Since the fourteenth chapter consists wholly of practical instruction in Christian living, and has no direct dependence upon the exhortations that have preceded it, we need not now take time to review the previous chapters, but will proceed at once with the text. Let it not be forgotten that this chapter, as well as those which precede, is addressed to the church, and not to those who do not profess to serve the Lord. In the sixth verse it is plainly shown that all who are spoken of in this chapter are those who acknowledge God as their Lord. The chapter therefore tells how we should regard one another as
Servants of One Common Master Romans 14:1-11
1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things; another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 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. 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. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 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. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 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. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
The School of Christ. The church of Christ is not composed of perfect men, but of those who are seeking perfection. He is the perfect One, and he sends out the invitation: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me." Mat. 11:28, 29. Having called all to come to him, he says, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37. As one has said, "God reaches for the hand of faith in man to direct it to lay fast hold upon the divinity of Christ, that man may attain to perfection of character."
The faith may be very weak, but God does not reject him on that account. Paul thanked God that the faith of the Thessalonian brethren grew exceedingly (2 Thess. 1:3), which shows that they did not have perfect faith at the first. It is true that God is so good that every person ought to trust him fully; but just because he is so good, he is very patient and forbearing with those who are not well acquainted with him, and he does not turn away from them because they are doubtful. It is this very goodness and forbearance of God that develops perfect faith.
The Pupils Not Masters. It is not for the pupils to say who shall attend school. It is true that in this world there are schools that are exclusive, in which only a certain set of pupils are allowed. If one inferior in wealth and standing in society should seek to enter, there would be at once an uproar. The students themselves would make so strong a protest against the entrance of the newcomer, that the masters would feel obliged not to receive him. But such schools are not the schools of Christ. "There is no respect of persons with God." He invites the poor and needy, and the weak. It is he, and not the pupils, that decides who shall be admitted.
He says, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely," and he asks all who hear to extend the invitation. The only qualification necessary for entering the school of Christ is willingness to learn of him. If any man is willing to do his will, God will receive him and teach him. John 7:17. Whoever sets up any other standard, sets himself above God. No man has any right to reject one whom God receives.
Master and Servant. Christ said to his disciples: "Be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master; and all ye are brethren." "Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ." Matt. 23:8, 10. It is the master who sets the task for each pupil or servant. It is to the master that the servant looks for his reward. Therefore it is the master alone who has the right to give orders, and to pronounce judgment if there is failure. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?" If you have not the power to reward his success, you have not the right to judge his failures.
"God Is the Judge." "He putteth down one, and setteth up another." Ps. 75:7. "For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us." Isa. 33:22. "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy; who art thou that judgest another?" James 4:12. The power to save and to destroy determines the right to judge. To condemn when one has not the power to carry the judgment into effect, is but a farce. Such an one makes himself ridiculous, to say the least.
The Spirit of the Papacy. The apostle Paul describes the apostasy as the revelation of "that man of sin," "the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God," or, "setting himself forth as God." 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. In Daniel 7:25 the same power is described as speaking great words against the Most High, and thinking to change times and laws.
To set one's self up against or above the law of God, is the strongest possible opposition to God, and the most presumptuous usurpation of his power. The end of the power that thus exalts itself is this: to be consumed by the Spirit of Christ, and destroyed by the brightness of his coming. 2 Thess. 2:8.
Now read in James 4:11: "He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge." That tells us that whoever speaks evil of his brother, or judges or sets at naught his brother, is speaking against the law of God, and sitting in judgment upon it. In other words, he is putting himself in the place and doing the work of "that man of sin." What else can result, but that he receive the reward of the man of sin? Surely there is enough in this thought to give us all pause.
We have learned that the members of the church of Christ are not judges one of another, but fellow-servants of one common Lord. We are not taught that it is a matter of indifference whether or not we keep the commandments of God; quite the contrary, since we are all to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and be judged by them but we are taught that in those things concerning which the law of God does not speak particularly, one man's ways are as good as another's. We learned even further that even one who may be faulty with respect to an express commandment, is not to be dealt with harshly, and condemned. Such a course can not help one, and, besides, we have no right to do so, since we are but servants.
