Exhortations 12:1-15:13

ii] The weak and the strong, 14:1-15:13

a) Let there be mutual respect between "the weak" and "the strong"


In 14:1-15:13, Paul broaches the touchy issue of how believers who see themselves as free from the Mosaic law (most would be Gentiles) and those who feel compelled to fully obey the law (Jewish believers and their Gentile associates) are to relate within the Christian fellowship. First, Paul argues that there be mutual respect / tolerance between "the weak" and "the strong"; that the law-bound and the libertines in the church at Rome "welcome" each other.


i] Context: See 12:1-2. As part of the ethical section covering 12:1-15:13, Paul moves to remind his readers of the important adage judge the sin, not the sinner. In his critique 6:1-11:36, Paul has exposed the nomistic tendencies of the law-bound believers in Rome and trounced their heresy, but now he expresses respect for their piety and calls on those whose religious proclivities are somewhat less reserved to not only "welcome" the law-bound brother, but to take care that by careless "freedom" they don't undermine the faith of "the weak."


ii] Background: See 1:8-15. These notes proceed on the assumption that "the weak" are law-bound believers, nomists, or at least leaning toward the heresy of nomism, with the majority most likely possessing a Jewish heritage.

Some scholars argue that "the weak" are Jews rather than Jewish Christians, cf. Mark Nanos, The mystery of Romans and the Jewish context of Paul's letter, 1996. At the other extreme there are those who hold that "the weak" are believers who have been influenced by pagan asceticism. It seems likely that the "days" Paul refers to are Jewish holy days and that the food / meats he refers to are those approved for consumption in Leviticus (kosher). There is an outside possibility that the food referred to is food offered to Idols, as in Corinth, although Paul doesn't indicate that this is a problem in Rome.


iii] Structure: This passage, seeking to heal the division between "the weak" and "the strong", presents as follows:

Instruction, v1-3:

Accept the weak in faith, v1-2;

Do not despise or condemn, v3.

Reason, v4-13:

It is improper for a believer to judge others, v4;

A believer follows the dictates of their own conscience, v5-6;

A believer serves Christ rather than self, v7-9.

A believer is responsible for their own actions under Christ, v10-13:

We will all stand before God's judgment seat;

Each must give an account before God for their own actions.


iv] Thesis: See 3:21-31.


v] Interpretation:

The section 14:1-15:21 provides one of the clues as to Paul's purpose in writing this letter to the Romans. In the letter he seeks to address a problem affecting many believers, particularly Jewish believers. The problem is nomism, law-righteousness, pietism .... the notion that a person's Christian life is progressed for blessing by obedience to the law. Now, in the section before us, Paul refers directly to "the strong", those who know that their standing before God is secure in Christ given that they possess the fullness of God's blessings apart from works of the law, and this on the ground of grace through faith. Paul's focus is on "the strong" and in addressing them, he encourages them to be considerate toward "the weak." This term "the weak" probably covers all those believers who are committed to the Torah / the Law of Moses, the majority of whom would be Jews. This group would be made up of of those believers who feel a cultural necessity to comply with the Mosaic law, and also those influenced by the heresy of nomism, the pietists, if not members of "the circumcision party" / judaizers, then certainly their disciples. "The strong" are not to be harsh and judgmental, nor allow their Christian liberty to lead the weaker brother astray. Paul wants his fellow Jewish believers to rest on grace, not be alienated from it by the insensitivity of Gentile church members. "For freedom Christ has set us free", but not at the cost of another's freedom.


The Law: It has often been suggested that "the weak" believers were concerned with the hygiene and cultic laws of the Old Testament, and that this fetish interfered with their Christian freedom. Yet, such a view ignores the theological depth of Paul's letter. It is more likely that Paul is critical of the way "the weak" use the law as a whole, not just cultic laws. Believers are not just free from the hygiene and cultic regulations of the Old Testament, but of the law itself as a means of appropriating divine favor, namely, the promised Abrahamic blessings.

