights"
if they are going to cause some weaker brother to fall from the faith.
As stated earlier, that is when "rights" can become wrongs.
Actually, we have no right to condemn
one another in matters of indifference or human judgment. These are matters
where it makes no difference either way to God, such as eating or refusing
to eat, meat. God has not legislated this matter. When there are disputes
in such matters they are not to be simply dismissed. They ought to be settled
with an understanding by all involved. But the instruction warns against
giving the weaker brother spiritual indigestion over matters which they
have not yet matured sufficiently to grasp and comprehend. There must be
patience and tolerance toward the weak on the part of the strong. Love
for the weak brother will demand this be done.
Once again, we would remind the reader
that this weakness must be removed by teaching. One who has been sufficiently
taught, but just stubbornly refuses to allow even what God allows, cannot
forever be considered a mere "weak" brother, but might even be a factious
4 Who art thou that judgest another
man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall
be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one
day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be
fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He 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.
We are the servants of God. Each of our
brothers and sisters in Christ are servants of God. Therefore, it is not
our prerogative to condemn the servant of whom we are not the master. Each
Christian is accountable unto God, and God will condemn if condemnation
is deserved. But once again we warn how this passage has been abused to
contradict other teaching in the New Testament regarding discipline that
is to be administered toward a disorderly brother. Remember, the words
written are in the context of matters of indifference, not in matters of
doctrine, or matters of faith, morals, conduct, where there is a right
and wrong before God, but matters of mere human judgment and opinion, each
possibly having varying personal preferences. Some have misused these verses
to make this teaching say that Christians have no right to confront brethren
even when error is obvious. This would place God against God, the apostle
against the apostle, and divine teaching against divine teaching. There
are numerous commands dealing with meeting the disorderly in the church.
Some are found even in this very epistle in chapter sixteen. These words
are not talking about a disorderly one, but one who is weak in the faith.
Other illustrations of the principle
are given. One man may well count one day of some special concern to him,
while another man may not so count that day. It would not be unusual that
a Jewish convert might still consider the Sabbath of some distinction to
him if he had observed it all his life. After all, his forefathers had
looked upon it in a special light for over fifteen hundred years. He is
not likely to leap out of some feeling for that day just because he has
become a Christian. He may even know he is not bound to observe that day
as before. But let us not be guilty of wresting the passage and making
it mean something it certainly does not mean. Paul is not saying it is
proper to make or observe religious holy days, and observe them as was
done under the Mosaic system, or even as some observe special days even
yet. He is not saying that one can ignore the first day of the week assembly,
or the worship, including the Lord's Supper whenever he feels like it,
or to substitute or "esteem" some other day rather than the first day.
The New Testament church observed the Lord's Supper on the first day of
the week and no other day. Paul is not authorizing men to make religious
holy days and observe them for which there is no new covenant authority.
He is obviously referring to an individual and private concern, an individual
matter where one man might wish to make some private and personal observance
of his own. Such a man has no right to bind this on others, but neither
does anyone have the right to forbid him his own private activity. He presumes,
of course, that his activity does not violate any teaching of the revealed
will of God through Christ. It would not allow him the right to worship
God privately in some manner untaught and unauthorized in the New Testament.
It would not give him the freedom to engage in some activity that would
be wrong, even though he kept it to himself. Even though others may not
learn of his wrong, and therefore would never condemn him for it, God knows
if he does wrong, and he cannot excuse his wrong on the basis that it is
a private matter.
Let me illustrate with a very modern
and up-to-date fashion. If a man wishes to make a trip into the woods each
Wednesday morning for prayer, and comes toýÿÿÿ
consider in his own mind this period of time as very
special to him, and would not fail to go to the woods each Wednesday morning
for anything, so long as he does not neglect the first day of the week
assembly, or attempts to do anything God does not approve, nor tries to
bind his Wednesday morning prayer time on others, none can forbid him the
exercise of his right in the matter. Let him, if he sees fit, choose a
certain hour of the day for prayer. Well and good, and may it be so! So
long as he makes no attempt to force others to observe this hour, he does
no wrong. But neither should anyone attempt to forbid him that hour. So
long as he is "fully persuaded," that is, he knows what he is doing is
right, and it is done with good conscience, again assuming no violation
is involved, it is acceptable to God, and is offered unto God. The same
principle applies to other matters of indifference, even the food he eats.
