An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 27 May 2011; Revised 18 March 2016
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of Romans is taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are also taken from the NASB. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found here. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at EarlyJewishWritings.com.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at BibleHub.com. Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek.
Methodology: For an explanation of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, spelling conventions, and other information on organization of the commentary see my Commentary Writing Philosophy. Click here for a Study Questions for small group learning or self-study.
Ecclesiology: Relationships and Mission, 14:1Ė15:33
Principles of Liberty: No Judging, 14:1-13
Principles of Liberty: No Offending, 14:14-23
Background: Paul addresses two issues that were a problem for the early disciples: diet and calendar. Subjects that should never have been controversies seriously threatened the peace of congregations, as evidenced by Paul's treatment of these subjects in other letters (1Cor 8:1-13; 10:14-33; Gal 4:10; Col 2:16-18; 1Tim 4:1-5; 5:23).
Principles of Liberty: No Judging, 14:1-13
1― Now receive the one who is weak in faith, not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.
Now receive: proslambanō, pres. mid. imp., may mean (1) to take to oneself, such as bringing someone as a traveling companion or (2) treat hospitably, to welcome or receive. one who is weak: astheneō, pres. act. part., to experience weakness, which may be of body, material needs or another nature, as determined by the context. in faith: Grk. pistis, faith or faithfulness; confidence or constancy; lit. "in the faith" (Marshall). See the note on 1:5. The introduction of this label infers the existence of a group that could be called the "strong," although Paul does not use that term until 15:1.
not for the purpose of passing judgment: Grk. diakrisis, may mean (1) distinction, discrimination or (2) dispute. on his opinions: dialogismos, may mean (1) a verbal exchange involving a clash of ideas or (2) the process of turning things over in one's mind in response to a problem or challenging event. In this case Paul may have both meanings in mind. Fellowship in the body of Messiah should be times of conviviality, not combat over non-essential issues. Offering hospitality or welcoming someone into one's circle should not be a ploy for arguments. Whatever one may say about the issues addressed in this chapter, salvation in no way hinges on what one believes about them.
Scholars speculate on the identity of the "weak," and the choice usually is tied to the definition of "faith." Stern lists the possible options as (1) Jewish disciples (so Edwards, Harrison, Keener, Moo, Witherington), (2) Gentile disciples, (3) legalists (whether Jewish or Gentile; so Barclay), and (4) immature believers (whether Jewish or Gentile; so Murray, Stern). Derek Leman, a Messianic Jewish rabbi, following Mark Nanos, a Reform Jewish scholar [The Mystery of Romans, Fortress Press, pp. 143-144], suggests that the weak are unbelieving Jews (Paul Didn't Eat Pork, 57). Nanos offered this interpretation to explain why, in the absence of any comment on antagonism between Jewish and Gentile members of the congregation in chapters 1-11, ethnic tension should suddenly be addressed in this chapter. The Nanos solution is a reaction to the historic Christian interpretation of the "weak" as Jewish believers who were unwilling to break with the legalism of Judaism. For centuries the old perspective of the anti-Jewish Christian Paul has treated his words here as a polemic against the Torah in general and the food laws in particular. The natural outcome of such a paradigm is that a Jew must eat a ham sandwich to prove he believes in Yeshua.
Problematic for interpretation of this chapter is that Paul does not address Torah food rules nor employ categories he uses elsewhere, such as "Judean Jew" and "Hellenistic Jew," (cf. Rom 3:29; 9:24; 10:12; 1Cor 1:22-24; 10:32; 12:13; Gal 2:14-15; 3:28; Col 3:11), "believer" and "unbeliever" (cf. 1Cor 14:22; 2Cor 6:15), or "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" (cf. Rom 4:12; 15:8; Gal 2:7, 12; Eph 2:11; Php 2:2-3; Col 4:11; Titus 1:10). In this chapter Paul is addressing the "body life" of the congregation (note "one another," vv. 13, 19, and "brother," v. 15), so when he admonishes the "weak" (14:3-4, 10), he can only be addressing believers. If the weak were unbelieving Jews, why would the "strong" care what they ate or what calendar they observed? Ironic is that Paul admits to "weakness" in 8:26 where he says that "the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should."
Keck makes the plausible suggestion that "weak in faith" is an epithet created by the ones who considered themselves "strong." Paul uses the labels simply as a way of addressing the attitudes of the two groups and their manner of treating one another, rather than evaluating the merit of their positions. (See the comment on 15:1.) In his letter to the congregation in Corinth Paul addresses the specific issue of eating meat offered to idols using the same contrast between "weak" and "strong." In that letter the "weak" are offended by the strong "dining in an idol's temple" (1Cor 8:10) and thereby tempted to sin against their conscience. The "strong" of Corinth may have argued that since there is no such thing as a god besides the God of Israel, and animals are not inherently sinful, then there can be nothing wrong with eating meat from an animal offered in a pagan temple. This was an issue settled at the Jerusalem Council, and while the prohibition against eating such meat had been accepted in Syrian Antioch (Acts 15:30-31), the rule was not readily embraced in Corinth. Perhaps a similar situation developed in Rome, but Paul's silence on the subject would need to be explained.
It should be noted that Paul is not saying that the "weak" to be received has no faith, only that from the point of view of the "strong" it is lacking in some sense. Faith in this context obviously does not mean trusting in God for salvation or faith as a creedal statement of accepted belief, but probably faithfulness to a defined application of Scripture. Paul knew well the battles over halakhah ("way to walk") that persisted between the Saduccees and Pharisees generally and the Pharisee schools of Hillel and Shammai in particular. Each Jewish group thought its way of interpreting and applying Scripture was the right way, the only way, and they readily condemned anyone who did not agree (cf. 1Tim 1:4-7; Titus 1:14; 3:9).
2― One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.
One man has faith: Grk. pisteuō, pres., to have confidence, to trust, to believe. Some versions (ASV, CJB, HCSB, HNV, NIV, TEV), including the NASB, inexplicably translate the verb as if it were a noun. However, other versions do translate the present tense verb as "believe" or "believes" (DRA, ESV, GW, KJV, NCV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, YLT). The verb emphasizes the consistent exercise of an attitude (i.e., he is "faithful" to the point of view), not the possession of saving faith. Paul contrasts the active assumptions of the two groups, although he does not really explain why each group holds its system of halakhah.
that he may eat: Grk. esthiō, aor. inf., to consume food. all things: Grk. pas, an adjective that conveys comprehensiveness as qualified by the context and without statistical emphasis. The plural neuter form of the word here points to food items. If the "strong" are Gentile disciples, then "all things" could mean they followed no restrictions of any kind on diet, but if the "strong" are Jewish disciples then "all things" encompass all the food items approved in the Torah-defined diet rules. In either case the "all things' definitely included the meat of animals and wine as mentioned in verse 21.
but he who is weak: astheneō, pres. part. See the previous verse. eats vegetables only: Grk. lachanon (from lachainō, "to dig"), any plant used for food and may be translated as "garden herb" or "vegetable." Since the premise of the first clause includes "has faith", then the second premise implies the same meaning. In other words, "the weak has faith to eat vegetables only." Paul defines the issue as a diet with meat versus a vegetable only diet, although there is no reason to assume the vegetarian diet excluded the consumption of wine (v. 21), unless the person took the vow of the Nazirite (Num 6:3). What is not clear is whether the basis for the vegetable diet is philosophical or religious or a combination of the two. Paul does not dwell on the reason, although some commentators deduce such from verse 20. Contrary to historic Christian interpretation Paul does NOT abolish Torah food rules anywhere in his writings. Paul's main concern seems to be how the two groups were mistreating each other and the danger this presented to the spiritual life of the congregation.
