By David Brown
CHAPTER XIV - CHRISTIAN FORBEARANCE (CHAP. XIV.).
The subject here—on to chap. xv. 13—is the consideration due from stronger Christians to their weaker brethren (with special reference to the Jewish peculiarities), which is but the great law of love (treated of in chap, xiii.) in one particular form.
1. Prefatory direction.
1. Him that is weak in faith—not 'the faith 'or 'the truth believed '(as not a few, with the A. V., understand the words), 'him whose faith wants that firmness and breadth which would raise him above small scruples,' receive ye—to cordial Christian fellowship, yet not to doubtful disputations —not for the purpose of urging him out of his doubts and scruples, which indeed often does the reverse; whereas to receive him to full brotherly confidence and cordial interchange of Christian affection is the most effectual way of drawing them off. Two examples of such scruples are here specified, touching Jewish meats and days. 'The strong,' it will be observed, are those who held these to be abolished under the Gospel; 'the weak 'are those who had scruples on this point.
2-5. Scrupulosity as to food and days.
2. One man hath faith to eat all things—having learned the lesson taught to Peter (Acts x. 9-16, 28): but he that is weak eateth herbs—restricting himself probably to a vegetable diet, for fear of eating what might have been offered to idols, and so would be unclean (see I Cor. viii.). 3. Let not him that eateth set at nought him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge (sit censoriously in judgment upon) him that eateth; for God hath received him—as one of His dear children, who in this matter acts not from laxity, but religious principle. 4. Who art thou that judgest the servant of another—that is, Christ, as the whole context (especially vers. 8, 9) shews, to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall he made to stand; for the Lord—such appears to be the correct reading here—that is, Christ hath power to make him stand—to make good his standing; meaning,' not at the day of judgment (for of that the apostle conies to treat at ver. 10); but here, in the fellowship of the Church, in spite of the censures. 5. One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let each man he fully assured in his own mind—guided in such matters by his own conscientious convictions.
On the bearing of this verse on the Sabbath and the Lord's day, see Note 9 at the close of this chapter.
6-12. Individual responsibility to Christ, the great general rule to be observed in such cases.
6. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord—the Lord Christ as before. (The negative clause that follows in the received text and the A. V.—"and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it"—has next to no external authority, and got into the text, no doubt, to fill up the seemingly incomplete statement, and balance it with the following one.) and he that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks. The one gave thanks for the flesh which the other scrupled to use; while the other did the same for the herbs to which, for conscience sake, he restricted himself. 7. Few; none of us liveth to himself, and no one (of us) dieth to himself—according to his own ideas and inclinations. 8. For 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. Nothing but the most vapid explanation of these remarkable words could make them endurable to any Christian ear, if Christ were a mere creature. For Christ is here —in the most emphatic terms, and yet in the most unimpassioned tone—held up as the supreme Object of the Christian's life, and of his death too; and that by the man whose horror of creature-worship was such, that when the poor Lycaonians would have worshipped himself, he rushed forth to arrest the deed, directing them to "the living God" as the only legitimate Object of worship (Acts xiv. 15). Nor does Paul teach this here, but rather appeals to it as a known and recognised fact of which he had only to remind his readers. And since the apostle, when he wrote these words, had never been at Rome, he could only know that the Roman Christians would assent to this view of Christ, because it was the common teaching of all the accredited preachers of Christianity, and the common faith of all Christians. 9. For to this end Christ died and lived again1 that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. As He died to acquire, so He rose to claim and exercise that right of purchase and dominion over His redeemed, which it is their joy to know that their death does not even interrupt, for then they are "at home with the Lord."
