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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 14 - Verse 23

Verse 23. He that doubteth, he that is not fully satisfied in his mind; who does not do it with a clear conscience. The margin has it rendered correctly, "He that discerneth and putteth a difference between meats." He that conscientiously believes, as the Jew did, that the Levitical law respecting the difference between meats was binding on Christians.

Is damned. We apply this word almost exclusively to the future punishment of the wicked in hell. But it is of importance to remember, in reading the Bible, that this is not of necessity its meaning. It means, properly, to condemn; and here it means only that the person who should thus violate the dictates of his conscience would incur guilt, and would be blameworthy in doing it. But it does not affirm that he would inevitably sink to hell. The same construction is to be put on the expression in 1 Co 11:29, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself."

For whatsoever, etc. Whatever is not done with a full conviction that it is right, is sinful; whatever is done when a man doubts whether it is right, is sin. This is evidently the fair interpretation of this place. Such the connexion requires. It does not affirm that all or any of the actions of impenitent and unbelieving men are sinful, which is true, but not the truth taught here; nor does it affirm that all acts which are not performed by those who have faith in the Lord Jesus are sinful; but the discussion pertains to Christians; and the whole scope of the passage requires us to understand the apostle as simply saying that a man should not do a thing doubting its correctness; that he should have a strong conviction that what he does is right; and that if he has not this conviction, it is sinful. The rule is of universal application. In all cases, if a man does a thing which he does not believe to be right, it is a sin, and his conscience will condemn him for it. It may be proper, however, to observe, that the converse of this is not always true, that if a man believes a thing to be right, that therefore it is not sin. For many of the persecutors were conscientious, (Joh 16:2; Ac 26:9) and the murderers of the Son of God did it ignorantly, (Ac 3:17; 1 Co 2:8) and yet were adjudged as guilty of enormous crimes. Comp. Lu 11:50,51; Ac 2:23,37.

 

In this chapter we have a remarkably fine discussion of the nature of Christian charity. Differences of opinion will arise, and men will be divided into various sects; but if the rules which are laid down in this chapter were followed, the contentions, and altercations, and strifes among Christians would cease. Had these rules been applied to the controversies about rites, and forms, and festivals, that have arisen, peace might have been preserved. Amid all such differences, the great question is, whether there is true love to the Lord Jesus. If there is, the apostle teaches us that we have no right to judge a brother, or despise him, or contend harshly with him. Our object should be to promote peace, to aid him in his efforts to become holy, and to seek to build him up in holy faith.

{1} "doubteth is damned" or, "discerneth and putteth a difference"

"between meats."

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