The vegetarian diet could reflect an ascetic practice. Asceticism was common among certain pagan philosophers and their followers. The Roman writer Ovid (43 BC - AD 14), building on the work of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras (570-495 BC), gave an impassioned plea in his work Metamorphoses (Chap. XV) to abstain from the slaughter of animals, because of his belief in the migration of souls from humans to animals. Philo reported that a Jewish ascetic group in Egypt, the Therapeutae, were vegetarians, but this diet resulted from their commitment to temperance and simplicity in all things as the best expression of living by Torah and pursuing spiritual virtues (On the Contemplative Life, 4:34-39).
Asceticism would eventually take firm hold in Christianity. Even in modern times there are some Christians who advocate vegetarianism, claiming that Adam's diet was superior to that after the time of Noah, and therefore more spiritually enlightened. However, Paul clearly saw this philosophy as a threat to congregations. He warned the Colossians against any philosophy that judged others for what they ate and drank and advocated excessive humility, i.e., many fastings (Col 2:8-18). (The Greek word in Col 2:18 for humility, tapeinophrosunē, comes from the verb used in the LXX of Lev 23:27 for the fasting required on the Day of Atonement.) Similarly, in his letter to Timothy, Paul remonstrates against those who advocate abstinence from marriage and certain foods (1Tim 4:1-5), and there he labels the belief as a demonic doctrine.
The vegetarian diet could also have had a religious basis, even though the Torah does not require or encourage a strictly vegetarian diet. Various examples of diet restriction can be cited in Scripture. During the wilderness years Israel subsisted on manna (Ex 16:35). The Nazirite vow prescribed in the Torah encompassed abstaining from grapes, wine and strong drink (Num 6:2-3). John the Immerser ate only locusts and wild honey as part of his regular diet (Matt 3:4). At least fourteen named people in Scripture fasted for various lengths of time in which no food or drink was consumed. On two occasions Daniel abstained from meat and wine (Dan 1:8; 10:3), the former occasion to avoid being defiled by food offered to idols and the latter as part of a three-week fast. Regular fasting was part of Jewish life in the first century. Many fast-days were scheduled during the year in memory of serious troubles experienced in Israel's history and, in addition, the Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12). (See my article Fasting in the Bible.)
Josephus in his autobiography tells of Jewish priests imprisoned in Rome subsisting on nuts and figs (The Life of Flavius Josephus, 3). Witherington says this diet was for fear of eating meat that was contaminated with blood or tainted by association with idolatry. The only reason Josephus gives for the diet is "piety toward God," which could simply mean that these priests were either ascetic in lifestyle or engaging in a restricted fast while they prayed for divine deliverance. After all, nuts and figs are not the only non-meat items that could be eaten.
Avoiding meat likely had nothing to do with Torah rules for selection of animals for eating (Leviticus 11). Jewish and proselyte disciples would likely refrain from meat from animals that had not been slaughtered according to Torah rules (Gen 9:4; Deut 12:23-24), and all disciples, Jew and Gentile, were enjoined by the Jerusalem Council decree to abstain from meat offered to idols (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25), although as seen in Corinth Gentile disciples did not always abide by that ruling. In the city of Rome it may have been difficult to find meat in a market that had not been offered to an idol. The "weak," as Keck observes were serious about their religion and obedient to what they believed were divine expectations to differentiate themselves from pagans.
3― Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.
Let not him who eats regard with contempt: Grk. exoutheneō, pres. imp., to consider of no account or worth, to regard as a nobody. The "strong" may have criticized the "weak" for their practice of avoiding meat by reminding them that God had not only sanctioned eating meat (Gen 9:4; Deut 12:15), but had commanded the eating of lamb for Passover (Ex 12:3-5). Maybe the "weak" are idiots because they couldn't understand the plain words of Scripture.
and let not him who does not eat judge: Grk. krinō, to subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior. The word-group often has a legal connotation. This is the same word Paul uses in 2:1 to (ironically) condemn judgmentalism. Edwards assumes the Jewish disciples are judging the Gentile disciples, but Paul is not this obvious. Vegetarianism was not defined ethnically then or now. The "weak" know that God sanctions judging of behavior (cf. Matt 7:20; 18:15-19; 1Cor 5:12; 6:2-5; 11:13), and the "strong" with their laissez-faire attitude obviously have no commitment to holiness of heart and life. However, Paul judges the "weak" for violating God's procedure for judging, such as due process, and rules of evidence. They have ignored Yeshua's principles for conflict resolution (Matt 18:15-19) and also ignored Paul's dictum, "Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake" (1Cor 10:25). Moreover, the "weak" have probably labeled the "strong" as sinners and the "strong" are equally intransigent in their liberty and refusal to show hospitality to the "weak."
for God has accepted him: Grk. proslambanō, aor. mid. See the note on "receive" in verse 1 above. As hard as it was to fathom God had welcomed the "strong" and the "weak" into relationship on the basis of their trust in Yeshua, not because of their chosen diet. There is no greater accolade than for God to announce his acceptance.
4― Who are you who judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Who are you who judge the servant of another? By use of this rhetorical question Paul strongly condemns both groups for their presumptuous behavior. Some commentators think Paul is only engaging in this short diatribe of the "weak," but in context it seems reasonable that the verb "judge" can also apply to the condescension of the "strong." How dare either group act as if they speak for God! Witherington makes the helpful observation that Paul comes up with a "rhetorically effective leveling device" in speaking of slaves and masters. Jesus as Messiah and Master is the only person in the socially superior position and, thus, all disciples are his servants. Neither group can claim to occupy the moral high ground.
To his own master he stands or falls: The metaphors of "standing" or "falling" may mean simply to have or lose approval of the Master (Keck). The metaphor of "standing" also is used in Paul's writings to refer to faithfulness to the Master in spite of present circumstances (Rom 5:2; 1Cor 10:12; 15:1; 16:13; Eph 6:11, 13; Php 1:27; 4:1; 1Thess 3:8). Paul emphasizes that it is the Master who makes the servant to stand.
and stand he will: Paul may mean, as Witherington suggests, that Jesus does not setup people to fall nor does he allow them to fall. However, this may also be an allusion to the fact that all will stand before the judgment bar of God, which is addressed in verse 10 (cf. Matt 12:41).
5― One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.
