Chapter 14 in Romans is a very important chapter as it relates to our maturity and civility towards one another, in Christ. It should be quite evident that we do not all hail from the same geography nor are we all the product of the same society or cultural influence. Yet, being ONE in Christ means that we need to know what kind of mindset we should have, as it relates to things that others in the body of Christ would bring to the table that we might find odd or even offensive. Let’s continue,
Romans 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
When Paul writes of those who are weak in the faith, it isn’t that this person has less faith, but rather is weak in the faith they have. This doesn’t mean they are wavering in their faith, but rather that they are not fully established as to what they have. Paul says that those who are weak in the faith, we are to receive – we are to welcome. But, Paul qualifies this and says that our welcoming of them is not for entrapment. In other words, we aren’t to recognize their weakness in faith and welcome them in order to exploit their weakness. It isn’t for the purpose of taking their weak mindset and seeking to confuse them over subjective opinions that do nothing to bolster them in the faith. Paul writes something similar to Timothy,
1Timothy 1:4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
To Titus Paul writes,
Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
The purpose of receiving the one who is weak is is to edify – build up. But, it is also a call to be patient. As we move through the chapter, we’ll find what Paul means when he speaks about being “weak” in the faith and sometimes, the reception of these believers isn’t because you are called to change their minds, but you are called to accept their understanding and recognize that as ONE in Christ, none of us live unto ourselves. In other words, to not offend their own consciousness, sometimes we allow folks who are “weak” in the faith to remain so, under the banner of acceptance.
This may sound a bit off because it may seem like Paul is saying to just let folks be and not encourage them to grow, but, this isn’t the case at all. What Paul is doing is encouraging use to be wise and careful. Regardless of how much we want an infant to run, we will set them up for instant failure if we attempt to make them do so. This analogy isn’t about the “infancy” of their faith, but about where they are in the faith. It should be noted that when Paul spoke to the Corinthians about their divisive character, he referred to them as children (“babes in Christ”). However, here in Romans, Paul is not referring to these folks as children. Those who are “weak in the faith” are not necessarily synonymous with being an immature child. Perhaps we should keep going in Romans 14 to see more of what Paul has in mind.
Romans 14:2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 14:3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Interesting that this involves food. Recall that in Israel’s law, there were dietary restrictions that they were to follow. Some of this involved complete abstinence from some food or specific ways to prepare certain foods. Why would the one that eats herbs be considered “weak” to Paul? Remember that Romans is comprised of both Jews and Gentiles and their heritage and customs would certainly be influencing their understanding.
Since Acts 10, we’ve seen that God has cleansed what was formerly called unclean (common). Peter is commanded to eat food that he was formally forbidden to do so. Those who would have come from a long heritage of food restrictions that have now been enlightened that they are free from the Law may have trouble breaking ‘old habits’, as it were. Paul tells us in a few different places that God has given us all things and with thanksgiving, not to refuse anything.
1Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
To the Corinthians, Paul writes,
1Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 10:32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
God has given all things to freely enjoy and being in Christ makes that an ever-present reality. Yet, again, some had issue with this – not because they questioned God, but because they were not comfortable in their conscious, they chose to stay in the mindset that they were used to. Those whose conscious were still under their old thinking, Paul says that they are weak in the faith – they were not comfortable engaging in the liberty they had. But, Paul makes some interesting comments about this. Does Paul tell the Romans to work on these saints to make them strong in the faith?
Paul says to not castigate these folks for God has received them. He goes on to say,
Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Again, God makes this person stand. Being weak in the faith has nothing to do with their standing with God. As we mentioned earlier, being weak in the faith has to do with the stability of their conscious with their liberty. God makes this person stand just as much as He makes anyone else stand. Even as one may honor and recognize certain days above others (i.e. holidays), and the next person essentially sees every day alike, Paul says to let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. In other words, if your conscious is settled that certain things you shouldn’t eat nor that certain days you should or should not celebrate, or, whether you are the complete opposite – Paul says to let everyone be fully persuaded in their OWN mind. Paul isn’t saying that each mind must decide truth for himself, but that every man must, within the confines of his liberty in Christ, be fully persuaded of their decisions. Why?
Romans 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 14:7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
The point is that those that regard a day specially or those who do not, they are doing so unto the Lord. The Lord isn’t requiring abstinence nor adherence to special days, but neither is He denying it. As long as you, as a believer, are fully persuaded that what you are doing unto the Lord is for His glory, then proceed — celebrate the holiday, or not. The reality is that none of us live unto ourselves and none of us die unto ourselves. Believers live and die unto the Lord because we are the Lord’s. Therefore, any occasion we would take to judge another believer for their weakness or for their customs is done under a false pretense. Again, I want to stress that Paul is not talking about believers doing just anything that they want–the context is about customs from heritage that may or may not be a distraction to other believers. For those whom it would be a distraction, Paul says to receive them and recognize that it shouldn’t be a distraction because they do so unto the Lord.
Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Since none of us live unto ourselves, Paul reminds us of the ultimate judgment. Paul quotes Isaiah 45 to demonstrate that our brothers do not bow to us – we do not sit in judgment over them, rather, the scriptures record that the only bowing that we need concern ourselves with is the kneeling before God that all men will do. All will give an account, therefore, not unto their brother, but unto the Lord Himself.
What is this judgment about? Does a believer have anything to fear about this judgment? Is it for final determination of salvation? Is it to receive rewards?
Our story continues…