7 For none of us liveth
to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live
unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live
therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ both died,
and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
We do not live alone. We do not live in
a vacuum without influencing others and others influencing us. We do not
live apart from God. Our lives touch the lives of others. We must at all
times be mindful of responsibilities toward others, and our influence on
others. We must ever remember we belong to God and are His. We are His
property. We ought always do what pleases Him. It was for the purpose that
we can live for God, and please Him, that Christ died and was raised from
the dead. Actually, these three verses present the platform upon which
the following verses build some basic principles.
10 But 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. 11 For it is written, As
I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall
confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself
Drawing upon the arguments made just prior
to these verses, Paul writes again logically, and in the most reasonable
understandable sequence. Why should we engage in the practice of condemning
one another in such matters of individual opinion? Of course, we should
not. We have a judge and that judge is Deity. This is a prerogative we
ought not take to ourselves, this action of condemning others in matters
of indifference. The primary thing is that we recognize the greatness of
God, bow ourselves before God, confess our faults unto God, as well as
confess the majesty of God. We are accountable to God, and since that is
true, we ought to be busy doing all in our power to be able to give a good
account unto God, as we must do individually. Please notice that Paul affirms
how all shall bow before the Lord, not only all should do this, as taught
in Philippians 2:11. The word to note is "shall."
13 Let us not therefore
judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling
block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
Having shown the impropriety of judging
in those areas where we have neither the ability nor the right, in contrast,
let us busy ourselves in another effort. Let us make sure we do not become
a stumbling block for a brother. Let us make sure we do not put an obstacle
in the path of our brother. Should we be guilty of doing that, we shall
give account of that to be sure.
Often one may hear of some brother
or sister who has fallen by the wayside, quit the church, ceased to be
the Christian they vowed they would be when they were baptized into Christ.
They sometimes blame some other Christians for this. They violently accuse
others and lay the fault at the feet of the church. This verse shows the
possibility that brethren can be at fault in causing others to fall. Those
who have the attitude that everything must go their way may well be so
offensive. Someone whose convictions are not yet strong enough to overcome
such behavior might abandon the faith to their spiritual destruction. This
bad conduct by the offensive brother does not justify a person turning
his wrath against the truth of God and the church, nor does it make it
right for him to take his retaliation toward an inconsiderate Christian
out on God and other brethren. This is precisely what some people do whenever
they quit the church for whatever excuse. That does explain why some quit.
But this passage emphasizes the tremendous responsibility we have toward
one another not to make living a Christian life harder, but we should try
to smooth things out for each other as much as we can.
Too often, however, assigning the
blame for someone's apostasy to another brother is more than can be accepted
and justified. Sometimes there be those who wish to run counter to the
truth. Should one resist them for their sins, sometimes the sinning brother
will turn and rend his brother, quit the church, and lay the blame for
his quitting on the one who was doing his brotherly duty to call his sins
to his attention. Again, we must consider the context of all these instructions,
even at the risk of repeating them too often. Because these verses are
so often abused, especially in a time of drift from the truth and digression,
we have to repeat it. We are discussing matters of opinion in this chapter,
matters of human judgment, matters of personal preference, matters of indifference,
not matters of faith, right and wrong, truth and error. While we must do
all we can to teach what is correct in all matters, there can be toleration
in these realms of indifference, but never in the realm where God has spoken
or where truth is at stake. Paul admonishes that we are not to take advantage
of our liberties, even in doing what of itself may otherwise be all right,
if that thing is going to cause some brother to lose his soul. A soul is
worth more than our liberty. Paul teaches Christians to be careful and
not become a hindrance, but always seek to be a help.
14 I 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. 15 But if
thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.
Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your
good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink;
but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
To emphasize the type of things Paul was
discussing wherein we are to be tolerant and charitable toward the weak,
he expressed immovable confidence, having been persuaded by no less authority
than Christ Himself, that the matters under discussion are matters that
are not unclean or sinful. Surely, there can be no doubt whatever as to
the Lord's attitude toward matters of sin. Paul is not saying here that
if a man thinks a sinful thing is not sinful, then it is clean. Neither
is he saying that sinful deeds are actually all right if only men would
consider them all right. He is not teaching that only thinking something
is sinful is what really makes it sinful. Paul is talking about matters
where there is room for difference of opinion, room for variance in practice,
matters of indifference, matters where one does no evil should he do them,
and does no evil should he refrain from them. Those are the the kind of
things of which he writes when he says, "There is nothing unclean of itself."
