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A Layman’s Bible Commentary on Romans – Lesson XVII
Romans 14:1-23. Various topics – and how to handle them as Christians.
The best evidence we have of Paul’s knowledge of the Roman believers came from his close acquaintance with Aquila and Priscilla, who came from there, as mentioned in Acts 18:2,3. They were together for a considerable time.
The subjects dealt with here had been serious disputes between Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. The two main subjects were meat and days. Converted Jews adhered to some of the laws of Moses regarding abstaining from certain types of meat and honoring certain holy days. Gentile converts, on the other hand, realized that their new faith did not require these ceremonial practices, and therefore had no respect for them. Apparently there were also disagreements and judgments from each side, making loving, forgiving companionship impossible.
Paul challenges them to bear with one another and especially not to prejudice a weaker brother against the Gospel. He also wants to convince both sides that their different way of thinking can have an honest and serious consideration for God. These differences should not hinder loving Christian fellowship.
Paul seems to be describing here the Jewish convert who was weak in faith if they still felt it necessary to follow the rules regarding meat and days. He insists that they be welcomed into their company, but avoid all disputes. For things that have no bearing on the essential doctrines of the Christian faith – do not discriminate because of their particular feeling about such casual things.
About food. A believer accepts as pure all food that is wholesome and nutritious. All meat and plant sources.
Some recently converted Jews brought with them a belief in the Mosaic law regarding clean and unclean meat. Now, in association with the Gentiles, it was a question of clean or unclean, whether offered to an idol, or whether blood was taken from it – therefore they avoided all meat and ate only vegetable matter (herbs).
No group should look down on the practices of another. Do not despise or condemn them. Both are accepted by God. Both are acting in honor of God – they are joint heirs of eternal life. Prejudice or religious practices do not affect the assurance of Salvation.
To do otherwise would be like one person choosing to judge another person’s servant. All Christians are servants of God. God decides as Master over all, whether that servant stands or falls. Intervening in this situation is rash and without authority or charity. If that person is sincere and tries to do the right thing, then God, Who alone is capable, will support him.
These days refer to Jewish institutions, especially the holidays – Passover, Pentecost, tabernacles, and so on. Converted Jews still felt a moral obligation to honor God by respecting them. The Gentile convert regarded each day as God’s and should be honored to bring glory to God. Every believer must follow his own beliefs.
The point – don’t judge a person about things that are neutral in themselves. These include keeping festivals to honor God. To another, these things are of no value, but not doing them in any way dishonors God.
In the same way, whoever eats various foods gives thanks to God as the provider of all good things. But he who has rules about what not to eat does so and thanks God as well. Both are fair and honest in their understanding. Both are accepted by God, therefore they must accept each other as equals, but with different traditions.
Christians are to act according to the mind and will of God in all things. One should try to please God and not just oneself. While we live we are accountable to Him for our conduct, but even when we die we are in His hands. Therefore, we must do everything to God to the best of our understanding and ability. Either way, we are God’s.
Christ lived and died and rose again, to be Lord of the living and of the dead. His power is equally over both worlds, and so throughout eternity.
As fellow believers, neither group should judge the other, regarding the rites and ceremonies of the law. Leave the judgment of these things to Christ. Each believer will be judged by the way he treats other believers, so we should not look down on or condemn one another.
Paul quotes Isaiah 45:23. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess to God. We are only responsible for what we have done.
Judging each other needs to stop. It is shallow, pretentious, unloving. The point is not to do anything that would hinder a fellow Christian in their devotion to God, or in their faith in His Gospel.
Paul’s experience, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the authority of Jesus, convinced him that in itself nothing is impure. All Christians should live with this freedom. But there remains the responsibility to be considerate of weaker believers, even if you consider them to be wrong. If he acts according to his conscience, one must be patient and try to win them over by the instructions in the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
An example – if your brother thinks you are wrong to eat a certain type of meat, your action may cause him to stumble. That would be undesirable, not according to love. What you eat makes no difference to you, but if it bothers the other person, it is necessary to put the interest of the other person first. Because he is the one for whom Christ died. It is his soul that is at stake.
Be careful not to use your Christian freedom so that you are misunderstood, so that the Gospel is spoken badly. The greatest good is the goal. But one must be careful in the time, manner and spirit of doing a good deed, so that it is not misunderstood, or questioned about the motive or anything else.
God’s kingdom on earth consists of those who have joined the Church of His Son, as His children and joint heirs with Christ. It is much more than any dispute about what we eat or drink. It is about righteousness, forgiveness of sins and holiness of heart and life. Also, peace in the soul from God’s mercy and blessing and joy in the Holy Spirit. God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit and this for eternity. This is spiritual happiness and joy.
Regardless of background, the person who has believed God and received these things is now acceptable to God. Therefore, his whole frame of mind, his words and actions must also be acceptable to God and approved by men. He who works for the public good and lives with honesty and justice will generally be respected.
The best way to proceed is to set aside all strife and focus on promoting peace and unity, to guide ways to become more like the Savior we serve.
Do not waste any time, which can destroy God’s work, arguing or condemning someone about what foods are lawful, clean and unclean. Do nothing to offend a weaker brother. The substance eaten is not bad in itself, but eating something that you know will offend another is bad.
It is good not to do anything, be it eating, drinking wine, or anything else, that would put a stone in another person’s path and cause them to stumble, stop, or even delay his progress to follow Christ.
To have faith here suggests a strong conviction of what is right and true, and has the approval of God and his conscience. Hold fast that conviction before God. This enables one’s peace of mind and happiness. Without inner peace, one cannot be happy. If something is controversial, it is better to avoid such things.
To further explain the above point. If a person doubts whether something is correct, then go ahead and eat it, it is not faith. If he eats any meat unclean according to the law of Moses, thinking at the same time that it may be wrong to do so, he is condemned by his conscience. He has some thoughts that God forbade this – so he may be wrong. This surrender is weakness and sin before God. Whatever the actual motive may be, whether weakness, shame, or appetite, it is not from faith in the selfless principles of the Gospel of Christ.
Then Chapter 15. The strong must bear the infirmities of the weak according to the example of Christ.
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