Living for Others Romans 14:14-23
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 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. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of; 17 for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22 Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
Many errors arise from careless reading of the Bible, and from hasty conclusions from detached statements, as from wilful perversion of the word. Possibly many more are the result of lack of proper thought than of deliberate willfulness. Let us therefore always take heed how we read.
Clean and Unclean. If we consider well the subject under consideration, we shall not wrest this scripture from its connection. The thing presented from the beginning of the chapter is the case of a man with so little real knowledge of Christ that he thinks righteousness is to be obtained by the eating of certain kinds of food, or by not eating certain things. The idea clearly conveyed by the entire chapter is that it is by faith, and not by eating and drinking, that we are saved.
A little consideration of the question of clean and unclean food will help us much. There is a strange idea prevalent, to the effect that things that were at one time unfit for food are perfectly wholesome now. Many people seem to think that even unclean beasts are made clean by the gospel. They forget that Christ purifies men, not beasts and reptiles.
There were plants that were poisonous in the days of Moses, and those same plants are poisonous now. The very people who seem to think that the gospel makes everything fit to eat, would be as much disgusted at the thought of eating cats, dogs, caterpillars, spiders, flies, etc., as any Jew would have been in the days of Moses. Instead of finding that a knowledge of Christ reconciles one to such a diet, we find, on the contrary, that it is only the most degraded savages who make use of them for food, and such a diet is both a sign and cause of degradation. Enlightenment brings carefulness in the selection of food.
Now there is no one who can imagine the apostle Paul or any other person of good sense and refinement eating everything that he could possibly find on earth. Although most people think themselves wiser than God in the matter of eating and drinking, there are, as there always have been, certain things universally held to be unfit for food. Therefore when the apostle says that nothing is unclean of itself, he evidently confines his remark to those things which God has provided for man's eating. There are people whose conscience is so poorly instructed that they fear to eat even of things which God has given to be eaten; just as there are some who forbid the eating of "food which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving." 1 Tim. 4:3.
So when the apostle says, "One believeth that he may eat all things," it is evident that the "all things" does not include filth. The idea evidently is that one believes that he may eat everything that is fit to be eaten. But another, having for instance the thought that some of those things may have been devoted to an idol, fears to eat of them lest he should thereby become an idolater. The eighth chapter of 1 Corinthians makes this whole subject plain, as it runs parallel with the fourteenth of Romans.
This throws light also upon the subject of days. Since the apostle evidently confines his remarks concerning food to that which it is allowable to eat, it is more clear that those days which may be considered as all alike are those days only which God has not sanctified to himself.
The Nature of the Kingdom. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Over that kingdom Christ has been set as King, for God has said, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." Ps. 2:6. Now read further the words of the Father to the Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things: "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Heb. 1:8, 9.
A scepter is the symbol of power. Christ's scepter is a scepter of righteousness; therefore the power of his kingdom is righteousness. He rules by righteousness. His life on earth was a perfect manifestation of righteousness, so that he rules his kingdom by the power of his life. All those who own his life are subjects of his kingdom. No other thing but the life of Christ is the badge of citizenship in the kingdom of Christ.
But with what was Christ anointed King? The text last read says that it was with "the oil of gladness." Then gladness, or joy, is a necessary part of the kingdom of Christ. It is a kingdom of joy, as well as of righteousness. Therefore it is that every subject of that kingdom must be filled with joy. "A gloomy Christian" is as much a contradiction of terms as "a cold sun." The sun is for the purpose of shedding the warmth of which it is composed; so the Christian is for the purpose of diffusing the peace and joy which is a part of his nature. The Christian is not joyful simply because he thinks that he ought to be, but because he has been translated into the kingdom of joy.
"He that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." He who in what things serves Christ? Why, he who serves Christ in righteousness, and peace, and joy. Or, as some translations have it, "He that thus serves Christ."
