1.Him indeed, etc. He passes on now to lay down a precept especially necessary for the instruction of the Church, — that they who have made the most progress in Christian doctrine should accommodate themselves to the more ignorant, and employ their own strength to sustain their weakness; for among the people of God there are some weaker than others, and who, except they are treated with great tenderness and kindness, will be discouraged, and become at length alienated from religion. And it is very probable that this happened especially at that time; for the Churches were formed of both Jews and Gentiles; some of whom, having been long accustomed to the rites of the Mosaic law, having been brought up in them from childhood, were not easily drawn away from them; and there were others who, having never learnt such things, refused a yoke to which they had not been accustomed.
Now, as man’s disposition is to slide from a difference in opinion to quarrels and contentions, the Apostle shows how they who thus vary in their opinions may live together without any discord; and he prescribes this as the best mode, — that they who are strong should spend their labor in assisting the weak, and that they who have made the greatest advances should bear with the more ignorant. For God, by making us stronger than others, does not bestow strength that we may oppress the weak; nor is it the part of Christian wisdom to be above measure insolent, and to despise others. The import then of what he addresses to the more intelligent and the already confirmed, is this, — that the ampler the grace which they had received from the Lord, the more bound they were to help their neighbors.
Not for the debatings of questions. This is a defective sentence, as the word which is necessary to complete the sense is wanting. It appears, however, evident, that he meant nothing else than that the weak should not be wearied with fruitless disputes. But we must remember the subject he now handles: for as many of the Jews still clave to the shadows of the law, he indeed admits, that this was a fault in them; he yet requires that they should be for a time excused; for to press the matter urgently on them might have shaken their faith.
He then calls those contentious questions which disturb a mind not yet sufficiently established, or which involve it in doubts. It may at the same time be proper to extend this farther, even to any thorny and difficult questions, by which weak consciences, without any edification, may be disquieted and disturbed. We ought then to consider what questions any one is able to bear, and to accommodate our teaching to the capacity of individuals.
Him that is weak in faith receive, but not to doubtful disputations. This verse contains the general direction that weak and scrupulous brethren are to be kindly received, and not harshly condemned. Who these weak brethren were, and what was the nature of their scruples, is matter of doubt. Some say they were Jewish converts, who held to the continued obligation of the ceremonial law. But to this it is objected, that they abstained from all flesh (Rom_14:2), and refused to drink wine (Rom_14:21); things not prohibited in the law of Moses. Others think they were persons who scrupled about the use of such flesh only as had been offered in sacrifice to idols, and of the wine employed in libation to false gods. But for this limitation there is no ground in the context. Eichhorn, Einleitung 3. p. 222, supposes that they were the advocates, of Gentile birth, of the ascetic school of the new Pythagorean philosophy, which had begun to prevail among the heathen, and probably to a certain extent among the Jews. But it is plain that they held to the continued authority of the Jewish law, which converts from among the heathen would not be likely to do. The most probable opinion is, that they were a scrupulous class of Jewish Christians; perhaps of the school of the Essenes, who were more strict and abstemious than the Mosaic ceremonial required. Asceticism, as a form of self-righteousness and will-worship, was one of the earliest, most extensive and persistent heresies in the church. But there is nothing inconsistent with the assumption that the weak brethren here spoken of were scrupulous Jewish Christians. Josephus says, that some of the Jews at Rome lived on fruits exclusively, from fear of eating something unclean. Weak in faith, i.e. weak as to faith (πίστει). Faith here means, persuasion of the truth; a man may have a strong persuasion as to certain truths, and a very weak one as to others. Some of the early Christians were, no doubt, fully convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, and yet felt great doubts whether the distinction between clean and unclean meats was entirely done away. This was certainly a great defect of Christian character, and arose from the want of an intelligent and firm conviction of the gratuitous nature of justification, and of the spirituality of the gospel. Since, however, this weakness was not inconsistent with sincere devotion to Christ, such persons were to be received. The word (προσλαμβάνομαι) rendered receive, has the general signification, to take to oneself; and this is its meaning here: ‘Him that is weak in faith, take to yourselves as a Christian brother, treat him kindly;’ see Act_28:2; Rom_15:7; Phm_1:15, Phm_1:17.
There is much more doubt as to the meaning of the words (μὴ εἰς διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν) translated not to doubtful disputations. The former of the two important words of this clause means, the faculty of discrimination, 1Co_12:10; the act of discerning, Heb_5:14, and then, dijudication, judgment. It is said also to signify doubt or inward conflict; see the use of the verb in Rom_4:20. It is taken in this sense in our version, not to the doubtfulness of disputes, not for the purpose of doubtful disputation. That is, not so as to give rise to disputes on doubtful matters. Luther (und verwirret die Gewissen nicht,) and many others take διακρίσεις in the sense of doubt, and refer the διαλογισμοί to the weak brethren: ‘Not so as to awaken doubts of thought, i.e. scruples.’ Although the verb διακρίνω, in the passive, often means to hesitate or doubt, the noun διακρίσις; is not used in that sense, either in the classics or in the New Testament. It is therefore better to take the word in its ordinary sense, which gives a meaning to the passage suited to the context, not to the judging of thoughts; i.e. not presuming to sit in judgment on the opinions of your brethren.
Vers. 1-23. F. The duty of enlightened Christians towards weak brethren. From moral duties in general of Christians towards each other and towards all the apostle now passes to such as they owe peculiarly to each other as members of a religious community, united by a common faith. He has already (Rom_12:16) admonished his readers to be “of the same mind one toward another;” but, as was remarked under that verse, this did not imply agreement of view on all subjects, such as is impossible where there are many minds. In this chapter he recognizes the impossibility, having immediately before him what was then patent, the inability of some, through prejudice or slowness of conception, to enter into views of the meaning of the gospel which to himself and the more enlightened were apparent. He by no means departs from what he says elsewhere (cf. Gal_1:6-10) about no denial of fundamental doctrine being allowable in the communion of the Church; but in matters not touching the foundation he does here inculcate a large and generous tolerance. In these, as in all other relations between men on the earth together, the all-inspiring principle of charity is to rule. Who the “weak brethren” were whose scruples he especially inculcates tolerance of in this chapter cannot be decided positively. It will he seen that they were persons who thought it their duty to abstain from animal food, and perhaps also from wine (vers. 2, 21); and there is allusion also to observance of certain days (ver. 5). The views that have been taken are as follows:
(1) That they were the same class of Jewish Christians as are spoken of in 1Co 8 as over-scrupulous about eating of things that had been offered in sacrifice to idols.
(2) That they were such as were scrupulous in avoiding unclean meats, forbidden in the Mosaic Law. (Or, as Erasmus and others suggest, views (1) and (2) may be combined)
(3) That they were ascetics.
In favour of view
(1) is the fact that the drift and tone of the exhortation is exactly the same here as in 1Co 8, with similarity also of expressions, such as o asyenwn, o esyiwn brwsiv, brwma, apoluein proskomma, skandalizein . Against it are the facts
(a) that in the chapter before us there is no allusion whatever to idol-meats, as there is throughout so markedly in 1Co 8; and
(b) that abstinence from all animal food whatever (and apparently from wine too) is spoken of in this chapter. Objection (a) has been met by saying that the ground of the scrupulosity referred to might be so well known that St. Paul did not think it necessary to mention it when he wrote to the Romans. To objection (b) it is replied that there might be some who, in order to guard against the risk of buying at the shambles, or partaking in general society of viands connected with heathen sacrifices, made a point of abstaining from meat altogether, and (it has been suggested) from wine too, which might have been used in libations. This is the view of Clement of Alexandria, Ambrosiastor, and Augustine, among the ancients.