This is another phrase in this chapter that is often abused and wrested
to make it appear that Paul is teaching everything is beautiful in its
own way if we would only consider it so.
The point is, if a thing that in and
of itself is not unclean is thought by someone to be unclean, should that
person partake of it thinking as he does about it, he would be violating
his conscience, and the violation of one's own understanding and conscience
regarding right and wrong constitutes sin. One cannot be honest if he deliberately
does something that he is convinced is wrong. If he thinks it is wrong
and does it anyway, then he has done wrong, even if it is not wrong in
itself. It is not the action done that makes him guilty of sin, but it
is the violation of his conscience and violation of honesty to himself.
We note again that this is another
one of those phrases in this chapter that has been grossly abused in trying
to make wrong seem to be right. Some have erroneously concluded that only
when one thinks something is wrong is it actually wrong for him. This is
not true. There are matters that are right and wrong whether anyone ever
believes them to be right or wrong or not. There is absolute truth and
absolute error regardless of what anyone or everyone thinks about it. Just
thinking something is right or wrong is not all that determines what is
right and wrong. There are some things right or wrong because God said
so regardless of what men think. But what one does think about a deed when
that deed is actually all right will determine whether it is permissible
for that person or not. He should never violate what he believes to be
right. Even though what he believes does not make a wrong thing right,
he can make a right thing wrong by doing it against his own conscience.
Let us illustrate with Paul's discussion
of eating meat. Paul taught if Mr. A, who is a Christian, thinks is it
right to eat meat, he does not sin in eating meat because before God there
is nothing wrong in eating meat. Should Mr. B, also a Christian, think
eating meat is wrong, even though before God it is not wrong, he would
commit wrong to eat meat because he would violate his own conscience.
Let us consider another illustration
to make the matter perfectly clear. Should Mr. A think stealing is all
right, and then steals, he has done wrong, not because he violated his
conscience (which he did not do), but because God has made stealing wrong
in itself. God commands, "Thou shalt not steal." It does not matter what
Mr. A thinks about it one way or another. Stealing is wrong and one cannot
steal without committing sin.
However, should Mr. B. think stealing
is wrong, and steals anyway, he has committed two sins. He sinned by stealing,
and he sinned by violating his conscience.
Sometimes people say, "Let your conscience
be your guide." While there is some truth in that, it needs some clarification
for a full understanding of the guidance of the conscience. We must not
transgress what we believe to be true. On the other hand, even though the
conscience may not be offended, that does not prove what we are doing is
right. Conscience "speaks" to us according to the way the conscience has
been trained. For this reason we ought make every effort to assure that
our consciences are trained according to the Word of God. Only in this
way can our consciences be reliable guides. In reality, our guide even
then would not merely be the conscience, but the Word of God working through
a properly trained conscience.
Paul continues on the general theme
of attitudes and actions brethren must have toward one another. If eating
meat is offensive and thought to be sinful by a brother, this brother ought
be willing to forego eating meat before he would destroy his brother by
confusing his brother, placing a stumbling block before him. Even though
meat is acceptable in itself, he should not let his good be evil spoken
of because he commits the permissible in an unwarranted manner. We cannot
even do all that "liberty in Christ" might otherwise permit if it is going
to lead to the loss of a weak soul. We have belabored these points because
they are vital in understanding our duty in Christian living. Too often
these marvelous principles are misused to allow sin. To do that is to be
guilty of false teaching.
What is the remedy to this situation?
Some have drawn the conclusion that surely cannot be true; namely, that
the whole church can never exercise its liberties in Christ except to the
extent of the knowledge of the weakest brother. This does not follow at
all. The very first item of concern must be to teach the weak brother two
things. One, he must be taught the truth about the matter under consideration
so he will not be offended when right things are done by others. Two, the
weak brother also must be taught that he has a duty to his brethren, as
is taught in verse three. He is not to think he is to judge concerning
a matter about which he is uninformed or misinformed. Anyone, even the
youngest and weakest brother, can be taught to understand that obligation.
The weak brother has a duty to withhold his criticism, learn, and grow
out of his weakness. This last lesson he can be taught in a moment. The
first may take longer. It is the duty of the stronger to afford him opportunity
to do just that, and it is the duty of the weaker to take advantage of
the opportunity afforded him to be taught, learn, and grow.
