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. After drawing the conclusion from the preceding discussion, that we should leave the office of judging in the hands of God, the apostle introduces the second leading topic of the chapter, viz., the manner in which Christian liberty is to be exercised. He teaches that it is not enough that we are persuaded a certain course is, in itself considered, right, in order to authorize us to pursue it. We must be careful that we do not injure others in the use of our liberty. The word (κρίνω) rendered judge, means also, to determine, to make up one’s mind. Paul uses it first in the one sense, and then in the other: ‘Do not judge one another, but determine to avoid giving offense.’ The words (πρόσκομμα and σκάνδαλον) rendered a stumbling block and an occasion to fall, do not differ in their meaning; the latter is simply exegetical of the former.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more (mēketi oun allēlous krinōmen). Present active subjunctive (volitive). “Let us no longer have the habit of criticizing one another.” A wonderfully fine text for modern Christians and in harmony with what the Master said (Mat_7:1).
That no man put a stumbling block in his brother’s way or an occasion of falling (to mē tithenai proskomma tōi adelphōi ē skandalon). Articular present active infinitive of tithēmi in apposition with touto, accusative case after krinate: “Judge this rather, the not putting a stumbling block (see note on Rom_9:32 for proskomma) or a trap (skandalon, Rom_9:33) for his brother” (adelphōi, dative of disadvantage).
Compare Rom_9:32, Rom_9:33; Rom_14:20. Σκάνδαλον occasion of falling is also rendered stumbling-block in other passages. Some regard the two as synonymous, others as related to different results in the case of the injured brother. So Godet, who refers stumbling-block to that which results in a wound, and cause of stumbling to that which causes a fall or sin.
Let us not therefore judge … – Since we are to give account of ourselves at the same tribunal; since we must be there on the same “level,” let us not suppose that we have a right here to sit in judgment on our fellow-Christians.
But judge this rather – If disposed to “judge,” let us be employed in a better kind of judging; let us come “to a determination” not to injure the cause of Christ. This is an instance of the happy “turn” which the apostle would give to a discussion. Some people have an irresistible propensity to sit in judgment, to pronounce opinions. Let them make good use of that. It will be well to exercise it on what can do no injury, and which may turn to good account. Instead of forming a judgment about “others,” let the man form a determination about his own conduct.
That no man … – A “stumbling-block” literally means anything laid in a man’s path, over which he may fall. In the Scriptures, however, the word is used commonly in a figurative sense to denote anything which shall cause him to “sin,” as sin is often represented by “falling;” see the note at Mat_5:29. And the passage means that we should resolve to act so as not “by any means” to be the occasion of leading our brethren into sin, either by our example, or by a severe and harsh judgment, provoking them to anger, or exciting jealousies, and envyings, and suspicions. No better rule than this could be given to promote peace. If every Christian, instead of judging his brethren severely, would resolve that “he” would so live as to promote peace, and so as not to lead others into sin, it would tend more, perhaps, than any other thing to advance the harmony and purity of the church of Christ.
14.I know, etc. To anticipate their objection, who made such progress in the gospel of Christ as to make no distinction between meats, he first shows what must be thought of meats when viewed in themselves; and then he subjoins how sin is committed in the use of them. He then declares, that no meat is impure to a right and pure conscience, and that there is no hindrance to a pure use of meats, except ignorance and infirmity; for when any imagines an impurity in them, he is not at liberty to use them. But he afterwards adds, that we are not only to regard meats themselves, but also the brethren before whom we eat: for we ought not to view the use of God’s bounty with so much indifference as to disregard love. His words then have the same meaning as though he had said, — “I know that all meats are clean, and therefore I leave to thee the free use of them; I allow thy conscience to be freed from all scruples: in short, I do not simply restrain thee from meats; but laying aside all regard for them, I still wish thee not to neglect thy neighbor.”
By the word common, in this place, he means unclean, and what is taken indiscriminately by the ungodly; and it is opposed to those things which had been especially set apart for the use of the faithful people. He says that he knew, and was fully convinced, that all meats are pure, in order to remove all doubts. He adds, in the Lord Jesus; for by his favor and grace it is, that all the creatures which were accursed in Adam, are blessed to us by the Lord. (427) He intended, however, at the same time, to set the liberty given by Christ in opposition to the bondage of the law, lest they thought that they were bound to observe those rites from which Christ had made them free. By the exception which he has laid down, we learn that there is nothing so pure but what may be contaminated by a corrupt conscience: for it is faith alone and godliness which sanctify all things to us. The unbelieving, being polluted within, defile all things by their very touch. (Titus 1:15.)
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. ‘The distinction between clean and unclean meats is no longer valid. So far the Gentile converts are right. But they should remember that those who consider the law of the Old Testament on this subject as still binding, cannot, with a good conscience, disregard it. The strong should not, therefore, do anything which would be likely to lead such persons to violate their own sense of duty.’ I know and am persuaded by (in) the Lord Jesus, i.e. this knowledge and persuasion I owe to the Lord Jesus; it is not an opinion founded on my own reasonings, but a knowledge derived from divine revelation. That there is nothing unclean of itself. The word (κοινός) rendered unclean, has this sense only in Hellenistic Greek. It means common, and as opposed to (ἅγιος) holy, (i.e., separated for some special or sacred use), it signifies impure; see Act_10:14, Act_10:28; Mar_7:2, etc. But to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean; i.e. though not unclean in itself, it ought not to be used by those who regard its use as unlawful. But, εἰ μή, which seems here to be used in the sense of ἀλλά; compare Mat_12:4; Gal_1:19. The ordinary sense of except may, however, be retained, by restricting the reference to a part of the preceding clause: ‘Nothing is unclean, except to him who esteems it to be unclean.’ The simple principle here taught is, that it is wrong for any man to violate his own sense of duty. This being the case, those Jewish converts who believed the distinction between clean and unclean meats to be still in force, would commit sin in disregarding it and, therefore, should not be induced to act contrary to their consciences.
I know – This is an admission made to the “Gentile” convert, who believed that it was lawful to partake of food of every kind. This the apostle concedes; and says he is fully apprized of this. But though he knew this, yet he goes on to say Rom_14:15, that it would be well to regard the conscientious scruples of others on the subject. It may be remarked here that the apostle Paul had formerly quite as many scruples as any of his brethren had then. But his views had been changed.
And am persuaded – Am convinced.
