Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Romans 14:1, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”
Romans 14:13, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

The instructions in this chapter were particularly relevant to circumstances that had arisen in the early church.  Some in the church were from a Jewish background and had been raised and taught to avoid eating certain foods.  But there are, of course, no ceremonial or dietary restrictions for the believer in Christ (Cf. Colossians 2:21-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-3).  Some of the Jewish brethren struggled to adapt.  Then there was the problem in Rome and in other places regarding the eating of meat that had been offered to idols (Cf. 1 Corinthians chapters 8-9).  Prior to their salvation some of the Gentiles had offered meat to idols.  Now, as believers, some were afraid to eat any meat at all.  Other believers held no such reservations.

Paul spoke of two differing groups of people.  The first, those “weak in faith,” were those who lacked understanding of truths associated with the believer’s freedom in Christ.  Amongst this group were those of a more legalistic bent.  William Barclay commented regarding this, “Such a man is weak in the faith for two reasons: 1) He has not yet discovered the meaning of Christian freedom;…2) He has not yet liberated himself from a belief in the efficacy of works.”  The second group, those described as “strong” (Romans 15:1), were more doctrinally astute regarding such matters and as a result felt free to “eat anything” (Romans 14:2).

The principles laid out in this chapter have relevance to other matters commonly referred to as “non-essentials” or “matters of conscience.”  Many modern-church-era disagreements fall into these categories.  It is always wrong to commit adultery, fornicate, get drunk, lie, steal, etc.  With regards to such issues God has spoken—these things are clearly wrong and forbidden.  Christians are exhorted in response to lovingly rebuke, exhort, and reprove according to the instructions given in God’s Word.  Other matters fall into the category of “non-essentials.”  Amongst such concerns are questions regarding whether it is okay for a Christian to drink alcohol, go to movies, play cards, work on Sunday, wear anything to church other than a suit or a dress, etc.  Amazingly, many disagreements, and even church-splits, have arisen over trivial matters (Cf. Romans 14:17).  The “weak in faith” are prone to passing judgment (Cf. Romans 14:4).  The “strong” are prone to disregard the sensitivity of others (Cf. Romans 14:15). 

Someone has written this satirical poem which sadly is not too far from the truth in many churches:  “Believe as I believe, No more, no less; That I am right, And no one else, confess; Feel as I feel, Think only as I think; Eat what I eat, And drink but what I drink; Look as I look, Do always as I do; Then, and only then, Will I fellowship with you.”

Kent Hughes commented on the problem addressed by the Apostle Paul, “The ‘easy’ solution to the problem would have been to form two churches, ‘The Church of the Carnivores’ (perhaps not a bad name for some churches I have heard of!” and ‘The First Church of the Vegetarians.’  Paul, fortunately, was committed to the nobler, though far more difficult, solution.”

That nobler, far more difficult solution is to walk in love (Cf. Romans 14:15).  Love involves sacrifice and the situation gave rise to opportunities for both groups to express that.  The “strong” were admonished to “welcome” and “not despise” those who were weak in faith (Romans 14:1, 3).  They were also exhorted to sacrifice their freedom to “eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes a brother to stumble” (Cf. Romans 14:21).  The “weak in faith” were called upon to set aside their propensity to pass judgment on their liberated brethren (Cf. Romans 14:3, 10, 13), with the understanding that each believer “will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).  All were commanded to “pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbringing” (Romans 14:19), that unity might be preserved amidst diversity in the church (Cf. Romans 15:5-7).

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