STRONG BROTHER / WEAK BROTHER
The fourteenth chapter is designed to settle some difficult and delicate questions that could not but arise between the Jews and Gentiles respecting food and the observance of particular days, rites, etc. The occasions of these questions were these: The converts to Christianity were from both Jews and Gentiles. There were many Jews in Rome; and it is probable that no small part of the church was composed of them. The N.T. everywhere shows that they were disposed to bind the Gentile converts to their own customs, and to insist on the observance of the peculiar laws of Moses (see Acts 15:1,2, etc.; Gal. 2:3-4). The subjects on which questions of this kind would be agitated, were circumcision, days of fasting, the distinction of meats, etc. A part of these only are discussed in this chapter. The views of Paul in regard to circumcision had been stated in chapters 3 and 4. Here in chapter 14 he notices the disputes which would be likely to arise on the following subjects:
The use of meat–evidently referring to the question whether it was lawful to eat the meat that was offered in sacrifice to idols,
That we have no right to judge another man in this case, for he is the servant of God,
The distinctions and observances of the days of Jewish fastings, etc.,
That whatever course is taken in these questions, it is done conscientiously, and with a desire to glorify God. In such a case there should be kindness and charity.
That we must stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, and give an account there; and that we, therefore, should not usurp the office of judging,
That there is really nothing unclean of itself.
That religion consisted in more important matters than such questions,
That we should follow after the things of peace, etc.,
In this chapter, and on through to 15:4, Paul is dealing with the relations between the strong and weak among the Church at Rome. The weak brother has been described as follows: “The weakness is weakness in respect of faith. The weak man is one who does not full appreciate what his Christianity means. In particular, he does not see that the soul which has been committed to Christ for salvation has been emancipated from all law. Hence, his conscience is fettered by scruples in regard to customs dating from pre-Christian days.” The scruples in question were connected with the religious observance of certain days, with the use of wine and with flesh. There may have even been another class of individuals who, by an inadequate appre-ciation of Christian liberty, were practicing an over-scrupulous asceticism. These are some of the thing which Paul deals with in this chapter.
In this section Paul puts down principles of conduct for Christians relative to questionable matters. He give three guidelines: conviction, conscience and consideration. We have at one end of the Christian spectrum those who see no wall of separation from the world. As a result, their lives, or manner of living, are no different than the way there were before their so-called salvation. The indulge in all forms of worldly amusement. They go everywhere the world goes, and they spend their time and energy in activities that have no spiritual profit. To put it simply, they look like the world; act like the world, dress like the world, talk like the world, run with the world; as a result, you can’t tell them from the world. Peter describes them like a dog returning to its vomit or a sow that has been washed but returning to its wallowing in the mud (II Peter. 2:22).