One man regards one day: Grk. hēmera is a reference to time, whether daylight hours, an individual day or a period of time as a framework within which something takes place. above another: Lit. "above a day" (Marshall). Stern suggests that the reference here is not specifically to the Torah calendar but to any days that a disciple might have come to regard as especially holy. After all, Paul deliberately avoids using the word "Sabbath" and simply says "a day." In addition, Paul does not label this position as "weak" or "strong," and thus the description could pertain to any believer (Jew or Gentile) attached to particular calendar observances.
However, there are two other possible explanations. First, Paul may have been alluding to a very prevalent belief connected with a fear of demons among certain Hellenistic Jews that made some days lucky and others unlucky due to their association with the astrological calendar (Shulam). Jews in the first century, even in the Diaspora, were loyal to their traditional religion, but the practices of astrology, demonology and magic were still common among them (Tarn & Griffith 226).
The Romans also were very superstitious. They regarded odd numbers as lucky and even numbers as unlucky, and so all of the months except February had an odd number of days. The Romans believed that certain days were more auspicious than others for carrying out important events such as business contracts, religious rites and even battles. Only the priests, led by the Pontifex Maximus, could tell a Roman citizen whether a given day was auspicious or not, and naturally they made a charge for each inquiry (Harper). It's very possible that Roman disciples (Jew and Gentile) had not been fully transformed in their thinking as regards superstitions.
another regards every day alike: A debate, well known to Jews, between the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai concerned the propriety of distinguishing between "secular" (profane) weekdays and "holy" days (i.e., Sabbath and feast days). A saying attributed to them is "Beth Shammai say: 'From the first day of the week prepare for the Sabbath; but Beth Hillel say: 'Blessed by the Lord, day by day'" (Beitza 16a). Hillel's philosophy was to treat every day as being lived "for the sake of heaven." Weekdays should have the same sanctity as the Sabbath. (This was not a debate over whether one could observe Sabbath on a different day.) Shammai regarded granting sanctity to "secular" days as a degradation of God's sovereignty and glory. Hillel did not believe that God would allow the Sabbath to be profaned, but Shammai could not take people's intentions on faith. Instead, the Sabbath must be observed according to the "letter of the law." It is debatable whether Paul regarded Shammai's position as weak.
Let each man be fully convinced: Grk. plērophoreō, pres. pass. imp., to reach a point at which nothing is lacking, here in regard to something of inner or intellectual interest. in his own mind: Unlike the issue of diet Paul does not label the two approaches to calendar observance as "weak" or "strong." It is more likely that the calendar issue had to do with the Hillel-Shammai debate and not superstitious practices. There is no suggestion in the letter to the Romans that astrology and divination had any hold on members of the congregation. Given the Jewish debate it would be unfair to label either side as "weak" or "strong." Both sides likely viewed themselves as "strong" and correct. Paul as a student of Gamaliel, a student of Hillel, was likely influenced by Hillel's point of view as implied by verse 8.
Paul sets forth the same principle he would later state with considerable force in Colossians 2:16, "Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day." Christian scholars sometimes interpret Paul's analysis in the following verse of these things being a shadow of what is to come, as a denigration of following God's appointed days (Lev 23:2). (See my article Remember the Sabbath.) Just as we know the Messiah now by faith and the Spirit, so in the age to come we will know him face-to-face (1Cor 13:14; 1Jn 3:2). This meaning of "shadow" versus "substance" seems to reflect Paul's intention. The reality of God's calendar in the age to come will be even more important and more blessed than it is now (cf. Zech 14:16-17; Isa 66:22-23). Nowhere in Scripture does God annul his calendar, although he allowed certain holy days to be added. However, Paul was reminding the Gentile disciples that they bore the responsibility for determining how to keep God's calendar and did not need to feel bound to observe all the rules of the Jews for these special days.
Stern rightly suggests Paul's command to assert personal conviction on matters about which the Bible is indifferent must be balanced against the definite pronouncements of Scripture, which is the disciple's rule for faith and practice (2Tim 3:16). Where Scripture is subject to various possible interpretations, then each person must be persuaded in his own mind while at the same time showing respect for other points of view.
6― He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
He who observes: Grk. phoneō, pres. part., to engage in a process of mental activity, to think to, be interested in, be concerned about. The participle could be lit. translated as "the minding one" (Marshall). the day: Grk. tēn hēmeran, singular, acc. case. See the note on the previous verse for hēmera. Again, it's noteworthy that Paul does not say "Sabbath," so it's not clear whether "the day" is an allusion to the position of Shammai or Hillel. In reality it doesn't much matter. observes it: Grk. phoneō, pres. Paul is describing thinking that leads to establishing priorities that lead to taking action. for the Lord: Since "Lord" is in the dative case and there is no preposition in the clause, then the clause is lit. "to the Lord." Paul alludes to Hillel's idea of doing everything "for the sake of Heaven." Doing anything "to the Lord" is a statement of consecration and having consecrated all to God as exhorted in 12:1, then every day must be sacred. Paul emphasizes what should be the motive of calendar observance, a principle preserved in the Talmud.
"R. Eliezer son of R. Zadok said: Do good deeds for the sake of their Maker, and speak of them for their own sake. Make not of them a crown wherewith to magnify thyself, nor a spade to dig with." (Nedarim 62a).
The Textus Receptus, following late manuscripts, inserts a clause (preserved in the KJV), "and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it." The additional phrase was no doubt added to provide a balanced statement after the model of the clause related to eating (Metzger).
and he who eats: Grk. esthiō, pres. part. See the note on verse 2; the participle could be lit. translated as "the eating one" (Marshall). Paul does not specify whether he intends the "strong" or the "weak" in terms of their respective diets, but the statement could apply equally to both. does so: Grk. esthiō, pres. for the Lord: Grk. kurios. Since "Lord" is in the dative case and there is no preposition in the clause, then the clause is lit. "to the Lord." Paul doesn't explain directly how one eats for the Lord, but he could have in mind obeying commandments related to food, such as the three Pilgrim feasts. for he gives thanks to God: Grk. theos. The Mishnah prescribes that blessing God for the food whenever three or more people ate together was a duty, with the blessing followed by the response of "Amen" from those present (Berachot 7:1). Please note that in biblical and rabbinic practice the blessing is of God and not the food as is often the case among Christians. Note Paul's own words on the importance of this blessing God for food:
"For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer." (1Tim 4:4-5)
In Jewish eyes, eating food which a pagan considers to have been consecrated to his god affirms idolatrous practices. Such food can neither be eaten nor sanctified by a blessing, since a blessing acknowledges the sovereignty of deity (Shulam). However, Paul mitigates this concern in his guidance to the Corinthians:
"If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake. But if anyone says to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake." (1Cor 10:27-28)
Paul now states the principle in reverse leaving out the reference to calendar observance. and he who eats not: an allusion to the "weak" and their abstinence from meat and possibly wine (v. 21). for the Lord he does not eat: in terms of the "weak," Paul lets the "strong" know that the Lord values both groups. and gives thanks to God: Even meal of vegetables requires a blessing to God who cause everything to spring forth from the ground. In fact, blessing God for human subsistence reflects a macro viewpoint. One could say that the entire universe was created to support and sustain mankind. The harvest of any vegetable occurs at the end of a very complex astronomical and ecological system. What a great God we serve, who is worthy of all our praise for every good gift.
