The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans

By G. Campbell Morgan

Chapter 22


Rom 14:1-23 - Rom 15:1-13







A Brother's Stumbling-block.


A Brother's Edification.

c. THE ONE TEST. FAITH. Rom 14:22-23


a. GENERAL. Rom 15:1-6

1. The Duty. "Ought." Rom 15:1-2

2. The Example. "Christ." Rom 15:3-4

3. The Power. "The God of Comfort" Rom 15:5-6

b. PARTICULAR. Rom 15:7-13

3. The Duty. "Receive ye." Rom 15:7 a

2. The Example. "Christ." Rom 15:7-12

3. The Power. "The God of Hope." Rom 15:13

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


The last section, dealing with the evidences of submission to the will of God, is occupied with a discussion of some of the difficulties which may arise within the circle of the Christian Church. It is not necessary to suppose that the apostle had in mind actually existing trouble, as he had not yet reached Rome, and in all probability knew nothing of the details of Church life there. His experiences at Corinth, where he was writing, had however revealed the kind of question likely to arise, and the burden of his teaching is that of the necessity for sympathy among those who are within; and he enjoined its exercise; as toleration; for purposes of edification; and in hospitality.

It is interesting to notice how in this matter there is evident the selecting wisdom of the inspiring Spirit, for the subjects dealt with, in slightly different form, still arise, and are met by the teaching of this section.


There were those in the mind of the apostle who, in all probability through the problem of the animals sacrificed to idols, had taken up the position of vegetarians. Others claimed their right to eat meat, realizing that their personal relation to Christ set them entirely free from the judgment of popular opinion or custom. The apostle had a word of injunction for each of these. He described the vegetarian as "weak in faith," and charged him not to judge the man who eats all things. But neither is the man eating meat to despise the one who does not eat. These injunctions reveal attitudes continuing to this hour. Of course, the peculiar difficulty of meat sacrificed to idols does not exist; but the Christian man abstaining from meat, in all sincerity and with perfect justification, does too often judge and condemn his brother; and the non-abstaining is ever prone to despise the abstainer. Both attitudes are wrong.

The apostle laid down a supreme principle which we ought ever to remember in its application both to our personal life and to our relation to our brethren. Every man stands or falls to his own Master. That means first of all, that we cannot be too careful to submit our whole course of life, and every action, to Him for judgment; it means also that we cannot too carefully guard against passing our judgment upon our brethren in matters of personal conscience and conduct.

The principle is again discussed with regard to the observance of days. The court of appeal is that of the mind, loyal to Christ. If the subject of the observance of a day has indeed been submitted to Him, and the one so submitting has a personal conviction resulting therefrom, by that conviction he is to abide and act, without reference to the opinion of others. The centre now is not self, but Christ.

At first it may appear as though such action, judged by the differing lines of conduct pursued, would suggest confusion and disorder. More careful consideration, however, will show that the Lord deals with each case separately, according to His own infinite wisdom, and understanding thereof. One man may be helped and another hindered by eating meat, or by observing a day. Christ's will for each is determined by the good of each. How unwise we are therefore when we attempt to frame rules for ourselves, or for others, and then proceed to judge by such rules.

The importance of the principle is revealed in the fact that the final statement of the apostle in this application sets even such matters of conviction and conduct in relation to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Lord passed through death into life that He might be the acting Lord of every person who believes in Him. Our fellowship in the value and virtue of His death and resurrection, cancels for ever the change which men call death, so that whether we live or die we are the Lord's; and therefore the one law of life for us is His will, and the one method of understanding that will is that of direct dealing with Him in freedom from the fear of outside opinion or criticism.

Oh the glorious liberty of bondage to Christ! It is freedom from all fear of anxiety arising as to the issue of choices made by self. It is freedom, moreover, from the ceaseless fear of being misunderstood.

