An Exchange on Romans 14
Receiving Those "Weak in the Faith"
Dear Brother Paul,
Greetings from the Roman saints, brother Paul. We have carefully read your epistle to us and have appreciated it greatly. For the most part, we have understood it and have been encouraged by all of it. However, there is one section about which some question has arisen. We are disagreed about its meaning and application. At times our disagreement has become somewhat sharp and severe. I am referring to the section in which you instruct brethren who differ concerning "food" and "days" to receive each other.
I have been asked by the brethren here to write you asking for further clarification. I am doing this by in-forming you how I understand your teaching. If I have misunderstood you, please correct me frankly and plainly.
First, I understand you to mean that the difference between the "weak" and the "strong" brother is that the former is not "fully assured" in his faith and the latter is "fully assured" in his faith. Thus, in each case "faith" is personal subjective and does not refer to "the faith" objective as our brother Jude teaches in his epistle.
Dealing with "false teachers," men who make fatal flaws concerning "the faith," is taught later in this epistle as well as in other epistles. "Mark and turn away" from those who are teaching things "contrary to the doctrine." We are familiar with brethren Jude and Peter's instruction concerning such teachers. We have also heard of, though we have not yet seen the epistle, brother John's instruction "to give no greeting" to a teacher who does not bring "this doctrine." To the best of our ability we are practicing these instructions from the inspired witnesses."
Second, I find no evidence in your instructions that you are concerned with which "faith," "strong or weak," is correct. Neither are you saying that the "strong brother" has "faith"; the "weak brother" is holding an opinion. Each is acting conscientiously. Your instruction relates to "receiving each other"; the how and why of it.
Third, it appears evident to me, that the matters about which there is a difference in "faith" do not involve the congregation. They involve brethren acting personally and independently of the group.
"Eating or not eating," "esteeming one day above another" may be done personally and are not of the same classification as singing in the assembly accompanied by lyres and harps; or choosing an "elder" who has two wives.
Here are my reasons from your instruction for drawing these conclusions: (1) You use "faith" four times in this con-text. The last three unquestionably refer to personal faith. It seems highly unlikely that you would use "faith" in the be-ginning "objectively" and then use it "subjectively" in the conclusion. (2) "Receiving" each other is not based upon the correctness or incorrectness of each brother's faith because: "Let each man be fully assured in his own mind." "Each of us shall give an account of himself to God." The "strong brother" is "not to set at naught him that eateth not" and is "to bear the infirmities of the weak." On the other hand the "weak brother" is not to "judge (condemn) him that eateth." Therefore, each is to "receive" the other while each holds his own faith. Since each has been "received" by the Lord when each obeyed the gospel the future standing of each will be decided by the Lord.
The "why" each is "to receive" the other is stated in these words: "Let not then your good be evil spoken of." "For the kingdom of God is not (about) eating and drinking but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." "Let us follow after things which make for peace . . . and edify each other." "The strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak" and "please his neighbor . . . unto edifying."
Some who question my understanding of your instruction warn me which I do not take lightly that this interpretation would permit us to "give the right hand of fellowship" to some teachers who have recently come from Africa teaching and practicing "plural wives." I reply that their concern is unfounded for that problem has been addressed by your later teaching in this epistle as well as in the epistles of Jude and Peter, and what we have heard about brother John's. These "believers" do not argue their "faith" from the teaching of "the faith." They "deny" our Master by not "listening to His witnesses."
Our concern here is not about "eating meats" and "es-teeming days." It concerns "May-pole dancing," originally a celebration to a "god" which is not God, as you wrote the Corinthian brethren. Now it is simply a national and recreational holiday. Some of us participate in the game being "fully assured." Some of us are not "fully assured" and therefore do not participate. Some think that we should study the matter until we are of "one mind and one accord." Others, such as myself, think that we should "receive" each other in spite of our differences. Each "side" claims your instruction as their authority. My judgment is, as I have tried to explain, that we should maintain fellowshipping each other while permitting each brother to "May-pole dance" or not according to his own "faith." And, that God will finally decide who "stands or falls."
Be assured, beloved brother, that each of us is resolved to do God's will endeavoring to remain a "company of believers." We eagerly await your further instruction.
Aristobulus (State Gymnasium Captain)
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 21, p. 10-11