7― For none of us lives for himself, and none dies for himself.
For none of us lives for himself: Paul states a principle that governs the life of the true disciple. Neither the Messiah nor Paul invented an individualistic "Lone Ranger" religion. This principle of life strikes at the essence of asceticism which is the height of self-absorption. Another way of interpreting this verse and the next is within the theme of the two masters, such as described in chapter six. To live for oneself is tantamount to allowing Sin to have control of one's life. none of dies for himself: this principle has a point whether taken figuratively as in 12:1 or literally as a martyr. The Stoic idea of denying the body because it is evil has no place in biblical theology. The disciple must remember that only Yeshua's death has merit.
8― for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
for if we live, we live for the Lord: Again Paul may be speaking in both figurative and literal terms. The very nature of "eternal life" is the life of God manifest in our lives. And, if we treat every day as sacred according to Hillel's principle, then all of life is indeed for the Lord. In the context of the Two Ways or Two Masters, the only way to assure life is to surrender all of life to the Lord's ownership. if we die, we die for the Lord: a disciple's death always has meaning, whether from natural causes or as a martyr. we are the Lord's: the Lord gives life and takes life (Deut 32:39). therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's: If the disciple sacrificially gives himself to Yeshua as exhorted in 12:1, then the longevity of life is immaterial. Every day is a sacred day, because it is a gift of God.
9― For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
For to this end: lit. "for into this." Christ: Grk. christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Christos was chosen deliberately by the Jewish translators of the LXX to render Mashiach and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word.
died: Grk. apothnēskō, to die, an allusion to the crucifixion. See the note on 5:6 and 6:6. and lived again: Grk. zaō, aor., the state of being alive. The verb alludes to the miraculous resurrection on the first day of the week following the crucifixion. Paul does not dwell on the nature of Yeshua's body, but on the simple fact that on one day he was dead and a few days later he was alive again.
that He might be Lord: Grk. kurieuō, aor. subj., to be lord, to rule (Rienecker). The resurrection established Yeshua's right to exercise total authority over all (Shulam). All legislative, executive and judicial functions of government are vested in Yeshua as King. As John 5:22 says, "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son." both of the dead: Grk. nekros. Reference to those who have died in the past. Those who have died in the faith are in heaven where they continually serve and worship the Lord. The unredeemed dead are in Hades where they await the final judgment when they will understand the full measure of Yeshua's authority. and of the living: Grk. zaō, pres. part., to live. Those alive at the writing of this letter, but extended into the future. Paul has described the "bookend" events for the last days that began with the first advent (cf. Heb 1:2) and will conclude with the second advent of Yeshua.
10― But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
But you, why do you judge your brother? this rebuke in the form of a rhetorical question is direct to those designated as "weak" (see v. 3 above). Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? this rebuke in the form of a rhetorical question is direct to those designated as "strong" (see v. 3 above). No one in the Body of Messiah has a right to judge another brother in these non-moral areas. For we will all stand: Grk. paristēmi, fut. mid. ind., first person plural, to stand, to stand beside or to stand before (Rienecker). Whenever the saints appear before God in the book of Revelation they are always standing, never sitting (Rev 7:9; 14:1; 15:2).
before the judgment seat: Grk. bēma, space covered by a movement of one foot ahead of the other, a step; also a raised place mounted by steps, such as a speaker's platform; fig. of a judicial tribunal. In the LXX bēma translates Heb. migdal ("elevated stage," "pulpit" BDB 154) used in Nehemiah 8:4 of the platform on which Ezra stood to read the Torah. Of interest is that the Hebrew word bimah ("elevated place"), used of the platform in a Jewish synagogue, is transliterated from bēma, but likely related to Heb. bamah, "high place." (See Sotah 38b). of God: The KJV has "Christ" instead of "God," probably influenced by 2 Corinthians 5:10, but the best manuscript witnesses have "God" (Metzger). The future tense points to an eschatological judgment, of which two are described in the apostolic writings. First, the premillennial judgment of the Son:
"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (Matt 25:31-32; cf. 2Cor 5:10)
Second, the final post-millennial "white throne" judgment:
"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds." (Rev 20:11-12)
Without the benefit of the revelation to John, Paulís prophetic word probably should be connected with the judgment that occurs at the Second Coming. As a Pharisee Paul would have believed in a premillennial appearance of the Messiah who would deliver Israel and punish the wicked. Given the very real nature of the future judgment no one can afford to "play God" and judge others over non-essential matters as if God had delegated the authority.
11― For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD."
For it is written: the standard formula in the apostolic writings for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the Tanakh. See the note on 1:17 for this phrase. This is the thirteenth of sixteen times Paul uses the formula in Romans. Paul proceeds to quote from Isaiah 45:23, which he introduces with the standard divine formula. AS I LIVE: lit. "I live." SAYS THE LORD: Grk. kurios renders the Heb. Tetragrammaton, YHVH. The introductory formula, "as I live, says the LORD," occurs many times in the Tanakh with which God addresses his people (Num 14:28; Isa 49:18; Jer 22:24; 46:18; Zeph 2:9 and 14 times in Ezekiel). The formula points to the essential meaning of the sacred name God revealed to the patriarchs and Moses, namely his self-existence and the origin for all life on the earth. The divine declaration does not occur at all in Isaiah 45:23, but apparently Paul believed it analogous to the opening clause, "I have sworn by Myself." Paul also omits the following clause, "the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back," as being redundant for his point.
EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME: this idiomatic expression may refer to either submission to authority or worship, or in the case of God, both at the same time. All earthly authorities will yield to the judgment and rule of the King of Kings. EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE: Grk. exomologeomai, fut. mid. to confess, to acknowledge, to give praise (Rienecker). TO GOD: Grk. theos. The creator of the universe will be the focus and recipient of universal praise.
12― So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
So then each one of us: Who does Paul mean by "us?" Every person in the world (cf. Acts 17:31)? Every Jew (cf. Rom 2:9)? Every one who believes in Yeshua? Since Paul is warning the two factions about their negative behavior, then in the proximate sense he is referring to them and by extension all believers. will give: Grk. didōmi, fut., to give, to render. an account: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind. Logos may have various meanings, depending on the context, such as word, statement, message, or speech. In the parable of the talents logos is used of a financial report (Matt 25:19). The use of the word "account" in the NASB (and almost all other versions) to translate logos implies that each person would have to explain his conduct to God as one might at a trial. Such a perception seems supported by other passages warning about the judgment.
"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matt 12:36-37; the careless word in context is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.)
