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Romans: 14:1-12 Notes

Romans 14:1-12 - EXEGESIS:

CONTEXT: In the early church, Christians often disagreed with each other and created problems for one another. In Romans 14:1-15:13, Paul addresses this issue. First, he deals with differences of opinion regarding rules about food and days (14:1-12). He then asks Christians not to cause one another to stumble (14:13-23). He then tells them to focus on pleasing the other person instead of themselves (15:1-6). Finally, he makes it clear that the Gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike (15:7-13).

Paul is more concerned about the manner in which we deal with differences than about the fact that we have differences. Christ does not require us to agree on every issue, but he does call us to love one another. In chapters 14-15, Paul provides guidance regarding the actions that loving Christians must take-even when they strongly disagree.

Paul does not mention Jews or Gentiles until the end of this section. To have done so earlier would have further polarized the Jewish and Gentile Christians to whom he was writing, and his goal is to bring them together instead of driving them further apart.

In the twenty-first century, the issues that divide Christians are different from those of the first century, but divided we are. The guidance that Paul gave Roman Christians will serve us well today if we can bring ourselves to hear it. Paul calls us to welcome those with whom we have differences (v. 1)-not to hold one another in contempt or to judge each other (vv. 4, 10). He calls us to recognize our essential connectedness as brothers and sisters in Christ (vv. 10 ff.)-to acknowledge that each of us is accountable to God (v 12)-and to trust God to do his work well.

Given the sharp divide in the church today, particularly over such issues as abortion, it is very difficult to do what Paul calls us to do. It is very difficult not to believe that our position is right and the other is wrong-dreadfully wrong. It is very difficult not to judge other Christians and to hold them in contempt. It is very difficult to welcome Christians from the other side as Christian brothers and sisters-and to accept the possibility that God welcomes them too. It is very difficult to love them. It is very difficult not to demonize those from the other side.


1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

"Now accept one (the one-singular) who is weak in faith" (v. 1a). Paul speaks of the "weak" here, but will not use the word "strong" until 15:1, where he says, "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves." Paul obviously counts himself among the strong, and we know that he does not feel bound to Jewish dietary restrictions. This helps us to identify which positions Paul considers as "weak" and "strong." This is helpful, because Paul generally avoids endorsing one side or the other here-and "weak" is obviously a negative characterization while "strong" is positive.

  • The weak are "weak in faith." In this context, "weak in faith" does not mean not believing in Christ. Instead, Paul is talking about the person whose faith in Christ requires additions-observance of dietary restrictions or other rules.
  • Paul calls us, not to correct the weak in faith, but to welcome them-to acknowledge them as brothers and sisters in Christ-to include them in our circle of friends. We can help them to become strong, but only through love-logic cannot, by itself win the brother or sister. Logic has power only when it rests on a solid foundation of love.

"but not for disputes over opinions" (v. 1b). A welcome with an agenda is no welcome at all. When a welcome is driven by an agenda, the agenda will dictate what happens next-the agenda will be primary and the welcome secondary. Typically, the person with an agenda welcomes others only as a means to an end. For example, sales people often treat prospects as if they were friends, but lose interest when it becomes clear that no sale will be forthcoming. If we were to welcome a "weak in faith" Christian "but not for disputes over opinions," (v. 1b) our real concern would be quarreling rather than welcoming. Such a welcome would not express love. It would not draw the other person closer, but would only drive the dividing wedge deeper.

"One man (singular) has faith to eat all things" (v. 2a). Paul now speaks of Christians who do not observe Jewish dietary laws, because they believe that Christ has freed them from such laws. They understand that salvation depends on Christ alone, and is not enhanced by dietary restrictions. They do not object to eating kosher food, but neither do they object to eating non-kosher food. Presumably, they do not even object to eating meat sacrificed to idols, given that "no idol is anything in the world" (1 Cor. 8:4).

  • While Paul does not label Christians who eat anything as strong, he contrasts them with those who eat only vegetables, whom he labels as weak (v. 2b). He obviously considers those who eat anything to be the strong in faith in the sense that they rely on Christ alone.

"but he who is weak eats only vegetables" (v. 2b). If we wondered who the weak were, Paul identifies them here. The weak "eats only vegetables," in deference to Jewish dietary restrictions-even though Jewish law makes provision for eating meat. We can only guess why some Roman Christians eat only vegetables. Perhaps kosher meat is unavailable. Perhaps the only available meat has been sacrificed to idols-an issue in Corinth (1 Corinthians 8), from which Paul writes this epistle.

  • We must be careful not to equate Gentiles with strong and Jews with weak. Gentiles are often attracted to Judaism by its strong moral component, and Gentile proselytes are often quite devoted to Jewish law. Conversely, some Jews (Paul is one of these) believe that they are no longer bound by Jewish dietary laws, and therefore feel free to eat non-kosher food. Both Jews and Gentiles include both weak and strong among their members.
  • We must also acknowledge the critical role that dietary laws play for Jews. Not only are Jews bound by Torah law to observe dietary restrictions (Leviticus 11), but their observance of these dietary laws is one of the primary marks of their identity as God's people. In the 2nd century B.C., the Maccabean response to the Syrian desecration of the temple strengthened Jewish resolve to observe the Torah and to maintain their identity. For people who have observed dietary restrictions all their lives, it would be difficult not to consider them essential.

