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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 14 - Verse 1
ROMANS Chapter 14
THE fourteenth chapter is designed to settle some difficult and delicate questions that could not but arise between the Jews and Gentiles respecting food and the observance of particular days, rites, etc. The occasions of these questions were these: The converts to Christianity were from both Jews and Gentiles. There were many Jews in Rome; and it is probable that no small part of the church was composed of them. The New Testament everywhere shows that they were disposed to bind the Gentile converts to their own customs, and to insist on the observance of the peculiar laws of Moses. See Ac 15:1,2, etc.; Ga 2:3,4. The subjects on which questions of this kind would be agitated, were circumcision, days of fasting, the distinction of meats, etc. A part of these only are discussed in this chapter. The views of the apostle in regard to circumcision had been stated in chapters 3 and 4. In this chapter he notices the disputes which would be likely to arise on the following subjects:
(1.) The use of meat—evidently referring to the question whether it was lawful to eat the meat that was offered in sacrifice to idols, Ro 14:2.
(3.) The laws observed by the Jews in relation to animals as clean or unclean, Ro 14:14. It is probable that these are mere specimens adduced by the apostle to settle principles of conduct in regard to the Gentiles, and to show to each party how they ought to act in all such questions.
The apostle's design here is to allay all these contentions by producing peace, kindness, charity. This he does by the following considerations, viz.:
(2.) That whatever course is taken in these questions, it is done conscientiously, and with a desire to glorify God. In such a case there should be kindness and charity, Ro 14:6, etc.
(3.) That we must stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, and give an account there; and that we, therefore, should not usurp the office of judging, Ro 14:10-13.
(4.) That there is really nothing unclean of itself, Ro 14:14.
(6.) That we should follow after the things of peace, etc., Ro 14:19-23. The principles of this chapter are applicable to all similar cases of difference of opinion about rites and ceremonies, and unessential doctrines of religion; and we shall see that if they were honestly applied, they would settle no small part of the controversies in the religious world.
Verse 1. Him that is weak. The design here is to induce Christians to receive to their fellowship those who had scruples about the propriety of certain things, or that might have peculiar prejudices and feelings as the result of education or former habits of belief. The apostle, therefore, begins by admitting that such an one may be weak, i.e., not fully established, or not with so clear and enlarged views about Christian liberty as others might have.
In the faith. In believing. This does not refer to saving faith in Christ, for he might have that; but to belief in regard to the things which the apostle specifies, or which would come into controversy. Young converts have often a peculiar delicacy or sensitiveness about the lawfulness of many things in relation to which older Christians may be more fully established. To produce peace, there must be kindness, tenderness, and faithful teaching; not denunciation, or harshness, on one side or the other.
Receive ye. Admit to your society or fellowship; receive him kindly, not meet with a cold and harsh repulse. Comp. Ro 15:7.
Not to doubtful disputations. The plain meaning of this is, "Do not admit him to your society for the purpose of debating the matter in an angry and harsh manner; of repelling him by denunciation; and thus, by the natural reaction of such a course, confirming him in his doubts." Or, "do not deal with him in such a manner as shall have a tendency to increase his scruples about meats, days, etc." (Stuart.) The leading idea here—which all Christians should remember—is, that a harsh and angry denunciation of a man in relation to things not morally wrong, but where he may have honest scruples, will only tend to confirm him more and more in his doubts. To denounce and abuse him will be to confirm him. To receive him affectionately, to admit him to fellowship with us, to talk freely and kindly with him, to do him good, will have a far greater tendency to overcome his scruples. In questions which now occur about modes of dress, about measures and means of promoting revivals, and about rites and ceremonies, this is by far the wisest course, if we wish to overcome the scruples of a brother, and to induce him to think as we do.—Greek, "Unto doubts or fluctuations of opinions or reasonings." Various senses have been given to the words, but the above probably expresses the true meaning.
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