"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account [Grk. logos]. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you." (Heb 13:17; spoken of pastoral leadership)
"but they will give account [Grk. logos] to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." (1Pet 4:5; spoken of the pagan Gentiles)
Paul obviously canít provide a transcript since the judgment hasnít happened yet. The only examples of conversation between the Lord as judge and people as defendants is in the parables of Matthew 25, and these are illustrative, not precisely prophetic. In the parable of the talents each servant is asked to produce his talent and report the results of his stewardship. However, in the parable of the sheep and goats the servants don't produce anything, but only respond to the Lord's report about them. In Revelation there are no judgment interviews; only the books are opened and people judged according to what was in the books (Rev 20:12).
The translation of "give an account" seems problematic for two reasons. First, thereís not likely to be an opportunity given for self-justification our touting our resume of good works. Our lives are on record. God knows what's in the books and likely the angels do, too, although public revelations of what's covered by the blood seems highly unlikely. Compared to God's holiness we have nothing to commend us. When Isaiah was confronted with the awesome presence of God he cried out, "Woe is me, for I am ruined" (Isa 6:5). What's the point of an account then?
We don't deserve to hear "well done," but that accolade is freely given to those who belong to Yeshua (Matt 25:21). There are two versions that seem closer to the mark. NRSV: "So then, each of us will be accountable to God" and NCV: "So each of us will have to answer to God." In Paul's depiction of the judgment in 2 Corinthians 5:10 there is no mention of giving an account, only being "recompensed" for deeds one has done, whether good or bad.
Second, Paulís choice of logos probably was intended as a midrash on the passage from Isaiah. He would not have been trying to contradict the quotation. Giving a "word" would include the dual behavior of submitting to the judgment and authority of God and praising God. Paul would later expand on this prophetic word in his Philippians letter:
"At the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Php 2:10-11)
Of interest is that the three locations of heaven, on the earth and under the earth were also revealed to John on Patmos (Rev 5:3, 13). In the latter verse praise issues from "every created thing" in those locations, blessing both the One sitting on the throne (the Father) and the Lamb (the Son), just as Paul said.
13― Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore: See the note on verses 3 and 4. Paul urges the members of the Roman congregation to cease an activity in progress. but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle: Grk. skandalon, a stone that causes one to stumble or a snare, the stick which causes a trap to fall; a cause of offense, that which lures into sin (Rienecker). or a stumbling block: Grk. proskomma, loss of footing as consequence of striking against. in a brother's way: Paul resorts to a word picture drawn from the Torah that forbids placing a stumblingblock before the blind (Lev 19:14) or committing any action that would cause harm to someone else.
Many commentators assume that the word picture of placing a stumbling block in a brother's path is tantamount to causing the brother to sin, although Paul does not say this. It's not likely that Paul intends that anyone could justify sinful conduct by blaming it on someone else when Scripture repeatedly affirms individual responsibility for decisions (Deut 24:16; Ezek 18:4; Jas 1:14). In context judging seems to be the stumbling block and it prevents the expression of love and hospitality that should characterize the body. In any case, the warning is appropriate considering Yeshua's own prophecy of his eschatological return:
"The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt 13:41-42)
Principles of Liberty: No Offending, 14:14-23
14― I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
I know: Grk. oida, perf., to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The verb is used for various kinds of knowledge: (1) to know someone or about someone; (2) to be intimately acquainted with or stand in a close relation to someone; (3) to know or understand how to do something, be able; (4) understand, recognize, or come to know by experience; and (5) to remember (BAG). In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045; e.g., Num 11:16; Deut 1:39; Josh 2:4; 2Sam 19:6), which has a wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). To the Hebrew mind "knowing" is not philosophical or theoretical, but based in reality.
and am convinced: Grk. peithō, perf. pass. ind., to bring about a convinced state in regards to something, to be persuaded with a focus on certitude. Not only did Paul gain knowledge, but he also was totally convinced of something. He may well be implying that he changed his mind about something. in: Grk. en, preposition, lit. "in" or "within," but as here often is used in the sense of agency or cause. The preposition could be translated as "by" (Marshall). the Lord Jesus: See the note on 1:4 for "Lord" and the note on 1:1 for "Jesus." The Greek text does not contain the definite article, which is not necessary since "Lord" is a title. After all, one would not say "the King David." Paul asserts that the source for both the knowledge and the persuasion did not come from his mentor Gamaliel, but Yeshua himself.
Paul does not clarify whether "in the Lord Jesus" refers to special revelation, the exercise of delegated authority or his own spiritual insight. First, Luke records three occasions of special revelation: the Damascus Road transformation (Acts 9:3-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-19), the Macedonian vision (Acts 16:9-10) and the Corinthian vision (Acts 18:9-10). Paul records a fourth occasion when he was caught up to the third heaven (2Cor 12:1-5). Paul does not identify any of those divine encounters as the specific source of the insight declared here. However, as an observant Jew he had obeyed the prohibition of Jewish law against contact with Gentiles due to their uncleanness (cf. Acts 10:28; 11:1-3). Yet, like Peter, the commission to take the good news of the Messiah to the Gentiles meant that he "should not call any man unholy or unclean" (Acts 10:28).
Another direct source not mentioned, but possible, is that the first knowledge may have come during the earthly ministry of Yeshua and only after his transformation did Paul understand the full import of the teaching. Perhaps Paul was among the Pharisees that approached Yeshua concerning the issue of washing one's hands before eating (Mark 7:1-5) or perhaps he was at the house of a Pharisee where Yeshua ate lunch (Luke 11:37-41) and gave a similar teaching as on the other occasion. On both of those occasions Yeshua pointed out to the Pharisees that their restrictions were not based on logic or Scripture.
Second, another way of interpreting Paul's announcement is as representative of his apostolic authority. Yeshua had given his apostles permission to bind and loose (Matt 16:19; 18:18), an idiomatic expression referring to halachic authority to forbid activities ("bind") and permit activities ("loose") (Stern 57). Yeshua made Paul an apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 1:5; 11:13; Gal 2:8; 1Tim 2:7); therefore, Paul had the same halachic authority. This is probably how Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 14:37 that his instruction constituted "the Lord's commandment" should be viewed, although special revelation cannot be ruled out in that instance.
Third, Paul may only be alluding to his own maturity and sanctified insight. In 1 Corinthians 7:25, he says, "Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. Then in 7:40 Paul says, "But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God." In Ephesians 3:4 he speaks of his "insight" into the mystery of the Messiah. Paul may be saying, "this is my opinion and I know the Lord Yeshua would agree with me."
that nothing: Grk. oudeis, an adjective, in the neuter form, indicates negation as actually existing at a given place or moment, thus rendered as "no," "nothing," or "not a thing." The use of the adjective does not pertain to people, only things, and in this case presumptively animals or food. "Nothing" would be qualified by the context and Paul's own religious roots. Thus, "nothing," does not necessarily mean all the animals or food items that exist in the world, but those of which the Torah discusses.
is unclean: Grk. koinos may mean either (1) shared collectively or (2) belonging to what is everyday (Danker). Reinecker says that the term means "common, unclean, or defiled" and that it is a technical term to express those customs and habits which, although "common" to the world, were forbidden to the pious Jew. Originally in Greek culture koinos meant common, mutual or public and is closely related to koinonia, communion or participation (DNTT 1:639). Koinos occurs only a few times in the LXX with a variety of meanings. In Proverbs 25:24 koinos means "common" in the sense of shared space and in 1 Maccabees 1:47 koinos is used of unclean animals by Torah definition. In the apostolic writings koinos is used of unclean animals (Acts 10:14; 11:8), but also used in a figurative sense of men in Acts 10:15, 28, a religious sacrilege in Hebrews 10:29, and as a moral fault in Revelation 21:27. In normal usage, then, koinos refers to something with which a Jew must not have contact.