10. But thou (the weaker), why dost thou judge thy (stronger) brother? or thou again (the stronger), why dost thou set at naught thy (weaker) brother? for we shall all (the weak and the strong together) stand before the judgment-seat of God.2 Such, beyond all doubt, is the true reading here. From the connection, one would have expected that "the judgment of Christ "(as in 2 Cor. v. 10) would have been written; and no doubt that is the reason why this reading has got into the text. But on looking more closely, we may see why the apostle did not write this, but "the judgment of God." It was evidently to accommodate his own statement to the quotation which was to follow, and the inference which he was to draw from it in the next verse: 11. For it is written (Isa. xlv. 23), As I live, saith the Lord (Hebrew, JEHOVAH), to me every knee shall bow, And every tongue shall confess to God. The passage, as it stands in the prophet, has no immediate reference to any 'day of judgment,' but is a prediction of the ultimate subjugation to the true God (in Christ) of every soul of man; but this of course implies that they shall bow to the award of God upon their character and actions. 12. So then (infers the apostle) each one of us shall give account of himself to God. Now, if it be remembered that all this is adduced quite incidentally, to shew that Christ is the absolute Master of all Christians, to rule their judgments and feelings towards each other while "living," and to dispose of them 'dying,' the testimony which it bears to the absolute Divinity of Christ will appear remarkable. On any other view, the quotation to shew that we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God would be a strange proof that Christians are all amenable to Christ.
13-23. Christian forbearance (resumed).
13. Let us not therefore judge (' assume the office of judge over') one another any more; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall, in his brother's way—a sort of play upon the word 'judge'—'But if you -will judge, let it be this, not to put a stumbling-block,' etc. 14. I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus—as "having the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. ii. 16), that nothing is unclean of itself. Hence it is that he calls those "the strong" who believed in the abolition of all ritual distinctions under the Gospel (see Acts x. 15): save that to him that accounteth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean:—q.d., 'and therefore, though you can eat of it without sin, he cannot.' 15. For if because of meat thy brother is grieved (has his weak conscience hurt). The word "meat" is purposely selected as something contemptible, in contrast with the tremendous risk run for its sake. Accordingly, in the next clause, that idea is brought out with great strength: Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died. The worth (as Olshausen says) of even the poorest and weakest brother cannot be more emphatically expressed than by the words, "for whom Christ died." The same sentiment is expressed with equal sharpness in 1 Cor. viii. 11. Whatever tends to make any one violate his conscience tends to the destruction of his soul; and he who helps, whether wittingly or not, to bring about the' one is guilty of aiding to accomplish the other. 16. Let not then your good—i.e., this liberty of yours as to Jewish meats and days, well founded though it is, be evil spoken of—by reason of the evil it does to others. 17. For the kingdom of God—or, as we should say, Religion, the proper business and blessedness for which Christians are formed into a community of renewed men in thorough subjection to God (cf. 1Cor. iv. 20), is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost—a beautiful and comprehensive division of living Christianity:—" Righteousness" here has respect to God, denoting here 'rectitude,' in the wide sense of Matt. vi. 33; "peace "has respect to our neighbours, denoting 'concord' among brethren (as is plain from ver. 19: cf. Eph. iv. 3; Col. hi. 14, 15); "joy in the Holy Ghost" has respect to ourselves. This phrase, "joy in the Holy Ghost," represents Christians as so thinking and feeling, under the workings of the Holy Ghost, that their joy may be viewed rather as that of the blessed Agent who inspires it than their own. (See on chap. viii. 15; Gal. v. 25; Jude 20.)
