By Bill Cavender
Theme of Romans 14: A caution against making external observances, and matters of opinions and personal conscience (“faith”), the occasion of strife and division in the church.
A. Romans 14 deals with a situation which is not ideal. (Other examples: Slavery [Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-4: 1; Tit. 2:9-10; Philemon]; Marriage [1 Cor. 7:10-11,12-24; 1 Pet. 3:1-6]; Obedience to Civil Rulers [Rom. 13:1-7]). Would be much better if brethren obeyed 1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 2:1-4,14-15.
B. Opinions and conscientious scruples (“faith”) are always a hindrance to the work of Christ and to the church, never a help. No one converted nor strengthened by it.
C. No opinion nor matter of “personal faith” is necessary to salvation. The truth of God, plainly revealed, is necessary to salvation (Jn. 8:32; Jas. 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:22-25). All must believe the gospel, the truth, to be saved. It is sufficient (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 4:11, etc.).
D. Romans 14 is not talking about congregational work and worship. It is talking about personal relationships and attitudes between brethren’ of differing degrees of spiritual maturity and understanding, how each is to love the other.
E. This is a continual problem. Much strife, alienation, division and heartache is caused by varied opinions among brethren. Opinions exalted to matters of “personal faith” and “conscience” should be avoided as much as possible. We tend to think our conscience should be the standard for another person and we tend to think a person is “not sound” or “does not believe the truth” who does not believe our opinion.
F. No one is right all the time. No man’s opinion is always right. Any man can be mistaken, and often is. The law of love, to love our brethren and to love our neighbor, demands that we be careful to form opinions slowly, to not exalt opinions to matters of conscience (“faith”) in our own mind, and certainly not to bind our opinions and matters of personal conscience on others.
I. There are “strong” brethren and there are “weak” brethren (14:1; 15:1).
A. The “strong” are those who are taught and discerning and who do not form various opinions. These were especially Gentile brethren (vv. 2,5-6).
B. The “weak” are those who form opinions and matters of scruples (personal conscience or “faith”), especially Jewish brethren at that time, refraining from certain meats or foods, and observing certain days (vv. 2,5-6). Opinionated brethren are almost always in the negative, in the opposition and not in a positive attitude toward accomplishing the revealed word of God.
C. Often, so often, brethren nowadays confuse these terms. They think the “strong” brother is the one with the most opinions, most matters of conscience, and most vocal and tenacious in his ideas, and the “weak” brother is the one who had no such opinions and does not form matters of personal conscience. Being sound is not “sounding off,” arguing and fussing, and “standing for the truth” is not opinions, matters of personal conscience, and having our way about things.
D. Often, so often, this “weak” brother thinks he is the better Bible student, and knows and understands truth that the other brethren do not understand.
II. God will judge such matters; to him we stand or fall.
A. God receives either brother (v. 3).
B. God will judge his servants and can make him stand (even when he is condemned by his brother, v. 4).
C. We are the Lord’s servants, we give thanks to him, he died and arose for us, and before him we shall be judged adequately and accurately (vv. 4,5,7-9,10-12).
D. We are not to judge (condemn) one another in such matters (v. 13).
III. The truth of the matter: the “weak” brother was wrong in his opinions (vv. 14,20).
A. Yet, in his error and wrong opinion, this weak brother considered some things to be wrong and they were wrong to him, although he was mistaken and in themselves these matters were not wrong (v. 14).
B. The weak brother was not to violate his conscience, to “eat with offence” (v. 2).
C. The weak brother who had such scruples and conscientious convictions was to keep them to himself (v. 22), and observe their convictions quietly, without doubts (v. 22).
1. This is what most opinionated brethren will not do. They will not keep their opinions and scruples to themselves, as Paul said to do. They must voice them and try to bind them on others. This is sinful and results in strife among brethren.
2. This instruction (v. 22), shows Paul is not speaking of the revealed truth, the gospel, “the faith,” for we can never keep that to ourselves. We must preach and teach that, publicly and privately, in season and out of season.
D. All must do what we do in “faith,” believing that what we do is right to do. He that doubteth is condemned (damned). Whatsoever is not of “faith” is sin (v. 23).
IV. The “strong” brother In his attitude and dealings with his weak brother.
A. He is to receive him as a brother, but not to judge his scruples (v. 1).
B. He is not to put a stumblingblock or an occasion to sin in his way (vv. 13,21).
C. He is to walk charitably toward him; do not grieve him with your liberty and understanding, and do not destroy him, for Christ died for him (v. 15).
D. Do not let your liberty and privilege be evil spoken of by causing him to do that which violates his conscience (v. 16).
E. Do not destroy the work of God in saving souls by food, etc. (v. 20).
1. There are greater considerations than food, days, opinions, personal convictions, etc. The kingdom of God is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (v. 17).
2. We are not to please ourselves, to have our own way, to push our opinions and scruples upon others. Even Jesus pleased not himself (15:1-3).
3. These examples, such as Jesus, are given that we might learn patience in such matters, that we might be comforted in doing the Scriptures, and might have hope (15:4).
4. Brethren should realize that we must live in love and in peace with each other, each man esteeming others better than self (Phil. 2:1-4,14-15), and that we must not destroy one another with opinions, somebody’s personal conscience, and by bickering and fussing and striving over such matters. May God help us to see this and to avoid this kind of conduct, but rather to love one another and put the cause of Christ above all else.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 8, pp. 234-235
April 20, 1989