As Stern rightly points out, Paul is not advocating any form of moral relativism. The use of the term "unclean" alludes to the Torah system of classifying things, animals and people as holy, common, clean or unclean. The mandate of the Torah is that the Israelites, especially the priests, would be able to distinguish between these categories in order to become a holy people (Lev 10:10; 11:44-45). The categories of "common," "clean" and "unclean" may refer to a physical, religious ("ceremonial") or ethical condition, which must be determined from the context. In contrast "holy" never has a physical meaning. When Yeshua told his disciples in the upper room, "you are clean, but not all of you" (John 13:10), he was making an ethical evaluation as the next verse confirms, "For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean."
in: Grk. dia, through. itself: Grk. eautou, a reflexive pronoun, neuter in form. Paul is speaking of causation or means and not just the nature of something. In other words, an animal or a food cannot make itself into any one of the four categories. The Torah laws given at Sinai do not classify certain animals as unclean because they were inherently unclean. From the time of Noah to the covenant at Sinai these same animals could be eaten. Since the animals hadn't changed, then God's reasons for imposing the restrictions on the Israelites had nothing to do with the animals themselves, but everything to do with the covenantal relationship he desired.
Some commentators suppose that since "nothing" includes food, then Paul is ratifying Yeshua's supposed cancellation of Torah food laws (Mark 7:19). However, Yeshua made no such pronouncement, a conclusion that the complaining Pharisees did not even consider. For Yeshua to revoke Torah, especially after he said he did not come for that purpose (Matt 5:17-20), would have resulted in an immediate charge of blasphemy and execution by stoning. (See my article Did Yeshua Cancel Torah Food Laws?)
Paul clearly addresses a misbelief, probably of the vegetarians, who would have regarded animals as "unclean" in the sense that they were impediments to a life of spiritual simplicity. Stern believes this remark has to do with "ritual uncleanliness" as distinguished from ethical uncleanness, but Paul is strikingly circumspect in his description. The pronouncement seems related to his dictum to the Corinthians, "Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake" (1Cor 10:25).
but to him who thinks: Grk. logizomai, pres. mid. part, interest in numerical calculation, whether the process or the product. anything: Grk. tis, an indefinite pronoun. The neuter case makes it "anything." to be unclean, to him it is unclean: Paul repeats the use of koinos to refer to the special category. The conclusion of uncleanness is apparently based on a careful consideration of a variety of factors, including Scripture and the circumstances. In this context "unclean" may mean unfit ("off limits") to touch or unfit to consume, but certainly not inherently evil. In addition, the "uncleanness" may be temporary or permanent depending on the circumstances and the disciple's belief.
It is one thing, of course, to have a personal conviction, but quite another to impose that conviction as if it were a revelation for all disciples. Against this heresy Paul remonstrates, first to the Colossians, "Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink" (Col 2:16) and then more strongly to Timothy:
"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth." (1Tim 4:1-3)
Paul calls for respect for one another's scruples. Yet, Christians may commit the same offense today by expecting a Jewish disciple to eat a ham sandwich to prove he really has accepted Yeshua as Savior. Messianic Jews generally consider the Torah food rules as only binding on Jews and Gentiles are free to choose whether they eat "kosher." Gentile Christians should return the same charity.
15― For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.
For if because of food: Grk. brōma means simply prepared food one eats at a meal. In 1 Corinthians 10:3 brōma is used in reference to manna. In this verse brōma may be intended figuratively for "diet." your brother is hurt: Grk. lupeō, to be engaged in grief or sorrow. Shulam suggests that the verb corresponds to the Hebrew term on'ah, "wrongdoing" (Lev 25:17). Just as there is wrongdoing in words (Eph 4:29), there can also be wrongdoing in eating. Paul makes both a logical and emotional appeal to consider the feelings of fellow disciples. you are no longer walking according to love: While it is not uncommon for disciples to unintentionally hurt someone's feelings, a thoughtless disregard for others can inflict emotional wounds that could take a very long time to overcome.
Do not destroy: Grk. apoluō, pres. imp., may mean (1) to set free from a condition or obligation, (2) to cause to depart from a place or (3) to dissolve a marriage relationship. Paul quickly moves from emotional appeal to apostolic command to avoid doing anything that not only wounds, but causes division in the congregation and ends brotherly relations. with your food him for whom Christ died: Paul reminds both parties that the One before whom they will stand in judgment paid the greatest sacrifice for our salvation. What are they willing to sacrifice for one another?
16― Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil;
a good thing: Grk. agathos, achieving a high level of excellence, is not intended as a moral judgment on food. (See verse 14 above.) In reference to food agathos could be translated as "wholesome" (cf. Matt 7:11), "enjoyable" (cf. 1Pet 3:10) or even "healthy" (cf. Matt 7:17). Each group obviously viewed their diet as good, perhaps for all these reasons, and viewed dispassionately both could be right. be spoken of as evil: Grk. blasphēmeō, pres. pass. imp., cause damage to reputation by arrogant speech or action, including demeaning or defamatory speech. Blasphēmeō seldom occurs in the LXX, 22 times, predominately in 2 Maccabees (DNTT 3:341). There is no consistent Hebrew equivalent. Nevertheless, with few exceptions the word-group is used to refer to the reviling of the people of Israel and the God of Israel by heathen enemies (e.g., 2Kgs 19:6; Isa 52:5; 66:3; Ezek 35:12; Dan 3:29; 2Macc 8:4; 9:28; 10:4, 34; Wis 1:6; Sir 3:16; Tobit 1:18).
Translating blasphēmeō with "spoken of as evil" (as most versions do) seems over the top, since Paul doesn't actually use the Greek word for "evil" (kakos), and the more exact meaning of blasphēmeō is slander as given in the HCSB. The CJB gets close with "spoken of as bad." Stern interprets the Paul's meaning as "donít' flaunt your freedom to eat as you wish." While "flaunting" behavior could be envisioned by the verb, so could taunting behavior. Critical speech will only cause the recipient to respond in kind, but probably in harsher terms. So the remedy is to act in a manner inconsistent with the negative perception of others.
There is another approach to this verse that needs to be considered. Most Bible versions and commentators give the impression that the "good" is the diet of each group and the "blasphemy" refers to the critical words coming from each group of the other. However, in the Tanakh the Heb. word tov is the regular term for goodness, particularly of God's character or actions. The LXX translates tov in this connection almost exclusively with agathos. Then the usage of the blasphēmeō word-group in the LXX as the activity of enemy nations needs to be considered.