"Don't let him (singular) who eats despise him (singular) who doesn't eat" (v. 3a). Paul correctly identifies the tendency of both sides. The strong (those who eat) are inclined to despise the weak, and the scrupulous (those who abstain) are inclined to judge the less scrupulous. Instead of commending one behavior or the other (eating or not eating), Paul calls both sides to restrain themselves-to abstain from unfavorable judgments regarding the other side.

"Don't let him who doesn't eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him (him)" (v. 3b). This is the reality that both sides have difficulty seeing. The strong despise the weak, and assume that God does too. The scrupulous judge the less scrupulous, and assume that God does too. Paul's word that God welcomes people from both sides is surely a surprise to both sides, each of which believes their side to be doing God's will and the other side to be an offense to God. It was just such self-righteousness that led scribes and Pharisees to plot Jesus' crucifixion, and self-righteousness has plagued the church throughout its history. Paul calls us to step back and broaden our vision-to get a God's-eye view. Once we understand that God welcomes people from the other side, it becomes possible to lay aside our prejudices so that we might welcome them too.

"Who are you who judge another's servant (singular)? To his own lord (kurios-lord or master) he (singular) stands or falls" (v. 4a). Again, the NRSV changes singulars to plurals for the sake of inclusive language ("their" instead of "his" and "they" instead of "he").

  • A servant is answerable to his/her master and not to anyone else. The person who has a quarrel with a servant will do well to address that to the master rather than to the servant, because the servant who is doing the master's will is free (in most situations) to ignore everyone other than the master. Also, the master knows the servant, making it possible for him to temper your input and to act fairly. The principle of addressing concerns to the master does not apply in situations where there is no conflict. It would also be offensive never to address a servant or subordinate directly, as if he/she were not in the room.
  • The bystander who passes judgment on the servant risks offending, not just the servant, but the master as well. That was the case in Paul's day, and the principle still applies today in any well-structured organization. It also applies in the church, where the master is God. By despising or judging our Christian brother or sister, we risk incurring God's wrath-God's judgment (see Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37).

"Yes, he (singular) will be made to stand (histemi), for God (ho kurios-the Lord) has power to make him (singular) stand" (v. 4b). In this context, histemi means to stand as opposed to falling.  Not only is it possible that the Lord might uphold both weak and strong, but Paul says that God will actually do that. God will vindicate people from both sides of the fence. The person in jeopardy is not the person from the other side of the fence, but is instead the person who is guilty of passing judgment on the master's servant (v. 4a).


One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 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.

"One man esteems one day as more important. Another esteems every day alike" (v. 5a). We are not sure which days are in question here-probably Jewish feast days or the Sabbath. Regardless of the particular days, the issue is similar to the eating vs. not eating controversy that Paul addressed in verses 2-3. Some have one opinion regarding the observance of special days, and others have a different opinion. The problem is not the difference of opinions, but is instead the judgmental attitudes that we develop toward Christians on the other side of the fence.

  • Again, it is important to understand the importance of Sabbath and holy day observance to Jewish Christians in Rome. Just as the observance of dietary restrictions is a mark of the faithful Jew, so also is observance of the Sabbath and holy days. Such observance is a part of the Jewish identity, and it would be very difficult for people who have practiced it throughout their lives to discontinue it. To discontinue would feel unfaithful. Even if someone were to tell these people that Christ has freed us from such observance, they would be inclined to say, "But what harm can it do? Why not continue?"
  • But the other side would answer, "Observing the sabbath and Jewish dietary laws obscures the simple equation that faith in Christ brings about salvation. Those unnecessary additions take the focus off Christ and his work."
  • And so the less scrupulous are tempted to despise the more scrupulous-and the more scrupulous are tempted to judge the less scrupulous.

"Let each man be fully assured in his own mind" (v. 5b). Rather than siding with those on one side of the fence, Paul calls both sides to consider carefully what is required and to live with conviction. In the following verses, he will ask us to temper our convictions with charity, but first he asks us to have convictions. He expects us to live in accord with our convictions, but to have charity toward those whose convictions differ from ours.

  • It would be easy to misunderstand "Let each man be fully assured in his own mind" (v. 5b) as endorsing, "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're sincere"-a popular belief in many quarters, but one fraught with peril. Hitler clearly illustrates that peril. Hitler was completely sincere, but his beliefs resulted in the deaths of millions. Sincerity is necessary but insufficient-it does matter what we believe. Paul does not endorse every sincere-but-murderous opinion, but instead calls us to live by our convictions. Soon, Paul will tell us that those who fail to live by their convictions "is condemned..., because it isn't of faith; and whatever is not of faith is sin" (v. 23).
  • We must note that Paul writes, "Let each man be fully assured in his own mind" (v. 5b) to Christians whose beliefs have been shaped by their relationship with Christ. While differences might divide them, their common faith binds them. Paul's words would not have the same effect if addressed to people with no Christian faith.