For he that herein—in this threefold life—serveth Christ.: Observe here again how, though we do these three things as a "kingdom of God," yet it is "Christ "that we serve in so doing; the apostle passing herefrom God to Christ as naturally as before from Christ to God—in a way inconceivable, if Christ had been viewed as a mere creature (cf. 2 Cor. viii. 21). is well-pleasing to God, and approved of men—for these are the things which God delights in, and men are constrained to approve (comp. Prov. iii. 4; Luke ii. 52; Acts ii. 47, xix. 20). 19. So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another. 20. Overthrow not for meat's sake the work of God. In whatever tends to violate a brother's conscience the apostle sees that the incipient destruction of God's work (for every converted man is such)—on the same principle as "he that hateth his brother is a murderer "(1 John iii. 15). All things are indeed clean—the ritual distinctions being at an end; but it is evil for that man (there is criminality in the man) who eateth with offence—so as to stumble a weak brother. 21. It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor to do any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is weak.3 These three words, it has been remarked, are each intentionally weaker than the other:—' Which may cause a brother to stumble, or even be obstructed in his Christian course, nay—though neither of these may follow—wherein he continues weak; unable wholly to disregard the example, and yet unprepared to follow it.' But this injunction to abstain from flesh, from wine, and from "whatsoever may hurt the conscience of a brother, must be properly understood. Manifestly, the apostle is treating of the regulation of the Christian's conduct with reference simply to the prejudices of the weak in faith; and his directions are to be considered not as prescriptions for ones entire lifetime, even to promote the good of men on a large scale, but simply as cautions against the too free use of Christian liberty in matters where other Christians, through weakness, are not persuaded that such liberty is divinely allowed. How far the principle involved in this may be legitimately extended, we do not inquire here; but ere we consider that question, it is of great importance to fix how far it is here actually expressed, and what is the precise nature of the illustrations given of it. 22. The faith which thou hast, have to thyself—on such matters (within thine own breast) before God—a most important clause. It is not mere sincerity, or a private opinion, of which the apostle speaks: it is conviction as to what is the truth and will of God. If thou hast formed this conviction in the sight of God, keep thyself in this frame before Him. Of course this is not to be over-pressed, as if it were wrong to discuss such points at all with our weaker brethren. All that is here condemned is such a zeal for small points as endangers Christian love. Happy is he that condemneth (Gr. 'judgeth') not himself in that which he approveth—allows himself to do nothing but what his conscience approves, who does only what he neither knows nor fears to be sinful. 23. But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin—a maxim of unspeakable importance in the Christian life.
It may be well to gather up the important principles and lessons of this chapter in the following—
CHAPTER XV - SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED AND CONCLUDED (CHAP. XV. 1-13).
1. We then that are strong—on such points as have been discussed, the abolition of the Jewish distinction of meats and days under the Gospel, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves—ought to think less of what we may lawfully do, than of how our conduct will affect others. 2. Let every one of us please—that is, lay himself out to please, his neighbour (not indeed for his mere gratification, but) for his good (with a view) to (his) edification. 3. For even Christ pleased not (lived not to please) himself; but, as it is written (Ps. lxix. 9), The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning ('instruction'); that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope:—q.d., 'Think not that because such portions of Scripture relate immediately to Christ, they are inapplicable to you; for though Christ's sufferings, as a Saviour, were exclusively His own, the motives that prompted them, the spirit in which they were endured, and the great principle that ruled His whole work—self-sacrifice for the good of others—furnish our most perfect and beautiful model; and so all Scripture that relates to these is for our instruction.' And since the duty of forbearance, the strong with the weak, demands "patience," and one needs "comfort" in order to sustain patience, all those Scriptures that tell of patience and consolation, particularly of the patience of Christ and the consolation that sustained Him under it—are our appointed and appropriate nutriment, inspiring us with "hope" of the time when these will be no longer needed. For the same connexion between "patience" and "hope," see on chap. xii. 12; see also 1 Thess. i. 3. 5. Now the God of patience and consolation. Such beautiful names of God are taken from the graces which He inspires: as "the God of hope" (ver. 13), "the God of peace" (ver. 33), etc. grant you to be like-minded—'of the same mind,' according to Christ Jesus. It is not mere unanimity which the apostle seeks for them; for unanimity may be in evil, which is to be deprecated. But it is "according to Christ Jesus"—after the sublimest model of Him whose all-absorbing desire was to do, 'not His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him' (John vi. 38). 6. that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—rather, "that with one accord ye may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,' the mind and the mouth of all giving harmonious glory to His name. What a prayer! And shall this never be realized on earth?
