Pastor David B. Curtis

HOME | STUDY INDEX

Loving the Weak

Romans 14:01-12

Delivered 12/09/2012

We continue this morning with our study of the section or Romans that runs from 14:1 thru 15:13. This text is universally taken as a call for church unity in the midst of Christian liberty. Most commentators take this text as instruction on how to get along in the church with believers who differ. That is a good and needed subject but is not what Paul is talking about here. I think this text is about love and evangelism.

This section, 14:1-15:13 is about two groups who Paul calls the "strong" and the "weak." In our last study I said the "strong" were predominantly Gentile believers who have come to faith in Yeshua with none to very little Jewish background. They may even feel that they are replacing the Jews as God's people.

I take the position that the "weak" in Romans are not believers in Yeshua as Messiah. I believe they are part of the elect remnant, but they have not yet embraced the truth about Yeshua. They are Torah-observant Jews who have not yet been convinced that Yeshua is God's anointed. So Paul's instruction to the "strong" is not so much for the purpose of unity but evangelism. Saving Israelites is Paul's passion:

But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. Romans 11:13-14 NASB

Paul wants the strong to behave in such a way as to cause the unsaved to be attracted to the Gospel of Yeshua. He wants them to turn from unbelief and trust Yeshua:

And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. Romans 11:23 NASB

Let's remember the setting here at Rome. The new believers are not all gathering at the local corner church, The First Bible Church of Rome. The believers are meeting in the Jewish synagogue with the unsaved Jews. They are together worshiping Yahweh the God of Israel. Paul wants these new Gentile believers to live as "righteous Gentiles" that the Jews would accept them into the synagogue and be willing to listen to their message of Yeshua the Messiah.

Paul's text in Romans 14:1-15:13 is directed toward a social situation based on the supposition that these non-Jews are involved in personal contact with Jews who do not share their views about Yeshua, but whom Paul believes will, in due time. At the same time, it is important that these non-Jews avoid behaving in arrogant ways that might turn these Jews away from considering this proposition.

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. Romans 14:1 NASB

This is addressed to the "strong," who are primarily believing Gentiles, they are to change their behavior for the sake of the "weak."

"Weak in faith"--we know from our study last week who the "weak in faith" are, well at least you know who I say they are. The terms "strong" and "weak" have nothing to do with Christian liberty. The strong are believers, and the weak are non-believing Jews who have faith in Yahweh as the one true God. Their faith is not deficient because it includes the practice of the Law and Jewish customs; it is deficient in that it has not yet come to see that the promises have been fulfilled in Christ.

We saw last time in Romans 4 that being "weak in faith," for Paul, had nothing to do with Torah-observance, but rather a doubt in God's ability to give life to the dead. Just as Abraham was strong for believing that Isaac would be born from a dead womb, the Romans are strong for believing that Yeshua was raised from a dead corpse. And the "weak" are weak because they do not yet believe that Yeshua was raised from the dead.

Paul says that the strong are to, "Accept the one who is weak in the faith"--the Greek word used for "accept" here is proslambano, which means: "to take to one's self and so taking into friendship." The strength of the plea is indicated by the use of the same term in verse 3 for God's reception of the strong, and in 15:7 for Christ's reception of the strong.

The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Romans 14:3 NASB

"Accepted" here is also proslambano. The strong are to accept the weak in the same way that God has accepted them.

Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. Romans 15:7 NASB

"Accept" here is also proslambano. The strong are to accept the weak in the same way that Christ accepted them. Paul is saying, Take the "weak," the unbelieving Jews, that you meet with in the synagogue fully into your love.

Paul goes on to say, "Not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions"--the word "judgment" is from the Greek word diakrisis, which means: "discerning, judging." And the word "opinions" is from the Greek word dialogismos, which means: "a deliberating, questioning about what is true; arguing." Don't receive them just to argue with them and try to force your opinions about Jewish purity on them.