"He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks. He who doesn't eat, to the Lord he doesn't eat, and gives God thanks" (v. 6). Paul accepts as faithful both those who do and those who don't observe days or food restrictions. It is clear, however, that he is speaking only of Christians who intend to honor God by their actions and who live their lives in thankful dependence on God.


For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 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. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

"For none of us lives to himself, and none dies to himself" (v. 7). We live our lives in relationship to other people. We begin life totally dependent on other people-our parents, as well as those who grow our food or provide our water or give us medical care. As we mature, we continue to be dependent on other people, but others also become dependent on us. What we say or do affects them, and what they say or do affects us. It is therefore vitally important for us to respect our interdependence.

  • By the grace of God, we also live in relationship to God. While this is a great privilege, it also obligates us to try to live as God would have us to live. In this instance, Paul tells us, God wants us to welcome Christian brothers and sisters who differ with us (v. 1).

"For if we live, we live to the Lord. Or if we die, we die to the Lord. If therefore we live or die, we are the Lord's" (v. 8). Paul expressed a similar sentiment in his letter to the Philippians: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). In both life and death, we belong to the Lord. Life gives us opportunity to serve the Lord, and death will bring us home to the Lord.

"For to this end Christ died, rose, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living" (v. 9). Having established that it is not proper to "pass judgment on servants of another," (v. 4), Paul now establishes that Christ is Lord over all-both living and dead. If it is not proper to pass judgment on the servants of another-and if Christ is Lord of all-then it follows (as Paul will point out in vv. 10-12) that we have no right to pass judgment on one another.


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. 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." 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

"But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (v. 10). The contrast is between lesser and greater-the judgment we render vs. the judgment God renders. Paul makes this contrast to highlight the arrogance involved in our judging other Christians. Paul stands our opinions alongside the judgment seat of God to let us see how inconsequential our judgments really are-how little they count. When we stand in line on Judgment Day, we will be too conscious of our own faults to worry about our sister's faults. We would do well to adopt that heavenly perspective now-to deal with the log in our own eye instead of complaining about the speck in our brother's eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

  • We should not lose sight of the fact that Paul speaks of our fellow Christians as brothers and sisters. They are not casual acquaintances- here today and gone tomorrow. They are members of our Christian family, and will be for eternity. We should be doing what we can to honor that relationship instead of criticizing and judging.

"For it is written, 'As I live,' says the Lord, 'to me every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess (exomologesetai-acknowledge, confess) to God'" (v. 11). Paul quotes Isaiah 45:32, with minor modifications. The idea is that everyone-even those who fail to acknowledge the Lord now-will find themselves on their knees on Judgment Day.

"So then each one of us will give account of himself to God" (v. 12). Paul's phrase, "each one of us," singles us out as individuals-makes our accountability personal. One by one we will file before the judgment seat to hear God's verdict.

  • Some Christians feel that they have nothing to worry about, because they have Christ as Savior. Christ is, indeed, our only hope, but some who think of him as Savior will be badly surprised. Jesus warned: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity'" (Matthew 7:21-23).

Rom. 14:1-12 - Richison Exegesis

NOTE: Chapters 14 and 15 deal with the subject of doubtful things. These are areas where there are different levels of understanding of a particular practice of life that does not involve a moral issue. Those with a weak understanding of the specificities of faith need further growth in biblical understanding. Those with strong understanding need to be patient with those who are weak in faith.

v. 1: Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.

Both 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14-15 deal with the same subject of doubtful things. Paul wrote the book of Romans from Corinth so he was probably dealing with the same basic problem of Christian liberty in both books.

Verse one argues that strong believers are to approach weak Christians in a patient manner.

v. 1a - Receive [welcome]one who is weak in the faith - "Receive" here means to accept. The idea is to welcome someone with whom you have a disagreement. Paul was addressing the mature believer with the word "receive." Strong Christians are to accept the weaker Christian as a member in the family of God.

The "weak" person in the context of chapters 14 and 15 is the legalistic believer who does not have a good grasp of Christian liberty. He is fettered by scruples from his pre-Christian days and still sees Christianity as rules and regulations. He is enslaved to the efficacy of works and believes that he can gain God's favor by doing or not doing certain things.

A Christian's liberty does not involve violating clear principles of God's Word. Rather, liberty involves matters that are neither right nor wrong in themselves. Weak faith is not the same as no faith. Rather, it is lack of a fuller knowledge of faith. Weak believers are people of faith, albeit inadequate faith. They do not have enough of a reservoir of truth in their souls to counter legalisms and insecurity about their ability to live up to God's Word. There is no way to apply truth to experience without adequate understanding of principles about God's way of life.

This phrase is emphatic in the Greek. Biblically, a "weak" person is not a defective person but someone who needs to grow in faith. His faith is weak but needs further development in understanding. His peculiar weakness is an inadequate understanding of Christian liberty.  The addition of 'scruples' to the Christian life always makes for a weak faith. This chapter characterizes the weak believer in three ways:  (1) He has scruples about being a vegetarian (vv. 2, 21); (2) He has scruples about certain days having more importance than others (vv. 5-6); and (3) He has scruples about "wine" (v. 21).