By the Lord Jesus – This does not mean by any “personal” instruction received from the Lord Jesus, but by all the knowledge which he had received by inspiration of the nature of the Christian religion. The gospel of Jesus had taught him that the rites of the Mosaic economy had been abolished, and among those rites were the rules respecting clean and unclean beasts, etc.
There is nothing unclean – Greek “common.” This word was used by the Jews to denote what was “unclean,” because, in their apprehension, whatever was partaken by the multitude, or all people, must be impure. Hence, the words “common” and “impure” are often used as expressing the same thing. It denotes what was forbidden by the laws of Moses.
To him that esteemeth … – He makes it a matter of conscience. He regards certain meats as forbidden by God; and while he so regards them, it would be wrong for him to partake of them. Man may be in error, but it would not be proper for him to act in violation of what he “supposes” God requires.
15.But if through meat thy brother is grieved, etc. He now explains how the offending of our brethren may vitiate the use of good things. And the first thing is, — that love is violated, when our brother is made to grieve by what is so trifling; for it is contrary to love to occasion grief to any one. The next thing is, — that when the weak conscience is wounded, the price of Christ’s blood is wasted; for the most abject brother has been redeemed by the blood of Christ: it is then a heinous crime to destroy him by gratifying the stomach; and we must be basely given up to our own lusts, if we prefer meat, a worthless thing, to Christ. The third reason is, — that since the liberty attained for us by Christ is a blessing, we ought to take care, lest it should be evil spoken of by men and justly blamed, which is the case, when we unseasonably use God’s gifts. These reasons then ought to influence us, lest by using our liberty, we thoughtlessly cause offenses.
But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Instead of δέ, but, which is found in the common text, Griesbach, Lachmann, and Tischendorf, on the authority of the majority of the Uncial MSS., read γάρ, for. As this verse, however, does not assign a reason for the principle asserted in Rom_14:14, but does introduce a limitation to the practical application of that principle, the majority of commentators and editors retain the common text. The sense obviously is, ‘Though the thing is tight in itself, yet if indulgence in it be injurious to our Christian brethren, that indulgence is a violation of the law of love.’ This is the first consideration which the apostle urges, to enforce the exhortation not to put a stumbling block in our brother’s way. The word (λυπεῖται,) is grieved, may mean is injured. Either sense suits the context: ‘If thy brother, emboldened by thy example, is led to do what he thinks wrong, and is thus rendered miserable,’ etc. Or, ‘If thy brother, by thy example is injured (by being led into sin), thou walkest uncharitably.’ This use of the word, however, is foreign to the New Testament. It is a moral grievance of which the apostle speaks, a wounding of the conscience. Destroy not (μὴ ἀπόλλυε.) These words have been variously explained. The meaning may be, ‘Avoid every thing which has a tendency to lead him to destruction.’ So De Brais, Bengel, Tholuck, Stuart, and many others. Or, ‘Do not injure him, or render him miserable.’ So Elsner, Soppe, Flatt, Wahl, and others. There is no material difference between these two interpretations. The former is more consistent with the common meaning of the original word, from which there is no necessity to depart. Believers (the elect) are constantly spoken of as in danger of perdition. They are saved only, if they continue steadfast unto the end. If they apostatize, they perish. If the Scriptures tell the people of God what is the tendency of their sins, as to themselves, they may tell them what is the tendency of such sins as to others. Saints are preserved, not in despite of apostasy, but from apostasy. ‘If thy brother be aggrieved, thou doest wrong; do not grieve or injure him.’ For whom Christ died. This consideration has peculiar force. ‘If Christ so loved him as to die for him, how base in you not to submit to the smallest self-denial for his welfare.’
But if thy brother … – This address is to the “Gentile” convert. In the previous verse, Paul admitted. that the prejudice of the Jew was not well-founded. But admitting that still the question was, “how” he should be treated while he had that prejudice. The apostle here shows the Gentile that “he” ought not so to act as unnecessarily to wound his feelings, or to grieve him.
Be grieved – Be pained; as a conscientious man always is, when he sees another, and especially a Christian brother, do anything which “he” esteems to be wrong. The “pain” would be real, though the “opinion” from which it arose might not be well founded.
With thy meat – Greek, On account of meat, or food; that is, because “you” eat what he regards as unclean.
Now walkest – To “walk,” in the Sacred Scriptures, often denotes to act, or to do a thing; Mar_7:5; Act_21:21; Rom_6:4; Rom_8:1, Rom_8:4. Here it means that if the Gentile convert persevered in the use of such food, notwithstanding the conscientious scruples of the Jew, he violated the law of love.
Charitably – Greek, According to charity, or love; that is, he would violate that law which required him to sacrifice his own comfort to promote the happiness of his brother; 1Co_13:5; 1Co_10:24, 1Co_10:28-29; Phi_2:4, Phi_2:21.
Destroy not him – The word “destroy” here refers, doubtless, to the ruin of the soul in hell. It properly denotes ruin or destruction, and is applied to the ruin or “corruption” of various things, in the New Testament. To life Mat_10:39; to a reward, in the sense of “losing” it Mar_10:41; Luk_15:4; to food Joh_6:27; to the Israelites represented as lost or wandering Mat_10:6; to “wisdom” that is rendered “vain” 1Co_1:9; to “bottles,” rendered “useless” Mat_9:17, etc. But it is also frequently applied to destruction in hell, to the everlasting ruin of the soul; Mat_10:28, “Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell;” Mat_18:14; Joh_3:15; Rom_2:12. That “this” is its meaning here is apparent from the parallel place in 1Co_8:11, “And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish.” If it be asked how the eating of meat by the Gentile convert could be connected with the perdition of the Jew, I reply, that the apostle supposes that in this way an occasion of stumbling would be afforded to him, and he would come into condemnation. He might be led by example to partake against his own conscience, or he might be excited to anger, disgust, and apostasy from the Christian faith. Though the apostle believed that all who were true Christians would be saved, Rom_8:30-39, yet he believed that it would be brought about by the use of means, and that nothing should be done that would tend to hinder or endanger their salvation; Heb_6:4-9; Heb_2:1. God does not bring his people to heaven without the use of “means adapted to the end,” and one of those means is that employed here to warn professing Christians against such conduct as might jeopard the salvation of their brethren.