The believing Gentiles were to take the unbelieving Jews into their love and fellowship without arguing with them about Jewish customs. They were to talk to them about Yeshua, but not judge their opinions related to Jewish customs:

One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. Romans 14:2 NASB

The "strong" has faith that he may eat all things. He has joined himself to Israel by faith in Yeshua but doesn't believe he has to worry about Jewish customs. Paul identifies with the strong in seeing that the barrier between clean and unclean has been broken down in Christ.

After the Exodus from Egypt, God entered into a covenant with Israel and gave them the dietary laws of clean and unclean animals. When did this change? It changed at the end of the Old Covenant, which happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Temple. If this is true, then how could God tell Peter about 30 years before the end of the Old Covenant that He had cleansed the unclean?:

And again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." Acts 10:15 NASB

Verse 17 says, "Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be..." This vision has thoroughly perplexed Peter. He is confused by an evident divine contradiction, a heavenly voice commanding him to disregard food laws that God had given Moses for Israel. How could this be? You may be thinking: "Well God gave the food laws, and God can do away with them." That's true, but Peter was probably remembering what Yeshua said about the law:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18 NASB

The phrase, "until heaven and earth pass away" refers to the duration of the whole First Testament's authority. So, Yeshua is saying that not a single item of the Law--the First Testament--will ever be changed until heaven and earth pass away.

John Brown said: "'Heaven and earth passing,' understood literally, is the dissolution of the present system of the universe, and the period when that is to take place, is called the 'end of the world.' But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens" (vol. 1, p. 170).

So the "passing away of heaven and earth" was the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, which took place in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. When Peter saw this vision in Acts 10, heaven and earth hadn't passed away. Peter saw this vision around A.D. 40. So there was still about 30 years until "heaven and earth would pass away." This poses a dilemma. Yeshua said none of the law would change until heaven and earth passed away. And yet, God was telling Peter that the dietary laws were set aside. How could this be?

I think the best way to understand this is to see God's statement that He had "cleansed the unholy" as a prolepsis. A prolepsis is the representation or assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished. What God was teaching Peter was that the law was beginning to fade away. The process had started and would culminate in the destruction of the Temple.

I think the only way to understand this apparent contradiction between God saying dietary laws didn't matter and what Yeshua said about all the law remains in tack until heaven and earth passed away is to understand the progression: Heaven and earth were passing away while the Church was growing to maturity. The law was fading away:

When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8:13 NASB

Notice that the text says, "....is becoming obsolete .. ready to disappear." Is that speaking to us? NO! This is written to the first century Hebrew believers. As of A.D. 65, the Old Covenant had not yet become obsolete, but it was about to. So the "strong" has no problem eating whatever he wants.

"But he who is weak eats vegetables only"--the "weak" is the unbelieving Jew under Torah. He is eating only vegetables because he is in Rome. Diaspora Jews would take the rather extreme measure of only eating vegetables in order to ensure that they do not unknowingly eat meat that had been offered to idols.

In Roman society there where pagan gods worshiped daily, and the meat of the animals sacrificed to these pagan gods was being sold in the market. Consequently, it was almost impossible to be certain that meat bought in the marketplace was free from association with idol worship. So many Jews would just stick to vegetables.

The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Romans 14:3 NASB

"The one who eats"--is who? The strong believer. The "strong" are not to regard the "weak" with "contempt." The word "contempt" here comes from the Greek word exoutheneo, which means: "to throw out as nothing, thus to treat as nothing and so with contempt." The "strong" knew that idols are nothing, as long as you're not worshiping them. Thus they looked down on the "weak" as nothing because they would not eat meat offered to idols. There is nothing on which a man prides himself more than on his superior knowledge of truth. The pride of knowledge is prone to hold the ignorant in contempt. Just remember, God resists the proud.

The strong are to be loving the weak, which would mean not treating them with contempt because they are holding to Jewish customs. It would mean accepting them as doing what they do as unto the Lord.

