A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Christian Life as One of Consideration for Weaker Brethren
A concrete example occurs in verse 2: "One believeth that he may eat all things." The question of food is an example of a non- moral issue. Another one is mentioned in verse 5 - "One man esteemeth one day." The observance of special days raises problems for some people.
In the next section the apostle Paul lays down some divine principles by which these issues may be viewed. There are three principles. The first principle involves keeping God in mind as we live. "Unto the Lord" says Paul in verse 6. He does his actions because the glory of the Lord is his aim. The second principle is set forth in verse 8: "Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." We all have one Lord, regardless of whether we are weak or strong. The third principle reminds us of one common judgment seat. "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (v. 10).
Thus, there are three different principles common to all Christians: the same aim, the same Lord, the same judgment.
Several exhortations grow out of those principles: "Let us not therefore judge" (v. 13); "But if thy brother be grieved" (v. 15); "For meat destroy not the work of God" (v. 20).
Think of those three words: Judge, grieve, destroy. Paul is saying, "Don't judge; don't grieve your brother; don't destroy the work of God. Notice how this arrangement of exhortations develops. The first ("judge not") is addressed to the weaker brethren. The second ("grieve not") is addressed to the strong brethren. The third ("destroy not") is addressed to both groups.
Look at verse 14 of the thirteenth chapter. This speaks of making no provision for the flesh. Surely there is a connection between this verse and the next chapter. What were these strong people very likely to do? Perhaps their very liberty would lead them into a careless attitude, which could issue in provision for the flesh. Acting on the conviction that he is free, how easily and unconsciously the strong brother could "make ... provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof."
Verse 1 provides the proper introduction to the problem. "Him that is weak in the faith": What attitude should we take toward him? Should we kick him out? The answer is NO! We are to "receive" him, bring him right in, just as long as he holds the faith. We are to receive him, but we are not to receive him "to doubtful disputations." That is rather an astonishing expression and does not mean very much to us perhaps. This means, "Do not receive him just because you want to criticize his scruples." We see someone who is a stickler on things that do not matter one way or the other, and our first reaction is to criticize him. Paul says, "Don't do that."
In his approach to the problem, Paul takes two concrete examples. "One believeth that he may eat all things; another ... eateth herbs." Now which is right? The first is right doctrinally, because God has given us everything in Christ, and if we give thanks to God we have a right to eat them. All those distinctions in eating and drinking were swept away in Christ.
Verse 3 is addressed to both groups. First, he addressed the strong: "Let not him eateth despise him that eateth not." We are so likely to do that very thing. You may think, "Oh, what is the matter with him! Can't he see the truth?" Now he is going to turn to the weak: "Let not him which eateth judge." Why? "God hath received him" and what right have you to judge a man whom God has received? That is to violate the very principle laid down in the eighth chapter. "If God justifies, who is he that condemns?" Who am I to judge, even if he should eat something I did not think he should?
Verse 4 continues the admonition to the weak. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea he shall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand!" By the way, that is the only security of the saints. The strength of the strong is not of himself, because it is God who makes him stand. Unless you are a true Christian and have the help of God and His strength, you don't dare to throw aside all law. You will go down! It is a dangerous thing to attempt to enter into the liberty of Christ without Him, because there is nothing to hold you. The only restraining power in this world for those who are not converted is law; and it is only when a man enters into the Lord Jesus Christ that he is free.
In the fifth verse, he goes to another concrete example: "One man esteemeth one day above another" (this is the weak man); "Another man esteemeth every day" (the word "alike" is in italics, so let us omit it). The man that is weak picks out one day and says, "This day is holy. It is more holy than the other days." The other man takes every day in the week and in the month and says,"They are all holy." That is quite different from "esteeming them all alike." Esteemeth means "gives honor to." One man picks out a certain day and gives honor to it. The other man says, "They are all holy." That is the true Christian attitude. You will not find one place in the New Testament commanding us to keep the first day of the week. That would be to go back to the Old Testament, imposing the sabbatic law on us, which is contrary to the spirit of Christianity. As far as Christianity is concerned, every day of your life is holy - every dollar you earn is holy, not just one-tenth.
When we move into the day of the Lord, when all the earth will know what enlightened Christians know today, then the very bells on the horses are going to be "Holiness unto the Lord." But before that day comes, however, let us remember that we are all Christians, both weak and strong. In this present time we are not to live according to specific rule, but according to the principle with which Christ has made us free. This only makes us more devoted in our obedience to Him.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 83 - "Divine Principles")