The literal translation of the verse is simply, "therefore let not the good of you be blasphemed" (Marshall). The pronoun "you" is a plural genitive. Treated as a subjective genitive, it would mean that "you" performs the characteristic of the "good." Rendered as an objective genitive, "you" receives the characteristic of the "good." Most likely the genitive is objective, i.e., "your goodness." The resultant meaning would be "don't let pagans slander your [the congregation's] goodness." The HCSB gets the closest to this meaning, "Therefore, do not let your good be slandered."
17― for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
the kingdom of God: The Kingdom of God is both temporal in the present age wherever he reigns in the hearts of men, and future in the age to come when Yeshua will reign over the earth from Jerusalem. is not eating and drinking: this is an idiomatic expression that may allude to a regular meal (Ruth 3:3; 1Cor 11:22), a feast (1Sam 1:9; Jer 16:8), or a jubilant celebration (1Sam 30:16). Used negatively the idiom may indicate overindulgence to the point of drunkenness (Matt 11:19; 24:49), or at worst a pagan religious rite and orgy (1Cor 10:7). Among pagans the meaning of life was reduced to "eating and drinking" (Matt 6:25-32). In the Olivet Discourse the eating and drinking of Noah's generation is placed alongside marrying as indicative of living without God. Here Paul no doubt intends a contrast with Roman society, known for its excesses and indulgences, as the pagan proverb said, "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1Cor 15:32).
but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit: Paul names three important virtues similar to his list of virtues "in the Holy Spirit" given in 2 Corinthians 6:6. What makes for righteousness and peace (Heb. shalom) is defined by Torah, but sometimes they can only be achieved by going beyond what Torah requires to what the Spirit inspires, empowers and leads. "Eating and drinking" will produce none of these virtues. While fellowship over meals is very important in the Kingdom, what is more important is the character of its citizens. Disciples should strive for a harmonious fellowship in order to be God's agents of peace in the world.
18― For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
For he who in this way serves: Grk. douleuō, pres. part., to function in total obedience to a master. The participle indicates the character of the person as much as the activity of the person. The true disciple has a servant heart and sanctifies the common as a worthy sacrifice to the Lord. Christ: lit. "the Messiah." Yeshua is the only master for the faithful disciple. is acceptable: Grk. euarestos, pleasing, acceptable. to God: the Lord takes personal delight and pleasure in such sincere devotion. Paul elucidated this principle in chapter twelve. and approved: Grk. dokimos, meeting a standard for exceptional worth or character.. by men: here, a reference to the public. See the note on 13:3. Disciples can have a good reputation in the community when they demonstrate love for fellow disciples, as Yeshua said (John 13:34-35; cf. 1Tim 3:7).
19― So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
So then we pursue: Grk. diōkō, pres. subj., to chase, pursue or go after. the things which make for peace: Grk. eirēnē, peace. Paul alludes to Psalm 34:14, "Seek peace and pursuit it" and appeals to a rabbinic principle known as darkei shalom, "the paths of peace" (Shulam). The "paths of peace" prohibit a man from judging his brother for his personal convictions, and preclude any conduct that might cause him to "stumble" in his walk before God. Paul issued a similar exhortation in Hebrews 12:14, "Pursue peace with all men." and the building up: Grk. oikodomē, noun, gen. case, a structured entity or a strengthening of a structure. of one another: fellow disciples and members of the congregation. While Paul explains the ministry of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7 as a means of building up the body life of the congregation, here the fundamental ingredient for a strong congregation is a commitment to peaceful relations.
20― Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.
Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food: Paul discourages members from standing on their rights. The Great Commission is more important than petty differences. All things: Grk. pas, adj. (nom. plural, neuter), all or every. The adjective refers to non-animate things. See the note on verse 14 above concerning the issue of cleanness. Paul states the obvious. Non-animate things do not have a sin nature. indeed are clean: Grk. katharos, adj. (nominative, plural, neuter), clean or pure. There is no verb in the clause so "are" is added for clarity. See the note on verse 14 above. This is a straightforward statement of fact. Sin only resides in humans. However, Paul is not saying that animals designated as unclean for Jews are now "clean" for Jews.
but they are evil: Grk. kakos, adj., may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible, something that violates community standards, thus bad, wrong or evil; or (2) causing harm with focus on personal or physical injury, bad, injurious or harmful. In the LXX kakos is used predominately to render Heb. ra, which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562). Kakos here refers to evil as a moral quality. Paul is not saying that an inanimate object can be sinful in itself, but usage may create a bad impression in the wrong setting. for the man who eats and gives offense: Grk. proskomma, a stumbling. See verse 13 above. Diet choices may be bad due to a lack of consideration for the impact caused when the scruples of others are not treated with respect.
21― It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
It is good not to eat meat: Grk. kreas, flesh from an animal. Paul says much the same thing in his letter to the Corinthians: "Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble." (1Cor 8:13) One should not take his words literalistically, as if he would never eat Passover lamb again, because Torah commandments trump any individual's personal convictions. Rather, he will respect the convictions of fellow disciples who object to eating meat for whatever reason and not eat it in their presence. This is the essence of his advice to the Corinthians:
"All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 25 Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake; 26 FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD'S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS. 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake. 28 But if anyone says to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake." (1Cor 10:23-28)
or to drink wine: Grk. oinos, the fermented beverage from grapes. Paul makes mention of wine only seven times in his writings and only once in Romans. It seems strange that he should introduce the topic here when wine is a separate issue from the meat vs. vegetarian controversy. The only commonality with meat is that wine was generally offered with a sacrificed animal in religious ceremonies, whether pagan or Israelite. The prohibited wine drinking may allude either to drunkenness (Eph 5:18; 1Tim 3:3, 8) or to consuming wine at a pagan temple (1Cor 10:21). Paul is not opposed to drinking wine in general since he includes instruction for its consumption in the Lord's Supper (1Cor 11:22-27) and advises Timothy to drink wine for health reasons (1Tim 5:23).
by which your brother stumbles: Grk. proskoptō, pres., lit. "to cause to strike against." In the moral or spiritual sphere the verb refers to acting contrary to conviction brought on through another's lack of concern. Paul does not say that the stumbling necessarily involves eating meat or drinking wine, although it could. The stumbling could also take the form of judging and broken fellowship because of creating an offense. Stern notes the Talmudic advice, "It was taught: If there are things which are allowed but which some treat as prohibited, you must not permit them in their presence" (Nedarim 15a). Among Jews when one is accustomed to treat a thing as forbidden, it is as though it were subject to a vow. Thus, though the prohibitive force of custom is Rabbinical only, the Biblical injunction still applies to it.
22― The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
The faith which you have: i.e., the faithfulness to your system of halakhah with respect to diet, here addressed to the strong. have as your own conviction: lit. "according to yourself." Paul is not providing justification for a private faith that is not accountable to the Body of Messiah (Edwards). The phrase alludes to having carefully considered the matter and arrived at a conviction or point of view consistent with one's values and moral code which themselves are based on Scripture. However, this personal conviction is not to be used in a negative manner to the detriment of the weak. As Greathouse says, "keep your private opinions to yourself!" before God: Paul reminds his readers that all their actions occur in the presence of God and are subject to his scrutiny. Conversely, congregational gatherings are not the place for emphasizing personal convictions.