God accepts such service, and men approve. Not only do Christians approve
such service, but unbelievers are constrained to approve. The enemies of
Daniel were forced to bear witness to the uprightness of his life, when
they said that they could find nothing against him except in the law of
his God. But that very statement was an approval of the law of his God,
obedience to which made him the faithful man that he was.
Unselfishness. Peace is a characteristic of the kingdom. Therefore those who are in the kingdom must follow the things which make for peace. But selfishness never causes peace. On the contrary, selfishness is always the cause of war, and inevitably produces war if it is persisted in. Therefore the subject of the kingdom must always be ready to sacrifice his own desires and ideas in behalf of others. The unselfish person will give up his own ways whenever they interfere with the peace of another.
But do not forget that the kingdom of God is righteousness as well as peace. Righteousness is obedience to the law of God; for "all unrighteousness is sin" (1 John 5:17), and "sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). Therefore, although by the laws of the kingdom one must necessarily give up his own wishes in order not to interfere with the feelings of others, by those same laws he is precluded from giving up any of the commandments of God.
Obedience to the law of God is that which makes for peace, for we read: "Great peace have they which love thy law." Ps. 199:165. "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." Isa. 48:18. Therefore he who is so "charitable" as to give up any portion of the law of God because some people are displeased with it, is not following the things which make for peace. On the contrary, he is rebelling against the kingdom of Christ.
This again shows us that the sabbath of the Lord is not under consideration, as one of the things which are to be held as matters of mere personal opinion. The Christian has no option with regard to that. He must keep it. It is not one of the days which the subject of the kingdom may disregard if he wishes. It is one of the things that are obligatory.
But there are things which one has the right to do if he wishes, but which he is not obliged to do. For instance, a man has the right to eat his food with the fingers, if he wishes to; but if that annoys his companion, the law of Christ requires him not to do so. And thus it appears that the law of Christ alone, will, if carefully heeded, make a man perfectly courteous. The true Christian is a gentleman in the best sense of that word.
There are many things that are allowable, which some people with faith that is weak, because it is uninstructed, think to be wrong. Christian courtesy, as laid down in the fourteenth chapter of Romans, requires that the better-instructed person should regard the scruples of his weaker brother. To roughly ignore those scruples, although they may be destitute of reason, is not the way to help that brother into a wider liberty. On the contrary, it is the way to discourage him. "It is good neither to eat flesh, not to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak."
Thus it becomes evident that the fourteenth chapter of Romans is simply a lesson in Christian courtesy and helpfulness instead of teaching that the sabbath, or anything else that pertains to the commandments of God, may be disregarded at pleasure. Consideration is to be shown for "him that is weak in the faith;" but the one who is offended by the keeping of the commandments of God, has no faith at all.
The Limitations of Conscience. "Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God." Faith and conscience pertain to single individuals. No man can have faith for another. No man can have faith enough to serve for two. The teaching of the Roman Church is that certain ones have had more faith than they needed, and have been more righteous than was necessary, so that they can divide with other people; but the Bible teaches that it is impossible for any man to have more faith than will serve to save himself. Therefore, no matter how well one man's faith may be instructed, no other man can be judged by it.
We hear a great deal in these days about the public conscience. We are often told that the conscience of one man is outraged by the course of another. But it is with conscience as with faith, no man can have enough for two. The man who thinks that his conscience will serve for himself and for somebody else, has mistaken selfish obstinacy for conscience. It is this mistaken idea of conscience that has led to all the horrible persecutions that have ever been perpetrated in the name of religion.
Let Christians all understand that conscience is between themselves
and God alone. They are not at liberty to impose even their freedom of
conscience upon another; but by the laws of the kingdom of Christ, they
are obliged even to refrain at times from exercising their own freedom,
out of consideration for others. That is to say, the man who can
walk fast, is to help along his weak brother, who is going the same way,
but more slowly. But he is not to turn around to please somebody who is
walking the other way.