PRINCIPLE: Not all issues need to be resolved between Christians

APPLICATION: When it comes to non-strategic doctrines, there needs to be divergent openness among Christians. This is especially true for mature believers; they need to take the higher ground with the weaker brother. The mature Christian allows for different opinions when it comes to minor issues. It is not necessary for everyone in the church to hold the same opinions about everything. Christians do not need to be clones of one another, identical in all beliefs. God does not design the church so that it produces robots. God demands unity, not uniformity. It is not necessary for every Christian to think alike.

v. 1b: but not to disputes over doubtful things., "Doubtful things" are areas where the Bible does not give definitive answers. The stronger believer should not subject the weaker Christian to disputes about doubtful things such as scruples over food. If the Bible does not expressly forbid something, the church does not have the right to tell people how to act. The natural tendency of the strong believer is to not be patient with an uninformed Christian. Paul warns the mature to not argue with the immature. God does not call us to correct every kink of aberrant Christians. This is especially true in their misunderstanding of Christian liberty. Insecure people always fear freedom and try to control themselves by legalism. Even with this distortion in mind, unity of the church is a greater priority.

PRINCIPLE: Dispute does not achieve unity.

APPLICATION: Disputes do not obtain unity. Conflict will entrench prejudices of both sides of the argument. The best way to change distortion of Scripture is by sound teaching. This requires a step-by-step process so that they can gain confidence in what God says about a matter. To push weak believers beyond their capacity to receive divine truth will be counterproductive. Christians would then just end in dumping on one another. It is a waste of time to find fault in minor and doubtful areas of Christian living. The local church is not a religious debating society. Mutual acceptance of each other is more important than issues arising over scruples.

v. 2: For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Verse two sets forth a specific disagreement between believers. The mature believer eats meat and the weaker eats only vegetables.

  • For - v. 2 expands v. 1. The strong believes he can eat meat whereas the weak deems that belief wrong.

  • one believes he may eat all things, The area of doubt in verse one is a question of diet. Mature believers know that there is nothing intrinsically evil about eating meat offered to an idol in the temple (cf. 1 Co 8:10). The question here is what the mature or strong Christian "believes."

  • but he who is weak eats only vegetables., The person who has the conviction to eat only vegetables is scrupulous about eating meat offered to idols and later sold in the meat market. This opinion was wrong because God does not forbid Christians to eat any kind of food (1 Ti 4:3-4). Eating food is neither good nor bad; it is amoral from God's viewpoint. The issue here has nothing to do with being a vegetarian. In this example of scruples, the weak believer eats only vegetables for religious reasons, applying previous religious bias to Christianity. He may even do this with a pseudo-religious arrogance.

PRINCIPLE: Violation of personal convictions distorts the soul.

APPLICATION: An overriding principle when it comes to disputed questions among believers is that one should not violate his convictions. The weak should not violate their conviction about not eating meat even though it is not a requirement from God. Every decision should branch out from conviction.  All of us carry within us a set of values born out of our past experiences and influences. The problem is that we might regard these values as sacrosanct. These unexamined values will not change without some form of dissidence introduced into our lives. This is why it is important that we open ourselves objectively to study the Bible without bias. Otherwise, we will continue a censorious attitude borne out of something other than Christianity. Legalism always works in a presumptuous way.

v. 3: Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

There are two exhortations in verse three. The strong are not to despise the weak and the weak are not to

judge the strong. Paul looks at the problem of doubtful things from both sides-the one who does not eat meat and the one who does.

  • Let not him who eats despise [disdain] him who does not eat, "Despise" means look down on. The idea is to have contempt for someone. The strong believer should not look down on the weaker believer who does not have a solid view of his liberty in Christ. An attitude of disdaining another Christian is an attitude of superiority.

  • and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; The weaker believer should not "judge" the stronger believer. The natural inclination for those with a legalistic perspective is to condemn those who hold to greater liberty in the Christian faith. Those who hold to a strong view of liberty do so not from a sense of permissiveness but of principle.

  • for God has received [accepted] him. "Received" is the same word as that in verse one. The idea of God accepting the strong believer's liberty should temper the judgmental attitude of the legalistically oriented Christian. The prerogative of judging a servant belongs to the one in authority.

PRINCIPLE: God rejects both attitudes of contempt and condemnation.

APPLICATION: Believers who know what they believe have the temptation to hold a supercilious attitude toward those who are not as strong in the Word. The strong have a tendency to diminish the weak. That is why it is necessary to develop a welcoming attitude toward those weak in the faith. A centuries-old quote (commonly attributed to Augustine of Hippo) says, "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity." Mutual forbearance is the operating principle in matters of secondary importance. There is something in all of us that wants to change the other person. We prefer people to operate on our personal standards. Mature Christians are to avoid a critical attitude toward weak believers. If we ridicule them, then we will wound their momentum toward maturity. Weak Christians are to avoid a judgmental attitude toward the mature.

v. 4: Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. Verse four is an exhortation to both strong and weak believers not to judge each other, because God ratifies each one on His own terms.