Paul goes on to say, "The one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats." "The one who does not eat"--is referring to the "weak." The word "judge" is from the word krino, which is used in the sense of "to criticize or condemn." The "weak," would tend to judge the "strong" for not keeping the Jewish laws and customs. The "strong" are joining with those of Israel to worship, but are not living as Israelites.

Notice the end of verse 3, "For God has accepted him." Who is this speaking of? The "strong" who is a believer. Don't judge the "strong" because God has accepted him. The "weak" would question God's acceptance of those who do not keep the Torah of Israel.

What the "weak" doesn't understand is that all of the Law has been fulfilled by the "strong" because they are in Christ. Because of their union with Christ, they have fully met the Law's righteous requirements. Positionally, believers meet all the requirements of the Law in Christ. Do we have a sacrifice for atonement? Do we have a Temple? Do we have a high priest? Are we circumcised? Do we keep the Sabbath? Yes, to all of them:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, Romans 2:14 NASB

Gentiles don't have the Law, but these Gentiles do the things of the Law. How is that possible? They are Gentile Christians, they have trusted Christ, and the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in them. In the same way the Gentile Christian, who is physically uncircumcised, keeps the requirements of the Law by faith in Jesus Christ, which shows that he has been circumcised in heart. Whenever someone believes the Gospel, there the Torah is being fulfilled. Their faith fulfills the Law!

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4 NASB

Who is judging who here? It is the "weak" judging the "strong" as we saw in the last verse. They are judging them because they think they are breaking Torah.

Did you notice the implicit recognition that the "weak" and the "strong" regard each other as serving different masters. The word "another" is from the Greek word allotrios (al-lot'-ree-os), which means: "not one's own; by extension foreign, not akin, hostile, alien."

The Greek word used here for "Lord" is kurios, which means: "supreme in authority, controller, master." When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into the Greek language (Septuagint) the Hebrew word for Yahweh was rendered by the Greek term KURIOS. Paul is saying, "Yahweh, the God of Israel, is able to make the 'strong' stand":

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! Deuteronomy 6:4 NASB

Paul's point is that they are wrong. They are both serving the same Lord. The One God of Israel is the One God of the nations. He is the God of the "weak" and the "strong." Both factions have faith in the One Lord, though divided over the role of Yeshua as the Christ. Christianity was for Paul and the early church a Jewish faith that understood itself not as breaking from the historical faith of Israel, but rather as representing Israel restored in Yeshua as the Christ of Israel.

One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5 NASB

Paul moves from the issue of meat-eating and applies the same principle to another matter that was straining the relationship between the Jews and Gentile believers in Rome. The "weak" in faith regard one day above another. This is easy to understand of the Jew. They had been taught all their lives the importance of the Sabbath and holy days. But the "strong" did not see any intrinsic sacredness in these days, for they understood that God was with them in all their affairs of life.

Through the influence of the Reformers and the Puritans, many Christians today regard Sunday as the Sabbath with many of its restrictions and limitations. We are inclined to think of the first day of the week as a special day; a day to be observed above the other six days of the week. You will not find one place in the New Testament commanding us to keep the first day of the week.

Other supposed Christians holy days are Christmas and Easter. Pat Robertson once said, "Easter is the Christian's most holy day of the year." That is nonsense! Easter is a pagan holiday just like Christmas. None of what we do on Christmas is biblical, none of it is commanded by the Lord, none of it is apostolic, and none of it was ever observed by the early church. With that said, is it wrong to celebrate the pagan holiday of Christmas? I don't think it's wrong as long as you don't get caught up in the materialism of it; don't use it as an excuse to overeat and drink. And as long as you are not worshiping your tree, it's not wrong to have one. But just realize that none of that has anything to do with Yeshua. His birthday was in late September, which would have been the time when shepherds were in the fields. This is also the time when the Feast of Tabernacles takes place. John uses the language of Sukkot to describe the birth of Yeshua because Yeshua was born during the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths.

