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14. The Weak and the Strong

1But him that is weak in faith receive ye, yet not for decision of scruples. 2One man hath faith to eat all things: but he that is weak eateth herbs. 3Let not him that eateth set at nought him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand. 5One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. 6He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord: and he that eateth, eateth unto the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, unto the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7For none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself. 8For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or thou again, why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God. 11For it is written,

As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow,

And every tongue shall confess to God.

12So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge ye this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock in his brother's way, or an occasion of falling. 14I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself: save that to him who accounteth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15For if because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love. Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died. 16Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18For he that herein serveth Christ is well-pleasing to God, and approved of men. 19So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another. 20Overthrow not for meat's sake the work of God. All things indeed are clean; howbeit it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor to do anything whereby thy brother stumbleth. 22The faith which thou hast, have thou to thyself before God. Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that which he approveth. 23But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

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9. For to this end Christ also died, etc. This is a confirmation of the reason which has been last mentioned; for in order to prove that we ought to live and to die to the Lord, he had said, that whether we live or die we are under the power of Christ. He now shows how rightly Christ claims this power over us, since he has obtained it by so great a price; for by undergoing death for our salvation, he has acquired authority over us which cannot be destroyed by death, and by rising again, he has received our whole life as his peculiar property. He has then by his death and resurrection deserved that we should, in death as well as in life, advance the glory of his name. The words arose and lived again mean, that by resurrection he attained a new state of life; and that as the life which he now possesses is subject to no change, his dominion over us is to be eternal.

10. But thou, why dost thou, etc. As he had made the life and death of us all subject to Christ, he now proceeds to mention the authority to judge, which the Father has conferred on him, together with the dominion over heaven and earth. He hence concludes, that it is an unreasonable boldness in any one to assume the power to judge his brother, since by taking such a liberty he robs Christ the Lord of the power which he alone has received from the Father.

But first, by the term brother, he checks this lust for judging; for since the Lord has established among us the right of a fraternal alliance, an equality ought to be preserved; every one then who assumes the character of a judge acts unreasonably. Secondly, he calls us before the only true judge, from whom no one can take away his power, and whose tribunal none can escape. As then it would be absurd among men for a criminal, who ought to occupy a humble place in the court, to ascend the tribunal of the judge; so it is absurd for a Christian to take to himself the liberty of judging the conscience of his brother. A similar argument is mentioned by James, when he says, that “he who judges his brother, judges the law,” and that “he who judges the law, is not an observer of the law but a president;” and, on the other hand, he says, that “there is but one lawgiver, who can save and destroy.” (James 4:12.) He has ascribed tribunal to Christ, which means his power to judge, as the voice of the archangel, by which we shall be summoned, is called, in another place, a trumpet; for it will pierce, as it were with its sound, into the minds and ears of all. 423423     The words “We shall all stand,” etc., may be rendered, “We must all stand,” etc. It is indeed the future tense, but this is according to what is often the case in Hebrew, for in that language the future has frequently this meaning. Romans 13:12 may be rendered in the same manner, “So then every one of us must give account of himself to God.” — Ed.

11. As I live, etc. He seems to me to have quoted this testimony of the Prophet, not so much to prove what he had said of the judgment-seat of Christ, which was not doubted among Christians, as to show that judgment ought to be looked for by all with the greatest humility and lowliness of mind; and this is what the words import. He had first then testified by his own words, that the power to judge all men is vested in Christ alone; he now demonstrates by the words of the Prophet, that all flesh ought to be humbled while expecting that judgment; and this is expressed by the bending of the knee. But though in this passage of the Prophet the Lord in general foreshows that his glory should be known among all nations, and that his majesty should everywhere shine forth, which was then hid among very few, and as it were in an obscure corner of the world; yet if we examine it more closely, it will be evident that its complete fulfillment is not now taking place, nor has it ever taken place, nor is it to be hoped for in future ages. God does not now rule otherwise in the world than by his gospel; nor is his majesty otherwise rightly honored but when it is adored as known from his word. But the word of God has ever had its enemies, who have been perversely resisting it, and its despisers, who have ever treated it with ridicule, as though it were absurd and fabulous. Even at this day there are many such, and ever will be. It hence appears, that this prophecy is indeed begun to be fulfilled in this life, but is far from being completed, and will not be so until the day of the last resurrection shall shine forth, when Christ’s enemies shall be laid prostrate, that they may become his footstool. But this cannot be except the Lord shall ascend his tribunal: he has therefore suitably applied this testimony to the judgment-seat of Christ.

This is also a remarkable passage for the purpose of confirming our faith in the eternal divinity of Christ: for it is God who speaks here, and the God who has once for all declared, that he will not give his glory to another. (Isaiah 42:8.) Now if what he claims here to himself alone is accomplished in Christ, then doubtless he in Christ manifests himself And unquestionably the truth of this prophecy then openly appeared, when Christ gathered a people to himself from the whole world, and restored them to the worship of his majesty and to the obedience of his gospel. To this purpose are the words of Paul, when he says that God gave a name to his Christ, at which every knee should bow, (Philippians 2:10:) and it shall then still more fully appear, when he shall ascend his tribunal to judge the living and the dead; for all judgment in heaven and on earth has been given to him by the Father.

The words of the Prophet are, “Every tongue shall swear to me:” but as an oath is a kind of divine worship, the word which Paul uses, shall confess, does not vary in sense: 424424     The passage is from Isaiah 45:23. In two instances the Apostle gives the sense, and not the words. Instead of “by myself have I sworn,” he give the form of the oath, “As I live.” This is the manner in which God swears by himself, it is by his life — his eternal existence. Then the conclusion of the verse in Hebrew is, “every tongue shall swear,” that is, “unto me.” To swear to God or by his name is to avow allegiance to him, to profess or to confess his name. See Psalm 63:11; Isaiah 63:1; Zephaniah 1:5. The Apostle therefore does no more than interpret the Hebrew idiom when he says, “every tongue shall confess to God.” — Ed. for the Lord intended simply to declare, that all men should not only acknowledge his majesty, but also make a confession of obedience, both by the mouth and by the external gesture of the body, which he has designated by the bowing of the knee.

12. Every one of us, etc. This conclusion invites us to humility and lowliness of mind: and hence he immediately draws this inference, — that we are not to judge one another; for it is not lawful for us to usurp the office of judging, who must ourselves submit to be judged and to give an account.

From the various significations of the word to judge, he has aptly drawn two different meanings. In the first place he forbids us to judge, that is, to condemn; in the second place he bids us to judge, that is, to exercise judgment, so as not to give offense. He indeed indirectly reproves those malignant censors, who employ all their acuteness in finding out something faulty in the life of their brethren: he therefore bids them to exercise wariness themselves; for by their neglect they often precipitate, or drive their brethren against some stumblingblock or another. 425425     The two words, πρόσκομμα and σκάνδαλον, mean nearly the same thing, but with this difference, that the first seems to be an hindrance or an obstacle which occasions stumbling or falling, and the other is an obstacle which stops or impedes progress in the way. See Matthew 16:23. The two parties, the strong and the weak, are here evidently addressed; the former was not, by eating, to put a stumblingblock in the way of the weak brother; nor was the weak, by condemning, to be a hindrance or impediment in the way of the strong so as to prevent him to advance in his course. Thus we see that forbearance is enjoined on both parties, though the Apostle afterwards dwells more on what the strong was to do.
   The clause might be thus rendered, —

   “But rather judge it right to do this, —
not to lay before a brother a stumbling-stone, or an impediment.” — Ed.




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