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Romans 14:19-21

19. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

19. Proinde quae pacis sunt, et aedificationis mutuae, sectemur.

20. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

20. Ne propter cibum destruas opus Dei. Omnia quidem pura, sed malum est homini qui per offensionem vescitur.

21. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

21. Bonum est non edere carnem, nec vinum bibere, 431431     Jerome often employed the former part of this verse for the purpose of encouraging nomasticism; and by thus disconnecting it from the context, he got a passage quite suitable to his purpose. Even Erasmus condemned this shameful perversion. — Ed. nec aliud facere in quo frater tuus concidat, vel offendatur, vel infirmetur.

19. Let us then follow, etc. He recalls us, as much as possible, from a mere regard to meats, to consider those greater things which ought to have the first place in all our actions, and so to have the precedence. We must indeed eat, that we may live; we ought to live, that we may serve the Lord; and he serves the Lord, who by benevolence and kindness edifies his neighbor; for in order to promote these two things, concord and edification, all the duties of love ought to be exercised. Lest this should be thought of little moment, he repeats the sentence he had before announced, — that corruptible meat is not of such consequence that for its sake the Lord’s building should be destroyed. For wherever there is even a spark of godliness, there the work of God is to be seen; which they demolish, who by their unfeeling conduct disturb the conscience of the weak.

But it must be noticed, that edification is joined to peace; because some, not unfrequently, too freely indulge one another, so that they do much harm by their compliances. Hence in endeavoring to serve one another, discretion ought to be exercised, and utility regarded, so that we may willingly grant to our brother whatever may be useful to further his salvation. So Paul reminds us in another place: “All things,” he says, “are lawful to me; but all things are not expedient;” and immediately he adds the reason, “Because all things do not edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23.)

Nor is it also in vain that he repeats again, For meat destroy not, 432432     This is a similar, but not the same sentence as in Romans 14:15. The verb is different, κατάλυε; which means to undo, to loosen, to pull down; and as “work” follows, which, as Calvin and others think, is to be understood of God’s building, the work of edifying or building up his people, the verb may in this sense be rendered here, “Pull not down the work of God.” But here, as in Romans 14:15, it is the tendency of the deed that is to be considered, and the effect as far as man’s doing was concerned. The Apostle says nothing of what God would do. — Ed. etc., intimating, that he required no abstinence, by which there would be, according to what he had said before, any loss to piety: though we eat not anything we please, but abstain from the use of meats for the sake of our brethren; yet the kingdom of God continues entire and complete.

20. All things are indeed pure, etc. By saying, that all things are pure, he makes a general declaration; and by adding, that it is evil for man to eat with offense, he makes an exception; as though he had said, — “Meat is indeed good, but to give offense is bad.” Now meat has been given to us, that we may eat it, provided love be observed: he then pollutes the use of pure meat, who by it violates love. Hence he concludes, that it is good to abstain from all things which tend to give offense to our brethren.

He mentions three things in order, to fall, to stumble, to be weakened: the meaning seems to be this, — “Let no cause of falling, no, nor of stumbling, no, nor of weakening, be given to the brethren.” For to be weakened is less than to stumble, and to stumble is less than to fall. He may be said to be weakened whose conscience wavers with doubt, — to stumble when the conscience is disturbed by some greater perplexity, and to fall when the individual is in a manner alienated from his attention to religion. 433433     What is said here proves what is stated in a note on Romans 14:13; that is, that σκάνδαλον is a less evil than πρόσκομμα, only that the idea of stumbling, instead of hindrance or impediment, is given here to the former word. The Apostle still adopts, as it were, the ascending scale. He first mentions the most obvious effect, the actual fall, the extreme evil, and then the next to it, the obstacle in the way; and, in the third place, the weakening of the faith of the individual. The real order of the process is the reverse, — the weakening, then the impediment, and, lastly, the stumblingblock which occasions the fall. — Ed.


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