Exposition of Romans 14, 15, (3)

In our former article we spoke of the matters of things which are “indifferent,” sometimes called theadiaphora! Eating or not eating of meat has as such no importance; it is not the matter which determinesthe true worship of God in His church. All that which is not out of faith is sin. Not eating as well as eating meat, keeping or not keeping of days, is sin if it is not out of faith. When it is not out of faith it simply is human institution and inventions. Such cannot be the rule of faith in the church! 

Let each be fully persuaded in his own mind. 

In this chapter, we have noticed, Paul is speaking to the weak in faith and to the strong in the faith. The weak in faith are not simply weak in their subjective life, but they are weak in the objective truth of the justification by faith, and weak and hesitant to apply this truth of justification by faith to certain areas of life. And, therefore, the weak brother is the “problem-child.” If all were strong in the faith there would be no problem. However, now there is a twofold problem. 

In the first place there is the problem which we might call the dogmatic problem. It is the problem of the relationship of the days and meats to Christ, the Lord. 

In the second place there is the problem of the human-relations in the difference of convictions concerning days and meats, which exists between the “strong” and the “weak in faith”! The latter problem can become such, and often does, that it is not possible to rightly keep a proper perspective of the former question. 

Both of these aspects are on the very surface of this passage which calls for our attention here. 

Let us take notice how Paul handles this delicate situation here. We need not repeat here what we wrote in our former essay on this matter: Let it suffice to call attention to the following: 

The problem here arises out of the weakness of the weak. The resultant situation is such that Paul writes, “One man hath faith to eat all things; but he that is weak eateth herbs.” Verse 2. And again, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike.” Verse 5. 

Such is the situation. 

How does Paul handle the situation? Are both the strong and the weak equally right in their contention? They may be equally right. However they may also be equally wrong, paradoxically as it may sound! And, again, the one may be right ethically and the other ethically wrong! 

The key is: all that is not out of faith is sin! 

Eating meat or not eating meat, keeping of a day or not keeping of a day is as sock a matter which isindifferent! This is wholly a matter which is onlyspiritually differentiated by the faith or lack of faith of the user and non-user! It is because of this spiritually undifferentiatedness of meat and drink as such which calls for spiritual sobriety on our part, lest we walk either in bondage unto the law, or in antinomian libertinism! 

Let not the reader think that matters of the undoubted Christian Faith are ever matters of adiaphora, or matters which are expressly forbidden in the law of God. Adiaphora deals only with matters which pertain to the good creature, and their being used in the service of Christ. It is, therefore, wholly a matter of being “fully persuaded in our own minds.” 

When the matter is thus pin-pointedly stated all adiaphora has its necessary limitation, doesn’t it. We do not cherish being misunderstood. We ask a careful reading of these lines! Let no one jump to conclusions which are neither directly nor indirectly implied in these lines! 

We write above: the Key to the solution of this situation is, “all that is not out of faith is sin”! 

Next to this Paul posits another factor: it is that Christ is Lord, both of the living and of the dead! Thus we read in verse 9: “For unto this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” 

These two factors are the all-controlling solution to eating or not eating of meats, or keeping or not keeping of days!

Take the matter of days, for instance. Is it not an uncontrovertible truth that Christ is Lord of the Sabbath. Thus we read in Mark 2:27, 28: “And he said unto them, the sabbath was made for man, and. not man for the sabbath: so that the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath.” Is Christ’s lordship not then the key to the proper use of days, and is he not “strong” who properly sees this Lordship of Christ over a day, so that in relationship to Christ he accounts all days alike?! And was such not the very design of God in the creation of the weekly sabbath in the beginning? It was made for man, that is, for man to use in the service of the Lord! However, the day was not made that man should serve the day or be bound by the day, but be ‘free in the day being free in the Lord of the sabbath-day! 

And now the matter of “meats.” Is it not true that God saw all that He had made and behold it was very good? Gen. 1:30. And did not Christ come to save the world and put all things in His service? I Cor. 15:27. Did Christ Himself not attend weddings, and is He not accused of being a’ glutton and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners? Matthew 11:19. And does not Paul say in I Tim. 4:4, 5: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer”? And are not all things of us, and are we not of Christ and is Christ not of God? I Cor. 3:22, 23. Is Christ not lord of all things, exactly through his death and resurrection, the Firstborn of all creatures? 