For whom Christ died – The apostle speaks here of the possibility of endangering the salvation of those for whom Christ died, just as he does respecting the salvation of those who are in fact Christians. By those for whom Christ died, he undoubtedly refers here to “true Christians,” for the whole discussion relates to them, and them only; compare Rom_14:3-4, Rom_14:7-8. This passage should not be brought, therefore, to prove that Christ died for all people, or for any who shall finally perish. Such a doctrine is undoubtedly true (in this sense; that there is in the death of Christ a “sufficiency for all,” and that the “offer” is to all.) (compare 2Co_5:14-15; 1Jo_2:2; 2Pe_2:1), but it is not the truth which is taught here. The design is to show the criminality of a course that would tend to the ruin of a brother. For these weak brethren, Christ laid down his precious life. He loved them; and shall we, to gratify our appetites, pursue a course which will tend to defeat the work of Christ, and ruin the souls redeemed by his blood?
Here is another argument against offences; it will cause our good to be blasphemed, or evil spoken of. Some, by good here, would understand the Christian faith, or the gospel in general; but others do rather understand it of our Christian liberty in particular: q.d. Give none occasion for this great privilege of your Christian liberty to be traduced; use it so, as that neither the weak Christian nor the infidel may reproach or accuse you as licentious or contentious: see 1Co_10:29,30.
Let not your good be evil spoken of; that is, ‘Do not so use your liberty, which is good and valuable, as to make it the occasion of evil, and so liable to censure.’ Thus Calvin and most other commentators. This supposes that the exhortation here given is addressed to the strong in faith. The ὑμῶν however, may include both classes, and the exhortation extend to the weak as well as to the good. Your good, that special good which belongs to you as Christians, viz., the gospel. This view is taken by Melancthon, and most of the later commentators.
Your good (ὑμῶν τὸ ἀγαθόν)
Referring, most probably, to the liberty of the strong. Others think that the whole Church is addressed, in which case good would refer to the gospel doctrine.
Be evil spoken of (βλασφημείσθω)
See on blasphemy, Mar_7:22. In 1Co_10:30, it is used of evil-speaking by members of the Church, which favors the reference of good to the strong.
17.For the kingdom of God, etc. He now, on the other hand, teaches us, that we can without loss abstain from the use of our liberty, because the kingdom of God does not consist in such things. Those things indeed, which are necessary either to build up or preserve the kingdom of God, are by no means to be neglected, whatever offenses may hence follow: but if for love’s sake it be lawful to abstain from meat, while God’s honor is uninjured, while Christ’s kingdom suffers no harm, while religion is not hindered, then they are not to be borne with, who for meat’s sake disturb the Church. He uses similar arguments in his first Epistle to the Corinthians: “Meat,” he says, “for the stomach, and the stomach for meat; but God will destroy both,” (1Co_6:13 🙂 again, “If we eat, we shall not abound,” (1Co_8:8.)
By these words he meant briefly to show, that meat and drink were things too worthless, that on their account the course of the gospel should be impeded.
But righteousness and peace, etc. He, in passing, has set these in opposition to meat and drink; not for the purpose of enumerating all the things which constitute the kingdom of Christ, but of showing, that it consists of spiritual things. He has at the same time no doubt included in few words a summary of what it is; namely, that we, being well assured, have peace with God, and possess real joy of heart through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. But as I have said, these few things he has accommodated to his present subject. He indeed who is become partaker of true righteousness, enjoys a great and an invaluable good, even a calm joy of conscience; and he who haspeace with God, what can he desire more?
By connecting peace and joy together, he seems to me to express the character of this joy; for however torpid the reprobate may be, or however they may elevate themselves, yet the conscience is not rendered calm and joyful, except when it feels God to be pacified and propitious to it; and there is no solid joy but what proceeds from this peace. And though it was necessary, when mention was made of these things, that the Spirit should have been declared as the author; yet he meant in this place indirectly to oppose the Spirit to external things, that we might know, that the things which belong to the kingdom of God continue complete to us without the use of meats.
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. This is a new reason for forbearance. No principle of duty is sacrificed; nothing essential to religion is disregarded, for religion does not consist in external observances, but in the inward graces of the Spirit. It has already been remarked (Rom_14:4), that with all his desire of peace, no one was more firm and unyielding, when any dereliction of Christian principle was required of him, than the apostle. But the case under consideration is very different. There is no sin in abstaining from certain meats, and therefore, if the good of others require this abstinence, we are bound to exercise it. The phrase, kingdom of God, almost uniformly signifies the kingdom of the Messiah, under some one of its aspects, as consisting of all professing Christians, of all his own people, of glorified believers, or as existing in the heart. It is the spiritual theocracy. The theocracy of the Old Testament was ceremonial and ritual; that of the New is inward and spiritual. Christianity, as we should say, does not consist in things external. Meat and drink, or rather, eating (βρῶσις) and drinking (πόσις.) The distinction between these words and βρῶμα and πόμα, is constantly observed in Paul’s epistles.
Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. These words are to be taken in their scriptural sense. Paul does not mean to say, that Christianity consists in morality; that the man who is just, peaceful, and cheerful, is a true Christian. This would be to contradict the whole argument of this epistle. The righteousness, peace, and joy intended, are those of which the Holy Spirit is the author. Righteousness is that which enables us to stand before God, because it satisfies the demands of the law. It is the righteousness of faith, both objective and subjective; peace is the concord between God and the soul, between reason and conscience, between the heart and our fellow men. And the joy is the joy of salvation; that joy which only those who are in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost ever can experience.
The kingdom of God
See on Luk_6:20, and compare Mat_3:2. “The heavenly sphere of life in which God’s word and Spirit govern, and whose organ on earth is the Church” (Lange). Not the future, messianic kingdom.
Meat and drink (βρῶσις καὶ πόσις)
Rev., eating and drinking. Both words, however, occur frequently in the sense of A.V. Meat (βρῶμα), that which is eaten, occurs in Rom_14:15. The corresponding word for that which is drunk (πῶμα) is not found in the New Testament, though πόμα drink occurs 1Co_10:4; Heb_9:10, and both in classical and New-Testament Greek, πόσις the act of drinking is used also for that which is drunk. See Joh_6:55. A somewhat similar interchange of meaning appears in the popular expression, such a thing is good eating; also in the use of living for that by which one lives.
On its practical, ethical side, as shown in moral rectitude toward men.
Not peace with God, reconciliation, as Rom_5:1, but mutual concord among Christians.