7. Wherefore—Returning to the point, receive ye one another, as Christ also received us—'received you 'is clearly the true reading, to the glory of God. If Christ received us, and bears with all our weaknesses, well may we receive and compassionate one another; and by so doing God will be glorified. 8. Now—' For 'is certainly the true reading: the apostle is merely assigning an additional motive to Christian forbearance: I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision—a remarkable expression, meaning 'the Father's Servant for the salvation of the circumcision (or, of Israel) 'for the truth of God—to make good the veracity of God towards His ancient people; to confirm the (Messianic) promises made unto the fathers. In order to cheer the Jewish believers, whom he might seem to have been disparaging, and to keep down Gentile pride, the apostle holds up Israel's salvation as the primary end of Christ's mission. But next, after this, He was sent to the Gentiles. 9. and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. A number of quotations from the Old Testament here follow, to shew that God's plan of mercy embraced, from the first, the Gentiles along with the Jews, as it is written (Ps. xviii. 49), For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10. And again he saith (Deut. xxxii. 43), Rejoice, ye Gentiles, (along) with his people (Israel). This is according to the LXX. The absence of "with "in the Hebrew might suggest another sense, but the context confirms that here given, 11. And again (Ps. cxvii. 1), Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him—the various nations outside the pale of Judaism. 12. And again, Isaiah saith (chap. xi. 10), There shall be a root of Jesse—not 'the root whence Jesse sprang; 'but 'the root to spring from Jesse,' that is, from Jesse's son, David (see Rev. xxii. 16). and he that ariseth to rule over the Gentiles; on him shall the Gentiles hope. So the LXX., in substantial, though not verbal agreement with the original. 13. Now the God of hope (see on ver. 5, etc.). This seems a closing prayer, suggested not so much by the immediately preceding context as by the whole subject-matter of the Epistle thus far. fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope. As peace and joy are the natural fruits of faith (chap. v. 1, 2, 11; Gal. v. 22), so hope of the glory of God necessarily accompanies or flows from all these, especially from faith, which is the root of the whole. Hence, the degree in which one of these is possessed and exercised will be the measure in which all of them are found in play. And when the God of hope fills us with all joy and peace in believing, we cannot fail to abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Ghost—whose office it is, in the economy of redemption, to inspire believers with all gracious affections.
CONCLUSION, IN WHICH THE APOSTLE APOLOGIZES FOR THUS WRITING TO ROMAN CHRISTIANS, EXPLAINS WHY HE HAD NOT YET VISITED THEM, ANNOUNCES HIS FUTURE PLANS, AND ASKS THEIR PRAYERS FOR THE COMPLETION OF THEM (chap. xv. 14-33).
14. And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye yourselves are full of goodness—of hearty readiness to do what I have been enjoining on you. filled with all knowledge, of the truth I have expounded, able also—without my intervention, to admonish one another. 15. But I write the more boldly unto you in some measure, as putting you in remembrance, because of the grace that was given me of God, that I should be a minister of Jesus Christ (the service which the word here expresses is official service, as distinguished from ordinary service), of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles—compare Eph. iii. 8, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." In this statement, of his special commission to the Gentiles, we have another proof that this Epistle was meant in the first instance for a Gentile church (see on chap. i. 13). ministering (Gr. 'ministering in sacrifice'), the Gentiles converted through his ministry being viewed as a sacrifice offered up to God, as the following words show to be the meaning, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made (might prove) acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost—alike of the typical offerings and the fruits of the Christian ministry. 17. I have therefore whereof to glory (Gr. 'my glorying') in Christ Jesus in things pertaining to God. 18. For I will not dare to speak of any things save those which Christ wrought through me ( Gr. 'of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought through me')—to go beyond what Christ hath wrought through me, to make the Gentiles obedient (Gr. 'for the obedience of)—that they might be brought to "the obedience of faith," by word and deed—by preaching and working, which working is next explained. 19. in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Ghost. This seems to refer the efficacy of the word preached, as well as of the supernatural attestations, to the same Holy Spirit; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum—lying to the extreme north-western boundary of Greece, and corresponding to the modern Croatia and Dalmatia (2 Tim. iv. 10, and consult Paley's Horę Paulinę, chap. ii. No. 4; and see Acts xx. 1, 2). I have fully preached the gospel of Christ: 20. but making it my study (the same words as in 1 Thess. iv. 11 and 2 Cor. v. 9) so to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation; but (might act so) as it is written (Isa. lii. 15), They shall see, to whom no tidings of him came: And they who have not heard shall understand.
