Romans 14:14-18

14. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, 1 that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

14. Novi et persuasus sum in Domino Iesu, nihil commune per se esse; nisi qui existimat aliquid esse commune, ei commune est.

15. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died.

15. Verum si propter cibum frater tuus contristatur, jam non secundum charitatem ambulas; ne cibo tuo ilium perdas, pro quo Christus mortuus est.

16. Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

16. Ne vestrum igitur bonum hominum maledicentiae sit obnoxium:

17. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

17. Non enim est regnum Dei esca et potus; sed justitia, et pax, et gaudium in Spiritu sancto.

18. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

18. Qui enim servit per haec Christo, acceptus est Deo, et probatus hominibus.

14. I know, etc. To anticipate their objection, who made such progress in the gospel of Christ as to make no distinction between meats, he first shows what must be thought of meats when viewed in themselves; and then he subjoins how sin is committed in the use of them. He then declares, that no meat is impure to a right and pure conscience, and that there is no hindrance to a pure use of meats, except ignorance and infirmity; for when any imagines an impurity in them, he is not at liberty to use them. But he afterwards adds, that we are not only to regard meats themselves, but also the brethren before whom we eat: for we ought not to view the use of God's bounty with so much indifference as to disregard love. His words then have the same meaning as though he had said, -- "I know that all meats are clean, and therefore I leave to thee the free use of them; I allow thy conscience to be freed from all scruples: in short, I do not simply restrain thee from meats; but laying aside all regard for them, I still wish thee not to neglect thy neighbor."

By the word common, in this place, he means unclean, and what is taken indiscriminately by the ungodly; and it is opposed to those things which had been especially set apart for the use of the faithful people. He says that he knew, and was fully convinced, that all meats are pure, in order to remove all doubts. He adds, in the Lord Jesus; for by his favor and grace it is, that all the creatures which were accursed in Adam, are blessed to us by the Lord. 2 He intended, however, at the same time, to set the liberty given by Christ in opposition to the bondage of the law, lest they thought that they were bound to observe those rites from which Christ had made them free. By the exception which he has laid down, we learn that there is nothing so pure but what may be contaminated by a corrupt conscience: for it is faith alone and godliness which sanctify all things to us. The unbelieving, being polluted within, defile all things by their very touch. (Titus 1:15.)

15. But if through meat thy brother is grieved, etc. He now explains how the offending of our brethren may vitiate the use of good things. And the first thing is, -- that love is violated, when our brother is made to grieve by what is so trifling; for it is contrary to love to occasion grief to any one. The next thing is, -- that when the weak conscience is wounded, the price of Christ's blood is wasted; for the most abject brother has been redeemed by the blood of Christ: it is then a heinous crime to destroy him by gratifying the stomach; and we must be basely given up to our own lusts, if we prefer meat, a worthless thing, to Christ. 3 The third reason is, -- that since the liberty attained for us by Christ is a blessing, we ought to take care, lest it should be evil spoken of by men and justly blamed, which is the case, when we unseasonably use God's gifts. These reasons then ought to influence us, lest by using our liberty, we thoughtlessly cause offenses. 4

17. For the kingdom of God, etc. He now, on the other hand, teaches us, that we can without loss abstain from the use of our liberty, because the kingdom of God does not consist in such things. Those things indeed, which are necessary either to build up or preserve the kingdom of God, are by no means to be neglected, whatever offenses may hence follow: but if for love's sake it be lawful to abstain from meat, while God's honor is uninjured, while Christ's kingdom suffers no harm, while religion is not hindered, then they are not to be borne with, who for meat's sake disturb the Church. He uses similar arguments in his first Epistle to the Corinthians:

"Meat," he says, "for the stomach, and the stomach for meat; but God will destroy both," (1 Corinthians 6 13:)


"If we eat, we shall not abound," (1 Corinthians 8:8.)

By these words he meant briefly to show, that meat and drink were things too worthless, that on their account the course of the gospel should be impeded.