Common joy, arising out of the prevalence of rectitude and concord in the Church. The whole chapter is concerned with the mutual relations of Christians, rather than with their relations to God
In the Holy Ghost
Most commentators construe this with joy only. Meyer says it forms one phrase. Compare 1Th_1:6 While this may be correct, I see no objection to construing the words with all these terms. So Godet: “It is this divine guest who, by His presence, produces them in the Church.”
For the kingdom of God – For an explanation of this phrase, see the note at Mat_3:2. Here it means that the uniquenesses of the kingdom of God, or of the Church of Christ on earth, do not consist in observing the distinctions between meats and drinks, it was true that by these things the Jews had been particularly characterized, but the Christian church was to be distinguished in a different manner.
Is not – Does not consist in, or is not distinguished by.
Meat and drink – In observing distinctions between different kinds of food, or making such observances a matter of conscience as the Jews did. Moses did not prescribe any particular drink or prohibit any, but the Nazarites abstained from wine and all kinds of strong liquors; and it is not improbable that the Jews had invented some distinctions on this subject which they judged to be of importance. Hence, it is said in Col_2:16, “Let no man judge you in meat or in drink;” compare 1Co_8:8; 1Co_4:20.
But righteousness – This word here means “virtue, integrity,” a faithful discharge of all the duties which we owe to God or to our fellow-men. It means that the Christian must so live as to be appropriately denominated a righteous man, and not a man whose whole attention is absorbed by the mere ceremonies and outward forms of religion. To produce this, we are told, was the main design, and the principal teaching of the gospel; Tit_2:12; Compare Rom_8:13; 1Pe_2:11. Thus, it is said 1Jo_2:29, “Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of God;” 1Jo_3:10, “Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God;” compare 1Jo_3:7; 1Co_15:34; 2Co_3:9; 2Co_6:7, 2Co_6:14; Eph_5:9; Eph_6:14; 1Ti_6:11; 1Pe_2:24; Eph_4:24. He that is a righteous man, whose characteristic it is to lead a holy life, is a Christian. If his great aim is to do the will of God, and if he seeks to discharge with fidelity all his duties to God and man, he is renewed. On that righteousness he will not “depend” for salvation Phi_3:8-9, but he will regard this character and this disposition as evidence that he is a Christian, and that the Lord Jesus is made unto him” wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;” 1Co_1:30.
And peace – This word, in this place, does not refer to the internal “peace” and happiness which the Christian has in his own mind (compare the notes at Rom_5:1); but to peace or concord in opposition to “contention” among brethren. The tendency and design of the kingdom of God is to produce concord and love, and to put an end to alienation and strife. Even though, therefore, there might be ground for the opinions which some cherished in regard to rites, yet it was of more importance to maintain peace than obstinately to press those matters at the expense of strife and contention. That the tendency of the gospel is to promote peace, and to induce people to lay aside all causes of contention and bitter strife, is apparent from the following passages of the New Testament; 1Co_7:15; 1Co_14:33; Gal_5:22; Eph_4:3; 1Th_5:13; 2Ti_2:22; Jam_3:18; Mat_5:9; Eph_4:31-32; Col_3:8; Joh_13:34-35; Joh_17:21-23. This is the second evidence of piety on which Christians should examine their hearts – a disposition to promote the peace of Jerusalem; Psa_122:6; Psa_37:11. A contentious, quarrelsome spirit; a disposition to magnify trifles; to make the Shibboleth of party an occasion of alienation, and heart-burning, and discord; to sow dissensions on account of unimportant points of doctrine or of discipline, is full proof that there is no attachment to Him who is the Prince of peace. Such a disposition does infinite dishonor to the cause of religion, and perhaps has done more to retard its progress than all other causes put together. Contentions commonly arise from some small matter in doctrine, in dress, in ceremonies; and often the smaller the matter the more fierce the controversy, until he spirit of religion disappears, and desolation comes over the face of Zion:
And joy – This refers, doubtless, to the “personal” happiness produced in the mind by the influence of the gospel; see the notes at Rom_5:1-5.
In the Holy Ghost – Produced “by” the Holy Spirit; Rom_5:5; compare Gal_5:22-23.
18.For he who in these things, etc. An argument drawn from the effect: for it is impossible, but that when any one is acceptable to God and approved by men, the kingdom of God fully prevails and flourishes in him: he, who with a quiet and peaceful conscience serves Christ in righteousness, renders himself approved by men as well as by God. Wherever then there is righteousness and peace and spiritual joy, there the kingdom of God is complete in all its parts: it does not then consist of material things. But he says, that man is acceptable to God, because he obeys his will; he testifies that he is approved by men, because they cannot do otherwise than bear testimony to that excellency which they see with their eyes: not that the ungodly always favor the children of God; nay, when there is no cause, they often pour forth against them many reproaches, and with forged calumnies defame the innocent, and in a word, turn into vices things rightly done, by putting on them a malignant construction. But Paul speaks here of honest judgment, blended with no moroseness, no hatred, no superstition.
For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God and approved of men. This verse is a confirmation of the preceding. These spiritual graces constitute the essential part of religion; for he that experiences and exercises these virtues, is regarded by God as a true Christian, and must commend himself as such to the consciences of his fellow-men. Where these things, therefore, are found, difference of opinion or practice in reference to unessential points, should not be allowed to disturb the harmony of Christian intercourse. It is to be observed, that the exercise of the virtues here spoken of, is represented by the apostle as a service rendered to Christ; “he that in these things serveth Christ,” etc. which implies that Christ has authority over the heart and conscience. Instead of ἐν τούτοις, many of the oldest MSS. read ἐν τούτῳ, referring to πνεύματι: ‘He that in the Holy Spirit serveth Christ.’ This reading is adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and many others. The external authorities, however, in favor of the common text, are of much weight, and the context seems to demand it.
In these things – In righteousness, peace, and joy.
Serveth Christ – Or obeys Christ, who has commanded them. He receives Christ as his “master” or “teacher” and does his will in regard to them. To do these things is to do honor to Christ, and to show the excellency of his religion.
Is acceptable to God – Whether he be converted from the Jews or the Gentiles.
And approved of men – That is, people will “approve” of such conduct; they will esteem it to be right, and to be in accordance with the spirit of Christianity. He does not say that the wicked world will “love” such a life, but it will commend itself to them as such a life as people ought to lead.
