Romans

Romans 14:1-13 Liberty Of Conscience And Judgment To Come.

There is some irony in Paul’s words here. There would be no disputes if people could agree on what is doubtful. The onus has always been placed on the strong to watch out for the weak (Cf. I Cor. 8:9). Then there are the weak who object to being called ‘weak’. A good modern equivalent of eating meat offered to idols is yoga exercises. Most believers would say there is no inherent evil in a particular stretching exercise or bodily position, but for those who wedded these with a particular religious or spiritual practice the two are viewed as inseparable. For both sides there is no doubt at all. At some point the strong are simply more inclined to give up on the weak who sit in obnoxious judgment on any and all who don’t agree with their scruples (Cf. vv. 10-12; Col. 2:16; Js. 4:11-12). In Paul’s day, as in any age, meat is just meat (vv. 1-3).

However, Paul does move things from the realm of mere debate to the issue of conscience and answering to the Lord. If the strong are urged not to go out of their way to disturb the weak, it is equally true that the weak are not to sit in judgment on the strong. Both will have to answer to the Lord for their actions. This is a matter of liberty of conscience, and no one can bind the conscience of another, for we will all stand before the Lord to give an account of the decisions we have made (v. 4). Paul, though strong, had the overriding objective of gospel proclamation in view (Cf. I Cor. 9:22). There is also the principle that nature determines outlook. “To the pure all things are pure; but to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15) Some people will never have true “liberty of conscience” until they repent and believe (I Tim. 4:3).

As to days, many suggests that this only refers to days beyond the Sabbath day, whereas others would suggest that Sabbath observance is included in Paul’s words at Col. 2:16 (v. 5 Cf. Gal. 4:10). As noted above, it is not always agreed as to what matters are “doubtful”. Even those who hold to a weekly Sabbath observance or Lord’s Day, do not agree on what is permissible on that day. Paul’s fundamental principle that all can agree on is, whatever we do we must do it as to the Lord and not men. In other words, we should do what we do from our consciences informed, one would hope, by the word (vv. 6-7). “We are the Lord’s.” (v. 8 Cf. Gal. 2:20; II Cor. 5:14-15) “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” (v. 13 Cf. I Cor. 8:9) One should not miss that for Paul, Isaiah’s words in 45:23 (v. 11) apply to Christ (Cf. I Pet. 4:5)!

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