Romans 14. Give freedom instead of judgments and obstacles

Summary

Not all believers have the same level of spiritual growth. Some do not understand freedom about what food they may eat. Others do not understand freedom about days of the week. The weak believer judges the strong believer and the strong believer shows contempt for the weak. Each person must do what he does for the Lord, not for himself. In fact, whether we live or we die we belong to the Lord (Romans 14.1-9). Therefore, do not judge or show contempt for each other. Each will be evaluated at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14.10-12). Furthermore, do not do something that will confuse the weak believer or cause him to go against his level of biblical understanding. Give him freedom to choose. What we all do, we must do with confidence that that is right. If we do something against our conscience it is sin for us Romans 14.13-23).

Outline

  1. Romans 14:1-9. Not all believers have the same level of spiritual growth. Some do not understand freedom about what food they may eat. Others do not understand freedom about days of the week. Each person must do what he does for the Lord, not for himself.
  2. Romans 14.10-12. Therefore do not judge or show contempt for each other. Each will be evaluated at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
  3. Romans 14.13-23. Furthermore, do not do something that will confuse the weak believer or cause him to go against his level of biblical understanding. Give him freedom to choose. What we all do, we must do with confidence that that is right. If we do something against our conscience it is sin for us.

Select doctrines

  1. Doubtful things
  2. Christ’s death and resurrection
  3. Lordship of Christ
  4. Romans and Corinthian doubtful things compared to Galatians and Colossian Judaizing
  5. Judging one another
  6. Spiritual growth
  7. Judgment Seat of God-Christ
  8. One another in Christian life
  9. Conscience

Commentary

Romans 14.1-9

Romans 14:1-9. Not all believers have the same level of spiritual growth. Some do not understand freedom about what food they may eat. Others do not understand freedom about days of the week. Each person must do what he does for the Lord, not for himself.

  1. Romans 14.1. Paul says that we are to welcome those weak in the faith (προσλαμβάνω pres midd impv 2pl. to receive, to welcome as in Romans 154.7; Philemon 17). They are a part of the body of Christ, though uninstructed. Weak is to be ill or as here limited or not fully functioning.
    1. τῇ πίστει, in the faith. The faith here is more than believing. Or Paul in this present argument it includes the benefits and freedoms of the entire Christian faith. Those weak in the faith those who do not understand what the faith allows in their Christian lives.
    2. The faith. Douglas Moo “The words certainly have some reference to that basic response to God in Christ demanded by the gospel which “faith” and “believe” have denoted throughout Romans.4[1]0 Yet this distinctively Christian notion of faith has (at least implicitly) the person of Jesus Christ as its object: to “believe” is to entrust oneself to a person. Explicitly in v. 2, however, “believe” has the notion “believe that something is legitimate.” Paul is not therefore simply criticizing these people for having a “weak” or inadequate trust in Christ as their Savior and Lord.4[2]1 Rather, he is criticizing them for lack of insight into some of the implications of their faith in Christ. These are Christians who are not able4[3]2 to accept for themselves the truth that their faith in Christ implies liberation from certain OT/Jewish ritual requirements. The “faith” with respect to which these people are “weak,” therefore, is related to their basic faith in Christ but one step removed from it. It involves their individual outworking of Christian faith, their convictions about what that faith allows and prohibits.”[4]
    3. But do not welcome him so you can argue with him about his immature opinions.
  2. Romans 14.2. One eats everything, one eats vegetables. To say one has faith to eat all things is to say he believes he has the freedom to eat what he wants. The weak believers does not have that confidence.
  3. Romans 14.3. Contempt ἐξουθενέω or judge κρίνω. Paul especially instructs the weak believer. We see two common areas of spiritual failure.
    1. Contempt. The strong believer should not regard the weak believer with contempt (ἐξουθενέω pres act impv, to show by attitude or manner that one has no worth, consider beneath you). Do not look down on. Don’t be self-righteous or know it all.
    2. Judge. The weak is not to judge the person doing something the weak does not understand (eating meat). Judge is κρίνω, pres act impv with negative. Means to criticize, find fault, condemn. God has accepted (προσλαμβάνω same word as in Rom 15.1) the one who eats all foods, so the weak believer is not to criticize and condemn.
  4. Romans 14.4. Now the illustration. One is not to judge the servant of someone else (οἰκέτης house slave). He must answer to his own master. The Lord is able to make him stand probably refers to the master of the house. This finishes the illustration.
  5. Romans 14.5. People have different understandings about what they can and cannot do. Here Paul uses observation of days. His point is that whatever one does, he must do it with a good conscience (πληροφορέω pres pass impv 3s, to fully convince), be fully convinced in his own mind.
  6. Romans 14.6. The believer who observes or regards a day or eats or does not eat observes or has that opinion for the Lord. (observe, φρονέω to think, hold an opinion, have an attitude about, pres act part nom mas sing subject). “For the Lord” is either dative of reference—with reference to, in regard to like Romans 6.2, 6.11, Luke 8.31, 1 Corinthians 14.20; or possible interest advantage. Two things to remember: The believer has a considered opinion, and his consider opinion takes the Lord into his thinking and action (is in reference to the Lord). The Lord is the focal point of this persons values about days and food.
  7. Romans 14.7. Paul now points out a fundamental truth of the Christian life. We live and die for the Lord, not ourselves. Anther dative of interest (advantage). The Lord is the one interested in the action.
  8. Romans 14.8. We belong to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die our master is the same. Whichever occurs. The “if” in this verse are 3rd conditional class. See 1 Corinthians 6.19-20; 10.31, Colossians 3.17, 23, 2 Corinthians 5.15, Philippians 1.20-24, 1 Peter 4.2 for applications of this principle. Also eternality security. The weak and strong believer belong to the Lord.
  9. Romans 14.9. Now Paul makes an amazing statement. He again goes back to the death and resurrection of Christ as the foundation of life and death. Christ’s death and resurrection demonstrated and ensured that he is Lord of everyone, whether dead or living. Hebrews 2.14-15, he defeated death.