19.Let us then follow, etc. He recalls us, as much as possible, from a mere regard to meats, to consider those greater things which ought to have the first place in all our actions, and so to have the precedence. We must indeed eat, that we may live; we ought to live, that we may serve the Lord; and he serves the Lord, who by benevolence and kindness edifies his neighbor; for in order to promote these two things, concord and edification, all the duties of love ought to be exercised. Lest this should be thought of little moment, he repeats the sentence he had before announced, — that corruptible meat is not of such consequence that for its sake the Lord’s building should be destroyed. For wherever there is even a spark of godliness, there the work of God is to be seen; which they demolish, who by their unfeeling conduct disturb the conscience of the weak.
But it must be noticed, that edification is joined to peace; because some, not unfrequently, too freely indulge one another, so that they do much harm by their compliances. Hence in endeavoring to serve one another, discretion ought to be exercised, and utility regarded, so that we may willingly grant to our brother whatever may be useful to further his salvation. So Paul reminds us in another place: “All things,” he says, “arelawful to me; but all things are not expedient;” and immediately he adds the reason, “Because all things do not edify.” (1Co_10:23.)
Nor is it also in vain that he repeats again, For meat destroy not, etc., intimating, that he required no abstinence, by which there would be, according to what he had said before, any loss to piety: though we eat not anything we please, but abstain from the use of meats for the sake of our brethren; yet the kingdom of God continues entire and complete.
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things whereby one may edify another. That is, let us earnestly endeavor to promote peace and mutual edification. The things which make for peace, is equivalent to peace itself (τὰ τῆς εἰρήνη = εἰρήνην); and things wherewith one may edify another, is mutual edification (τὰ τῆς οἰκοδμῆς = οἰκοδομήν.) This verse is not an inference from the immediately preceding, as though the meaning were, ‘Since peace is so acceptable to God, therefore let us cultivate it;’ but rather from the whole passage: ‘Since Christian love, the example of Christ, the comparative insignificance of the matters in dispute, the honor of the truth, the nature of real religion, all conspire to urge us to mutual forbearance, let us endeavor to promote peace and mutual edification.’
:TEXT: “So then, let us keep pursuing the things”
EVIDENCE: C D Psi 33 81 104 614 630 1241 1739 1881 2495 Byz Lect lat vg syr cop
TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV
NOTES: “So then, we are pursuing the things”
EVIDENCE: S A B G P 048
TRANSLATIONS: ASVn NASVn TEVn
COMMENTS: The difference between the two readings is between a long “o” and a short “o.” It is likely that the variation here is due to a mistake of the ear. Although elsewhere in Romans (see 5:18; 7:3, 25; 8:12; 9:16, 18; 14:12) “so then” is followed by the indicative mood (“we are pursuing”) the UBS Textual Committee felt that the exhortation given by the subjunctive mood (“let us keep pursuing”) is more appropriate here.
Let us therefore follow … – The object of this verse is to persuade the church at Rome to lay aside their causes of contention, and to live in harmony. This exhortation is founded on the considerations which the apostle had presented, and may be regarded as the conclusion to which the argument had conducted him.
The things which make for peace – The high purposes and objects of the Christian religion, and not those smaller matters which produce strife. If men aim at the great objects proposed by the Christian religion, they will live in peace. If they seek to promote their private ends, to follow their own passions and prejudices, they will be involved in strife and contention. There “are” great common objects before “all” Christians in which they can unite, and in the pursuit of which they will cultivate a spirit of peace. Let them all strive for holiness; let them seek to spread the gospel; let them engage in circulating the Bible, or in doing good in any way to others, and their smaller matters of difference will sink into comparative unimportance, and they will unite in one grand purpose of saving the world. Christians have more things in which they “agree” than in which they differ. The points in which they are agreed are of infinite importance; the points on which they differ are commonly some minor matters in which they may “agree to differ,” and still cherish love for all who bear the image of Christ.
And things wherewith … – That is, those things by which we may render “aid” to our brethren; the doctrines, exhortations, counsels, and other helps which may benefit them in their Christian life.
May edify – The word “edify” means properly to “build,” as a house; then to “rebuild” or “reconstruct;” then to adorn or ornament; then to do any thing that will confer favor or advantage, or which will further an object. Applied to the church, it means to do anything by teaching, counsel, advice, etc. which will tend to promote its great object; to aid Christians, to enable them to surmount difficulties, to remove their ignorance, etc.; Act_9:31; 1Co_8:1; 1Co_14:4. In these expressions the idea of a “building” is retained, reared on a firm, tried cornerstone, the Lord Jesus Christ; Eph_2:20; Isa_28:16. Compare Rom_9:33. Christians are thus regarded, according to Paul’s noble idea Eph_2:20-22, as one great temple erected for the glory of God, having no separate interest, but as united for one object, and therefore bound to do all that is possible, that each other may be suited to their appropriate place, and perform their appropriate function in perfecting and adorning this temple of God.
20.All things are indeed pure, etc. By saying, that all things are pure, he makes a general declaration; and by adding, that it is evil for man to eat with offense, he makes an exception; as though he had said, — “Meat is indeed good, but to give offense is bad.” Now meat has been given to us, that we may eat it, provided love be observed: he then pollutes the use of pure meat, who by it violates love. Hence he concludes, that it is good to abstain from all things which tend to give offense to our brethren.
He mentions three things in order, to fall, to stumble, to be weakened: the meaning seems to be this, — “Let no cause of falling, no, nor of stumbling, no, nor of weakening, be given to the brethren.” For to be weakened is less than to stumble, and to stumble is less than to fall. He may be said to be weakened whose conscience wavers with doubt, — to stumble when the conscience is disturbed by some greater perplexity, and to fall when the individual is in a manner alienated from his attention to religion.
For meat destroy not the work of God. This clause is, by De Brais and many other commentators, considered as a repetition of Rom_14:15. “Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” The work of God then means a Christian brother; see Eph_2:10. Others refer the passage to the immediately preceding verses, in which the nature of true religion is exhibited. The work of God, in that case, is piety, and the exhortation is, ‘Do not, for the sake of indulgence in certain kinds of food, injure the cause of true religion, i.e. pull not down what God is building up.’ The figurative expression used by the apostle, μὴ κατάλυε, pull not down, carries out the figure involved in the preceding verse. Believers are to be edified, i.e. built up. They are the building of God, which is not to be dilapidated or injured by our want of love, or consideration for the weakness of our brethren.