  • Who are you [emphatic] to judge another's servant [domestic servant]It is God's verdict on what others believe that counts. Someone who judges another denotes himself a self-appointed critic of a child of God. Doing this assumes God's role of determining motives. A Christian who does this plays god.

  • To his own master [lord] he stands or falls.  When it comes to a household servant, he stands or falls on what his master thinks of him. The master of the house decides whether the servant's service is adequate or not.

  • Indeed, he will be made to stand, If God makes the stronger believer "to stand," then it is not appropriate for the weaker brother to usurp God's role in judging His servant. The same can be said for the weaker Christian.

  • for God is able to make him stand. The strong and the weak will stand because God made them to stand. If God does not make an issue of Christian's perspective on a non-moral issue, then we should not either.

PRINCIPLE: All believers should receive all other Christians as God receives them.

APPLICATION: It is God's judgment that counts in the area of doubtful things. In the final analysis God will

pronounce divine judgment on how worthy a servant may be for reward. An attempt to disenfranchise another believer usurps God's role. The Lord will adjudicate what is proper in areas where people may have qualms about things. When we judge others we arrogate to ourselves what should be God's prerogative. Judging is God's role. He does not put us in the place of disciplining those who are out of line with the principles of Scripture. We all serve the same Lord. The Lord will deal with both strong and weak believers personally. We can leave nonessential issues in His hands. Matters of secondary importance we leave with the Lord.

v. 5: One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. In the first four verses, Paul addressed the subject of judging one another. In verses five through eight, he turned to how those on each side of the controversy should look at themselves. We are people under the sovereign control of the Lord. Verse five introduces an additional divisive area. Some people believed that certain days were special in God's eyes, but others believed that no day is special.

  • One person [the weak] esteems one day above another;

Weaker Christians consider some days to be more sacred than others. This was the second area of dispute among Christians in Rome.

  • another [the strong] esteems every day alike. Stronger Christians deem each day alike. All days belong to God. Each day offers opportunities to serve Him.

  • Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. Whether or not one holds a given day as more sacred than another is not the issue. The crucial matter is that each believer must be convinced in his own mind. The essential principle is that a person should not violate his own conscience.

There is a clear biblical principle that abstaining from eating meat and observing certain days as holy is wrong (Ro 14:14, 22-23). Having established that legalism is wrong, we need also to take into account that a person might not be mature enough to come to grips with the principle of grace. A person with a scrupulous conscience is another matter. The exceptional issue is that a weak or immature believer must come to his own convictions about grace and the liberty it affords him.

The phrase "fully convinced in his own mind" indicates our liberty in Christ to make a decision about what we believe. Liberty, therefore, is central to making a decision on disputed things. Legalism is the opposite of liberty. Paul made no prescription about which day was for worship. This kind of choice cannot be imposed on someone who has not come to a conclusion about it. People must make their decision from the liberty of examining the doctrine for themselves.

PRINCIPLE: God expects Christians to seriously examine what they believe.

APPLICATION: A settled conviction about what one believes is high priority in God's system of values. Our convictions are to be our own. Our decisions should not be made on how someone else believes or acts. It is not healthy to accept in an unqualified manner what someone else believes, because then it will not become a matter of personal conviction. If we practice what we do not believe, we will undermine our conscience. It is important to come to an honest decision about what we believe. Each believer is responsible for his view on the subject of a special day. An onus lies on him to honestly look at Scripture on this point. We cannot deny this responsibility by saying, "That has always been my view," or, "I just grew up with that belief." Christians can disagree with each other on certain issues yet can at the same time be convinced of their own position. On certain issues it is not necessary to impose our conclusions on others, because an immature believer may need time to grow in grace.

v. 6: He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. Paul qualified the tension between Christian liberty and legalism in this verse. He took for granted that both positions do what they do as "to the Lord." Our love for the Lord governs the integrity of our doctrinal choice.

  • He who observes the day, The weak Christian regards the Sabbath as intrinsically holy. By holding to this view, he is not delivered fully from the law as yet. On the other hand, he is vulnerable to violating his conscience if he does not observe this special day.

  • observes it to the Lord; In this verse the phrase "to the Lord" occurs four times, making this idea emphatic. The phrase also occurs twice in verse eight. "To the Lord" here carries the idea of giving honor to the Lord in making our doctrinal choice. The word "Lord" occurs eight times in verses six through nine.  If the weak Christian observes a special day "to the Lord," then he will not violate his conscience, even though his is an inadequate understanding of Scripture. His recognition that he has a Lord is more important than his weak understanding of Scripture at this point.

PRINCIPLE: Although the weaker Christian is wrong in his legalism, the greater principle is to give him time to grow in his understanding of Scripture.