Back to our text. The word "regards" is from the Greek krino, which means: "to prefer, to judge." The words "fully convinced" come from the Greek word plerophoreo (play-rof-or-eh'-o), which means: "to fill one with any thought, conviction or inclination, hence to make one certain, to persuade, convince." Be fully convinced that what you are doing is Biblical. And the "weak" and the "strong" were convinced that what they were doing or not doing was unto the Lord:

He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. Romans 14:6 NASB

The observance of days and abstinence of the "weak" is a God-exalting behavior! The one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. The "weak" refrains from eating certain things "for the Lord" and he gives "thanks to God." So they have faith in God but it is weak. So this weak brother is acting on faith, and he is God-centered, and he is overflowing with thanks to God.

Each person does what he does for the Lord. The "strong" believer is eating everything in sight and saying, "Thank you Lord for this food." And the "weak" is eating vegetables and saying, "Thank you Lord for these vegetables." The motive in both cases is the same. They are both seeking to honor the Lord. The difference in what they believe is because they are living under different covenants. The "strong" are living under the New Covenant and the "weak" are living under the Old Covenant:

For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:7-8 NASB

We must keep in mind context here, he is talking about the "weak" and the "strong," which respectively are unbelievers and believers, and then he talks about life and death. If you see this text about Christian liberty you will never get this. Death and life are terms for unsaved and saved. A literal rendering of this would be, "No one indeed of us to himself lives, and no one to himself dies."

The word "lives" here is zoe. Believers are alive from the dead. Paul uses this word zoe 24 times in Romans:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." Romans 1:17 NASB
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Yeshua. Romans 6:11 NASB

And the word "dies" is apothnesko; Paul uses this 23 times in Romans:

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Yeshua Christ, abound to the many. Romans 5:15 NASB
I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; Romans 7:9 NASB
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:22 NASB

Paul uses both words, zoe and apothnesko in:

for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13 NASB

"According to the flesh"--is not a Christian doing sinful things; it is walking according to the Old Covenant, or we could say, "Relying on human merit for salvation." When Paul uses kata sarka, "according to the flesh," he is talking about those who are members of the body of Adam/Moses, which is the body of sin, and those who are members of the Old Covenant:

who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 NASB

The Old Covenant is death, the New is life:

For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:7-8 NASB

I think he is talking about the "strong" who are alive in Christ and the "weak" who are dead under the Old Covenant. But whether they are in the New Covenant or under the Old Covenant they all belong to the Lord.

The motivation of both the "strong" who live, or the "weak" who die is for the Lord. He's saying whether we're "weak" or whether we're "strong," we don't do what we do for our own sake; we do what we do because we believe it pleases the Lord.

"We are the Lord's"--the saved Gentile and the unsaved Jews all belong to Yahweh, the One God. Remember that this is in the transition period and the Old Covenant is not yet over, but it is fading away, Hebrews 8:13 . The unbelieving Jews will fade away with it if they don't turn to Yeshua.

Did you notice that in the first eight verses there is no mention of Christ? The focus is on "God" and the "Lord." To the "strong" the Lord was Yeshua, to the "weak" the Lord was Yahweh:

For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:9 NASB

The reason for Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension was the restoration of creation. Yeshua is Lord, of both the dead and living. But if the dead want life, they must turn to Yeshua in faith.

The declaration that Yeshua is Lord would have been seen as an affront to the emperor. Caesar not only claimed absolute rights over his subjects, he claimed to be the son of God:

But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Romans 14:10 NASB

The "strong" and "weak" do not need to judge each other; the Lord will do that. He is the judge and we are not:

For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD." Romans 14:11 NASB

This is a First Testament quote that Paul blends from Isaiah 49:18 and Isaiah 45:23, quoting the latter with minor changes to the word order. The use of Isaiah 49:18 is of interest to our theme, for the remnant of Israel benefits from the subjection of the nations:

He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Isaiah 49:6 NASB

They are provided as an inheritance and become the attire for the remnant's marriage to Yahweh:

"Lift up your eyes and look around; All of them gather together, they come to you. As I live," declares the LORD, "You will surely put on all of them as jewels and bind them on as a bride. Isaiah 49:18 NASB

So he takes "As I live, declares the LORD" from 49:18 and then takes:

"I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. Isaiah 45:23 NASB

In the context these verses in Isaiah 45:18-25 speak of the uniqueness of the only God.

