By Jeff Belknap
In the beginning of Matthew 23, the Lord commended much of the Pharisee’s teaching. However, in verse 24, he draws attention to one of their major flaws. It was their ironic ability to consume whole camels, while simultaneously possessing the talent to “strain” even the smallest defilement.
We today, as the Pharisees of old, can swallow camels of magnanimous proportions in failing to rightly divide the truth, by (mis)using one divinely inspired passage to contradict another.
The focus of this article is to compare what Paul has written in Romans 14 with various other New Testament Scriptures. These comparisons provide several compelling reasons that Romans 14 cannot involve matters of immorality and/or fallacious doctrine!
Camel #1: Receive Ye vs. Receive Him Not
In Romans 14:1, the brethren were commanded to receive one another, in spite of their differences. However, in numerous other places we are charged not to “receive” the immoral, or those in doctrinal error. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:9, that we are “not to company with fornicators” (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9,10; Heb. 13:4). Does Romans 14 include the reception of homosexuals or those living in adultery? What about those who do not teach “the doctrine of Christ”? In 2 John 9-11, John commanded that we “receive him not,” lest we be a “partaker of his evil deeds” (cf. Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:10).
Camel #2: No Disputations vs. Disputation/Disputing
Romans 14:1 instructed Christians to “receive” one another despite dissimilar views in matters of opinion, and prohibited them from disputations regarding these things. However, elsewhere in Scripture, we learn that we must “dispute” with our brethren over doctrinal error! In Acts 15:2 when men sought to bind circumcision, “Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them” (Acts 15:7; 19:8).
Camel #3: No Judging vs. Judge
In Romans 14 (vv. 3, 4, 10, 13), the Romans were instructed not to judge (condemn) one another! However, we are commanded to judge (condemn) immorality and false doctrine! In 1 Corinthians 5:12, 13 Paul wrote: “. . . do not ye judge them that are within? . . . Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” Not only were the Corinthians to condemn adultery; they were to exclude it from their fellowship. The same was true concerning those who taught error regarding the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:33ff). The difference is clear! In matters of indifference to God, we are not to judge (Rom. 12:16)! Yet, when it comes to divine law, we must judge and discipline brethren who walk disorderly (2 Thess. 3:6, 14).
Camel #4: God Hath Received Him vs. Reception Is Conditional
Paul said, “God hath received” the individuals in Romans 14:3. From this passage, some contend that God will receive the immoral person and teachers of error! Yet, God’s reception of us is dependent upon our walking in the light (1 John 1:6-7). In 2 Corin- thians 6:14-18, he says, “. . . touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” Furthermore, Galatians 1:6-9 says that men are “removed” from God for preaching a perverted gospel.
Camel #5: God Will Make Him Stand vs. Standing Is Conditional
From Romans 14:4, we can conclude that the text is referring only to lawful activities, since Paul says that “God is able to make him stand.” Contrariwise, the immoral can never “stand” before God. In no uncertain terms, 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 says, “Be not deceived: neither fornicators . . . nor adulterers . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God.” In 2 Corinthians 10:8-12 we are warned, “Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell . . . Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Similarly, will the false teacher “stand” or fall into the ditch (Matt. 15:14; 2 Pet. 3:17)?
Camel #6: Man Is To Decide vs. God Is To Decide
Who is to decide what’s right and/or wrong in matters of indifference toward God? We are, individually! In Romans 14:5 Paul says, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” In contrast, who is to make decisions as to what is right or wrong in matters of moral and/or doctrinal import? God is! Concerning doctrinal issues, we are to persuade men to comply with the Word (Acts 19:8; 2 Cor. 5:11; Gal. 1:10)!
Camel #7: Do Unto the Lord vs. No Sinning Unto the Lord
In verse 6 of Romans 14, all is to be done “unto the Lord.” In following God’s commands, as well as in matters of personal conscience, all we do is unto God (Col. 3:23; 1 John 3:20). However, false teaching and disobedience can never be done “unto the Lord”!
Camel #8: No Stumbling Blocks/Offense vs. A Stumbling Block/Rock of Offense
In Romans 14, we are instructed not to put a stumbling block or offense in our brother’s way (vv. 13, 20, 21)! Yet, in matters of the faith, we preach Christ “a stumbling block” and a “rock of offense” (Rom. 9:33; 1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Pet. 2:8). How can we harmonize these Scriptures? Regarding matters of opinion we are to liberally grant concessions, but in matters of the faith we are to make none (Gal. 4:16; Jude 3)!
Camel #9: Nothing Unclean of Itself vs. Unclean Things
Of the things dealt with in Romans 14, nothing was unclean in and of itself (v. 14)! Obviously, this is not the case with fornication and erroneous doctrines. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Paul wrote, “. . . touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (cf. 1 Cor. 7:14; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5).
Camel #10: Not To Grieve vs. May Grieve People
In the context of personal opinion, we are not to grieve our brother by pressing our private convictions (Rom. 14:15). Yet, the truth (which must be preached) will grieve those who do not want to hear it (Mark 10:17-23; Acts 4:1-2). Brethren, while we must be willing to yield in the context of Romans 14; at no time can we compromise the will of God to placate men (Gal. 1:10)!
Camel #11: Not About the Kingdom vs. About the Kingdom
Obviously, Romans 14:17 refers to matters of liberty, in its declaration that “the kingdom of God” is not about “meat and drink” (things which do not commend us to God [1 Cor. 8:8-9]). Rather, the King’s dominion deals with things which are decreed in his Word. God imposed no dietary restrictions in the New Testament, and has even given us permission to “regard” a day (Rom. 14:6), if we do so without religious significance (Acts 18:21; 28:17). This is a far cry from taking liberties with his dictates, and fellowshipping doctrinal error.
Camel #12: Make For Peace vs. Fight the Good Fight of Faith
In Romans 14, we are to follow things that make for peace (v. 19)! In other words, we are to allow our beloved brethren to keep their conscientious scruples. Paul made no attempt to change the “weak” brother’s position in this context, because their difference was of no spiritual consequence! Therefore, peace could prevail, for all things in this context were pure (v. 20)! James 3:17 states, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable.” We can make no “peace” when brethren hold to a false doctrine, or to immorality (Jer. 6:14)! When it comes to intrusions of God’s command, we must “earnestly contend” for the truth (Prov. 28:4; Jude 3; cf. Luke 12:51).
Camel #13: All Things Are Pure vs. Many Things Impure
In verse 20 of our study, “All things indeed are pure.” Can fornication and doctrinal error be included in this reference (cf. Prov. 30:12)?
Camel #14: Keep This Faith to Yourself vs. Preach the Faith
The faith that Romans 14 deals with is to be kept to ourselves (vv. 22-23)! However, some seek to “wrest” this verse and apply it to matters of “the faith” (2 Pet. 3:16). If such was the case, it would contradict the Lord’s solemn charge to sound out the faith (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; cf. Gal. 1:23; 1 Thess. 1:8).
My beloved brethren, we must harmonize all Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15) to distinguish the colossal difference between how matters of personal faith (Rom. 14) and matters of the faith (Jude 3) are to be handled, unless we