APPLICATION: If one day carries intrinsic value over against other days, then it would have been impossible for Paul to give the alternative that some do not have to worship on a given day. The word "Sabbath" means seven. If one observes the Sabbath, then he must do it on Saturday. However, the New Testament never commands the believer to worship on Saturday. God set aside Israel's entire ceremonial system including the Sabbath when He changed economies from Israel to the church. The Sabbath is a mere shadow of Him who is the substance or the reality, the one who fulfilled the law. This doctrine is of such importance that it is critical that immature Christians have time to come to grips with this truth.

v. 6b: And he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it - The strong believer does not believe that any particular day is intrinsically holy. Note what two church fathers said about observing the Sabbath: "Those who were concerned with old things have come to newness of confidence, no longer keeping Sabbaths, but living according to the Lord's Day, on whom our life, as risen again, through Him, depends." (Ignatius, martyred about 115 A.D.) Both parties-weak and strong-are to equally accept the sovereignty of the Lord and serve Him. The mature believer does not observe holy days, because he knows there is nothing intrinsically holy about them.

PRINCIPLE: Under grace God does not require us to keep a special day of worship.

APPLICATION: The idea of a "Christian Sabbath" is a misnomer. The idea is not found in Scripture. Acts uses the word "Sabbath" nine times and it always refers to unbelieving Jews who obviously continued to worship on the Sabbath day. Never does it state that Christians kept the Sabbath. There is a danger in the attitude of approaching God on a one-day-a-week basis. We need to worship Him every day. The principle by which the stronger believer operates is to regard every day as an opportunity to serve the Lord. Most Christians today do not regard recreational activity or work on Sunday as prohibited. However, they do emphasize the importance of meeting regularly for worship.

v. 6c: He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. Mature Christians are to make sure that what they do with their choices is done "to the Lord." The strong believer is clear in his conscience to eat meat as over against strictly consuming vegetables. He eats meat with clear conviction that his decision on this matter stands with unmixed motives before the Lord. This important issue must be isolated above other considerations. This mature Christian believes that God ended the not-eating-meat requirement, so he gives God thanks for the provision. We need to apply the principle of giving thanks to clarify the issue of mixing his motives. When mature believers make a judgment about a weaker believer's stance, we correctly use the hierarchical idea of giving thanks as the operational principle. The non-eater of meat also keeps his motives or conscience clear in that he believes non-eating is God's will. Paul again isolated the issue of whether we eat a given kind of food or not on whether we truly give thanks to God based on a clear conscience. The directive to give God thanks is repeated, showing that the issue is about genuine worship based on a clear conscience, not about eating or not eating itself. Giving God thanks is proof that we do it "to the Lord."

PRINCIPLE: The one clear line within differing values is our love for the Lord and the unity of the church.

APPLICATION: The reason God accepts two different lines of conduct is that the motivation behind them is to please the Lord. The idea of allowing the weaker brother to function on his misunderstanding of the significance of holy days rests upon the importance of unity. It is not worth fracturing the church over such an issue. The mature Christian must make the decision about the welfare of the immature believer. He does it on the basis of a clear conscience about the principle of grace, which is our norm about what is true. It is wrong to impose our personal persuasion about grace on others before they are able to come to grips with the doctrine. To do this will cause them to compromise their conscience. The greater onus is on the stronger Christian (1 Cor. 8:8-13). It is possible to serve the Lord as a strong or a weak Christian. The legalistic Christian can serve the Lord, albeit with limitation. God saves us by grace, keeps us by grace, provides for us by grace, and gives us eternity by grace. The book of Galatians makes living by grace a strong point. However, if a weak believer does not fully grasp the concepts of grace, he nevertheless can walk with the Lord-albeit with limitations. It is not his scruples but his orientation to the Lord that makes this possible.

v. 7: For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. The emphasis of verses seven and eight is not on the relationship of Christian to Christian but on the Christian's relationship with God. However, the fact that we have a relationship with God means we have a vital connection to one another (vv. 13, 14).

  • For - The "for" substantiates the idea of the importance of living "to the Lord" (v. 6). Christians are related to each other through the Lord, but most of all our fellowship is with the Lord. A re-centering takes place at the moment of salvation. Formerly our center was in self, but now we are Christ centered. The reason we make our doctrinal choices is because we have a clear conscience before Him.

  • none [weak or strong] of us lives to himself, - In Christianity the believer is not a law unto himself or to anyone else. Everything that a believer does in life affects his relationship to God.

  • and no one dies to himself. - Neither in life nor in death are we alone, because God is with us. It is God, not self, that is ultimately important in creation.

PRINCIPLE: No man is an island in what he believes.

APPLICATION: The Christian life is not autonomous oriented because everything we do touches God or someone else. None of us can escape the idea that whatever we do, we do before the Lord. In everything we do, we are accountable to God. The Christian is purpose oriented; he or she lives for Someone. Living for oneself, for self-fulfillment, for self-actualization, or for any other self-oriented purpose is outside the will of God and His purpose for us. That is why we take others into consideration when we make our decisions. Our decisions and conduct do not rest on what is in the best interests of ourselves but on what is to the glory of God. The all-determining significance for Christian living is how we magnify the Lord in what we do. Christians should be grace oriented. We need to live with the understanding that what we have, we have from the Lord. Many believers do not live like this. They are like a new car without gas but they never fill the tank. They never utilize grace from God.

v. 8: For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

  • For - Verse eight explains verse seven. Our decisions determine the course of our lives. Whether we live or die completely depends on the highest direction of our lives. This is the bond that unites believers in Christ.

  • if we live, we live to the Lord; - Both the strong and weak believer are to "live to the Lord." Both have a mutual, sovereign Lord.