The real reason behind the instruction
for the stronger to make room for the weakness of the weaker on such matters
is because of the relative insignificance of these matters anyway. Also,
there must be maintained brotherliness, peace, and love among them. This
is the emphasis of verse seventeen. Remember, and this is repetative but
needful, that Paul is discussing things of indifference, matters that really
are not the sum and substance of the kingdom. He is dealing with matters
of themselves that have no real bearing on the salvation of the soul, but
matters that would not violate God's law either way.
What does matter is righteousness
(the law of God by which men are made righteous), peace (peace between
man and God as well as man and man, especially among brethren), and other
such things. Brotherhood peace ought not be disturbed and/or broken over
such things. Things that do count include joy in the Holy Spirit, the blessedness
and joy that Christians enjoy when they are in the saved relationship with
Deity. These things are paramount. What to eat and drink, except drinking
blood, eating things strangled, and meat offered to idols by which honor
is paid to the idol, (Acts 15:26), are of little importance. I do not think
it is too much to contend that they are of no importance except as they
might have an adverse influence on brotherhood peace, and to the extent
they have a bearing on the attitude and conduct brethren have one toward
the other regarding them.
18 For he that in these
things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let
us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith
one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things
indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby
thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
Here is a noble goal set before the Christian
in his conduct of his life. Be acceptable to God regarding such things.
The words in this chapter are important to our approval before God. We
are expected to be governed by them and live by them. Not only will God
be pleased, but brethren also, and possibly others as well who can then
recognize the attitude of concern and love Christians have toward each
Instead of arguing and tying ourselves
in knots regarding lesser matters, we ought set our minds and hearts in
another direction, that of working for what makes for peace, and what edifies
the brethren. Edification, teaching, strengthening one another is essential
in Christian growth. Let our emphasis be there, not on matters that really
do not matter. This we could do if there were fewer who were determined
to have their own way on everything and demand that others conform to them.
Those of that disposition, however, have to be handled lest they disrupt
the entire brotherhood.
Do not destroy the work of God, disrupt
the church, offend brethren, impede the growth of the kingdom over such
matters. Brethren who make mountains out of these kind of indifferent molehills
will have a lot for which they must answer in judgment. Again, and we do
not tire of making this reminder because some misuse the passage, lest
one be tempted to read into these words what is not taught, we remind you
of the nature of the subjects under discussion. We are not talking about
truth versus error. A totally and completely different attitude toward
error is required of the Christian. The actions Paul discusses are themselves
pure, not impure. He speaks of offending the conscience, and that of another,
over matters about which there may be misunderstanding due to weakness.
He concludes it is good to do nothing, not even eat flesh, drink wine,
or anything else that leads to the loss of the precious soul of a brother
who is yet weak.
A word is in order regarding the term
"wine." There is no way one can establish and prove from this or any other
New Testament text that it is legitimate for one to drink strong drink
as a beverage. It certainly cannot be done from the word "wine." The term
"wine" in the New testament does not necessarily carry the idea of an intoxicating
beverage every time it is used. Without going into a lengthy discourse
that the subject really deserves regarding the Christian teaching that
forbids drinking alcoholic beverages and strong drinks, suffice it here
to say with unwavering insistence that the entire direction of sentiment
and teaching from the Bible regarding such a practice calls for total abstinence.
Of this there can be no serious Biblical challenge. Although some try desperately
to make room for their worldly and sinful practice with beer in the refrigerator,
social drinks at the club, cocktails before dinner, etc., they struggle
against truth in vain and shall never succeed until the Bible is rewritten.
Of course, somebody might do that with some "modern version." It has been
done on other subjects in these perverted books called "Bibles."
But let the point be carried a step
further. Granting that under some circumstances it was permissible for
a Christian to drink strong drink (a contention that is almost too offensive
to even grant for the sake of argument, and a contention I stoutly resist),
why would not the drinking brother be under obligation to refrain from
drinking in view of the fact that drinking is so absolutely offensive to
nearly every other brother in Christ? It cannot be denied that such drinking
would place a stumbling block before somebody who has an alcohol problem,
and who is trying to recover from it. Such a stumbling block contributes
to encouraging others to drink, who may well become an alcoholic. Furthermore,
there can be no doubt because experience proves too well that drinking
on the part of a brother is misleading to others. How many have been guilty
of placing the drink before young and old, male and female, rich and poor,
brother and alien, because they were determined that they had the liberty
to drink alcoholic beverages in some fashion or another? There is no way,
absolutely no way, to justify the strong drink consumption even if the
term "wine" meant an intoxicating beverage every time. And of course, it
does not mean that.