The final deduction from the discussion as to our attitude toward each other is that the tribunal before which we are to appear is the judgment-seat of God. The apostle illustrated by quotation from Isaiah, and the sense in which he used the passage is discovered by emphasizing the expressions, "to Me," and "to God."

"As I live, saith the Lord, to Me every knee shall bow.

And every tongue shall confess to God.''

Fealty is to be rendered to God, and that is expressed by the bowing of the knee; the issue is that the praise of the result of this government be rendered to Him, for the word "confess" here carries the thought of the offering of praise.

The logical sequence of this is that when I pass judgment on my brother, I am usurping the very throne of God. He alone knows all the facts, and He alone therefore is able to pass a judgment; and this right He reserves to Himself. For any man to attempt to pass a judgment on his brother is to evince his folly, and to arrogate to himself a function which belongs to God alone.


The teaching here is in direct continuation of that already given. The apostle gives the other side of it, and creates the true balance. There is a matter on which we may exercise judgment. It is that we do not put a stumbling-block in our brother's way. The sphere of judgment open to us, is not our brother's life and action, but our own. The test by which we are to judge our life and action, is not our own welfare, but that of our brother. This statement of the standard of personal judgment the apostle immediately followed by showing that the highest and noblest form of freedom is the abandonment of a right, if need be, in the interest of a weak brother. He affirmed his conviction concerning the cleanness of all things to those who count them clean. This persuasion was new, and resulted wholly from his relation to the Lord Jesus. In the old days of his Pharisaism he would have made no such admission. Now, however, while personally convinced of his right to eat, he was governed by the new law of love, and was prepared not to eat, what he had a perfect right to eat, if the eating caused a stumbling-block in the way of his brother's progress.

That is the true Christian principle of abstention from anything which in itself may be lawful. I am not required to give up anything lawful, simply out of deference to the opinion of others; but if the lawful thing is indeed likely to cause my brother's destruction, then, because of the supremacy of love, I am to give that up. I am not, however, to exercise myself in compelling some one else to give up the same thing. As the apostle showed, these things are not essential things; but "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" will often be realized by love's attention to non-essentials for the sake of the weak. The true motive is carefully insisted on, that of serving Christ, and so being well-pleasing to God, and thus approved of men.

What a remarkable contrast there is between the true Christian's use of the power of judgment and that of the worldly-wise! These pass judgment upon others from the standpoint of personal preferences and convictions. The true Christian passes judgment upon his, own conduct, from the standpoint of the wellbeing of his brethren. The one is self-centered, dogmatic, ignorant, and often unjust. The other is love-centered, self-denying, intelligent, and always merciful.

There has been no greater hindrance to the cause of temperance in the matter of strong drink, than the intemperance and dogmatism of some of its advocates. Let this whole section be remembered, and its spirit realized, and it will be equally difficult for any man to insist on his right to take merely as a beverage that which is destroying so many; and for those who in the true spirit of love have foregone that right for the sake of others, to judge and despise those who do not follow their example.

The apostle then summed up the whole question by appealing for such conduct as makes for peace and mutual edification. It is to be remembered that it is evil for a Christian man to exercise a right of liberty if by so doing he harm his brother. Nevertheless the apostle zealously and carefully guarded the individual believer against the interferences of human opinion, driving us ever back upon God.

As in dealing with the necessity for toleration, he had insisted upon the fact that there is one Throne; so now in showing that sympathy expresses itself in the desire for the edification of others, he insisted upon it that there is one test, and that is faith. Abstention is ever to be based upon the ground of faith before God concerning what will be harmful, and therefore not upon the opinion of any outside person as to that matter. That man is pronounced happy who "judgeth not himself in that which he approveth." There is no room in the thinking of Paul for the priest who attempts to interpret the will of God, nor for the self-satisfied person who imagines that he - or she - possesses all knowledge concerning what Christian men and women ought to do. Each individual is ever driven to personal dealing with God for the settlement of all such matters.