  • and if we die, we die to the Lord. - We accept the sovereignty of the Lord in our death. He has the right to determine how long we live and under what conditions.

  • Therefore, - If everything we do is done to the Lord, then that means by implication we accept His sovereignty over our lives.

  • whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.- The believer's options about what he believes all center on devotion to the Lord. Whether we live or die, we place ourselves in the hands of the Lord.

PRINCIPLE: Our overwhelming orientation is to the Lord.

APPLICATION: The center of our lives should not be on ourselves. No Christian should consider himself his own master. He is not at liberty to do what he pleases. The idea of having a "Lord" in our lives means that we have someone who is sovereign over all events and situations that come into our experience. We belong to Him in time and eternity. He has the right to scrutinize everything we do. We are His entirely.  The solidity of our bond in the Lord rests on applying the principle of the lordship of Christ in our life or death. Our subjective application of this rests on the objective sovereignty of the Lord, who autonomously determines the wellbeing of each believer.

v. 9: For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Verses 9 to12 state the motivation for giving place to another Christian's viewpoint (vv. 1-8). These verses also make the point that both the mature and the immature believer will face evaluation before God at the judgment seat of Christ.

  • For - The word "for" explains the first eight verses of the chapter.
  • to this end - A purpose for the death and resurrection of Christ is to demonstrate the lordship of Christ. The

next verse expands this idea further-"Why do you pass judgment on your brother?"

  • Christ died - Christ died for our sins as our Mediator. As such He has the indisputable right to exercise lordship over believers.

  • and rose - These words are not in some manuscripts but the idea is clear in the text, especially by the next three words.

  • and lived again, - Jesus came alive after His death for our sins. He lived beyond death.

  • that - The death and resurrection of Christ are the truths on which His authority over His people reside, both here and hereafter.

  • He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. - Jesus is the Lord of everybody, both the living and the dead. His lordship will be complete one day. His lordship here relates to what He did for our redemption and future in eternity. This is lordship as it pertains to His humanity. The lordship of Christ here deals not with His native right as the Son of God but with what He secured by His death and resurrection. This lordship did not inhere in His sovereignty as God, but He achieved it by his mediation for our sins on the cross. Christ's authority extends to the "dead" as well as the "living." He is Lord of both spheres.

PRINCIPLE: The motivation for not passing judgment on fellow believers is that we have a Lord who died and rose for us.

APPLICATION: The Christian must be fully aware that he or she has a Lord. To neglect that idea would mean that we go independent of Him and disregard His plan for our lives. If we do not acknowledge Him as Lord now, we will one day (Phil. 2:11). He is the Lord now whether we accept it or not:

v. 10: But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Another reason why Christians should not judge fellow-believers is that that prerogative belongs to God. His right to judge rests on His lordship (v. 9). He has the right to judge us and He will do it impartially at the judgment seat of God.

v. 10a: But why do you [emphatic] judge your brother? Or why do you [emphatic] show contempt for [despise] your brother? Note the emphasis on "you" and "brother" in this phrase and the next. Judging our brothers in Christ is a family issue, the family of Christ-and judging our brothers is a sin. The idea of sinning against the family of God is a serious matter. This question is aimed at the weak brother. The word "contempt" is a strong term for despise. Judging leads to contempt or despising. This is the case of the strong or mature brother. There is a temptation of the strong to despise the weak Christian's lack of biblical knowledge about the grace principle.

PRINCIPLE: Judging fellow Christians is a family matter.

APPLICATION: Sinning against the family of God is a serious matter. Unity in the body of Christ is important to God. Both immature and mature Christians have a peculiar temptation. The temptation of the weaker brother is to judge what the mature believer does. The temptation of the stronger brother is to despise the weaker brother's inadequate understanding of Scripture. Neither has the right to pass judgment on the other.

v. 10b: For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ [God]. The reason why we should not judge or despise our brother has to do with a major event coming-the judgment seat of Christ. The verdict that will ultimately matter is Christ's, not ours. One day every Christian will "stand" before the judgment seat of Christ. The word "stand" means to place before. God will cause us to stand before Himself to evaluate our lives. God commits all judgment ultimately to Himself. The Greek word for "judgment seat" occurs only in Paul's epistles and is not the usual word for judgment; it is the Greek word bema. This term come from a Greek word the carries the idea of a step or a raised place mounted by steps, a platform for a judge. One day Christians will stand before "the judgment seat of Christ." The manuscript evidence favors "God" rather than "Christ" in this text. The judgment of believer on believer will give way to God's judgment. Whether it is that Christ will judge us or that God will judge us through Christ does not matter. Second Corinthians indicates Christ will judge us as well.

The "judgment" here is a particular kind of judgment. The Greek use of this term was for an open public podium raised sometimes for making public speeches. The Greek term is bema. Sometimes the bema was used for judges making their verdict on a case, or-in the Isthmian games-where a judge would determine who came in first, second, or third after competing for the prize. The victor was led before the judge to receive his reward. A laurel wreath was placed on his head as a symbol of victory. If God will judge each believer, why is it necessary for fellow believers to do the same? That would be a double hit on the Christian being judged. Only one judge is necessary. The judgment seat of God is an awards ceremony. God will hand out awards to Christians for faithfulness to Him and His cause.

