The Lord willing we shall write a short series of essays on the chapters 14 and 15 of Paul’s great epistle to the Romans. That we write on these Chapters rather than on such chapters as the fifth and sixth is due to the fact that we had occasion to preach on these chapters in our Missionary labors, with application of the principles here enunciated by Paul regarding the eating or not eating of meat and the keeping of the Sabbath day or in fact, any other day. 

Besides, if our memory does not fail us, not too much has been written on this question of “adiaphora,” (the so-called indifferent things) and of the solution of all such problems and issues as prescribed by Paul in these beautiful chapters. At least these questions were not ever in the forefront of our theological battles and polemics. It is only when Christians, with different application of the “law,” meet that these questions of “adiaphora” become a bit more actual. 

It seems that, during the time of the Reformation and the coming into existence of the Church Order of Dordt, these questions of “essential” and “non-essential” became a yardstick of practical conduct in determining who shall be rejected in the church and who shall be admitted. Do not our Fathers write in Article 55 of the Church Order “Churches whose usages differ merely in non-essentials shall not be rejected.” 

The matters referred to in these Chapters are more of a practical nature than they are doctrinal. They refer to the judgment of love between those who have all been received of God in tender kindness and love in Christ. Thus Paul reminds the readers in verse 3, “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hathreceived him,” that is, he hath granted him access to His Father-heart, taken him into His fellowship and love in Christ Jesus. Hence, we deal here with something practical! Yet, the motivation for this practical is profoundly doctrinal. 

It is not merely some morality which any moralist can and does emulate of which Paul speaks in these chapters. Does not Paul end Rmans14:23 by writing: “For all that is not our of faith is sin”? And this faith is, to be sure, the saving faith whereby we are engrafted into Christ and receive all of His benefits. It is faith which is more than holding for true all that God has revealed in His Word, because it is true faith which operates by love. This faith is a hearty assurance that not only to others, but to me also there is in Christ forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and eternal life, merely for the sake of Christ’s merits. And, therefore, this faith is a fruitful faith, the only root and power in our life from which a good conduct can proceed. The moralist may talk about the brotherhood of man, but he cannot realize it. The only power of living as brethren in Christ, Jew and Gentile, is in faith in Christ, the one new man because of the peace which Christ is for both. 

A brief survey of this Epistle to the Romans should demonstrate that Paul is here no moralist, but that we are here dealing with “good works which proceed out of faith, are performed according to the law of God, and are thus unto God’s glory.” Here all works which are founded upon human inventions and institutions are outlawed. (Conf. Question 91, Heidelberg Catechism) Paul is here treating of the good works of thankfulness, fruits of grace from which it is evident that we have not a dead but a living faith. In this sphere of grace the moralist and the self-righteous cannot operate. These works of gratitude are foolishness to him. 

Let us notice the contents of the epistle of Paul to the Romans briefly. 

It has correctly been observed by many that Paul’s letter to the Romans is more of a doctrinal treatise, taken as a whole, than a letter

As such a treatise, it is virtually composed of three parts, the very parts which the Heidelberg Catechism calls the “three things” which we know to enjoy the only comfort in life and in death, to wit, 1. How great my sins and misery is; 2. How I am redeemed by God in Christ from this misery; 3. How I shall be thankful to God for such redemption. 

In Romans 1:18 through Romans 3:20 Paul develops the total depravity of the Graeco-Roman world, as well as. that of the Jew. Both are under sin, and both are under the wrath of God, by nature, which reveals itself upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness, which keeps the truth down in unrighteousness. Writes Paul in Romans 3:9: “. . . . for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;” And, again, inRomans 3:19 he writes: “Now we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Thus Paul shows the “misery” of man in these chapters as this is known from the law of God, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20b. 

However, in Romans 3:21 through Romans 8:39 Paul develops the righteousness of God which is by faith, both as a righteousness which is ours in the forgiveness of sins, and which is ours in a walk of sanctification. Here is the real import of faith and the promise of God by faith is developed. Writes Paul in Romans 3:21: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets: even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Here we have, in a nutshell, the entire plan of salvation and redemption unfolded. It is for this reason that Paul can end Romans 8 with the triumphant strain, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Howbeit, in Romans 12-15 Paul develops the section which might be called the ethical part of this great treatise, that is, the good works which are to proceed from such a faith whereby we are justified and sanctified. For truly this faith is such, because of the redemption in Christ, that they who receive the abundance of grace reign by one, Jesus Christ. Wherefore Paul begins this section with the beautiful admonition and exhortation, in Romans 12:1, 2, as follows: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” 

This promise is not an ethical program for a moralist. 

He may discover some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment: He has the glimmerings of natural light. But this light of nature is so far from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and evil. 

What Paul exhorts us to do, we do because God has received us, has been merciful to us. 

This is no mere ethical program of a moralist, but it is the working out of our salvation with fear and trembling since it is God who works in us both to will and to do of His good-pleasure! 

And in these chapters under consideration Paul shows the believers, both Jews and Gentiles, strong and weak, how they are to conduct themselves toward each other by the mercies of God. We have signaled it above. Paul writes: “For God hath received him.” Hence, Paul can write in Romans 15:7, “Wherefore recede ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” It was by faith that Christ took these Romans unto himself, whether Jew or Gentile, united them with Himself forever by the Holy Spirit, conforming them to God’s image that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. 

It is this profound mercy of God in Christ which is the directive for our conduct toward one another in this chapter. 

Looking at these two chapters just a bit more closely we notice that Chapter 14 really is composed of two sections. 

The first of these sections really deals with mutual regard with, which the weak and the strong, those not eating meat and those eating meat are to regard each other. “There must be “mutual toleration,” writes Godet on page 454 of his Commentary on Romans. We agree. Only we emphasize it must be a toleration rooted in the fear of God! Hence, we must have careful and prayerful regard for what God does to that brother whom we tolerate. 

The second section deals with the “considerate bearing” (Godet) which love claims of the strong for the weak. Then we will not judge the brother who is weak, but we will judge not to put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in our brother’s way. Thus the way will be very narrow. For all that is not out of faith is sin! 

Looking at Romans 15 we notice that Paul here really demonstrates from the conduct of Christ Himself how we ought to conduct ourselves toward the weak. Paul gives good and solid motives from the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul also quotes the Psalms, Moses and the Prophets to demonstrate God’s stereological design in both Jews and Gentiles. 

Paul ends this 15th Chapter with explanations of a personal nature regarding his letter, his work in general, his approaching visit to Rome. 

Herewith we have attempted to make a beginning of our study of these two Chapters from Paul’s epistle to the Romans. 

D.V., we shall continue this study in the next issue ofThe Standard Bearer