All things (i.e., all kinds of food) are pure; but it is evil (κακόν, not merely hurtful, but sin, evil in a moral sense) for that man that eateth with offense. This last clause admits of two interpretations. It may mean, It is sinful to eat in such a way as to cause others to offend. The sin intended is that of one strong in faith who so uses his liberty as to injure his weaker brethren. This is the view commonly taken of the passage, and it agrees with the general drift of the context, and especially with the following verse, where causing a brother to stumble is the sin against which we are cautioned. A comparison, however, of this verse with Rom_14:14, where much the same sentiment is expressed, leads many interpreters to a different view of the passage. In Rom_14:14 it is said, ‘Nothing is common of itself, but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean;’ and here, ‘All things are pure, but it is evil to him who eateth with offense.’ To eat with offense, and, to eat what we esteem impure, are synonymous expressions. If this is so, then the sin referred to is that which the weak commit, who act against their own conscience. But throughout the whole context, to offend, to cause to stumble, offense, are used, not of a man’s causing himself to offend his own conscience, but of one man’s so acting as to cause others to stumble. And as this idea is insisted upon in the following verse, the common interpretation is to be preferred.
For meat – By your obstinate, pertinacious attachment to your own opinions about the distinctions of meat and drinks, do not pursue such a course as to lead a brother into sin, and ruin his soul. Here is a new argument presented why Christians should pursue a course of charity – that the opposite would tend to the ruin of the brother’s soul.
Destroy not – The word here is what properly is applied to pulling down an edifice; and the apostle continues the figure which he used in the previous verse. Do not pull down or destroy the “temple” which God is rearing.
The work of God – The work of God is what God does, and here especially refers to his work in rearing “his church.” The “Christian” is regarded specially as the work of God, as God renews his heart and makes him what he is. Hence, he is called God’s “building” 1Co_3:9, and his “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” Eph_2:10, and is denominated “a new creature;” 2Co_5:17. The meaning is, “Do not so conduct yourself, in regard to the distinction of meats into clean and unclean, as to cause your brother to sin, and to impair or ruin the work of religion which God is carrying on in his soul.” The expression does not refer to “man” as being the work of God, but to the “piety” of the Christian; to what God, by his Spirit, is producing in the heart of the believer.
All things are indeed pure – Compare Rom_14:14. This is a concession to those whom he was exhorting to peace. All things under the Christian dispensation are lawful to be eaten. The distinctions of the Levitical law are not binding on Christians.
But it is evil – Though pure in itself, yet it may become an occasion of sin, if another is grieved by it. It is evil to the man who pursues a course that will give offence to a brother; that will pain him, or tend to drive him off from the church, or lead him any way into sin.
With offence – So as to offend a brother, such as he esteems to be sin, and by which he will be grieved.
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. That is, abstaining from flesh, wine, or any thing else which is injurious to our brethren, is right, i.e. morally obligatory; (καλόν, id quod rectum et probum est.) The words stumbleth, offended, made weak, do not, in this connection, differ much from each other. Calvin supposes they differ in force, the first being stronger than the second, and the second than the third. The sense then is, ‘We should abstain from every thing whereby our brother is cast down, or even offended, or in the slightest degree injured.’ This, however, is urging the terms beyond their natural import. It is very common with the apostle to use several nearly synonymous words for the sake of expressing one idea strongly. The last two words (ἢ σκανδαλίζεται ἢ ἀσθενεῖ) are indeed omitted in some few manuscripts and versions, but in too few seriously to impair their authority. Mill is almost the only editor of standing who rejects them.
There is an ellipsis in the middle clause of this verse which has been variously supplied. ‘Nor to drink wine, nor to (drink) any thing;’ others, ‘nor to (do) any thing whereby,’ etc. According to the first method of supplying the ellipsis, the meaning is, ‘We should not drink wine nor any other intoxicating drink, when our doing so is injurious to others.’ But the latter method is more natural and forcible, and includes the other, ‘We should do nothing which injures others.’ The ground on which some of the early Christians thought it incumbent on them to abstain from wine, was not any general ascetic principle, but because they feared they might be led to use wine which had been offered to the gods; to which they had the same objection as to meat which had been presented in sacrifice.
TEXT: “by which your brother stumbles.”
EVIDENCE: Sa A C 048 81 1739 one lat syr(p) cop(north)
TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV
NOTES: “by which your brother stumbles or is ensnared or is weakened.”
EVIDENCE: p46vid Sc B D G Psi 33 104 614 630 1241 1881 2495 Byz Lect most lat vg syr(h) cop(south)
TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASVn RSVn
OTHER: “by which your brother stumbles or is weakened.”
OTHER: “by which your brother is grieved.”
OTHER: “by which your brother is grieved or is ensnared or is weakened.”
COMMENTS: Although it is possible that “is ensnared or is weakened” were omitted to make this verse end with “stumbles” and thus parallel with verse Rom_14:20, it is more likely that these words were added by copyists who recalled 1Co_8:11-13. The word “grieved” was added from verse Rom_14:15.
It is good – It is right; or it is better. This verse is an explanation or enlarged specification of the meaning of the former.
To eat flesh – That is, such flesh as the “Jewish” convert regarded as unclean; Rom_14:2.
Nor to drink wine – Wine was a common drink among the Jews, and usually esteemed lawful. But the Nazarites were not allowed to drink it Num_6:3, and the Rechabites Jer. 35 drank no wine, and it is possible that some of the early converts regarded it as unlawful for Christians to drink it. Wine was moreover used in libations in pagan worship, and perhaps the Jewish coverts might be scrupulous about its use from this cause. The caution here shows us what should be done “now” in regard to the use of wine. It may not be possible to prove that wine is absolutely unlawful, but still many friends of “temperance” regard it as such, and are grieved at its use. They esteem the habit of using it as tending to intemperance, and as encouraging those who cannot afford expensive liquors. Besides, the wines which are now used are different from those which were common among the ancients. That was the pure juice of the grape. That which is now in common use is mingled with alcohol, and with other intoxicating ingredients. Little or none of the wine which comes to this country is pure. And in this state of the case, does not the command of the apostle here require the friends of temperance to abstain even from the use of wine?
Nor anything – Any article of food or drink, or any course of conduct. So valuable is peace, and so desirable is it not to offend a brother, that we should rather deny ourselves to any extent, than to be the occasion of offences and scandals in the church.