In the Greek version of the First Testament, the LXX, the Greek word "Kyrios," which means: "Lord" is used to represent the personal name of the God of Israel--Yahweh. In most English versions, LORD is spelled with four capital letters when it stands for the ineffable (too sacred to be spoken) name of Yahweh:

For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), "I am the LORD, and there is none else. "I have not spoken in secret, In some dark land; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, 'Seek Me in a waste place'; I, the LORD, speak righteousness, Declaring things that are upright. Isaiah 45:18-19 NASB

The Creator God is Yahweh, and there is none else:

"Gather yourselves and come; Draw near together, you fugitives of the nations; They have no knowledge, Who carry about their wooden idol And pray to a god who cannot save. Isaiah 45:20 NASB

He is speaking here of the "nations" calling them to Himself because their idols cannot save:

"Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Isaiah 45:21 NASB

Yahweh is saying, "I'm unique, I'm the only God, there is no other Savior besides Me":

"Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. "I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. Isaiah 45:22-23 NASB

This is where our quote in Romans 14:11 is taken from, this is Yahweh, the one and only God, that is speaking:

"They will say of Me, 'Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.' Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. "In the LORD all the offspring of Israel Will be justified and will glory." Isaiah 45:24-25 NASB

It is in Yahweh, the sovereign God, that salvation will come. The "strong" and the "weak" in Rome are all the Lord's servants, and they will all answer to Him for how they live.

Paul has also used Isaiah 45:23 in Philippians 2, where he applied it to all bowing before Christ. However, here in Romans he retains the original Isaianic context of bowing before Yahweh. This ability to move between "Yahweh" and "Christ" (i.e., applying the Scripture about Yahweh to Christ) is strong evidence that Paul understood and taught that Yeshua is Yahweh (this would be developed by the fathers into Trinitarianism).

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:12 NASB

"So then"--introduces the logical conclusion, all of them, the "strong" and the "weak," will give an account of himself to Yahweh. "Give an account"--is an expression often used for the keeping of financial records. The "strong" won't give an account for the "weak." And the "weak" won't give an account for the "strong." It is to the LORD that they all have to answer to, and the LORD is Yeshua the Messiah of Israel.

So the "strong" are doing what they do as unto their Lord Yeshua. And the "weak" are doing what they do unto their Lord Yahweh. They are both serving Yahweh the God of Israel, but the "strong" have reached the full maturity in Christ. The "weak" must come to realize that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel. And Paul's plea is that the "strong" live in such a way as to help them reach that conclusion. Paul is all about reaching the lost sheep of the house of Israel with the Gospel of Yeshua.

National Israel is gone, they went out of existence in A.D. 70 when Yahweh judged them for their sins. This text was addressed to those who lived in the transition period. I think that the application to us today is that Yahweh still wants His children to live holy lives for the sake of bringing the elect to Yeshua. Notice what Paul says in:

Remember Yeshua the Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Yeshua and with it eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:8-10 NASB

"For this reason", or on account of this, "I endure all things." The word endure means: "remain under suffering." And "all things" relates to hardship, sacrifice, persecution, chains, prison, all that kind of stuff. I continually endure it all for the sake of those who are chosen, the elect.

Why does Paul do what he does? Because he wants to reach the elect. Why does he want to reach the elect? In order that they may obtain what they've been elected to obtain. The point is this, God has chosen them to be saved, but God also gives us this incredible privilege of being the human agency by which the saving Gospel is brought to their hearts. That's the issue. We often fail to realize how crucial to the purpose of God is the behavior of His people.

Media #632

Continue the Series

Berean Bible Church provides this material free of charge for the edification of the Body of Christ. You can help further this work by your prayer and by contributing online or by mailing to:

Berean Bible Church
1000 Chattanooga Street
Chesapeake, VA 23322