Romans 14.10-12

Romans 14.10-12. Therefore, do not judge or show contempt for each other. Each will be evaluated at the Judgment Seat of God-Christ.

  1. Romans 14.10. Paul makes a direct question. He uses the singular to make it especially personal. We have the same two words, judge (κρίνω, pres act indic 2 sing. Means to criticize, find fault, condemn) and regard with contempt (ἐξουθενέω pres act indic 2 sing, to show by attitude or manner that one has no worth, consider beneath you). We all (plural including himself) will be judged, evaluated at the judgment seat. Paul refers to believers specifically in his context, but says that all people will stand before God in Judgment, believers at the Judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5.10 with 1 Corinthians 3.10-15), and unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20.11-15). Also see Philippians 2.10-11, Matthew 25.31-32, John 5.28-29. Acts 17.30-31, 1 Corinthians 4.5, Jude 15, Daniel 12.1-2, Isaiah 45.20-25.
  2. Romans 14.11-12. Paul loosely refers to Isaiah 45.23. In Isaiah 45 the LORD addresses Cyrus. Cyrus, King of Persia and Babylon, decreed in 538 BC that the Jews could return to Judah from exile and rebuild the city and the temple. Paul used Isaiah’s statement to Cyrus to emphasize that the LORD Yahweh is sovereign over all people and all will bow before him. See also Philippians 2.9-11. Paul’s point is that the LORD will evaluate all believers, both strong and weak. So, stop judging and showing contempt about non-essential things.

Romans 14.13-23

Romans 14.13-23. Furthermore, do not do something that will confuse the weak believer or cause him to go against his level of biblical understanding. Give him freedom to choose. What we all do, we must do with confidence that that is right. If we do something against our conscience it is sin for us.

