Romans Chapter 14 Bible Commentary – Judging Each Other

Let’s take a deep dive into Romans chapter 14. In Romans 13, the apostle Paul discusses the importance of submitting to governing authorities and living in love towards one another, setting the stage for the themes of unity and respect taught in Romans 14. 

As we transition into Romans 14, Paul’s message continues, focusing on how believers should handle disagreements and differences of opinion in matters of personal conviction. Through his teachings, we’re encouraged to apply the principles of love and humility in all our interactions, whether with authorities or fellow believers, recognizing that our own minds and conduct reflect our commitment to Christ.

Romans Chapter 14 Commentary

Romans 14 intricately weaves together two central themes that resonate deeply within Christian communities: refraining from judgment and avoiding actions that could cause a fellow believer to stumble. Let’s walk through Romans chapter 14 verse by verse.

Romans Chapter 14:1-12

In this first section of Romans 14, Paul instructs believers not to pass judgment on one another over matters of indifference, religious practice, or opinion. 

Romans 14:1

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over matters of opinion.

We are to accept a weaker brother. Spiritual maturity is not a requirement for fellowship. All believers are in different stages of spiritual growth and maturity in Christ. We never look down on a weak brother or exclude them from fellowship if they are weak in faith.

Romans 14:2-3

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One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

We must remember that these Roman Christians were a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers. Those who eat only vegetables could have been referring to the Jewish Christians as they had dietary regulations and traditions they had to adhere to. Or, it could have been referring to those who feared eating meat that was sacrificed to pagan Gods as we see in 1 Corinthians 8.

Paul is instructing his readers not to allow food to become a tool for judgment. God accepts those who eat and those who abstain.

In today’s culture, we may not quarrel over what foods we should and shouldn’t eat, but plenty of other things cause division in the body of Christ; things just as frivolous as food. 

Romans 14:4

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

We must be careful not to allow meaningless arguments to erode our union and love for one another.

Why?

Because we are not their master. As His servants, we belong to Him and He can make all of us stand. The word “stand” in this verse means established. God can establish each of us in Christ. That means we can stop judging each other differences of opinions and preferences.

Now, this doesn’t mean there is no time or place to judge each other. Multiple passages in the New Testament teach why, when, and how we judge other believers. However, the matters of eating, drinking, and personal opinion are not the time and place.

Romans Chapter 14:5-6

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Some commentators believe that Paul is referring to the Jews who observe the holy days to the Gentile Christians who don’t. Others believe that by bringing in the idea of observing special days, Paul makes a more general point about principles rather than specific issues like eating meat. Observing days could imply a broader scope of application than the, more specific, topic of eating meat.

In such issues, Paul leaves it to a matter of one’s conscience and own conviction by saying that a person must be fully convinced in his mind; as long as it’s something we can do to the glory and honor of God. This eliminates any and all sinful practices. Our liberty doesn’t give us a license for sin.

Romans 14:7-9

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Paul reminds us in verse 7 that we do not live for ourselves. We are created and designed for connection; with God and each other. We must learn to live and walk with others in a way that promotes the common good for all and glory to God and His kingdom.

Ultimately, our lives belong to Christ our Lord. What we do and say affects others, but Paul is reminding believers the Lord should be the goal and object of the lives of His people. Jesus is the focus of the Christian life.

Romans 14:10-12

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Because Jesus is the Lord and master of our lives there will come a day when each one will give an account of the way we lived. Believers’ works will be tested by fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15), and rewards will be given to those that remain. We don’t need to judge our brothers because God will deal with them as He sees best.

Romans Chapter 14:13-23

In the final section of Romans 14, Paul reminds us to be careful how we exercise our freedom in Christ. 

Romans 14:13

Romans chapter 14:13

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

The word for hindrance (or obstacle) in this verse means something that could entice to sin or to make fall.

Paul’s point in this section encourages believers to turn their focus from outward to inward. Stop focusing on the wrongdoings of your brother, examine your own heart, and consider how you may build them up. 

Our culture tells us to “look out for yourself”, “live your best life”, and “do what makes you happy”… Paul’s words turn all that upside-down. 

They encourage us to create an environment of respect and support, focusing on building each other up rather than tearing down disputable opinions. 

Romans 14:14-15

I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.

When Paul says that nothing is unclean in itself we must understand this in light of the full context of scripture. Paul is suggesting that nothing is unclean within these indifferent matters. There are lots of things (activities, behaviors, attitudes) that are immoral that we should abstain from. If we go back to Romans chapter 1 we find a list of examples.

Paul was convinced that nothing was unclean about meat that was not kosher or sacrificed to idols. However, there was never a good reason to destroy or tear down a brother in Christ or cause him to stumble in his faith. As children of God, we are called to love. 

Romans Chapter 14:16-19

Romans chapter 14:17

So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

When we come together for fellowship let’s pursue the things of the kingdom. Righteousness in Christ and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit unite all of us. Let’s stop focusing on what divides us and celebrate what binds us.

Romans 14:20-21

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 

While we may have personal liberty in a certain area we do not have the liberty to make our Christian brothers stumble. If eating or drinking something will stumble or weaken a brother’s faith we do not have liberty in that moment to partake. In these instances, we are to consider our brother over ourselves.

Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Romans 14:22-23

The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is a sin.

Basically, Paul is saying that if you feel the Christian liberty to partake in certain things – then do it, but only if you have faith that it can be done for the glory of God. If there is any doubt then don’t partake. God wants us to walk and live in faith.

Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Because we have been given the Holy Spirit we have the freedom to allow our conscience to guide us – to a point. 

We must remember that our conscience is still prone to the control of our flesh. That is why the Word of God must remain our ultimate authority. A strong Christian allows God’s Word to inform and shape their conscience. When we do this, we are better equipped to discern when we have liberty in something and when we do not. 

Through its dual emphasis on refraining from judgment and avoiding actions that could cause a brother or sister to stumble, the chapter imparts profound insights into the essence of Christian love and unity. As we reflect on Paul’s teachings, may we be inspired to cultivate a spirit of grace, understanding, and empathy in our interactions with one another.

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