Happy: Grk. makarios, enjoying a special advantage and may be translated as blessed, privileged, fortunate, or happy. See the note on 4:7. is he who does not condemn: Grk. krinō, pres. act. part., lit. "the one not judging." himself in what he approves: Grk. dokimazō, pres. See the note on verse 18 for dokimos. The focus of approval may be either on the process or the outcome. Every disciple should exercise careful consideration of issues and Scripture in arriving at convictions. (See my article Principles for Convictions.) Edwards comments:
"In the matter of food regulations and observance of days one may know an inner freedom, even if love counsels a more prudent course. The strong can accommodate their faith to the weak without harming their faith, but the weak cannot accommodate their faith to the strong without harming theirs."
23― But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
But he who doubts: Grk. diakrinō, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) distinguish in reference to class or ethnic distinctions; (2) evaluate or judge in regard to making a decision, often in a legal context; (3) dispute, contend with; or (4) doubt in the sense of intellectual weighing of matters that leads to wavering or hesitation. The fourth meaning applies here. Paul could be referring to someone who second guesses himself because of the criticism of others. He may also envision Jacob's description of the doubter who is like "the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind" (Jas 1:6).
is condemned: Grk. katakrinō, perf. pass., declare worthy of punishment, to pronounce a verdict or condemn. The perfect tense points to a time in the past with continuing results into the present. Paul may be referring to divine condemnation. Harrison notes that due to the verb tense condemnation would not be eschatological but contemporaneous with the act. Condemnation might even refer to public opinion. Even pagans have no patience with someone who is "wishy-washy." Paul is careful in his wording, since he does not identify who is doing the condemning. He may only mean that this particular kind of "neurotic" doubting is worthy of condemnation. if he eats: Grk. esthiō, aor. subj., to consume food. Presumptively Paul is alluding to a the "weak," that is, the vegetarian eating meat, since by definition the "strong" would not be plagued with doubts. The clause indicates strictly a hypothetical situation, not one that has actually occurred.
because his eating is not from faith: Grk. pistis, gen. case, which means both faith ("confidence," "trust") and faithfulness ("loyalty," "fidelity"). See note on 1:5. Faith here is not trust in God for salvation, and the absence of a definite article means it is not faith as a body of belief held by God's people. Harrison suggests that in this context faith seems to be related to confidence that one is free to make use of what God has created and set apart for man's good. Greathouse sees "faith" in this context as a synonym of "conscience." One's convictions should be determined by study of Scripture, the common standards of ethics and morality of the congregation and the leading of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1Cor 7:40). All of these things do contribute to the development of conscience and convictions. The contrast is Abraham who "did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God" (Rom 4:20).
The definition could be determined by considering the opposite. What would eating from faith mean? Faith reflects loyalty to God, putting God first and living in a way that seeks to please God, whether or not it pleases man. Vegetarianism has no biblical support and the religious vegetarians in Rome essentially relied on philosophies and rules invented by man. Substituting man's authority for God cannot produce living "from faith" (cf. Col 2:8, 16). The problem for the "weak" is that men cannot agree on these rules. Jews were clearly divided into different camps in apostolic times. The Saduccees and Pharisees disagreed over many rules for living. The same sort of division existed in the pagan culture.
Conversely, does Paul mean that one can never change his mind, that once a conviction is determined the person is locked into it forever? How is a "weak" person to become "strong?" Circumstances and spiritual growth change many things. As Paul himself said, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things" (1Cor 13:11). Peter changed his mind about associating with Gentiles (Acts 10:28-29, 34). Even God can change his mind (Ex 32:14; Jer 26:13, 19; Jon 2:10).
and whatever: Grk. pas, lit. "all things." is not from faith: Grk. pistis, gen. case. is sin: Grk. hamartia, missing the mark, which may refer to a misdeed that creates liability for the agent, a condition of being sinful or an invasive evil power. See the note on the definition of sin at 6:1. This exhortation may allude to the wisdom of Solomon, "All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives [lit. "spirits"]. Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established" (Prov 16:2-3). Paul issues what appears to be strange halakhah. Some commentators, as Murray, suggest this principle means that the "weak" is condemned when he violates his conviction. Yet, considered logically, how can one sin by violating a personal conviction? Doesn't a change in conviction commence by introducing a doubt? How does this interpretation relate to standard definitions of sin in Scripture?
Paul has already defined sin in categorical terms: "where there is no law, there also is no violation" (4:15); "sin is not imputed when there is no law" (5:13); "I would not have come to know sin except through the Law" (7:7); and "apart from the Law sin is dead" (7:8). The rest of Scripture likewise defines sin as a transgression of Torah commandments (e.g., Lev 16:21; Ps 51:3; Neh 9:29; Matt 15:3; Heb 10:17; Jas 2:10f; 1Jn 3:4). Church discipline can only begin where there is evidence of sin as a moral breach (as in Matt 18:15-19). On what basis, then, could someone confront and rebuke his brother for violating his personal conscience and then invoke church discipline? A pragmatic or situational definition of sin seems a slippery slope. What does Paul mean by this new definition?
Paul is making a typical rabbinic midrash on the nature of sin. The Torah does indeed define prohibited behavior, but it does not list every conceivable behavior that would be sinful in the eyes of God and in this sense has a built-in limitation. Keck observes, "For the believer, it is not the law that finally identifies what is sin, but acting on a basis other than faith." For example, Jacob, in admonishing the congregation concerning partiality toward the wealthy, says, "But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all" (Jas 2:9-10). Yeshua had enunciated the same principle in speaking of vows, "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil" (Matt 5:37; cf. 2Cor 1:17-18; Jas 5:12).
The principle given here does not contradict Paul's earlier statements on the definition of a transgression. Rather, Paul extends the concept of sin to incorporate the "gray areas" relating to personal convictions. It's important to remember that the essence of pistis and its Hebrew corollary emunah is constancy. Faith reflects a disciple's relationship with God. One's convictions, whether food choices or calendar observances or anything else of a non-moral nature, should proceed from the value of seeking the glory of God (1Cor 10:33) and being devoted to brotherly love (Rom 12:10).
"Whatever is not from faith" would, then, be a working definition of hypocrisy, which is contrary to the love required of disciples (Rom 12:9; 14:15). The Torah commands: "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another" (Lev 19:11). Hypocrisy describes a man with a "double heart" and "false lips" (Ps 12:2; 119:13; Jer 12:2; Jas 1:8; 4:8). Yeshua leveled severe criticism of hypocrites, especially the Pharisees in Matthew 23. Consider the example of Peter at Antioch whom Paul confronted over hypocritical behavior. Peter ate with Gentiles (Gal 2:11-13) but withdrew when representatives of the "circumcision party" came. If he had been confident he would not have needed to act so cowardly and thus he deserved Paul's rebuke.
At this point some manuscripts add the doxology found in 16:25-27. See the note there.
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