Stumbleth – For the difference between this word and the word “offended,” see the note at Rom_11:11. It means here that by eating, a Jewish convert might be led to eat also, contrary to his own conviction of what was right, and thus be led into sin.
Or is made weak – That is, shaken, or rendered “less stable” in his opinion or conduct. By being led to imitate the Gentile convert, he would become less firm and established; he would violate his own conscience; his course would be attended with regrets and with doubts about its propriety, and thus he would be made “weak.” In this verse we have an eminent instance of the charity of the apostle, and of his spirit of concession and kindness. If this were regarded by all Christians, it would save no small amount of strife, and heart-burnings, and contention. Let a man begin to act on the principle that peace is to be promoted, that other Christians are not to be offended, and what a change would it at once produce in the churches, and what an influence would it exert over the life!
22.Hast thou faith? In order to conclude, he shows in what consists the advantage of Christian liberty: it hence appears, that they boast falsely of liberty who know not how to make a right use of it. He then says, that liberty really understood, as it is that of faith, has properly a regard to God; so that he who is endued with a conviction of this kind, ought to be satisfied with peace of conscience before God; nor is it needful for him to show before men that he possesses it. It hence follows, that if we offend our weak brethren by eating meats, it is through a perverse opinion; for there is no necessity to constrain us.
It is also plainly evident how strangely perverted is this passage by some, who hence conclude, that it is not material how devoted any one may be to the observance of foolish and superstitious ceremonies, provided the conscience remains pure before God. Paul indeed intended nothing less, as the context clearly shows; for ceremonies are appointed for the worship of God, and they are also a part of our confession: they then who tear off faith from confession, take away from the sun its own heat. But Paul handles nothing of this kind in this place, but only speaks of our liberty in the use of meat and drink.
Happy is he who condemns not himself, etc. Here he means to teach us, first, how we may lawfully use the gifts of God; and, secondly, how great an impediment ignorance is; and he thus teaches us, lest we should urge the uninstructed beyond the limits of their infirmity. But he lays down a general truth, which extends to all actions, — “Happy,” he says, “is he who is not conscious of doing wrong, when he rightly examines his own deeds.” For it happens, that many commit the worst of crimes without any scruple of conscience; but this happens, because they rashly abandon themselves, with closed eyes, to any course to which the blind and violent intemperance of the flesh may lead them; for there is much difference between insensibility and a right judgment. He then who examines things is happy, provided he is not bitten by an accusing conscience, after having honestly considered and weighed matters; for this assurance alone can render our works pleasing to God. Thus is removed that vain excuse which many allege on the ground of ignorance; inasmuch as their error is connected with insensibility and sloth: for if what they call good intention is sufficient, their examination, according to which the Spirit of God estimates the deeds of men, is superfluous.
Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth. Paul presents in this verse, more distinctly than he had before done, the idea that he required no concession of principle or renunciation of truth. He did not wish them to believe a thing to be sinful which was not sinful, or to trammel their own consciences with the scruples of their weaker brethren. He simply required them to use their liberty in a considerate and charitable manner. He, therefore, here says, ‘Hast thou faith? (i.e., a firm persuasion, e.g., of the lawfulness of all kinds of meat) it is well, do not renounce it, but retain it and use it piously, as in the sight of God.’ Instead of reading the first clause interrogatively, Hast thou faith? it may be read, Thou hast faith. It is then presented in the form of an objection, which a Gentile convert might be disposed to make to the direction of the apostle to accommodate his conduct to the scruples of others. ‘Thou hast faith, thou mayest say; well, have it, I do not call upon thee to renounce it.’ By faith here seems clearly to be understood the faith of which Paul had been speaking in the context; a faith which some Christians had, and others had not, viz., a firm belief “that there is nothing (no meat) unclean of itself.” Have it to thyself, (κατὰ σεαυτὸν ἔχε,) keep it to yourself. There are two ideas included in this phrase. The first is, keep it privately, i.e. do not parade it, or make it a point to show that you are above the weak scruples of your brethren; and the second is, that this faith or firm conviction is not to be renounced, but retained, for it is founded on the truth. Before God, i.e. in the sight of God. As God sees and recognizes it, it need not be exhibited before men. It is to be cherished in our hearts, and used in a manner acceptable to God. Being right in itself, it is to be piously, and not ostentatiously or injuriously paraded and employed.
Blessed is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth. That is, blessed is the man that has a good conscience; who does not allow himself to do what he secretly condemns. The faith, therefore, of which the apostle had spoken, is a great blessing. It is a source of great happiness to be sure that what we do is right, and, therefore, the firm conviction to which some Christians had attained, was not to be undervalued or renounced. Compare Rom_1:28; 1Co_16:3, for a similar use of the word (δοκιμάζω) here employed. This interpretation seems better suited to the context, and to the force of the words, than another which is also frequently given, ‘Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself, i.e. give occasion to others to censure him for the use which he makes of his liberty.’ This gives indeed a good sense, but it does not adhere so closely to the meaning of the text, nor does it so well agree with what follows.
Hast thou faith? – The word “faith” here refers only to the subject under discussion – to the subject of meats, drinks, etc. Do you believe that it is right to eat all kinds of food, etc. The apostle had admitted that this was the true doctrine; but he maintains that it should be so held as not to give offence.
Have it to thyself – Do not obtrude your faith or opinion on others. Be satisfied with cherishing the opinion, and acting on it in private, without bringing it forward to produce disturbance in the church.
Before God – Where God only is the witness. God sees your sincerity, and will approve your opinion. That opinion cherish and act on, yet so as not to give offence, and to produce disturbance in the church. God sees your sincerity; he sees that you are right; and you will not offend him. Your brethren do “not” see that you are right, and they will be offended.
Happy is he … – This state of mind, the apostle says, is one that is attended with peace and happiness; and this is a “further” reason why they should indulge their opinion in private, without obtruding it on others. They were conscious of doing right, and that consciousness was attended with peace. This fact he states in the form of a universal proposition, as applicable not only to “this” case, but to “all” cases; compare 1Jo_3:21.
Condemneth not himself – Whose conscience does not reprove him.