View (2) is that of Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Jerome, and others, among whom Chrysostom accounts for the total abstinence from meat as follows: “There were many of the Jews that believed, who, being still bound in conscience to the Law, even after believing still observed the ordinances about meats, not as yet venturing to depart from the Law; and then, in order not to be conspicuous in abstaining from swine”s flesh only, they abstained from all flesh, and ate herbs only, that their practice might seem to be rather fasting, and not observance of the Law” (so also OEcumenius and Theophylact). But this seems to be a conjecture only, and hardly a likely one. And further, it fails to account for abstinence from wine, which seems to be implied; on the part of tome at least, in ver. 21. (It may be observed, however, that this is not of necessity implied. Abstinence from meat is all that has been spoken of before, and again in ver. 23; and St. Paul may possibly mean only to say, in ver. 21, that if by abstaining from wine also he could avoid offence to a weak brother, he would willingly so abstain. Still, the natural inference is that he would not have mentioned wine had there not been some who made it a point of conscience to abstain from it)
If the weak brethren were ascetics, according to view (3), it is most probable that they were Jewish Christians who had imbibed the principles of the Essenes. These were a Jewish sect, spoken of especially by Josephus, who aimed at scrupulous observance of the Law of Moses, and strict personal purity. With this view they lived in communities under rule, partaking of the simplest fare, and some abstaining from marriage. It does not appear that they were strict vegetarians when living in community; but we are told that they might only eat such meat as had been prepared by their own members, so as to be secure against any pollution, and that, if excommunicated, they were consequently compelled to eat herbs. (For what is known of them, see Josephus, “Bell. Jud:,” 2:8:2-5; “Ant.,” 13:5. 9; 15:10. 4, 5; 18:1. 2, etc.; Philo, “Quod Omnis Probus Liber,” see. 12., etc.; Pliny, “Hist. Nat.,” 5:16, 17) It is far from unlikely that some of these would be attracted to Christianity; and this especially as some of their principles, as described by Josephus, seem to have been endorsed by Christ himself (see art. on “Essenes,” in “Dict. of Christian Biog.,” vol. 2. p. 202); and, if so, they would be likely to carry their prejudices with them into the Church, and, when living outside their original communities, they might abstain entirely from flesh as well as wine. Or it might be that other Jews, Essenic in principle and feeling, had sought admission into the Church. Philo, in Eusebius, “Praep. Evan.,” 8. fin., and Josephus, “Vit.,” 2. 3, intimate that supra-legal asceticism, under the influence of Essenic principles, was not uncommon in Judaism in their time. The latter (c. 3) speaks of certain priests, his friends, who were so God-fearing that they subsisted on figs and nuts, and (c. 2) of one Banns, who had been his master, who ate no food but vegetables. What is still more to our purpose is that we find evidence of pious ascetics of the same type subsequently among Christians. Origen (“Contra Cels.,” 5:49) speaks of some as living in his time; and even the apostle St. Matthew, and James the Lord”s brother, were afterwards credited with a corresponding mode of life. Clement of Alexandria (“Paedag.” 2:1) says of the former, “Matthew the apostle partook of seeds and acorns and herbs, without flesh.” Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius (2:23), says of the latter that “he drank not wine or strong drinks, nor did he eat animal food; a razor came not upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil; he did not use the bath.” It is to be observed that abstinence from ointments was one of the practices of the Essenes (Josephus, “Bell. Jud:,” 8:2:3). Augustine (“Ad Faust.,” 22:3) transmits the same tradition as to the abstinence of James from flesh and wine. Whatever foundation them might be for these traditions, they at any rate show that in the second century, when Hegesippus wrote, abstinence such as is intimated in this chapter was regarded as a mark of superior sanctity by some Christians. Farther, in the “Apostolical Canons” (Canon 51), Christians who abstained from marriage, or flesh, or wine, are allowed to be retained in the communion of the Church as long as they did so by way of religious restraint only. Against the above view of the weak brethren of the chapter before us having been ascetics of the Essenic type, is alleged the strong condemnation of persons supposed to have been of the same sort in Col_2:8, Col_2:16, seq., and 1Ti_4:1-5, which is said to be inconsistent with the tender tolerance recommended here. But the teachers referred to in the later Epistles, though inculcating practices similar to those of the “weak brethren,” appear to have been heretical theosophists, the germ probably of later Gnosticism. Their tenets may indeed, in part at least, have been developed from Esseuism; but it was no longer mere conscientious scrupulosity, but principles subversive of the faith, that St. Paul set his face against in writing to the Colossians and to Timothy. Canon 51 in the “Apostolical Canons” above referred to may be adduced as distinguishing between the principles on which asceticism might be practised allowably or otherwise; it being therein laid down that any who abstained from marriage, flesh, or” wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, should be cast out of the Church.
It remains to be observed that there was diffused among the Gentiles also, through the influence of the Neo-Pythagorean philosophy, an asceticism similar to the Essenic (see Senec., “Ep.,” 108, and Porphyr., “De Abstin.”), which Eichhoru supposes the “weak brethren” of this chapter to have been affected by, regarding them as mostly Gentile Christians. But Jewish influences are much more probable; the scruples referred to in 1Co 8 were certainly due to them; and observe ver. 5 in this chapter, which cannot but refer to Jewish observances. Further, Origen, in the treatise above referred to, expressly distinguishes between Christian and Pythagorean asceticism. His words are, “But see also the difference of the cause of the abstinence from creatures having life as practised by the Pythagoreans and by the ascetics among ourselves. For they abstain because of the fable concerning the transmigration of souls; … but we, though we may practise the like, do it when we keep under the flesh and bring it into subjection” (“Contra Cels.,” 4).
Him that is weak in the faith (rather, in faith, or in his faith). The article before pistei does not denote the faith objectively. Cf. Rom_4:19, mh asyenhsav th pistei . In 1Co_8:12 it is the conscience that is spoken of as weak, thdhsin asyenousan . Persons are meant whose faith is not sufficiently strong and enlightened for entering fully into the true spirit of the gospel so as to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials. Receive ye, (i.e. take to yourselves with kindness with reference, it may be, both to persons seeking admission into the Church and to those already in it who could not get rid of their scruples. The verb, which is proslambanesye , occurs in a like sense in Act_28:2, and Phm_1:12, Phm_1:17. It may be regarded here as the opposite of ekkleisai yelein cf. Gal_4:17) but not to doubtful disputations; rather, unto i.e., so as to result in judgments of thoughts. The Authorized Version has in margin, to judge his doubtful thoughts,” which is probably nearer the true meaning than the text. Diarisiv means elsewhere dijudicartio , (1Co_12:10 Heb_5:14) not “disputation” or “doubt” (as has been supposed from the verb diakrinesyai , meaning “to doubt”). “Non dijudicemus cogitationes infirmorum, quasi ferre audeamus sententiam de alieno corde, quod non videtur” (Augustin, “Prepos.,” 78).
Him that is weak – The design here is to induce Christians to receive to their fellowship those who had scruples about the propriety of certain things, or that might have special prejudices and feelings as the result of education or former habits of belief. The apostle, therefore, begins by admitting that such an one may be “weak,” that is, not fully established, or not with so clear and enlarged views about Christian liberty others might have.
In the faith – In believing. This does not refer to “saving faith” in Christ, for he might have that; but to belief in regard “to the things which the apostle specifies,” or which would come into controversy. Young converts have often a special delicacy or sensitiveness about the lawfulness of many things in relation to which older Christians may be more fully established. To produce peace, there must be kindness, tenderness, and faithful teaching; not denunciation, or harshness, on one side or the other.
Receive ye – Admit to your society or fellowship: receive him kindly, not meet with a cold and harsh repulse; compare Rom_15:7.
Not to doubtful disputations – The plain meaning of this is, Do not admit him to your society for the purpose of debating the matter in an angry and harsh manner; of repelling him by denunciation; and thus, “by the natural reaction of such a course,” confirming him in his doubts. Or, “do not deal with him in such a manner as shall have a tendency to increase his scruples about meats, days, etc.” (Stuart.) The “leading” idea here – which all Christians should remember – is, that a harsh and angry denunciation of a man in relation to things not morally wrong, but where he may have honest scruples, will only tend to confirm him more and more in his doubts. To denounce and abuse him will be to confirm him. To receive him affectionately, to admit him to fellowship with us, to talk freely and kindly with him, to do him good, will have a far greater tendency to overcome his scruples. In questions which now occur about modes of “dress,” about “measures” and means of promoting revivals, and about rites and ceremonies, this is by far the wisest course, if we wish to overcome the scruples of a brother, and to induce him to think as we do. Greek, “Unto doubts or fluctuations of opinions or reasonings.” Various senses have been given to the words, but the above probably expresses the true meaning.