Paul's devaluing of the law does not imply that a believer is free to sin. The believer is free from that which makes sin more sinful, namely, the law as God's instrument to expose sin. Paul's focus is on the wrong use of the law, its use as an instrument to progress sanctification and thus promote divine favor - covenant blessings. Nomism does not promote holiness, all it promotes is sin. Right standing in Christ, of itself, promotes right living. Paul certainly does not suggest that the law is an evil thing. The law is a good thing corrupted by our evil. Nor does Paul suggest that the law serves no function for a believer. For a believer, it no longer serves to accentuate sin and drive us to God for mercy, but it does serve as a guide to the Christian life. As to what law Paul is referring to, it is the whole of the moral law: the Old Testament Torah, and certainly for a believer "the law" includes the teachings of Jesus and the apostolic regulations.

It is worth noting that in Romans, Paul will often characterize nomism in terms of "touch not, taste not" as this best illustrates the way it expresses itself. He also makes much of circumcision, a sign which visibly illustrates a willing submission to the law of Moses. Such descriptives should not be taken too literally as if the problem Paul is dealing with is limited to the externals of the Torah. New perspective commentators have slipped into this error.

It should also be noted that Paul's critique of law-obedience, of law-bound believers, is not in terms of legalism, ie., obedience to the law in order to earn salvation, but rather nomism, ie., obedience to the law in order to progress sanctification for blessing. This issue, of course, is one of ongoing debate.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 14:1

Tolerance - healing division in the body of Christ, v1-14: "Welcome the one whose faith is weak", v1. "The weak" should be fully included in the Christian fellowship, without quarreling over their religious sensibilities. An improper understanding of the law as it relates to justification necessarily has to be confronted and corrected, and this with compassion, but it is improper to try and correct a person's cultural inclination toward a strict adherence to the law

de "-" - but, and. Transitional connective, indicating a step in the argument - not translated.

proslambanesqe (proslambanw) pres. imp. "accept" - receive, take to oneself, take to oneself someone before another. "Extend a kind welcome to", NAB.

ton asqenounta (asqenew) part. "him [whose faith] is weak / the one [whose faith] is weak" - the one being weak. The participle serves as a substantive. Jewett suggests that the verb takes the sense "excessively observant in a religion." Believers who are weak = their understanding of the gospel is defective, they have not fully understood the significance of a salvation that is by grace through faith, apart from works of the law. They are "trust and obey" Christians. Again, the reader will understand that freedom from law-obedience does not mean freedom to sin. "Weak in the faith", Barclay.

th pistei (iV ewV) dat. "whose faith" - [in] faith. The preposition en is adverbial, reference / respect; "with resptect to, concerning, in relation to faith." What is meant by faith here? It seems best to follow Schreiner who argues that the meaning is the same here as throughout the rest of the letter, namely faith / reliance on Christ for the full appropriation of the promised blessings of the covenant. Those "whose faith is weak" are those who are divided in faith, "yes" for Christ, but also "yes" for the Law; Christ alone is not enough. Other suggests are proposed: Cranfield argues that in the present context it means "the assurance that one is permitted by ones' faith to do some particular thing." Moo thinks Paul is using the word "faith" in the same way he uses "conscience" in 1 Corinthians 8-10.

eiV "-" - toward. Here expressing purpose / end view; "in order to / with a view to."

diakriseiV (iV ewV) "[without] passing judgment" - [not] distinguishing, differentiation / dispute, quarrel. Probably "quarreling over disputable matters", TNIV, is better than the NIV "passing judgment", "pass judgment", Moffatt. Yet, the exhortation is more likely for the "strong" and so moves toward a meaning like "criticizing" - "criticizing their views", Williams, "a critical analysis of his inward reasonings", Wuest; .... We are probably closer to the mark if we take the word to mean "a critical insensitivity toward the religious sensibilities of others".

dialogismwn (oV) gen. "on disputable matters" - of thought, opinion / doubt, dispute. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, objective, so Moo. Again, numerous meanings are possible, but the matters are probably not disputable, rather they are "doubtful points", NEB. "Misgivings", REB, is not bad, even "doubts", Weymouth.