This, however, by no means issues in anything approaching looseness of moral conduct, for the apostle made it clear in this connection that perhaps the most searching and severe test of conduct is that of faith. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." That is to affirm two things: first that a person devoted to the Lordship of Jesus sins, when acting from any other motive than that of confidence in and obedience to Him. To give up meat merely because some one else thought I should do so; to refuse to observe a day because some one considers that I ought not to do so; without referring these matters to the arbitrament of the Lord, would in each case be sin.

And yet again, and therefore; to continue in any action about which I am in doubt is sin. To continue to eat meat unless I have submitted the question to Him; to observe a day without knowing His will; is again, in either case, sin. Unless I am perfectly clear that what I do I can approve on the principle of my loyalty to Him, then it is sinful to do it, no matter how specious the arguments adduced to defend its harmlessness.

How many individual questions of conduct on which we are anxious to obtain outside opinion, would be settled if this principle were always remembered and obeyed!


As the apostle approached another matter, in which mutual forbearance is necessary, he repeated the general argument of the preceding paragraph. The strong should bear the infirmities of the weak, and not please self. Each is to please his neighbour for the purpose of edification.

The most powerful argument for this line of conduct is the example of Christ. He pleased not Himself. Thus the action of Christ is at once the example of the Christian, and the interpretation of the sense in which he is to please his neighbour. The example of Christ from first to last is that of One Who gave up His rights in order that He might save men. Instead of pleasing Himself, He devoted Himself to please His neighbours. This He did, however, by pleasing God, and setting Himself to bring men to that same level of life. He did not please His neighbours by accommodating His conduct to false ideals of life, but by setting Himself, in spite of opposition and misunderstanding, to bring them to the true ideal.

After emphasizing his declaration regarding Christ by an Old Testament quotation, the apostle parenthetically gave his conception of the value of these Scriptures. They were written for our learning. This is most certainly to recognize their Divine origin. No one would be prepared to say that the purpose of human authors was the instruction of those who would live hundreds of years afterwards, in order that they might have hope. Men write for their own day and generation. God, inspiring these writers to do so, had ever in mind the unborn children of faith, and so prepared for their strengthening and encouragement. If God prepared these writings for us, how utterly unwise to neglect them, or to treat them merely as part of the world's literature, interesting principally for that reason. In all their pages are to be found God's instructions for our profit and hope.

The injunction to receive one another was almost certainly addressed to Jews and Gentiles. All through the Epistle there have been evidences of the possibility of difference between these two sections in the Church. Throughout his writing the apostle defended the Gentile against the self-satisfied national pride of the Jew; and the Jew against the probable contempt of the Gentile.

This was his final injunction on the subject, and he emphasized it by declaring upon the authority of the Jewish Scripture the twofold application of the work of Christ. He was indeed a Minister of the circumcision, and came to confirm the promises made to the fathers. These promises, however, included blessing to the Gentiles. It was for the proving of this that he grouped these passages. Very remarkable are his quotations, and yet perfectly unstrained and natural. No honest-minded Jew could read them without seeing that in the bringing in of the Gentiles, there was indeed a fulfillment of the purpose of God through the chosen people.

How full of beauty was the habit Paul had of closing an argument with a benediction! "The God of hope.'' What a wonderful title, suggesting that God is the reason of all the hope that brightens the way; and that, because He is Himself full of hope. The Christian should be the greatest optimist, because of the optimism of God. Not upon the appearance of an hour, or the happenings of a century, is our hope fixed; but upon Him, Who seeing the end from the beginning, and understanding both the beginning and the end, is nevertheless the God of hope. The process by which this hope of God is ours is clearly indicated. The root of all is our believing. Never once did this fact pass out of the consciousness of the apostle, nor must it pass out of ours. The issue of faith is joy and peace; the first the present consciousness of trust, and the second the undisturbed condition of that consciousness, in view of all opposing forces or possible contingencies.

And yet again, the sphere and power of all is "the power of the Holy Spirit." The realization of this blessing in fullness from God, will correct all differences and make very real the unity of all believers.