But righteousness and peace, etc. He, in passing, has set these in opposition to meat and drink; not for the purpose of enumerating all the things which constitute the kingdom of Christ, but of showing, that it consists of spiritual things. He has at the same time no doubt included in few words a summary of what it is; namely, that we, being well assured, have peace with God, and possess real joy of heart through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. But as I have said, these few things he has accommodated to his present subject. He indeed who is become partaker of true righteousness, enjoys a great and an invaluable good, even a calm joy of conscience; and he who has peace with God, what can he desire more? 5

By connecting peace and joy together, he seems to me to express the character of this joy; for however torpid the reprobate may be, or however they may elevate themselves, yet the conscience is not rendered calm and joyful, except when it feels God to be pacified and propitious to it; and there is no solid joy but what proceeds from this peace. And though it was necessary, when mention was made of these things, that the Spirit should have been declared as the author; yet he meant in this place indirectly to oppose the Spirit to external things, that we might know, that the things which belong to the kingdom of God continue complete to us without the use of meats.

18. For he who in these things, etc. An argument drawn from the effect: for it is impossible, but that when any one is acceptable to God and approved by men, the kingdom of God fully prevails and flourishes in him: he, who with a quiet and peaceful conscience serves Christ in righteousness, renders himself approved by men as well as by God. Wherever then there is righteousness and peace and spiritual joy, there the kingdom of God is complete in all its parts: it does not then consist of material things. But he says, that man is acceptable to God, because he obeys his will; he testifies that he is approved by men, because they cannot do otherwise than bear testimony to that excellency which they see with their eyes: not that the ungodly always favor the children of God; nay, when there is no cause, they often pour forth against them many reproaches, and with forged calumnies defame the innocent, and in a word, turn into vices things rightly done, by putting on them a malignant construction. But Paul speaks here of honest judgment, blended with no moroseness, no hatred, no superstition.

1 "At the very time of giving forth the sentence, and on the highest of all authority, that there was nothing unclean of itself, he yet leaves others at liberty to esteem anything unclean. We are not sure if anywhere else in Scripture, the divine authority of toleration is so clearly manifested." -- Chalmers.

2 To elicit this meaning, which is in itself true, Calvin must have construed the sentence thus, "I know, and I am persuaded, that through the Lord Jesus nothing is of itself unclean:" but this is not the meaning. What the Apostle says is, that he knew, and was fully assured by the Lord Jesus, that is, by the teaching of his word Spirit, that nothing was in itself unclean, all ceremonial distinctions having been now removed and abolished. -- Ed.

3 From the words "destroy not," etc., some have deduced the sentiment, that those for whom Christ died may perish for everse It is neither wise nor just to draw a conclusion of this kind; for it is one that is negatived by many positive declarations of Scripture. Man's inference, when contrary to God's word, cannot be right. Besides, the Apostle's object in this passage is clearly this, -- to exhibit the sin of those who disregarded without saying that it actually effected that evil. Some have very unwisely attempted to obviate the inference above mentioned, by suggesting, that the destruction meant was that of comfort and edification. But no doubt the Apostle meant the ruin of the soul; hence the urgency of his exhortation, -- "Do not act in such a way as tends to endanger the safety of a soul for whom Christ has shed his blood;" or, "Destroy not," that is, as far as you can do so. Apostles and ministers are said to "save" men; some are exhorted here not to "destroy" them. Neither of these effects can follow, except in the first instance, God grants his blessing, and in the second his permission; and his permission as to his people he will never grant, as he has expressly told us. See John 10:27-29. -- Ed.

4 "Vestrum bonum," uJmw~n to< ajgaqo>n. Some, such as Grotius and Hammond, Scott, Chalmers, etc., agree with Calvin, and view this "good," or privilege, to be Christian liberty, or freedom from ceremonial observances, (see 1 Corinthians 10:29;) but Origen, Ambrose, Theodoret, Mede, etc., consider that the gospel is meant. The first opinion is the most suitable to the passage. -- Ed

5 What is here said is no doubt true of the kingdom of God; but by considering what is afterwards said in the two following verses, we cannot well accede to this exposition. Righteousness, peace, and joy, mentioned here, are things acceptable to God and approved by men: they must then be things apparent and visible, which men see and observe; and to follow "the things of peace," refers to the conduct. "Righteousness" then must mean here the doing of what is right and just towards one another; "peace," concordand unanimity, as opposed to discord and contentions; "joy," the fruit of this peaceable state, a cheering delight, a mutual rejoicing, instead of the sorrow and grief occasioned by discord; and these come "through the Holy Spirit" and are produced by him; and they are not the semblances of such virtues and graces, presented in some instances by false religions. See Galatians 5:22,23. Doddridge, Stuart, and Chalmers have viewed the passage in this light, though the latter, as well as Scott, seemed inclined to combine the two views: but this is to mix up thing together unnecessarily, and to destroy the harmony of the context. -- Ed.