2.Let him who believes, etc. What [Erasmus ] has followed among the various readings I know not; but he has mutilated this sentence, which, in Paul’s words, is complete; and instead of the relative article he has improperly introduced alius — one, “One indeed believes,” etc. That I take the infinitive for an imperative, ought not to appear unnatural nor strained, for it is a mode of speaking very usual with Paul. He then calls those believers who were endued with a conscience fully satisfied; to these he allowed the use of all things without any difference. In the mean time the weak did eat herbs, and abstained from those things, the use of which he thought was not lawful. If the common version be more approved, the meaning then will be, — that it is not right that he who freely eats all things, as he believes them to be lawful, should require those, who are yet tender and weak in faith, to walk by the same rule. But to render the word sick, as some have done, is absurd.
For one believeth he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs — ὃς μὲν πιστεύει φαγεῖν πάντα does not mean, one believeth he may eat all things; much less, he that believeth eats all things, but, one has confidence to eat all things. Instead of ὃς μέν being followed by ὁ δέ, one eats all things, another eats herbs, Paul says, ὁ δὲ ἀσθενῶν, he who is weak eateth herbs. This is an illustration of the weakness of faith to which the apostle refers in Rom_14:1. It was a scrupulousness about the use of things considered as unclean, and with regard to sacred days, Rom_14:5. There were two sources whence the early Christian church was disturbed by the question about meats. The first, and by far the most important, was the natural prejudices of the Jewish converts. It is not a matter of surprise that, educated as they had been in a strict regard for the Mosaic law, they found it difficult to enter at once into the fall liberty of the gospel, and disencumber their consciences of all their early opinions. Even the apostles were slow in shaking them off; and the church in Jerusalem seems to have long continued in the observance of a great part of the ceremonial law. These scruples were not confined to the use of meats pronounced unclean in the Old Testament, but, as appears from the Epistles to the Corinthians, extended to partaking of anything which had been offered to an idol; and, in these latter scruples, some even of the Gentile converts may have joined. The second source of trouble on this subject was less prevalent and less excusable. It was the influence of the mystic ascetic philosophy of the East, which had developed itself among the Jews, in the peculiar opinions of the Essenes, and which, among the Christian churches, particularly those of Asia Minor, produced the evils which Paul describes in his Epistles to the Colossians (Col_2:10-23,) and to Timothy (1Ti_4:1-8,) and which subsequently gave rise to all the errors of Gnosticism. There is no satisfactory evidence that the persons to whom Paul refers in this passage were under the influence of this philosophy. The fact that they abstained from all meat, as seems to be intimated in this verse, may have arisen from the constant apprehension of eating meat which, after having been presented in sacrifice, was sold in the marketplace, or which had in some other way been rendered unclean. Every thing in the context is consistent with the supposition that Jewish scruples were the source of the difficulty; and as these were by far the most common cause, no other need be here assumed.
For one believeth – This was the case with the Gentiles in general, who had none of the scruples of the Jew about the propriety of eating certain kinds of meat. Many of the converts who had been Jews might also have had the same view as the apostle Paul evidently had while the great mass of Jewish converts might have cherished these scruples.
May eat all things – That is, he will not be restrained by any scruples about the lawfulness of certain meats, etc.
Another who is weak – There is reference here, doubt less, to the Jewish convert. The apostle admits that he was “weak,” that is, not fully established in the views of Christian liberty. The question with the Jew doubtless was, whether it was lawful to eat the meat which was offered in sacrifice to idols. In those sacrifices a part only of the animal was offered, and the remainder was eaten by the worshippers, or offered for sale in the market like other meat. It became an inquiry whether it was lawful to eat this meat; and the question in the mind of a Jew would arise from the express command of his Law; Exo_34:15. This question the apostle discussed and settled in 1Co_10:20-32, which see. In that place the general principle is laid down, that it was lawful to partake of that meat as a man would of any other, “unless it was expressly pointed out to him as having been sacrificed to idols, and unless his partaking of it would be considered as countenancing the idolators in their worship;” Rom_14:28. But with this principle many Jewish converts might not have been acquainted; or what is quite as probable, they might not have been disposed to admit its propriety.
Eateth herbs – Herbs or “vegetables” only; does not partake of meat at all, for “fear” of eating that, inadvertently, which had been offered to idols. The Romans abounded in sacrifices to idols; and it would not be easy to be certain that meat which was offered in the market, or on the table of a friend, had not been offered in this manner. To avoid the possibility of partaking of it, even “ignorantly,” they chose to eat no meat at all. The scruples of the Jews on the subject might have arisen in part from the fact that sins of “ignorance” among them subjected them to certain penalties; Lev_4:2-3, etc.; Lev_5:15; Num_15:24, Num_15:27-29. Josephus says (Life, Section 3) that in his time there were certain priests of his acquaintance who “supported themselves with figs and nuts.” These priests had been sent to Rome to be tried on some charge before Caesar: and it is probable that they abstained from meat because it might have been offered to idols. It is expressly declared of Daniel when in Babylon, that he lived on pulse and water, that he might not “defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank;” Dan_1:8-16.
3.Let not him who eats, etc. He wisely and suitably meets the faults of both parties. They who were strong had this fault, — that they despised those as superstitious who were scrupulous about insignificant things, and also derided them: these, on the other hand, were hardly able to refrain from rash judgments, so as not to condemn what they did not follow; for whatever they perceived to be contrary to their own sentiments, they thought was evil. Hence he exhorts the former to refrain from contempt, and the latter from excessive moroseness. And the reason which he adds, as it belongs to both parties, ought to be applied to the two clauses, — “When you see,” he says, “a man illuminated with the knowledge of God, you have evidence enough that he is received by the Lord; if you either despise or condemn him, you reject him whom God has embraced.”
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. There is mutual forbearance to be exercised in relation to this subject. The strong are not to despise the weak as superstitious and imbecile; nor the weak to condemn those who disregard their scruples. Points of indifference are not to be allowed to disturb the harmony of Christian fellowship. For God hath received him, i.e. God has recognized him as a Christian, and received him into his kingdom. This reason is not designed to enforce merely the latter of the two duties here enjoined, but is applied to both. As God does not make eating or not eating certain kinds of food a condition of acceptance, Christians ought not to allow it to interfere with their communion as brethren. The Jewish converts were perhaps quite as much disposed to condemn the Gentile Christians, as the latter were to despise the Christian Jews; Paul therefore frames his admonition so as to reach both classes. It appears, however, from the first verse, and from the whole context, that the Gentiles were principally intended.
Let not him that eateth – That is, he who has no scruples about eating “meat,” etc., who is not restrained by the Law of the Jews respecting the Clean and unclean, or by the fact that meat “may” have been offered to idols.
Despise him – Hold him in contempt, as being unnecessarily scrupulous, etc. The word “despise” here is happily chosen. The Gentile would be very likely to “despise” the Jew as being restrained by foolish scruples and mere distinctions in matters of no importance.
Him that eateth not – Him that is restrained by scruples of conscience, and that will eat only “vegetables;” Rom_14:2. The reference here is doubtless to the “Jew.
Judge him – To “judge” here has the force of “condemn.” This word also is very happily chosen. The Jew would not be so likely to “despise” the Gentile for what he did as to “judge” or condemn him. He would deem it too serious a matter for contempt. He would regard it as a violation of the Law of God, and would be likely to assume the right of judging his brother, and pronouncing him guilty. The apostle here has happily met the whole case in all disputes about rites, and dress, and scruples in religious matters that are not essential. One party commonly “despises” the other as being needlessly and foolishly scrupulous; and the other makes it a matter of “conscience,” too serious for ridicule and contempt; and a matter, to neglect which, is, in their view, deserving of condemnation. The true direction to be given in such a case is, “to the one party,” not to treat the scruples of the other with derision and contempt, but with tenderness and indulgence. Let him have his way in it. If he can be “reasoned” out of it, it is well; but to attempt to “laugh” him out of it is unkind, and will tend only to confirm him in his views. And “to the other party,” it should be said they have no “right” to judge or condemn another. If I cannot see that the Bible requires a particular cut to my coat, or makes it my duty to observe a particular festival, he has no right to judge me harshly, or to suppose that I am to be rejected and condemned for it. He has a right to “his” opinion; and while I do not “despise” him, he has no right to “judge” me. This is the foundation of true charity; and if this simple rule had been followed, how much strife, and even bloodshed, would it have spared in the church. Most of the contentions among Christians have been on subjects of this nature. Agreeing substantially in the “doctrines” of the Bible, they have been split up into sects on subjects just about as important as those which the apostle discusses in this chapter.
