v. 1-2 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. (ESV).
Weak in “the faith” that brings freedom in Christ. It appears that the “weaker” brother is plagued by doubt about eating certain foods (v. 23) and doesn’t yet fully understand freedom from such burdens.
How should we respond to those perceived as different or weak in understanding of non-essential issues? (cf. 13: 8ff, 14).
Are we called to bear the burdens of the weak? (cf. Gal 6:2).
Should we care about the basis or motivation of the weaker brother?
1. Idea that meat was sacrificed to idols (probable context) (cf. 1 Cor 8-11)
2. Long standing traditional views or legalistic teaching
3. Should we attempt to “straighten the weaker brother out?”
4. What is my motivation? When does my “intervention” become pride?
a. when I “look down” or reject, or exclude from our groups
b. our group is better, they are second class Christians
c. both sides can demonstrate pride
What does it mean to “accept?” Again, it is about my heart and my motivation toward my brother/sister. My intention is not to debate non-essentials, but to embrace family with warm wholeheartedness. In Christ, we are called to demonstrate a sympathetic understanding.
v. 3-4 In regards to the weak brother, Allen (1986) said, “He is God’s, for it is God who has accepted him into fellowship with Him; and so others are obliged to accept him too, not give him the cold shoulder.” Moreover,
“Christian fellowship does not imply a right to run other people’s lives for them: only Christ can—and will—discharge such a right. The temptation to criticize some one else must be resisted. Instead one must re-examine one’s own views, in case they are based upon selfish expediency and personal profit, and in an exercise of spiritual judgment come to as informed and responsible a conviction as one is psychologically capable of.”
We do not judge in non-essential areas because it is not our responsibility. Moreover, we have no authority to judge. Christ takes the responsibility.
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS):
“After all, who are you to criticise the servant of somebody else, especially when that somebody else is God? It is to his own master that he gives, or fails to give, satisfactory service. And don’t doubt that satisfaction, for God is well able to transform men into servants who are satisfactory.”
God has accepted both the “weak” and the “strong” in Christ. Therefore, whatever one’s position on non-essentials, the genuinely transformed belong to the Lord. Paul has established we are devoted to be a “living sacrifice” to Christ our Master and Judge. He causes both the weak and strong to stand by His power! Therefore,
It is Christ who will “straighten out” the weaker believer as necessary in His time. He “…is able to make him stand.”
Am I in process and changing by the grace of God? Help me Lord to examine myself every day to ensure I stay in process! Moreover,
v. 5-6 God knows the mind/heart of mankind. How often do I make judgments as though I know one’s heart? What is most important? Is it not what God knows in the heart of those genuinely transformed in Christ? It is not about externals so much! (i.e., days of worship, eating meat). Therefore,
If the “weaker” believer acts in ways that are “legalistic” yet, the behavior is motivated by a deep conviction before God, does this make it okay? Who is the Judge? Is Paul telling us to “accept” without making a moral determination when it comes to these non-essentials?
Does God leave certain (non-essential) issues to be decided by the individual?
Does this mean we can’t discuss our freedom in Christ? Is it very possible that God will use you as a vessel of mercy to further understanding of grace and freedom, especially for those weaker in faith?
What behaviors or beliefs are we called to question and even judge as wrong, especially among professing believers?
1. Essentials according to Scripture (e.g., deity of Christ, salvation, etc.)
2. Obvious sinful acts (adultery, hatred, drunkenness, etc.,)
Should we be “fully convinced” when it comes to our behaviors in our Christ life? What about the idea of gaining “fuller understanding” in some areas (doctrinal truth, differences, interpretation) just like the weaker believer?
In any event, we are called to respect those with deep conviction when it comes to non-essentials. Moreover, Peter tells us to respond with “gentleness and respect” to all those needing an answer for the reason for our faith (1 Pet 3:15).
v. 7-8 Ray Stedman discussed these verses: in relationship, the two groups, he distinguished as one “living” is liberty (strong) and the other “dying” is limitation (weak). Those who are living enjoy liberty to the fullest. However, others, even though motivated by strong conviction, limit themselves and are dying. Nonetheless, “…whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” The most important thing is “we all” belong to the Lord.
v. 9-12 Again, the Lord alone has the authority to judge in these areas. Why? “Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.”
We all will all have to give an account to God. 1 Cor. 4:5; Matt 25:41
Sproul (2005) said, “The cost to Him of this privilege was immense and exposes the inappropriateness of believers judging or despising their brothers. We must give an account of our own lives to the Lord, as those being judged, not as those who judge.”
The International Bible Commentary, (1986) FF Bruce (ed).
ESV Study Bible (2005) R.C. Sproul (ed).
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS): http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%2014&version=PHILLIPS