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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Romans 14

 

 

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Verses 1-9

Conflicts over Christian liberty

" translation="">Romans 14:1-9

This chapter deals with our attitude toward one another in regard to disputes and disagreements in reference to the observance of certain days, the eating of certain foods, and conflicts over things that are not specifically commanded or forbidden in the Scriptures. The subjects of conflict may vary today, but the principles laid down can apply to all.

Romans 14:1. Welcome the weak believer or the babe in Christ into your fellowship, not to criticize his opinions and his convictions. This statement is addressed to the mature, strong, knowledgeable Christian. If we are instructed to grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, it can be safely assumed that there are weaknesses and immaturity to develop! Receive the weak in faith and the immature into your fellowship; take notice of them; bear their ignorance patiently rather than demanding that they know immediately what it took you years to learn.

Romans 14:2. One man's faith permits him to eat anything, while another is troubled about meat sacrificed to idols or meat forbidden under the law, so he limits his food to vegetables.

Romans 14:3. The mature believer who understands that the kingdom of God is not in meat and drinks but righteousness and peace–that it is not that which goeth into the mouth but that which cometh out of the heart that defileth–must not look down upon nor despise the man who does not understand these things and is still bound by a ‘touch not, taste not’ tradition. Let not the man who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God hath received and welcomed both (Matthew 15:17-20).

(a) The disagreement is not over the gospel of substitution.

(b) The disagreement is not over the moral law of God.

(c) The disagreement is not over repentance, faith, love, or godliness.

(d) It is over meats, drinks, and things regarding the flesh and not the spirit. The natural man's religion lies in works, deeds, and self-approval before God. When he comes to Christ, it is difficult for him to realize that our entire acceptance is in Christ, not in our own righteousness and works. These grave clothes are hard to shed.

Romans 14:4. The believer, whether weak or strong, is the Lord's servant. He is not my servant to condemn or to judge. He stands or falls before the Master. He is chosen of God to his salvation and his service. The Master will order his own household, and the weaker brother shall not fall but shall grow in faith and grace as the mature believer will also grow stronger in Christ. Let all criticism, condemnation, and judgment of one another in things not pertaining to the gospel of righteousness cease!

Romans 14:5. This is another instance of differences of opinions in the church about the observance of Jewish laws. He is speaking of certain days appointed by Moses, such as the Passover, different feast days, and the Sabbath. These were holy days in the Old Testament, and these traditions were hard to break. One man observes a strict Sabbath; another esteems everyday the Lord's day and orders his life in prayer and praise continually.

Romans 14:6. He who observes a strict Sabbath or a special holy day does so in honor of the Lord. The man who considers all days equally holy does so in honor of the Lord. We must be convinced in our own minds; for to serve or worship only in imitation of someone else is folly; and to do something without being convinced in heart would be destructive. He who eats gives thanks to God, and he who abstains gives thanks to God. Since both parties are concerned with the glory of God, they should be patient with one another. Several things might be included here, such as styles of worship, order of worship, singing of hymns or psalms, personality differences, mode of dress, etc.

Romans 14:7. I am not a separate tree planted on a hill, but I am a branch (along with other branches) in Christ Jesus. I am not a building which stands separately and alone but a stone (along with other living stones) in the Living Temple–Christ Jesus!

Also, I don't live by my duties, services, or sacrifices. I live in Christ! I don't live by my personal righteousness–but his! No man dies to himself (Philippians 1:21-24). My life belongs to Christ and his body and so does my death.

Romans 14:8. The Father gave us to Christ. Our Lord purchased us by his obedient life and substitutionary death. We are his, not our own and not another's. Whether we eat or don't eat things formerly forbidden, whether we observe a day or don't observe a day, whether we live or die, it is to our Lord. We are his bondslaves and are not to be despised, judged, or ordered by men in the things of God.

