Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
If you did a quick overview of Romans 14, then you would know that the first three verses are inherently tied together.
One of the first things you see is the word judgment; however, if all you used was, say, the NASB, you might not understand why Paul uses the word judgment. I will try to explain.
Romans 14:1 NASB Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.
How would you know this person, who just walked in the door, is weak in their faith, and what does it mean to be weak in faith?
You wouldn’t know, that is unless you had some in-depth conversation. And, just because these “new” people don’t see things the way you do, does not necessarily mean they are weak in faith.
[As I write this, the United States is in shut down mode over the Covid 19 virus. Not knowing what is affecting me physically, and the fact that my sinuses began draining again, I opted not to take any lip off of people at church, and stay home. Since the church I attend is a modified “faith” church, although they will not tell you that, to some, my actions would indicate that I did not have enough faith. Given the global circumstances, I would be very annoyed if someone started coughing all over me. Does that make me weak in faith? I am hoping you get my point.]
Let’s look at other translations and see if we get any clarification.
Welcome with open arms, fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.(Romans 14:1 MSG)
Did you catch that, he is not just talking about someone who is merely weak in their faith, he is talking about fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. Well, there are two or three conflicting opinions to every truth you might be expressing.
Sitting in a home-group, “of men,” a man showed up who was reasonably new to the church. The assumption was made that this guy knows nothing. So, in an attempt to show off some biblical prowess, based on tradition and opinion, and not the word, the question was asked, how big do you think David was when he slew Goliath? The man who asked the question is someone I have known for about twenty years and, the religious tradition is that David was a boy of about 12 years. When no one dared to answer the question I said, I will take a crack at it, and said, about six foot four inches tall. Well, guess what happened, I got verbally accosted because I said something with which they did not agree. By the way, there is substantial biblical evidence that David was about that tall, but I will leave that to you to find out. Some of these people can be very opinionated and therefore come off as though they know everything.
Another example came to mind when an ex-pastor brought in stacks of the book, “The Shack,” by William Paul Young. That Pastor said it had impacted his life, and he wanted others to read it. I bought one. I struggled a bit with the book because the imagery was not what I was used to. If you read Eugene Peterson’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” you came to learn that in his church, in the South, racism was simply a way of life. While the racism may not have been so openly visible for me, I strongly suspect that racism ran through the church I attended as well; these hidden racist attitudes caused some of my struggle as I read The Shack. The Holy Spirit told me to shut up and keep reading, and I did, but I still approached a man at our church who had a Theological Doctorate and asked him about “The Shack” because I wanted answers. His response was, I will not discuss something that is filled with such weak theology. I never bothered him again.
To be honest, I struggled with the crowd passing judgment against me that evening, and yet, I have passed judgment against them. The brother who asked about David’s height, went on, several years later, to lead a study in Romans, just as I am still doing, months after the other has ended. I dropped out after a short time, rather than to get into contentious arguments. The arguments would have evolved primarily because my friend was teaching Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Romans instead of the Bible. While some of Wiersbe’s information could be deemed useful, I also found aspects that grieve me, such as: telling the audience that the book of Romans was primarily written to the Gentile world.
Here is where the idea that Romans is a Gentile’s book comes into play.
Romans 14:2 NLT For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.
You get some freshly converted Jew, and they will come undone if you hand them a pulled pork sandwich.
Would that bother a Gentile?
I doubt it would, so if he is talking to Gentiles, then why even have this discussion? Perhaps there is more to this idea of eating anything.
Peterson’s Message says this.
For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background might assume all Christians should be vegetarians and eat accordingly. (Romans 14:2 MSG)
Interesting, how Peterson says, “ while another, with a different background might assume all Christians should be vegetarians and eat accordingly.”
Since you know your Bible, then I will bring up that Peter was the Apostle to the Gentiles, but that didn’t last long. How do we know this? Because of this.
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. (Acts 10:9-16 NIV)
Immediately after this, Peter was called to the home of Cornelius, the Centurion.
The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius, the Centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” (Acts 10:22 NIV)
This Centurion was a Roman Gentile. Watch what happened.
The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:1-3 NIV)
Obviously, for most of the Jews, their faith was not strong enough to handle Peter’s sitting with Gentiles, let alone the eating part. Why because these new converts may have been willing to eat pulled pork and lobster?
Romans 14:3 NIV The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.
What did Eugene Peterson say?
“Welcome with open arms, fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with.”
Is this also Paul’s way of telling these Jews that the Gentiles are acceptable?
The Complete Jewish Bible tells us:
The one who eats anything must not look down on the one who abstains; and the abstainer must not pass judgment on the one who eats anything, because God has accepted him— (Romans 14:3 CJB)
There does not seem to be anything abnormal, as one is merely abstaining. This can work both ways. But let’s pursue what might not be said in this rant. The first church council was made up of Apostles, Jews, and they held tightly to their Jewishness. So when they gave instructions to the “Gentile” believers, they merely said,
but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. (Acts 15:20 NASB)
This did not explain the reasons why you don’t consume the blood, as it is for most, just disgusting. Paul takes it a step further.
Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us, there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However, not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge, he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. (1 Corinthians 8:1-11 NASB)
So it has more to do with freedoms and liberty, and Paul practically uses the same language here in his letter to the church at Corinth, as he did in the letter to the church in Rome.
While I intend to include this next verse in the future study, it is undoubtedly, and contextually, an aspect of this conversation.
Romans 14:4 NASB 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.
Consider these words:
“Who are you to judge the servant of another?”
What does that mean?
Paul, as I have pointed out on several occasions, opened this letter in this manner.
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, (Romans 1:1 NASB)
Do you not realize that we are all bond-servants?
And if we are bond-servants, then this portion of this verse stands true.
“To his own master, he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
If scripture is true, and it is, then we will either stand or fall because we are the Lords. Thank God, He will make us stand, not only in this world but also in the world to come.