  1. Romans 14.13. Make up your mind to not be a judge of other’s doubtful activities and to not be a cause for spiritual failure of another believer. Judge and determine are both the same Greek word, κρινω. The means to act as judge and condemn. The second is to act as judge and decide not to act in a way that harms another believer’s Christian life. Obstacle, προσκομμα something that one can stumble over (1 Cor 8.9). Stumbling block, σκανδαλον a trap or enrticement (Luke 17.1; 1 Jn 2.10).
  2. Romans 14.14. Paul has the Lord’s guidance that nothing (food or days in context) is unclean (κοινον, common and can be so common that it is impure) in itself. It only becomes impure if you think it is—are not convinced that it is right. The same idea as Romans 14.23.
  3. Romans 14.15. Now Paul applies this to the food problem. Do not let your liberty of eating certain foods harm (λυπεω, to cause distress, insult, grief, Ephesians 4.30; 2 Corinthians 2.5) another believer’s Christian life. If you do you are not living in love toward him. Christ died for him.
  4. Romans 14.16. The weak believer does not understand your liberty and so judges you. Βλασφημεω pres pass imperative 3rd sing, to slander, defame).
  5. Romans 14.17. Now the basis for his argument. God’s kingdom is characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, not characterized by what we eat or drink, which are non-essentials. Righteousness, the godly life, the fruit of the Holy Spirit as it is demonstrated in our life—these are what are important.
  6. Romans 14.18. The believer who serves Christ with righteousness, peace, and joy is doing it right. God accepts (ευαρεστος) him and people respect (δοκιμος) him.
  7. Romans 14.19. To the strong believer. Pursue peace by what you do and build up each other.
  8. Romans 14.20. Do not tear down the work of the ministry because of ideas about food. Food is a non-essential. It is evil for you if you cause a believer to stumble (προσκομμα obstacle, something that one can stumble over, Romans 14.13) in his Christian life by what you eat.
  9. Romans 14.21. Do not slam (cause to stumble) your brother believer by what you eat, drink, or do. The word stumbles is προσκοπτω pres act impv, strike against beat against as in Matthew 7.27, slammed against or beat against. Something that the strong believer eats or drinks beats against the weak believer and upsets his Christian life.
  10. Romans 14.22-23. Now the summary application to both the weaker and the stronger believer.
    1. Romans 14.22. The faith refers here to one’s personal (κατά σεατον by yourself) belief that he may or may not eat, drink, or do something. We are to have (εχω pres act imperative) that faith in the presence of God (ενωπιον του θεου, “between yourself and God” BAGD 2b). We need to be confident that God says this is okay. When we approve (δοκιμαζω pres act indicative, test and so approve) of our own activity—have no doubts that it is right—we are personally happy or blessed.
    2. Romans 14.23. If you doubt (διακρινω, pres midd participle nom masc sing for subject; to separate, differentiate, decide, doubt) that you are allowed to eat (drink or do) and you go ahead and eat a certain food, you are condemned (κατακρινω pres pass indicative; pronounce a sentence of guilt, to give a sentencce of guilt, condemn). Why? Because you do not believe that you may do that. Not of faith, from the source of your faith (ουκ εκ πιστεως). Eating while not convinced you can do it, it becomes sin for you. The doubting makes it sin. The eating is not sin.
  11. A look at words.
    1. Judge or some form of judging or deciding word group (κρινω) is used 9 times (Rom 14.3,4,5,5,10,13,22,23,23).
    2. Regard with contempt (ἐξουθενέω) to show by attitude or manner that one has no worth, consider beneath you is used in Romans 14.3,10.
    3. Stumble (προσκοπτω) strike against beat against (Romans 14.21).
    4. Obstacle, offense (προσκομμα) obstacle, something that one can stumble over (Romans 14.13,20).
  12. So What?
    1. Not every believer has reached the same level of spiritual growth. We need to recognize this and accept all believers. God has accepted all believers based on the death and resurrection of Christ.
    2. Biblically named sins do not fall in the category of Christian liberty.
    3. The stronger or more mature believer should not look down on or show contempt for the younger or more immature believer who does not been taught and does not understand Christian liberty.
    4. The more mature believer modifies his liberty when around a weaker believer, and has the privilege of helping that one become more mature by teaching him.
    5. The weak or more immature believer should not criticize or judge a stronger believer who knows and uses Christian liberty. Remember, all believers will be evaluated by God.
    6. Each believer must be convinced about Christian liberty as it applies to non-essential activities or doubtful things. He believes before God that he has liberty to eat, drink, or do whatever. This is living by faith in God’s revelation, the Bible.
  13. Select doctrines
    1. Doubtful things
    2. Christ’s death and resurrection
    3. Lordship of Christ
    4. Romans and Corinthian doubtful things compared to Galatians and Colossian Judaizing
    5. Judging one another
    6. Spiritual growth
    7. Judgment Seat of God-Christ
    8. One another in Christian life
    9. Conscience
  1. 40 See esp. Dunn. The suggestions of Tomson (Paul and the Jewish Law, p. 243), that “weak” is best translated (noting the similarity to rabbinic discussions) as “delicate,” and of Jewett (Christian Tolerance, pp. 29–30), that it be translated “conservative,” move too far away from the connection with basic Christian faith.

  2. 41 Contra, e.g., Denney.

  3. 42 Note the contrast δυνατός/ἀδύνατος in 15:1.

  4. Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996. Print. The New International Commentary on the New Testament.