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Romans 14.1-15.7: Exegesis & Application

Study notes ▪ 1997
Tags: Romans 14:1-15:7; Christian liberty; Community
Related Resources: Understanding the Relationship between Christianity and Culture: Practical Applications

Biblical Text

1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, [but] not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day [alike]. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth [it] unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard [it]. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, [As] I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in [his] brother’s way.
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that [there is] nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean.
15 But if thy brother be grieved with [thy] meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
18 For he that in these things serveth Christ [is] acceptable to God, and approved of men.
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed [are] pure; but [it is] evil for that man who eateth with offence.
21 [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.
22 Hast thou faith? have [it] to thyself before God. Happy [is] he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because [he eateth] not of faith: for whatsoever [is] not of faith is sin.
1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2 Let every one of us please [his] neighbour for [his] good to edification.
3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
6 That ye may with one mind [and] one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

Cultural Setting

Much of the diversity of opinion and behavior described in this passage can be traced to cultural differences among the members of the Roman church. Keener explains:

“Paul’s exhortation to unity between the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome now reveals some of the cultural divisions being experienced there. Jewish people did not expect most Gentiles to observe their food laws or holy days but did expect Gentile converts to Judaism to do so, perhaps including Gentile Christians” (Keener 442).

Not surprisingly, culture accounts for many misunderstandings in the church today. Thankfully, the principles that Paul wrote for the benefit of the Romans may be applied to our own postmodern setting.

2 Classes of People

Paul’s discussion in this passage centers around two classes of Christians with different levels of spiritual growth—the weak and the strong. The weak believer lacks faith (14.1, 23). He restricts himself to an exclusively vegetarian diet (14.2). He regards certain days to be of special significance, and thus binds himself to the observance of religious tradition (14.5). The strong Christian, on the other hand, possesses greater faith (14.2, 22). He believes himself to be free to enjoy a variety of different foods (14.2). He esteems every day alike, and thus considers himself free from observance of religious tradition (14.5).

7 Spiritual Principles

Paul lists seven spiritual principles which form the theoretical basis for decision-making in areas of life where the Scriptures give no specific guidelines for Christian conduct. These principles should be kept in mind when non-moral choices are made.

  1. Full conviction (14.5, 22-23): Not every believer will reach the same conclusion in areas lacking definite spiritual command; however, each should exercise his faith and conscience toward God in such areas.
  2. Divine glory (14.6-9): Choices in controversial areas should be made to honor and glorify God, regardless of the course of action taken. Christians should be reminded that they belong to the Lord in all things.
  3. Sincere thankfulness (14.6-9): Choices in disputed areas should reflect gratitude toward God regardless of the action taken. The key to pleasing God in non-moral matters lies not in the believer’s behavior but in his attitude.
  4. Individual responsibility (14.10, 12): Choices in questionable matters are highly personal and should be made in awareness of the fact that each believer will one day give account of himself to God.
  5. Intrinsic amorality (14.14, 20): Behaviors which have no scriptural parameters constitute areas of personal liberty, and are thus inherently amoral. This is not to say, however, that choices in such areas have no moral or spiritual consequences.
  6. Spiritual priority (14.17-18, 20): The spiritual effects of one’s non-moral choices should have a supreme influence in the decision-making process.
  7. Community benefit (15.6): Liberty in non-moral choices should not jeopardize the unity of the local assembly of believers.

4 Practical Applications

  1. Christians should create a climate of mutual acceptance in the church (14.1; 15.7). This climate should be governed by two principles:

    • Those who choose to exercise their liberties should not look down on those who choose to restrict them (14.3; 15.1).
    • Those who choose to restrict their liberties should not judge those who choose to exercise them (14.3-4, 10-13).

  2. Christians should resolve not to flaunt the liberties they allow themselves (14.12, 22). Choices in non-moral areas are essentially private.
  3. Christians should view their relationships as means of edification (14.15-16, 19-21; 15.1-2). They should be more concerned with helping fellow believers to grow spiritually than with exercising liberty. Thus the law of love (thinking of others first) comes into play here.
  4. Christians should never be encouraged to act outside the context of faith (14.23). It is a violation of conscience for a Christian to do something he does not believe to be right. This kind of attitude should never be promoted. Rather, Christians should make non-moral choices according to their perception of the Holy Spirit’s direction, restricting or liberating their conduct as their personal relationship with God dictates.

Work Cited

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Related Resources: A Christian Perspective on the Generation Gap God’s Righteousness Revealed ... Tradition: Theory & Application

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Study notes (4 pages)   108k v. 2 Sep 14, 2011, 7:55 PM Greg Smith