Romans 14:9. This is why he died–that he might be Lord of every believer, whether living or dead. He bought us from self-service and evil slavery. He redeemed us from sin and other masters which had dominion over us. He is the supreme Master of all believers, so we are to cultivate peace and love among ourselves.


Verses 10-23

Christ alone is our judge

Romans 14:10-23

Romans 14:10. ‘Why do you judge your brother?’ These words are spoken to the man who thinks it is wrong to eat things prohibited by the law, who still keeps holy days. He is asked why he takes it upon himself to judge and condemn the brother who differs from him.

‘Why do you set at nought your brother?’ These words are to the strong in faith and Christian liberty–to him who is apt to be puffed up with his superior knowledge and to look down on the weaker one.

Christ alone is our judge. To judge one another and to despise one another because of differences not only reveals lack of understanding and love but invades the area of Christ's Lordship. Each Christian is to follow the Lord, for Christ alone is the final authority on what is right and what is wrong for a believer.

Romans 14:11. This passage is from Isaiah 45:23. It is by Christ that all men shall be judged (John 5:22; Philippians 2:10). Neither we, nor our creeds, nor our laws, nor our religious organizations are the judges of believers or unbelievers. Christ is the sole Master and Judge!

Romans 14:12. ‘So then.’ The apostle concludes that every individual is answerable to Jesus Christ–believers and unbelievers! Though our sins are blotted out by the blood, we shall not indulge in sin; for we are accountable to our Master for our conduct and stewardship; and our desire is to glorify him, be a good witness, and keep his commandments.

Romans 14:13. This is the conclusion: let's don't set ourselves up as critics and judges of the conduct and lives of other believers. Let's don't spend our time finding fault with one another, picking out weaknesses, and exaggerating differences of opinions and practices; but rather, let us spend our time endeavoring to help one another and to avoid doing and saying things that may cause another to stumble. We can do this by making our fellowship to be in Christ (not in form), by loving one another in spite of differences, and by avoiding collisions on the points where we differ.

Romans 14:14-15. This is not a private opinion, but I have been taught by the Lord Jesus that our relationship with God and our spiritual condition is not determined by meats and drinks or what goes in the mouth (Matthew 15:11-19). But if a person eats or drinks or does what he thinks is forbidden by God, he is guilty with respect to God as really as if the thing were forbidden. Teach a man liberty, but don't encourage him to violate his conscience.

Example: if meat offered to idols is available to you and you see no harm in eating it, don't eat it if you are in the company of a brother who will be offended. Don't destroy his confidence in you and his fellowship with you just for the sake of appetite. You can do without it.

Romans 14:16. It is good to be free from form and Pharisaism. It is good to have the liberty and peace of Christ, but be careful to use it in such a way that it does not offend and become the occasion for division among the people of God.

Romans 14:17-18. Men are so prone to cling to the externals in religious worship (1 Timothy 4:1-4). These things have nothing to do with eternal life. But the righteousness of Christ (imputed and imparted), the joy communicated by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the peace purchased by his blood have everything to do with eternal life.

He that in these things (righteousness, joy, and peace) serves Christ and is a bondslave of Jesus Christ is accepted in the Beloved and approved by those who know God. True believers recognize true godliness.

Romans 14:19-21. Let us emphasize and dwell upon these things that bring us together in fellowship and avoid those things which divide. Let us preach, practice, and discuss those things that build up and strengthen men in faith.

If you have liberty in regard to things indifferent, yet you have brothers who are offended, then leave it off! His fellowship is worth more than these things.

Romans 14:22. If a man is not bound by superstition, holy days, meats and drinks, rituals and ceremonies, but finds his joy, righteousness, and peace only in Christ, he is a happy and contented man (Galatians 2:20-21).

Romans 14:23. But the man to whom the full extent of Christian liberty has not been revealed must walk in the light he has. The word ‘damned’ is not eternal condemnation but disfavor. Whatever we do must be done with the conviction that it is agreeable to the will of God. This applies not only to meats and drinks but to all things.

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 14:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/romans-14.html. 2013.

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