For God hath received him – This is the same word that is translated “receive” in Rom_14:1. It means here that God hath received him kindly; or has acknowledged him as his own friend; or he is a true Christian. These scruples, on the one side or the other, are not inconsistent with true piety; and as “God” has acknowledged him as “his,” notwithstanding his opinions on these subjects, so “we” also ought to recognise him as a Christian brother. Other denominations, though they may differ from us on some subjects, may give evidence that they are recognised by God as his, and where there is this evidence, we should neither despise nor judge them.
4.Who art thou who judgest, etc. “As you would act uncourteously, yea, and presumptuously among men, were you to bring another man’s servant, under your own rules, and try all his acts by the rule of your own will; so you assume too much, if you condemn anything in God’s servant, because it does not please you; for it belongs not to you to prescribe to him what to do and what not to do, nor is it necessary for him to live according to your law.”
Now, though the power of judging as to the person, and also as to the deed, is taken from us, there is yet much difference between the two; for we ought to leave the man, whatever he may be, to the judgment of God; but as to his deeds we may indeed form a decisive opinion, though not according to our own views, but according to the word of God; and the judgment, derived from his word, is neither human, nor another man’s judgment. Paul then intended here to restrain us from presumption in judging; into which they fall, who dare to pronounce anything respecting the actions of men without the warrant of God’s word.
To his own Lord he stands or falls, etc. As though he said, — “It belongs rightly to the Lord, either to disapprove, or to accept what his servant doeth: hence he robs the Lord, who attempts to take to himself this authority.” And he adds, he shall indeed stand: and by so saying, he not only bids us to abstain from condemning, but also exhorts us to mercy and kindness, so as ever to hope well of him, in whom we perceive anything of God; inasmuch as the Lord has given us a hope, that he will fully confirm, and lead to perfection, those in whom he has begun the work of grace.
But by referring to the power of God, he means not simply, as though he had said, that God can do this if he will; but, after the usual manner of Scripture, he connects God’s will with his power: and yet he speaks not here of perpetuity, as though they must stand to the end whom God has once raised up; but he only reminds us, that we are to entertain a good hope, and that our judgments should lean this way; as he also teaches us in another place, “He who began in you a good work, will perform it to the end.” (Phi_1:6.)
In short, Paul shows to what side their judgments incline, in whom love abounds.
Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. If God has not made the point in question a term of communion, we have no right to make it a ground of condemnation. We have no right to exercise the office of judge over the servant of another. This is the second reason for mutual forbearance with regard to such matters as divided the Jewish and Gentile converts. It cannot fail to be remarked how differently the apostle speaks of the same things under different circumstances. He who circumcised Timothy, who conformed in many things to the law of Moses, and to the Jews became a Jew, and who here exhorts Christians to regard their external observances as matters of indifference, resisted to the uttermost, as soon as these things were urged as matters of importance, or were insisted upon as necessary to acceptance with God. He would not allow Titus to be circumcised, nor give place even for an hour to false brethren, who had come in privily to act as spies, Gal_2:3, Gal_2:5. He warned the Galatians, that if they were circumcised, Christ would profit them nothing; that they renounced the whole method of gratuitous justification, and forfeited its blessings, if they sought acceptance on any such terms. How liberal and how faithful was the apostle! He would concede everything, and become all things to all men, where principle was not at stake; but when it was, he would concede nothing for a moment. What might be safely granted, if asked and given as a matter of indifference, became a fatal apostasy when demanded as a matter of necessity or a condition of salvation.
To his own master he standeth or falleth, i.e. it belongs to his own master to decide his case, to acquit or to condemn. These terms are often used in this judicial sense, Psa_1:5, Psa_76:7; Luk_21:36; Rev_6:17. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand; i.e. he shall stand, or be accepted, for God has the right and the will to make him stand, that is, to acquit and save him. This clause seems designed to urge a further reason for forbearance and kindness towards those who differ from us on matters of indifference. However weak a man’s faith may be, if he is a Christian, he should be recognized and treated as such; for his weakness is not inconsistent with his acceptance with God, and therefore is no ground or necessity for our proceeding against him with severity. The objects of discipline are the reformation of offenders and the purification of the church; but neither of these objects requires the condemnation of those brethren whom God has received. “God is able to make him stand;” he has not only the power, but the disposition and determination. Compare Rom_11:23, “For God is able to graft them in again.” The interpretation given above, according to which standing and falling are understood judicially, is the one commonly adopted. It is how ever objected, that justifying, causing to stand in judgment, is not an act of power but grace. On this ground, standing and falling are taken to refer to continuing or falling away from the Christian life. God is able, notwithstanding their weakness, to cause his feeble children to persevere. But this is against the context. The thing condemned is unrighteous judgments. The brethren are not responsible to each other, or the church, or their scruples. God is the Lord of the conscience. To him they must answer. Before him they stand or fall.
Who art thou … – That is, who gave you this right to sit in judgment on others; compare Luk_12:14. There is reference here particularly to the “Jew,” who on account of his ancient privileges, and because he had the Law of God, would assume the prerogative of “judging” in the case, and insist on conformity to his own views; see Acts 15. The doctrine of this Epistle is uniformly, that the Jew had no such privilege, but that in regard to salvation he was on the same level with the Gentile.
That judgest … – compare Jam_4:12. This is a principle of common sense and common propriety. It is not ours to sit in judgment on the servant of another man. He has the control over him; and if “he” chooses to forbid his doing anything, or to allow him to do anything, it pertains to “his” affairs not ours. To attempt to control him, is to intermeddle improperly, and to become a “busy-body in other men’s matters;” 1Pe_4:15. Thus, Christians are the servants of God; they are answerable to him; and “we” have no right to usurp “his” place, and to act as if we were “lords over his heritage;” 1Pe_5:3.
To his own master – The servant is responsible to his master only. So it is with the Christian in regard to God.
He standeth or falleth – He shall be approved or condemned. If his conduct is such as pleases his master, he shall be approved; if not, he will be condemned.
Yea, he shall be holden up – This is spoken of the Christian only. In relation to the servant, he might stand or fall; he might be approved or condemned. The master had no power to keep him in a way of obedience, except by the hope of reward, or the fear of punishment. But it was not so in regard to the Christian. The Jew who was disposed to “condemn” the Gentile might say, that he admitted the general principle which the apostle had stated about the servant; that it was just what he was saying, that he might “fall,” and be condemned. But no, says the apostle, this does not follow, in relation to the Christian He shall not fall. God has power to make him stand; to hold him; to keep him from error, and from condemnation, and “he shall be holden up.” He shall not be suffered to fall into condemnation, for it is the “purpose” of God to keep him; compare Psa_1:5. This is one of the incidental but striking evidences that the apostle believed that all Christians should be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Is able – See Joh_10:29. Though a master cannot exert such an influence over a servant as to “secure” his obedience, yet “God” has this power over his people, and will preserve them in a path of obedience.
5.One indeed, etc. He had spoken before of scruples in the choice of meats; he now adds another example of difference, that is, as to days; and both these arose from Judaism. For as the Lord in his law made a difference between meats and pronounced some to be unclean, the use of which he prohibited, and as he had also appointed festal and solemn days and commanded them to be observed, the Jews, who had been brought up from their childhood in the doctrine of the law, would not lay aside that reverence for days which they had entertained from the beginning, and to which through life they had been accustomed; nor could they have dared to touch these meats from which they had so long abstained. That they were imbued with these notions, was an evidence of their weakness; they would have thought otherwise, had they possessed a certain and a clear knowledge of Christian liberty. But in abstaining from what they thought to be unlawful, they evidenced piety, as it would have been a proof of presumption and contempt, had they done anything contrary to the dictates of conscience.
Here then the Apostle applies the best rule, when he bids every one to be fully assured as to his own mind; by which he intimates that there ought to be in Christians such a care for obedience, that they do nothing, except what they think, or rather feel assured, is pleasing to God. (418) And this ought to be thoroughly borne in mind, that it is the first principle of a right conduct, that men should be dependent on the will of God, and never allow themselves to move even a finger, while the mind is doubtful and vacillating; for it cannot be otherwise, but that rashness will soon pass over into obstinacy when we dare to proceed further than what we are persuaded is lawful for us. If any object and say, that infirmity is ever perplexing, and that hence such certainty as Paul requires cannot exist in the weak: to this the plain answer is, — That such are to be pardoned, if they keep themselves within their own limits. For Paul’s purpose was none other than to restrain undue liberty, by which it happens, that many thrust themselves, as it were, at random, into matters which are doubtful and undetermined. Hence Paul requires this to be adopted, — that the will of God is to preside over all our actions.