These are the objective controlling principles in this Chapter here. 

But is that the solution to the situation? Does Paul solve this with a few “statements,” expressions of doctrinal formulae? Or is he here a man of wisdom, of sobriety and power, who gives a word of reproof, demonstrating how this great principle of the lordshipof Christ is, when brought into practice, the solution so that the strong are not arrogant and the weak are no longer critical of the strong, but rather themselves become strong in faith? 

Since the weak brethren are the problem children, judging the brethren, who are strong in faith, by the terms of meat and days, Paul directs to them the reproof which is implied in Christ’s lordship over all things. Christ is not merely lord over days and meat and drink, but he is too the lord of the strong brethren!Christ, their Lord, himself has made them strong. The strong shall stand! And no bickering of the weak is to make the strong in faith weak. Wherefore Paul writes: “Yea he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand.” Verse 4b. The very salvation of the weak to become strong depends upon the strong remaining strong, pillars in the church. The foundations must stand! 

Hence, it is to these “weak in faith” that Paul says: “Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own lord he standeth or falleth”! Verse 4. This is a very severe reproof and correctly so. Not only may these weak not foist their weakness upon the strong as the standard of Christian conduct, but they have rightly or wrongly as their case as such might be not the prerogative to judge the stronger brother. For they are then not keeping in mind the “lordship” of Christ over this brother. His standing or falling, his being condemned or justified in this matter before the tribunal of Christ, is solely at bottom a matter of his relationship to his own Lord, Christ. And his Christ will make them stand. They shall not fall. The Lord will finish his own work in them! 

That “who art thou” is really the end of all bickering and judging in days and meat! It brings in the new dimension of the Lord over all things! As soon as the weak grow stronger in faith they will subject themselves more and more unto their Lord and the Lord of the strong, and see that they will be joining the ranks of the strong! Then shall they be more and more “fully assured in their own mind” that what they do is done unto the Lord! In the real unity in the Lord, their own purpose in “not eating” and in “keeping of days” will come to stand in a new light, and a new service to the Lord. There will then be a new content in the old forms!

For he that regardeth then the day in this new dimension of grace and liberty in Christ, will regard the day unto the Lord! It will then not simply be a matter of punctual Sunday observance till twelve o’clock midnight on Sunday night, like the Pharisees, but it will be a matter of keeping the sabbath as outlined in the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 38! It will then be a matter of serving the Lord, and giving heed to the often repeated refrain in the Old Testament, “for I am the LORD”! Yes, we shall then especially on the sabbath, that is on the day of rest, diligently come to the congregation of God to learn His word, etc., and all the days of our life cease from our evil works. Thus the fathers of the Reformation spoke in the days when the church lived in, holy joy in the liberty in Christ and when they eschewed all libertinistic excess and licence! Monday then also is a day which must be kept to the Lord, for whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord’s! 

And when the strong take the latter position the weak must not judge them. They are the household servants of Christ in so doing! They are thus free according to the royal law of liberty. And the weak must not be judges but doers of the Word! 

Nor may the strong look down from their heights upon the weak and despise them. The weak too are brethren, and must become strong. Illumination in the church on earth often is an occasion of stumbling for the illuminated Christian. It is the flesh in him warring against the spirit, warring against the soul. The strong must not relinquish their position, but bear with the infirmities of the weak! 

For whether we be strong in faith or weak, none of us liveth to himself and none of us dieth to himself! Whether we live or whether we die we are, either as strong or weak, the Lord’s! Thus all things are done for edification. 

Paul adds a sobering note in verses 10-12. “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God, For it is written, As I live saith the Lord, to me shall every knee bow, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.” 

Sobering words. They are quoted from Isaiah 45:23. In this prophecy we are shown the perspective of the New Testament dispensation when both Jews and Gentiles shall be saved, shall be justified by faith. All shall come from the ends of the earth and be saved. For the Lord is God and there is none else. And every tongue stands in relationship to the Lord! 

Let us then not judge in days and in “meats” but rather in this that all must be done out of faith. Meat is adiaphora as such, but in relationship to the Lord nothing is indifferent. Then all is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to him! 

Let us not glory in days or in meats, nor let us glory in not using meats, but let us glory in the Lord whether we eat or eat not! 

—G.L.