PRINCIPLE: The judgment seat of God is for believers only.  Each believer will stand before God to give account for how he delivered on the stewardship of his life.

APPLICATION: To judge another brother is to assume to ourselves the prerogative that belongs only to God. Whenever we put ourselves in the position of judging another believer, we usurp the place of God in judging. The Lord alone will judge at the final day. Anticipation of our standing at the judgment seat of Christ should cool our taking God's prerogative of judging Christians. God will preempt us from reward at the judgment seat if we participate in judgment during our lives, such as gossiping about and slandering another believer. These are determining factors as to whether we will receive reward or not. We cannot allow self-deception about this. God knows our hearts and will judge us accordingly. This judgment is for believers only. It will not be a time of intense sorrow where Christ will display all of the sins we committed throughout our entire lives. If this were true, then fundamental to this belief is that Christians will pay for their sins at this judgment. However, the Bible never says that Christians will pay for their sins. The reason is that Jesus paid for all of our sins-past, present, and future. Because He paid for our sins, we will not pay for our sins at this judgment. There will be no shame or regret at this inquest. The believer was declared righteous before God at salvation. Jesus bore all God's wrath toward the sinner in Christ, so there is no need for any further punishment of his sins.

v. 11: For it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God."

v. 11a: For it is [stands] written: "As I live, says the Lord, - Paul characteristically quoted Scripture again here. The quote is from Isaiah 49:18 and 45:23 verbatim from the Septuagint. Quotations by Paul emphasize the importance of using Old Testament Scripture as the Word of God. The idea here is that, as surely as the Lord lives, He will demonstrate His sovereignty over situations. God makes an oath about the fact that every believer will bow before His judgment one day. This part of the quote is from Isaiah 49:18. God makes an oath about 50 times in the Old Testament.

PRINCIPLE: God is always true to His word.

APPLICATION: God is always true to His promises. His character does not change and He is always true and faithful to His commitments. We have, therefore, an anchor of the soul.

v. 11b: Every knee shall bow to Me, - This second part of the quote is from Isa. 45:23. Bowing of the knee is submission or homage and carries the idea of worship. Every Christian will ultimately yield to God's supremacy and authority at the judgment seat of God. Although the quotation is from Isaiah and directed to Israel, the application is to the church here. Those who assume to themselves the prerogative of God to judge others will themselves be judged. Those who do this usurp the place of God's judgment.

PRINCIPLE: Every Christian will yield to God's supremacy at the judgment seat of God.

APPLICATION: The reason God wants all men to bow to Him is not because of some need within Himself. No, God knows that all good is in Himself and that men can only be truly oriented to what is right by being yielded to Him. The Holy Spirit quotes this passage from Isaiah to show that God alone is Lord and that everyone must settle all accounts with Him. Judgment comes from God just as much as does His grace. Judgment comes because people spurn His grace.

v. 11c: And every tongue shall confess to God."- The word "confess" means to acknowledge. Every Christian will acknowledge God's role in judgment at the ultimate place of ruling (Phil. 2:10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

PRINCIPLE: One day the Lord will receive universal homage.

APPLICATION: One day every knee will bow and every tongue of Christians will confess who is truly Lord. Since all good, holiness, and righteousness resides in God, He must judge those who insist on their own way.

v. 12: So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Verse 12 appeals to the necessity of judging ourselves now in the light of the fact that God will review our case at the judgment seat. We should not sit in judgment on others; rather, we need to judge ourselves.

  • So then - The words "so then" give a conclusion of the quotation from the previous verse.

  • each of us - Each Christian will surely give account of his or her life to God at the judgment seat. No believer, including the mature believer, will be exempt from the assize of God.

  • shall give account of himself to God. - Paul included himself as one who will stand at the judgment seat of God to give account of his life. Only Christians will stand at the judgment seat of God. Non-Christians will stand before an entirely different judgment-the Great White Throne judgment where all non-believers will be judged for rejecting Jesus as their Savior. The word "account" was used for the keeping of financial records. God keeps a record of everything we do. The word "himself" makes this judgment personal. No one will stand with us; we will be there and no one else with us. We will face the Lord alone. We will stand there justified with our sins forgiven, so there will be no condemnation of our sin, but God will review what we did with the stewardship He gave us. Then He will reward us on that basis. Each of us will give an account "to God" at the judgment seat of God and not to fellow believers. It is completely inappropriate for believers to assume God's role in judging fellow believers.

Comment: We need to get clear in our minds that for which we are accountable. We are not accountable for our sin, because Jesus was accountable for that. On the other hand, God will evaluate how we used our gifts, resources, and time. Christians are responsible to take inventory of their time, treasure, and talents.

PRINCIPLE: Christians need to take stock of their lives in view of the judgment seat of God.

APPLICATION: The judgment seat of God does not determine whether a person goes to heaven or hell. The issue for the Christian is simply reward, not punishment. The eternal state of the believer is not at stake. That issue was resolved when he believed.