In that which he alloweth – Which he “approves,” or which he “does.” Who has a clear conscience in his opinions and conduct. Many people indulge in practices which their consciences condemn, many in practices of which they are in doubt. But the way to be happy is to have a “clear conscience” in what we do; or in other words, if we have “doubts” about a course of conduct, it is not safe to indulge in that course, but it should be at once abandoned. Many people are engaged in “business” about which they have many doubts; many Christians are in doubt about certain courses of life. But they can have “no doubt” about the propriety of abstaining from them. They who are engaged in the slave-trade; or they who are engaged in the manufacture or sale of ardent spirits; or they who frequent the theater or the ball-room, or who run the round of fashionable amusements, if professing Christians, must often be troubled with “many” doubts about the propriety of their manner of life. But they can have no doubt about the propriety of an “opposite” course. Perhaps a single inquiry would settle all debate in regard to these things: “Did anyone ever become a slave-dealer, or a dealer in ardent spirits, or go to the theater, for engage in scenes of splendid amusements, with any belief that he was imitating the Lord Jesus Christ, or with any desire to honor him or his religion?” But one answer would be given to this question; and in view of it, how striking is the remark of Paul, “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in what he alloweth.”
23.But he who is undecided, etc. He very fitly expresses in one word the character of that mind which vacillates and is uncertain as to what ought to be done; for he who is undecided undergoes alternate changes, and in the midst of his various deliberations is held suspended by uncertainty. As then the main thing in a good work is the persuasion of a mind conscious of being right before God, and as it were a calm assurance, nothing is more opposed to the acceptance of our works than vacillation. (435) And, oh! that this truth were fixed in the minds of men, that nothing ought to be attempted except what the mind feels assured is acceptable to God, men would not then make such an uproar, as they often do now, nor waver, nor blindly hurry onward wherever their own imagination may lead them. For if our way of living is to be confined to this moderation, that no one is to touch a morsel of meat with a doubting conscience, how much greater caution is to be exercised in the greatest things?
And whatever is not from faith, etc. The reason for this condemnation is, that every work, however splendid and excellent in appearance, is counted as sin, except it be founded on a right conscience; for God regards not the outward display, but the inward obedience of the heart, by this alone is an estimate made of our works. Besides, how can that be obedience, when any one undertakes what he is not persuaded is approved by God? Where then such a doubt exists, the individual is justly charged with prevarication; for he proceeds in opposition to the testimony of his, own conscience.
The word faith is to be taken here for a fixed persuasion of the mind, or, so to speak, for a firm assurance, and not that of any kind, but what is derived from the truth of God. Hence doubt or uncertainty vitiates all our actions, however specious they may otherwise be. Now, since a pious mind can never acquiesce with certainty in anything but the word of God, all fictitious modes of worship do in this case vanish away, and whatever works there may be which originate in the brains of men; for while everything which is not from faith is condemned, rejected is whatever is not supported and approved by God’s word. It is at the same time by no means sufficient that what we do is approved by the word of God, except the mind, relying on this persuasion, prepares itself cheerfully to do its work. Hence the first thing in a right conduct, in order that our minds may at no time fluctuate, is this, that we, depending on God’s word, confidently proceed wherever it may call us.
But he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. That is, however sure a man may be that what he does is right, he cannot expect others to act on his faith. If a man thinks a thing to be wrong, to him it is wrong. He, therefore, who is uncertain whether God has commanded him to abstain from certain meats, and who notwithstanding indulges in them, evidently sins; he brings himself under condemnation. Because whatever is not of faith is sin; i.e., whatever we do which we are not certain is right, to us is wrong. The sentiment of this verse, therefore, is nearly the same as of Rom_14:14. “To him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” There is evidently a sinful disregard of the divine authority on the part of a man who does anything which he supposes God has forbidden, or which he is not certain he has allowed. The principle of morals contained in this verse is so obvious, that it occurs frequently in the writings of ancient philosophers. This passage has an obvious bearing on the design of the apostle. He wished to convince the stronger Christians that it was unreasonable in them to expect their weaker brethren to act according to their faith; and that it was sinful in them so to use their liberty as to induce these scrupulous Christians to violate their own consciences.
He that doubteth – He that is not fully satisfied in his mind; who does not do it with a clear conscience. The margin has it rendered correctly, “He that discerneth and putteth a difference between meats.” He that conscientiously believes, as the Jew did, that the Levitical law respecting the difference between meats was binding on Christians.
Is damned – We apply this word almost exclusively to the future punishment of the wicked in hell. But it is of importance to remember, in reading the Bible, that this is not of necessity its meaning. It means properly to “condemn;” and here it means only that the person who should thus violate the dictates of his conscience would incur guilt, and would be blameworthy in doing it. But it does not affirm that he would inevitably sink to hell. The same construction is to be put on the expression in 1Co_11:29, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.”
For whatsoever … – “Whatever is not done with a full conviction that it is right, is sinful; whatever is done when a man doubts whether it is right, is sin.” This is evidently the fair interpretation of this place. Such the connection requires. It does not affirm that all or any of the actions of impenitent and unbelieving people are sinful, which is true, but not the truth taught here; nor does it affirm that all acts which are not performed by those who have faith in the Lord Jesus, are sinful; but the discussion pertains to Christians; and the whole scope of the passage requires us to understand the apostle as simply saying that a man should not do a thing doubting its correctness; that he should have a strong conviction that what he does is right; and that if he has “not” this conviction, it is sinful. The rule is of universal application. In all cases, if a man does a thing which he does not “believe” to be right, it is a sin, and his conscience will condemn him for it. It may be proper, however, to observe that the converse of this is not always true, that if a man believes a thing to be right, that therefore it is not sin. For many of the persecutors were conscientious Joh_16:2; Act_26:9; and the murderers of the Son of God did it ignorantly Act_3:17; 1Co_2:8; and yet were adjudged as guilty of enormous crimes; compare Luk_11:50-51; Act_2:23, Act_2:37.
In this chapter we have a remarkably fine discussion of the nature of Christian charity. Differences of “opinion” will arise, and people will be divided into various sects; but if the rules which are laid down in this chapter were followed, the contentions, and altercations, and strifes among Christians would cease. Had these rules been applied to the controversies about rites, and forms, and festivals, that have arisen, peace might have been preserved. Amid all such differences, the great question is, whether there is true love to the Lord Jesus. If there is, the apostle teaches us that we have no right to judge a brother, or despise him, or contend harshly with him. Our object should be to promote peace, to aid him in his efforts to become holy, and to seek to build him up in holy faith.