We never cease to be amazed at the
manipulations made by worldly members of the church to excuse themselves
and justify their transgression against God, mankind, and brethren in particular.
Verses 22, 23
22 Hast thou faith?
have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself
in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he
eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is
Here is the summary passage that lays
down the essentials of this chapter. Do you have faith, a personal conviction,
about something that is important to you? Then have that personal conviction,
and live by it before God. Test it to see if it is actually God's will,
or if it is just simply your personal preference. If right and wrong is
not at stake, where either way you go you do no sin, you may take whatever
course you choose and it is permissible. Only let it be a personal and
private conviction, and do not disturb others with it or about it. Happy
is that man who can live consistently with his convictions. To fail to
live according to one's own conscience is the worst sort of inconsistency
and hypocrisy, even if you and God are the only ones who know it.
If you have doubts about it, leave
it alone because you cannot do it within the realm of your own convictions.
Whatever you do must be done within your convictions or else you would
not be true to yourself. A man that will not be true to what he believes
will not be true to God. If a man thinks a right action is wrong, but does
it anyway, he will do a wrong action just as quickly and willingly. I suggest
this may be the reason some lay awake nights. They are not true to themselves
or to God and they know it. How can one rest easy when he is in such a
spiritual state as that?
The twenty-third verse has sometimes
been misappropriated. Recognizing the absolute necessity for authority
for what we do in service before God, and realizing that "faith cometh
by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," (Romans 10:17), some have
taken this verse and used it to teach this truth. But this passage does
not teach this truth, even though this truth is taught elsewhere. But it
is not taught here. It has been used to teach that we must have Scripture
for every activity before we can engage in that activity. Some contend
unless you can read specifically something from the text, then it is not
of faith, and therefore error. This is not true.
There are many things not specifically
mentioned in Scripture for which there is authority. There are many ways
of determining authority which we shall not belabor here. But that is a
most profitable study. While there must be authority, general or specific,
implicit or explicit, for all we do, there is not the necessity for a specific
statement with reference to every activity that is permissible to the Christian.
Where does on find specific authority or reference to attending a football
game, saving money at the bank, securing a college education, mowing the
lawn, and on and on? We know these things are not sinful. These are matters
of human judgment and opinion, often nothing more than an expedient in
conducting the affairs of life, and no right or wrong is involved. I have
heard practices condemned on the basis of this passage because we find
no specific reference to them in Scripture. When God has spoken, that settles
it. Someone has said, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." The
truth of the matter is, "God said it, that settles it, whether I believe
it or not." There are those activities we cannot do because God has spoken
on the subject but he left out other additional practicies. This is properly
identified as "the silence of the Scriptures." Instrumental music is a
point at hand. Seeing how God has specified the kind of music He wants
in worship, we must not add to what He has said by playing mechanical instruments
and producing another and additional kind of music.
But there are many activities that
are permissible in which the Christian can engage for which there is no
specific statement. I have cited several such things that we encounter
regularly in the secular realm of life. We need to understand, therefore,
what is meant by something being "not of faith."
There are matters of faith, meaning
there are instructions and authority given in Scripture for our work and
worship before God. But every detailed item is not specifically named.
To read into this verse as if it was teaching the necessity of Biblical
wording which mentions every activity is to miss the point of the entire
chapter. When Paul says what is "not of faith," he speaks of matters of
conscience, matters of personal conviction or personal faith. He is not
talking about the faith that is revealed in the Word. To paraphrase his
conclusion, "If what you do is not according to your personal faith, conscience,
convictions, doing it can and does become sinful if you do it."
Possibly there are few chapters in
the entire Bible that have been so abused, and whose passages have been
so wrested by the enemies of truth, and turned into a defense of error,
than Romans, chapter fourteen. But let us not become guilty of making God
Also, few chapters place as much emphasis
on the heart of the Christian as does this one. Solomon wrote, "As a man
thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7). It is not true that
a man is what he thinks he is, but rather, he is what he thinks. This emphasizes
that God is concerned about our attitude, motive, intent, and condition
of the heart or mind. Each must live true to his heart, making sure that
his heart is correctly trained according to the Word of God. To ignore
the heart is to ignore that which God emphasizes. The heart will, for the
most part, determine our actions in this life, and our eternity. It determines
where our treasure really is in life, either on this life on earth, or
on the life hereafter.
The basic thoughts of chapter fourteen
are extended into chapter fifteen. For the complete discussion of the relationship
of the weak and strong one must not observe the chapter break.
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