22. Wherefore also—being so long occupied in breaking fresh ground, I was hindered these many times from coming to you (see on chap. i. 9-1 1): 23. but now, having no more any place in these regions—no more unbroken ground, no spot where Christ has not been preached, and having these many years a longing to come unto you, 24. whensoever I go unto Spain, for I hope to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I shall have been satisfied with your company:—'I should indeed like to stay longer with you than I can hope to do, but to some extent at least I must have my fill of your company.' 25. but now, I say, I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. The sentence is broken, the apostle's eager mind going off, after the word "Spain," to tell them, by the way, what he expected by his visit to the Roman Church; and on taking up his sentence again, he does so in a somewhat altered form. Not perceiving this, and supposing part of the sentence must have dropped out, some scribes inserted after "Spain" the words "I will come to you," which are found in our A. V. But they have next to no support, and the weight of evidence against them is overwhelming. I go to Jerusalem, ministering unto the saints—in the sense explained in the next verse. 26. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints which are at Jerusalem (see Acts xxiv. 17). The word expresses the satisfaction they had in doing this. 27. They have been pleased indeed, and their debtors they are: for if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to minister unto them in carnal things. Compare I Cor. ix. 11; Gal. vi. 6; and see Luke vii. 4. It is the same principle as when, asking Philemon to be] kind to Onesimus for his sake, he delicately hints how well he might ask this favour of one who owed his own soul to him (Philem. 19). 28. When therefore I have accomplished this, and have sealed (delivered over safely) to them this fruit (of the faith and love of the Gentile converts), I will go on by you unto Spain (see on ver. 24). 29. And I know that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of [the gospel of] Christ. (The bracketed words are wanting in nearly all the principal authorities. To ada them would be most natural, but how to account for their dropping out i. they were there at first is far from easy.) The apostle was not disappointed in the confidence he here expresses, though his visit to Rome was in very different circumstances from what he expected (Acts xxviii. 16, to the end).
30. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit—not the love which the Spirit bears to us, but that love which He kindles in the hearts of believers towards each other:—' By that Saviour whose name is alike dear to all of us, and whose unsearchable riches I delight to proclaim, and by that love one to another which the blessed Spirit diffuses through all the brotherhood, making the labours of Christ's servants a matter of common interest to all, I beseech you 'that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me—implying that he had his grounds for anxious fear in this matter. 31. that I may be delivered from them that are disobedient—that refuse to the Gospel the obedience of faith, as in chap. ii. 8. in Judea. He saw the storm that was gathering over him in Judea, which, if at all, would certainly burst upon his head when he reached the capital; and the event too clearly shewed the correctness of these apprehensions: and that my ministrations which I have for Jerusalem (see on vers. 25-28) may be acceptable to the saints. Nor was he without apprehension lest the opposition he had made to' the narrow jealousy of the Jewish converts against the free reception of their Gentile brethren should make this gift of theirs to the poor saints at Jerusalem less welcome than it ought to be. He would have the Romans, therefore, to join him in wrestling with God that this gift might be gratefully received, and prove a cement between the two parties. But further, strive with me in prayer, 32. that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God (Acts xviii. 21; 1 Cor. iv. 19, xvi. 7; Heb. vi. 3; Jas. iv. 15), and with you be refreshed—or, 'find rest 'or 'refreshment;' after all his labours and anxieties, and so be refitted for future service. 33. Now the God of peace be with you all—of peace in its widest sense; with God, first, "through the blood of the everlasting covenant "(Heb. xiii. 20; 1 Thess. v. 23; 2 Thess. iii. 16; Phil. iv. 9); then, the peace which this diffuses among all the partakers of it (1 Cor. xiv. 33; 2 Cor. xiii. 13; see on chap, xvi. 20); and more widely still, that peace which the children of God, in beautiful imitation of their Father in heaven, are called and privileged to diffuse far and wide through this sin-distracted and divided world (chap. xii. 18; Matt. v. 9; Jas. iii. 18; Heb. xii. 14). Amen.
1) This is clearly the true reading here. How that of the received text probably grew out of it is not easily explained to the mere English reader.
2) The received text reads "of Christ,"
3) The last two words of this verse are omitted in the R. V., but on too slender evidence, as we judge.