One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Κρίνει ἡμέραν παρ ̓ ἡμέραν (εἶναι), judges one day (to be) before another, (i.e., better,) κρίνει πᾶσαν ἡμέραν (εἶναι ἡμέραν), to be a day, and nothing more. He has the same judgment (or estimation) of every day. As the law of Moses not only made a distinction between meats as clean and unclean, but also prescribed the observance of certain days as religious festivals, the Jewish converts were as scrupulous with regard to this latter point as the former. Some Christians, therefore, thought it incumbent on them to observe these days; others were of a contrary opinion. Both were to be tolerated. The veneration of these days was a weakness; but still it was not a vital matter, and therefore should not be allowed to disturb the harmony of Christian intercourse, or the peace of the church. It is obvious from the context, and from such parallel passages as Gal_4:10, “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years,” and Col_2:16, “Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of Sabbath days,” that Paul has reference to the Jewish festivals, and therefore his language cannot properly be applied to the Christian Sabbath. The sentiment of the passage is this, ‘One man observes the Jewish festivals, another man does not.’ Such we know was the fact in the apostolic church, even among those who agreed in the observance of the first day of the week.
Let every man he fully persuaded in his own mind. The principle which the apostle enforces in reference to this case, is the same as that which he enjoined in relation to the other, viz., that one man should not be forced to act according to another man’s conscience, but every one should be satisfied in his own mind, and be careful not to do what he thought wrong.
One man esteemeth – Greek “judgeth” κρίνει krinei. The word is here properly translated “esteemeth;” compare Act_13:46; Act_16:15. The word originally has the idea of “separating,” and then “discerning,” in the act of judging. The expression means that one would set a higher value on one day than on another, or would regard it as more sacred than others. This was the case with the “Jews” uniformly, who regarded the days of their festivals, and fasts, and Sabbaths as especially sacred, and who would retain, to no inconsiderable degree, their former views, even after they became converted to Christianity.
Another “esteemeth – That is, the “Gentile” Christian. Not having been brought up amidst the Jewish customs, and not having imbibed their opinions and prejudices, they would not regard these days as having any special sacredness. The appointment of those days had a special reference “to the Jews.” They were designed to keep them as a separate people, and to prepare the nation for the “reality,” of which their rites were but the shadow. When the Messiah came, the passover, the feast of tabernacles, and the other special festivals of the Jews, of course vanished, and it is perfectly clear that the apostles never intended to inculcate their observance on the Gentile converts. See this subject discussed in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians.
Every day alike – The word “alike” is not in the original, and it may convey an idea which the apostle did not design. The passage means that he regards “every day” as consecrated to the Lord; Rom_14:6. The question has been agitated whether the apostle intends in this to include the Christian Sabbath. Does he mean to say that it is a matter of “indifference” whether this day be observed, or whether it be devoted to ordinary business or amusements? This is a very important question in regard to the Lord’s day. That the apostle did not mean to say that it was a matter of indifference whether it should be kept as holy, or devoted to business or amusement, is plain from the following considerations.
(1) The discussion had reference only to the special customs of the “Jews,” to the rites and practices which “they” would attempt to impose on the Gentiles, and not to any questions which might arise among Christians as “Christians.” The inquiry pertained to “meats,” and festival observances among the Jews, and to their scruples about partaking of the food offered to idols, etc.; and there is no more propriety in supposing that the subject of the Lord’s day is introduced here than that he advances principles respecting “baptism” and “the Lord’s supper.”
(2) The “Lord’s day” was doubtless observed by “all” Christians, whether converted from Jews or Gentiles; see 1Co_16:2; Act_20:7; Rev_1:10; compare the notes at Joh_20:26. The propriety of observing “that day” does not appear to have been a matter of controversy. The only inquiry was, whether it was proper to add to that the observance of the Jewish Sabbaths, and days of festivals and fasts.
(3) It is expressly said that those who did not regard the day regarded it as not to God, or to honor God; Rom_14:6. They did it as a matter of respect to him and his institutions, to promote his glory, and to advance his kingdom. Was this ever done by those who disregard the Christian Sabbath? Is their design ever to promote his honor, and to advance in the knowledge of him, by “neglecting” his holy day? Who knows not that the Christian Sabbath has never been neglected or profaned by any design to glorify the Lord Jesus, or to promote his kingdom? It is for purposes of business, gain, war, amusement, dissipation, visiting, crime. Let the heart be filled with a sincere desire to “honor the Lord Jesus,” and the Christian Sabbath will be reverenced, and devoted to the purposes of piety. And if any man is disposed to plead “this passage” as an excuse for violating the Sabbath, and devoting it to pleasure or gain, let him quote it “just as it is,” that is, let “him neglect the Sabbath from a conscientious desire to honor Jesus Christ.” Unless this is his motive, the passage cannot avail him. But this motive never yet influenced a Sabbath-breaker.
Let every man … – That is, subjects of this kind are not to be pressed as matters of conscience. Every man is to examine them for himself, and act accordingly. This direction pertains to the subject under discussion, and not to any other. It does not refer to subjects that were “morally” wrong, but to ceremonial observances. If the “Jew” esteemed it wrong to eat meat, he was to abstain from it; if the Gentile esteemed it right, he was to act accordingly. The word “be fully persuaded” denotes the highest conviction, not a matter of opinion or prejudice, but a matter on which the mind is made up by examination; see Rom_4:21; 2Ti_4:5. This is the general principle on which Christians are called to act in relation to festival days and fasts in the church. If some Christians deem them to be for edification, and suppose that their piety will be promoted by observing the days which commemorate the birth, and death, and temptations of the Lord Jesus, they are not to be reproached or opposed in their celebration. Nor are they to attempt to impose them on others as a matter of conscience, or to reproach others because they do not observe them.
6.He who regards a day, etc. Since Paul well knew that a respect for days proceeded from ignorance of Christ, it is not probable that such a corruption was altogether defended by him; and yet his words seem to imply, that he who regarded days committed no sin; for nothing but good can be accepted by God. Hence, that you may understand his purpose, it is necessary to distinguish between the notion, which any one may have entertained as to the observance of days, and the observance itself to which he felt himself bound. The notion was indeed superstitious, nor does Paul deny this; for he has already condemned it by calling it infirmity, and he will again condemn it still more plainly. Now, that he who was held fast by this superstition, dared not to violate the solemnity of a particular day; this was approved by God, because he dared not to do any thing with a doubtful conscience. What indeed could the Jew do, who had not yet made such progress, as to be delivered from scruples about days? He had the word of God, in which the keeping of days was commended; there was a necessity laid on him by the law; and its abrogation was not clearly seen by him. Nothing then remained, but that he, waiting for a fuller revelation, should keep himself within the limits of his own knowledge, and not to avail himself of the benefit of liberty, before he embraced it by faith.
The same also must be thought of him who refrained from unclean meats: for if he ate in a doubtful state of mind, it would not have been to receive any benefit, from God’s hand, but to lay his own hand on forbidden things. Let him then use other things, which he thinks is allowed to him, and follow the measure of his knowledge: he will thus give thanks to God; which he could not do, except he was persuaded that he is fed by God’s kindness. He is not then to be despised, as though he offended the Lord by this his temperance and pious timidity: and there is nothing unreasonable in the matter, if we say, that the modesty of the weak is approved by God, not on the ground of merit, but through indulgence.
But as he had before required an assurance of mind, so that no one ought rashly of his own will to do this or that, we ought to consider whether he is here exhorting rather than affirming; for the text would better flow in this strain, — “Let a reason for what he does be clear to every one; as an account must be given before the celestial tribunal; for whether one eats meat or abstains, he ought in both instances to have regard to God.” And doubtless there is nothing more fitted to restrain licentiousness in judging and to correct superstitions, than to be summoned before the tribunal of God: and hence Paul wisely sets the judge before all, to whose will they are to refer whatever they do. It is no objection that the sentence is affirmative; for he immediately subjoins, that no one lives or dies for himself; where he declares, not what men do, but commands what they ought to do.
Observe also what he says, — that we then eat to the Lord, or abstain, when we give thanks. Hence, eating is impure, and abstinence is impure, without thanksgiving. It is only the name of God, when invoked, that sanctifies us and all we have.
