Sunday, July 24, 2011

Commentary on Scripture: Romans 14

Now, accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

Romans 14:1 ~~ This is a fantastic summary both of the chapter and of the principle "in non-essentials, liberty."

Romans 14:2 ~~ "One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only." We might reference Acts 10:15, in which Peter receives a vision confirming the cleanliness of foods previously considered unclean. In this case, "weakness" refers to doctrinal confusion and a lack of understanding, specifically regarding the doctrine of freedom (cf. Romans 6, Galatians 5).

Romans 14:3 ~~ "The one who eats" (that is, the one with knowledge and with liberty) "is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat"(without knowledge but with a clear conscience) "is not to judge the one who eats." The danger for those who act with liberty is that they might look upon others as more legalistic and therefore less grace-filled than they are; the danger for those who act with conscience is that they might look upon the practices of others as almost pagan and therefore less Christian than they are. The one feels contempt, the other judgment, yet "God has accepted" them both.

Romans 14:4 ~~ "Who are you to judge the servants of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand for the Lord is able to make him stand." We are judged and accepted by God. If we judge others, we make ourselves out to be Lords over one another, and arrogate the dignity of His judgment seat.

Roman 14:5 ~~ "One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind." Paul certainly has an opinion on many of these subjects, but he is pressing the more important point: when it's not essential, do not judge or view others with contempt. Also note "each person must be fully convinced" -- intention plays a critical role in moral responsibility.

Romans 14:6-8 ~~ In life and death, so long as we remain in God, we belong to God and are saved by Him.

Romans 14:7-9 ~~ We live or die in Christ. Christ lived and died for precisely this reason, that He might be the Lord of the living and the dead (cf. 6:3-11).

Romans 14:10-12 ~~ Why judge or regard with contempt? (Cf. verse 3, above). Each is judged before God (cf. 2:14-16).

Romans 14:13 ~~ "Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or stumbling block in a brother's way!" Fantastic verse.

Romans 14:14 ~~ "I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself" (that is, no thing is intrinsically evil -- the physical world is intrinsically good); "but to him who thinks anything is unclean, to him it is unclean." Uncleanliness is defined as something that it would be sinful or defiling to partake in. By the conviction that a thing would be sinful to do, the act of doing it would be a deliberation rebellion against one's own conscience and therefore against God. It is in our convictions and our intentions that cleanliness or uncleanliness is found.

Romans 14:15 ~~ "For if by food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love." Do not act on your own Christian liberty is that would hurt or hamper others, for love trumps liberty.

Romans 14:16 ~~ It's ironic that this verse begins "therefore," even though it seems to qualify or mitigate the impact of previous verses. "Therefore, do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil." This is a big deal for Paul. God made the world and called it good, and to speak of this good Creation as though it were something evil is akin to blasphemy.

Romans 14:16-17 ~~ If others are convinced that partaking of certain foods is wrong, then we should not partake of those foods. But, in the same instant and with the same breath, we ought to defend our liberty to partake and, more importantly, defend the goodness of the food itself. We should not act in a way that hurts others, but it is necessary to defend (with our words) what we cannot enjoy (with our deeds). Above all, act in love, in a knowing and cognizant love so the kingdom of God might enjoy peace.

Romans 14:18 ~~ "For he who in this way [honoring each other with Christian liberty] serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men."

Romans 14:20 ~~ Here is the corollary to Romans 14:14. "Nothing is unclean in itself" (v. 14), "all things indeed are clean" (v. 20), "but to him who thinks anything is unclean, to him it is unclean" (v. 14) and also "they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense" (v. 20). We must be pure not only before our own conscience, but in light of the consciences and judgments of others. No pressure.

Romans 14:22-23 ~~ Here is an effective summary statement. "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves." If we eat without faith, or doubt in our Christian liberty, we are condemned. But that does not deny the fact of our Christian liberty: we are slaves to sin no longer, but free to partake of God's goodness.

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