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, etc. That is, both parties are actuated by religious motives in what they do; they regulate their conduct by a regard to the will of God, and therefore, although some, from weakness or ignorance, may err as to the rule of duty, they are not to be despised or cast out as evil. The strong should not condemn the scrupulous, nor the scrupulous be censorious towards the strong. This is a fourth argument in favor of the mutual forbearance enjoined in the first verse. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord; for he giveth God thanks, etc. That is, he who disregards the Mosaic distinction between clean and unclean meats, and uses indiscriminately the common articles of food, acts religiously in so doing, as is evident from his giving God thanks. He could not deliberately thank God for what he supposed God had forbidden him to use. In like manner, he that abstains from certain meats, does it religiously, for he also giveth thanks to God; which implies that he regards himself as acting agreeably to the divine will. The Lord is he who died and rose again, that he might be Lord both of the living and the dead. It is to him the believer is responsible, as to the Lord of his inner life.
He that regardeth – Greek, “Thinketh of;” or pays attention to; that is, he that “observes” it as a festival, or as holy time.
The day – Any of the days under discussion; the days that the Jews kept as religious occasions.
Regardeth unto the Lord – Regards it as “holy,” or as set apart to the service of God. He believes that he is “required” by God to keep it, that is, that the laws of Moses in regard to such days are binding on him.
He that regardeth not the day – Or who does not observe such distinctions of days as are demanded in the laws of Moses.
To the Lord … – That is, he does not believe that God “requires” such an observance.
He that eateth – The Gentile Christian, who freely eats all kinds of meat; Rom_14:2.
Eateth to the Lord – Because he believes that God does not forbid it; and because he desires, in doing it, to glorify God; 1Co_10:31. “To eat to the Lord,” in this case, is to do it believing that such is his will. In all other cases, it is to do it feeling that we receive our food from him; rendering thanks for his goodness, and desirous of being strengthened that we may do his commands.
He giveth God thanks – This is an incidental proof that it is our duty to give God thanks at our meals for our food. It shows that it was the “practice” of the early Christians, and has the commendation of the apostle. It was, also, uniformly done by the Jews, and by the Lord Jesus; Mat_14:19; Mat_26:26; Mar_6:41; Mar_14:22; Luk_9:16; Luk_24:30.
To the Lord he eateth not – He abstains from eating because he believes that God requires him to do it, and with a desire to obey and honor him.
And giveth God thanks – That is, the Jew thanked God for the Law, and for the favor he had bestowed on him in giving him more light than he had the Gentiles. For this privilege they valued themselves highly, and this feeling, no doubt, the converted Jews would continue to retain; deeming themselves as specially favored in having a “special” acquaintance with the Law of God.
7.For no one of us, etc. He now confirms the former verse by an argument derived from the whole to a part, — that it is no matter of wonder that particular acts of our life should be referred to the Lord’s will, since life itself ought to be wholly spent to his glory; for then only is the life of a Christian rightly formed, when it has for its object the will of God. But if thou oughtest to refer whatever thou doest to his good pleasure, it is then an act of impiety to undertake anything whatever, which thou thinkest will displease him; nay, which thou art not persuaded will please him.
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; ἑαυτῷ, in dependence on himself. This verse is an amplification and confirmation of the preceding. The principle on which both the classes of persons just referred to acted, is a true Christian principle. No Christian considers himself as his own master, or at liberty to regulate his conduct according to his own will, or for his own ends; he is the servant of Christ, and therefore endeavors to live according to his will and for his glory. They, therefore, who act on this principle, are to be regarded and treated as true Christians, although they may differ as to what the will of God, in particular cases, requires. No man dieth to himself, i.e. death as well as life must be left in the hands of God, to be directed by his will and for his glory. The sentiment is, ‘We are entirely his, having no authority over our life or death.’
For none of us … – Whether by nature Jews or Gentiles. In the great principles of religion we are now united. Where there was evidence of a sincere desire to do the will of God there should be charitable feeling, through there was difference of opinion and judgment in many smaller matters. The meaning of the expression is, that no Christian lives to gratify his own inclinations or appetites. He makes it his great aim to do the will of God; to subordinate all his desires to his Law and gospel; and though, therefore, one should eat flesh, and should feel at liberty to devote to common employments time that another deemed sacred, yet it should not be uncharitably set down as a desire to indulge his sensual appetites, or to become rich. Another motive “may be” supposed, and where there is not positive “proof” to the contrary, “should be” supposed; see the beautiful illustration of this in 1Co_13:4-8. To live “to ourselves” is to make it the great object to become rich or honored, or to indulge in the ease, comfort, and pleasures of life. These are the aim of all people but Christians; and in nothing else do Christians more differ from the world than in this; see 1Pe_4:1-2; 2Co_5:15; 1Co_6:19-20; Mat_10:38; Mat_16:24; Mar_8:34; Mar_10:21; Luk_9:23. On no point does it become Christians more to examine themselves than on this. To “live to ourselves” is an evidence that we are strangers to piety. And if it be the great motive of our lives to live at ease Amo_6:1 – to gratify the flesh, to gain property, or to be distinguished in places of fashion and amusement – it is evidence that we know nothing of the power of that gospel which teaches us “to deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily.
No man – No “one,” the same Greek word οὐδείς oudeis which is used in the former part of the verse. The word is used only in reference to “Christians” here, and makes no affirmation about other people.
Dieth to himself – See Rom_14:8. This expression is used to denote the “universality” or the “totality” with which Christians belong to God. Every thing is done and suffered with reference to his will. In our conduct, in our property, in our trials, in our death, we are “his;” to be disposed of as he shall please. In the grave, and in the future world, we shall be equally his. As this is the great principle on which “all” Christians live and act, we should be kind and tender toward them, though in some respects they differ from us.
8.To the Lord we live, etc. This does not mean the same as when it is said in Rom_6:11, that we are made alive unto God by his Spirit, but that we conform to his will and pleasure, and design all things to his glory. Nor are we only to live to the Lord, but also to die; that is, our death as well as our life is to be referred to his will. He adds the best of reasons, for whether we live or die, we are his: and it hence follows, that he has full authority over our life and our death.
The application of this doctrine opens into a wide field. God thus claims authority over life and death, that his own condition might be borne by every one as a yoke laid on him; for it is but just that he should assign to every one his station and his course of life. And thus we are not only forbidden rashly to attempt this or that without God’s command, but we are also commanded to be patient under all troubles and losses. If at any time the flesh draws back in adversities, let it come to our minds, that he who is not free nor has authority over himself, perverts right and order if he depends not on the will of his lord. Thus also is taught us the rule by which we are to live and to die, so that if he extends our life in continual sorrows and miseries, we are not yet to seek to depart before our time; but if he should suddenly call us hence in the flower of our age, we ought ever to be ready for our departure.
For 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. The same sentiment as in the preceding verse, rather more fully and explicitly stated. In Rom_14:7, Paul had stated, negatively, that the Christian does not live according to his own will, or for his own pleasure; he here states affirmatively, that he does live according to the will of Christ, and for his glory. This being the case, he is a true Christian; he belongs to Christ, and should be so recognized and treated. It is very obvious, especially from the following verse, which speaks of death and resurrection, that Christ is intended in the word Lord, in this verse. It is for Christ, and in subjection to his will, that every Christian endeavors to regulate his heart, his conscience, and his life. This is the profoundest homage the creature can render to his Creator; and as it is the service which the Scriptures require us to render to the Redeemer, it of necessity supposes that Christ is God. This is rendered still plainer by the interchange, throughout the passage (Rom_14:6-9), of the terms Lord and God: ‘He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks. We live unto the Lord; we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose, that he might be the Lord,’ etc. It is clear that, to the apostle’s mind, the idea that Christ is God was perfectly familiar. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. We are not our own, but Christ’s, 1Co_6:19. This right of possession, and the consequent duty of devotion and obedience, are not founded on creation, but on redemption. We are Christ’s, because he has bought us with a price.
For whether we live – As long as we live.
We live unto the Lord – We live to do his will, and to promote his glory. This is the grand purpose of the life of the Christian. Other people live to gratify themselves; the Christian to do those things which the Lord requires. By “the Lord” here the apostle evidently intends the Lord Jesus, as it is evident from Rom_14:9; and the truth taught here is, that it is the leading and grand purpose of the Christian to do honor to the Saviour. It is this which constitutes his special character, and which distinguishes him from other people.
Whether we die – In the dying state, or in the state of the dead; in the future world. We are “no where” our own. In all conditions we are “his,” and bound to do his will. The connection of this declaration with the argument is this: Since we belong to another in every state, and are bound to do his will, we have no right to assume the prerogative of sitting in judgment on another. “We” are subjects, and are bound to do the will of Christ. All other Christians are subjects in like manner, and are answerable, not to us, but directly to the Lord Jesus, and should have the same liberty of conscience that we have. The passage proves also that the soul does not cease to be conscious at death. We are still the Lord’s; his even when the body is in the grave; and his in all the future world: see Rom_14:9.
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.
For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living. The dominion which Christ, as Mediator or Redeemer, exercises over his people, and which they gladly recognize, is therefore referred to his death and resurrection. By his death he purchased them for his own, and by his resurrection he attained to that exalted station which he no occupies as Lord over all, and received those gifts which enable him to exercise as Mediator this universal dominion. The exaltation and dominion of Christ are frequently represented in the Scriptures, as the reward of his sufferings: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,” etc., Phi_2:8, Phi_2:9. This authority of Christ over his people is not confined to this world, but extends beyond the grave. He is Lord both of the dead and the living.
For to this end Christ both died and lived (so certainly, rather than, as in the Textus Receptus, died, and rose, and revived. His living means here his entering on the heavenly life after the human death), that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. “Nam mortem pro salute nostra obeundo dominium sibi acquisivit quod nec morte solveretur; resurgendo autem totam vitam nostram in peculium accepit; morte igitur et resurrectione sua promeritus est ut tam in morte quam in vita gloriae nominis ejus serviamus” (Calvin). For the idea of this whole passage (vers. 7-9), cf. 1Co_6:20 1Co_7:23 2Co_5:15.
The apostle now returns to his immediate subject, warning (as in ver. 3) the one party against judging and the other against despising, on the ground of all alike having to abide hereafter the Divine judgment. (cf. Mat_7:1, seq.; 1Co_4:3, 1Co_4:5) The distinction in ver. 10 between the two parties, marked in the original by the initial Su de and the following h kai su , is somewhat lost in our Authorized Version.
The dominion of Christ.
It is characteristic of apostolic ethics to turn from details of conduct to the main principles which should permeate every Christian life. The central truth governing all religious behaviour is our relationship to God, as manifested and actualized in Christ Jesus. Thus the historical facts of Christ”s death and resurrection necessarily give rise to doctrine, and they cannot be separated from our belief without tending to overthrow the whole edifice of Christian living based on Christ as its Foundation. It matters comparatively little whether a man eats meat or abstains from it, observes certain days or disregards their special sanctity, provided that the scruple alleged or the freedom enjoyed is conscientious, springing out of his conception of the nature of the religion Jesus Christ has revealed. It is not for others to despise the punctilious or to blame the informal. Each will be judged by his Master. That Master is Lord of both quick and dead; he presides not only over our earthly life, but over our departure to the larger life. Christians may differ in point of intellectual attainment and particular opinion, but every face believingly turned to the Sun of Righteousness reflects some of its glory; every worshipper is brought near to every other as he gathers at the feet of the Infinite Object of adoration and praise.
I THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST.
1. Christian freedom is not unconditional liberty. “Ye are not your own” is the watchword of grateful service. The emancipation of a slave does not set him free from all law; he is released from degrading servitude to be useful to his country and king. Modern civilization teaches the compatibility of numerous statutes with true essential freedom. The rule of Christ is recognized and illustrated in the Acts of the Apostles, “Thou, Lord, show which of these two thou hast chosen;” “The Lord added to them daily.” “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” is the first question of the new life. There would be no difficulty in any department of Church-fellowship if the authority of Christ were fully recognized. “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” Finances, activity, brotherly regard, all flourish where hearts are surrendered in entirety to the sway of Christ.
2. This Lordship means protection as well as government. As under Roman law” each noble patrician had his clients, whose wrongs he redressed and whose interests he promoted, so the Saviour throws the aegis of his love over his subjects, directing them by his wisdom, shielding them by his interposition. “Fear not; no man shall set on thee to harm thee.” The very end of government is the welfare of the governed. Old ideas that the monarch has no duties and the people no rights have passed for ever; and we are warranted in seizing nobler conceptions of the sovereignty of God than prevailed when despotism reigned unquestioned. Let men beware lest they lop off limbs from the body of Christ, and by their divisions and excommunications rend his seamless garment.
3. The dominion of Christ may well console us as we think of the dead. He is the Lord of all worlds, has “all authority in heaven and earth.” His voice comforts the bereaved, sounding amid the stillness of the sepulchre, “Fear not: I have the keys of death and of Hades.” “He is not the Lord of the dead, but of the living.” The dead pass not into a dreary unillumined state; they “depart to be with Christ.” And where mournful reflections on wasted lives, sudden departures, check hopeful sorrow, and memory emits little fragrance from the past; yet we may leave all in his hands who, as the supreme Architect of humanity, rejoices in restoration rather than destruction. “Shall not the Judge… do right?
II THE MANNER IS WHICH THIS LORDSHIP WAS WON.
1. By stooping to the condition of his subjects. He is Lord by creation, but still more by virtue of his redemptive work. Well has he earned his title who entered into our humbling nature, tasted our sorrows, and drank the cup of bitterness as our Sin Offering. He himself passed through the gloomy portals of death, and in rising again revealed both the love and the might of God. Only he can be a true Master who first subordinated himself to service. For the suffering of death is he crowned with glory and honour. He can declare, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” “Because I live, ye shall live also.
2. After this model, service to the Church becomes the stepping-stone to honor. Christ has furnished the pattern to his followers according to which office and rank are conferred. He who is most profitable to the body is to be most esteemed by the members. Empty sinecures are unknown in his kingdom. And if we would benefit our fellows, we must by real sympathy share their need and trouble. “He that will be greatest, let him be your minister.” Christ rose as the Firstfruits, and in Christ shall all be made alive, but every man in his own rank. S.R.A.
For to this end – For this purpose or design. The apostle does not say that this was the “only” design of his death, but that it was a main purpose, or an object which he had distinctly in view. This declaration is introduced in order to confirm what he had said in the previous verse, that in all circumstances we are the Lord’s. This he shows by the fact that Jesus died “in order” that we “might” be his.
And rose – This expression is rejected by most modern critics. It is wanting in many manuscripts, and has been probably introduced in the text from the margin.
And revived – There is also a variation in the Greek in this place, but not so great as to change the sense materially. It refers to his “resurrection,” and means that he was “restored to life” in order that he might exercise dominion over the dead and the living.
That he might be Lord – Greek. That he might “rule over.” The Greek word used here implies the idea of his being “proprietor” or “owner” as well as “ruler.” It means that he might exercise entire dominion over all, as the sovereign Lawgiver and Lord.
Both of the dead – That is, of those who “are” deceased, or who have gone to another state of existence. This passage proves that those who die are not annihilated; that they do not cease to be conscious; and that they still are under the dominion of the Mediator. Though their bodies moulder in the grave, yet the spirit lives, and is under his control. And though the body dies and returns to its native dust, yet the Lord Jesus is still its Sovereign, and shall raise it up again:
It gives an additional sacredness to the grave when we reflect that the tomb is under the watchful care of the Redeemer. Safe in his hands, the body may sink to its native dust with the assurance that in his own time he will again call it forth, with renovated and immortal powers, to be for ever subject to his will. With this view, we can leave our friends with confidence in his hands when they die, and yield our own bodies cheerfully to the dust when he shall call our spirits hence. But it is not only over the “body” that his dominion is established. This passage proves that the departed souls of the saints are still subject to him; compare Mat_22:32; Mar_12:27. He not only has “dominion” over those spirits, but he is their protector and Lord. They are safe under his universal dominion. And it does much to alleviate the pains of separation from pious, beloved friends, to reflect that they depart still to love and serve the same Saviour in perfect purity, and unvexed by infirmity and sin. Why should we wish to recall them from his perfect love in the heavens to the poor and imperfect service which they would render if in the land of the living?
And living – To the redeemed, while they remain in this life. He died to “purchase” them to himself, that they might become his obedient subjects; and they are bound to yield obedience by all the sacredness and value of the price which he paid, even his own precious blood; compare 1Co_6:20, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s;” 1Co_7:23; Rev_14:4 (Greek, “bought”); 1Pe_2:9, (Greek, “purchased”). If it be asked how this “dominion over the dead and the living” is connected with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we may reply,
(1) That it is secured over Christians from the fact that they are “purchased” or “ransomed” by his precious blood; and that they are bound by this sacred consideration to live to him. This obligation every Christian feels 1Pe_1:18, and its force is continually resting on him. It was by the love of Christ that he was ever brought to love God at all; and his deepest and tenderest obligations to live to him arise from this source; 2Co_5:14-15.
(2) Jesus, by his death and resurrection, established a dominion over the grave. He destroyed him that had the power of death, Heb_2:14, and triumphed over him; Col_2:15. Satan is a humbled foe; and his sceptre over the grave is wrested from his hands. When Jesus rose, in spite of all the power of Satan and of people, he burst the bands of death, and made an invasion on the dominions of the dead, and showed that he had power to control all.
(3) This dominion of the Lord Jesus is felt by the spirits on high. They are subject to him because he redeemed them; Rev_5:9.
(4) It is often revealed in the Scriptures that “dominion” was to be given to the Lord Jesus as the reward of his sufferings and death; see the Joh_17:2, Joh_17:4-5; 5:26-29 notes; Phi_2:5-11 notes; Eph_1:20-21 notes; Heb_2:9-10; Heb_12:2 notes. The “extent” of his dominion as mediator is affirmed, in this place, only to be over the dead and the living; that is, over the human race. Other passages of the Scripture, however, seem to imply that it extends over all worlds.
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.” (Jas_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.
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. In this and the following verses to the 13th, Paul applies his previous reasoning to the case in hand. If a man is our brother, if God has received him, if he acts from a sincere desire to do the divine will, he should not he condemned, though he may think certain things right which we think wrong; nor should he be despised if he trammels his conscience with unnecessary scruples. The former of these clauses relates to scrupulous Jewish Christians; the latter to the Gentile converts. The last member of the verse applies to both classes. As we are all to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, as he is our sole and final judge, we should not usurp his prerogative, or presume to condemn those whom he has received.
But why … – Since we are all subjects and servants alike, and must all stand at the same tribunal, what right have we to sit in judgment on others?
Thou judge – Thou who art a “Jewish” convert, why dost thou attempt to arraign the “Gentile” disciple, as if he had violated a law of God? compare Rom_14:3.
Thy brother – God has recognised him as his friend Rom_14:3, and he should be regarded by thee as “a brother” in the same family.
Or why dost thou set at nought – Despise Rom_14:3; why dost thou, who art a “Gentile” convert, despise the “Jewish” disciple as being unnecessarily scrupulous and superstitious?
Thy brother – The Jewish convert is now a brother; and all the contempt which you Gentiles once cherished for the Jew should cease, from the fact that “he” is now “a Christian.” Nothing will do so much, on the one hand, to prevent a censorious disposition, and on the other, to prevent contempt for those who are in a different rank in life, as to remember that they are “Christians,” bought with the same blood, and going to the same heaven as ourselves.
We must all stand … – That is, we must all be tried alike at the same tribunal; we must answer for our conduct, not to our-fellow man, but to Christ; and it does not become us to sit in judgment on each other.
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. (Isa_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, (Phi_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: 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.
For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess. This quotation is from Isa_45:23, “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear.” The apostle, it will be perceived, does not adhere to the words of the passage which he quotes, but contents himself with giving the sense. As I live, being the form of an oath, is a correct exhibition of the meaning of the phrase, I have sworn by myself. And since to swear by any being, is to recognize his power and authority over us, the expressions, every tongue shall swear, and every tongue shall confess, are of similar import. Both indeed are parallel to the clause, every knee shall bow, and are but different forms of expressing the general idea that every one shall submit to God, i.e. recognize his authority as God, the supreme ruler and judge. The apostle evidently considers the recognition of the authority of Christ as being tantamount to submission to God, and he applies without hesitation the declarations of the Old Testament in relation to the universal dominion of Jehovah, in proof of the Redeemer’s sovereignty. In Paul’s estimation, therefore, Jesus Christ was God. This is so obvious, that commentators of all classes recognize the force of the argument hence deduced for the divinity of Christ. This verse may be considered as in tended to confirm the truth of the declaration at the close of the one preceding: ‘We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; for it is written, To me every knee shall bow.’ And this seems the natural relation of the passage. Calvin understands this verse, however, as designed to enforce humble submission to the judgment of Christ: ‘We should not judge others, since we are to be judged by Christ; and to his judgment we must humbly bow the knee.’ This is indeed clearly implied; but it is rather an accessory idea, than the special design of the passage.
For it is written – This passage is recorded in Isa_45:23. It is not quoted literally, but the sense is preserved. In Isaiah there can be no doubt that it refers to Yahweh. The speaker expressly calls himself Yahweh, the name which is appropriate to God alone, and which is never applied to a creature; Rom_14:18. In the place before us, the words are applied by Paul expressly to Christ; compare Rom_14:10. This mode of quotation is a strong incidental proof that the apostle regarded the Lord Jesus as divine. On no other principle could he have made these quotations.
As I live – The Hebrew is, “I have sworn by myself.” One expression is equivalent to the other. An “oath” of God is often expressed by the phrase “as I live;” Num_14:21; Isa_49:18; Eze_5:11; Eze_14:16, etc.
Saith the Lord – These words are not in the Hebrew text, but are added by the apostle to show that the passage quoted was spoken by the Lord, the Messiah; compare Isa_45:18, Isa_45:22.
Every knee shall bow to me – To bow the knee” is an act expressing homage, submission, or adoration. It means that every person shall acknowledge him as God, and admit his right to universal dominion. The passage in Isaiah refers particularly to the homage which “his own people” should render to him; or rather, it means that all who are saved shall acknowledge “him” as their God and Saviour. The original reference was not to “all men,” but only to those who should be saved; Isa_45:17, Isa_45:21-22, Isa_45:24. In this sense the apostle uses it; not as denoting that “all men” should confess to God, but that all “Christians,” whether Jewish or Gentile converts, should alike give account to Him. “They” should all bow before their common God, and acknowledge “his” dominion over them. The passage originally did not refer particularly to the day of judgment, but expressed the truth that all believers should acknowledge his dominion. It is as applicable, however, to the judgment, as to any other act of homage which his people will render.
Every tongue shall confess to God – In the Hebrew, “Every tongue shall swear.” Not swear “by God,” but “to him;” that is, pay to him our vows, or “answer to him on oath” for our conduct; and this is the same as confessing to him, or acknowledging him as our Judge.
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.
So then – Wherefore; or according to the doctrine of the Old Testament.
Every one of us – That is, every Christian; for the connection requires us to understand the argument only of Christians. At the same time it is a truth abundantly revealed elsewhere, that “all men” shall give account of their conduct to God; 2Co_5:10; Matt. 25; Ecc_12:14.
Give account of himself – That is, of his character and conduct; his words and actions; his plans and purposes. In the fearful arraignment of that day every work and purpose shall be brought forth, and tried by the unerring standard of justice. As we shall be called to so fearful an account with God, we should not be engaged in condemning our brethren, but should examine whether we are prepared to give up our account with joy, and not with grief.
To God – The judgment will be conducted by the Lord Jesus; Mat. 25:31-46; Act_17:31. All judgment is committed to the Son; Joh_5:22, Joh_5:27. Still we may be said to give account to God,
(1) Because He “appointed” the Messiah to be the Judge Act_17:31; and,
(2) Because the Judge himself is divine.
The Lord Jesus being God as well as man, the account will be rendered directly to the Creator as well as the Redeemer of the world. In this passage there are “two” incidental proofs of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. “First,” the fact that the apostle applies to him language which in the prophecy is expressly spoken by “Yahweh;” and, “Secondly,” the fact that Jesus is declared to be the Judge of all. No being that is not “omniscient” can be qualified to judge the secrets of all people. None who has not “seen” human purposes at all times, and in all places; who has not been a witness of the conduct by day and by night; who has not been present with all the race at all times, and who in the great day cannot discern the true character of the soul, can be qualified to conduct the general judgment. Yet none can possess these qualifications but God. The Lord Jesus, “the judge of quick and dead” 2Ti_4:1, is therefore divine.