The problem defined - A fracture in the Christian fellowship exists between those who feel free / are without compulsion regarding matters of religious form, and those who feel bound / are compelled to comply with religious form.

men .... de "..... but ..." - on the one hand [one man believes to eat] but on the other hand [the one being weak eats vegetables]. An adversative comparative construction.

o}V pro. "one person's" - who. The relative pronoun takes an assumed demonstrative pronoun; "the one man who ....."

pisteuei (pisteuw) pres. "faith" - believes. Gnomic present. Possibly used here in a general sense, "one believer thinks it is appropriate to eat all foods", but given v1, the belief is likely to be a faith-act, ie. action based on an understanding of Biblical truth; "one believer holds that it is right, under the Lord, to eat all foods."

fagein (esqiw) aor. inf. "allows them to eat" - The infinitive serves as a direct object / dependent statement of perception expressing what the "one person" believes; "one person has confidence to eat everything" = "one man believes that he may eat anything."

oJ ... asqenwn (asqew) pres. part. "whose faith is weak" - the one being weak. The participle serves as a substantive. Correctly, "the weak", as defined above.

lacana (ov) "only vegetables" - vegetables. Possibly referring to a vegetarian, so NIV "only" (not in the text), but also possibly an allusion to someone who eats kosher foods, as dictated by Old Testament food regulations.


Paul exposes the lack of respect / tolerance between the weak and the strong, of the weak judging the libertines and the strong despising the nomists. Both groups should welcome each other, v3-9.

oJ esqiwn (esqiw) pres. part. "the one who eats" - [let not] the one eating [despise the one not eating]. The gnomic present participle serves as a substantive, a construction repeated in this verse; "the one eating, let him not despise the one not eating, and the one not eating, let him not judge the one eating."

mh exouqeneitw (exouqenew) pres. imp. "must not look down on / must not treat with contempt" - despise. Lit. "to make absolutely nothing of"; "not despise", Moo.

mh krinetw (krinw) pres. imp. "must not condemn / must not judge" - [and the one not eating] let him not judge [the one eating]. Probably something stronger than just deciding on whether their behavior is right or wrong, so NIV, "condemn", or the softer "criticize", Moffatt.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why members should not be despised / condemned; "because ....." Both groups should welcome each other as God welcomes each believer.

proselabeto (proslambanw) aor. mid. "has accepted" - [God] received [him]. Better "welcomed", Moffatt.

auton pro. "them" - him. Who is the him. We are best to follow Jewett who argues that it refers to both the "weak" and the "strong". Moo thinks it refers to the "strong", while Dunn suggests it refers to the "weak".


It is easy to judge, or despise, those we don't agree with, but the truth is there is only one Judge, and he will determine who stands and who falls.

su pro. "[who are] you" - Emphatic by position and use, emphasizing the "you" in "who do YOU think you are ....?". Jewett sees it as a "put-down question."

oJ krinwn (krinw) pres. part. "to judge" - the one judging. The participle serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "you". With the word "judge" is Paul narrowing his criticism down to "the weak" and their tendency to judge the free-wheeling behavior of "the strong", or are his words still directed to both parties? Dumbrell, for example, opts for a criticism directed to "the weak", but the context seems to imply that Paul still has both parties in mind.

allotrion adj. "someone else's [servant]" - the other [servant].

tw/ idiw/ dat. adj. "to his own [master] / to their own [master]" - to one's own [Lord]. Dative of interest, advantage, but possibly also means or reference / respect; emphatic by position. The servant (believer) is responsible to their own master (Christ) and therefore, it is not the place of another to condemn them.

staqhsetai (iJsthmi) fut. pas. "he will stand" - he will be upheld [or falls, but he will be upheld]. The Lord will see to that. Possibly "succeeds", Goodspeed, but surely the intention is of standing in the last day, in the day of judgment.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why he will stand.

sthsai (iJsthmi) aor. inf. "[is able] to make [him] stand" - [the Lord is able] to make [him] stand. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able"


Each believer seeks to honor the Lord in their behavior, whether in their piety, or in their liberty, v5-6.

gar "-" - for. Variant reading where the textual support is divided. Its inclusion is certainly the more difficult reading.

men .... de "-" - An adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand, ...., but on the other ...."

krinei (krinw) pres. "considers" - [one man] judges, esteems . Gnomic present tense. Obviously, now not used in the sense of "condemn", but rather "consider", "regard" and thus similar to the use of pisteuw, "believes", in v2.

hJmeran (a) "one day" - a day. A particular day is intended, most likely the Sabbath and ancillary holy day. A pietist is usually very particular in their observance of the Sabbath, and/or "the Lords Day", Sunday.

par (para) + acc. "more sacred than another" - above [a day]. Possibly "in reference to", Sandy and Headlam, so "regards one day in reference to another day, as having more importance", but not necessarily "more sacred." The natural sense of the preposition + acc. is "beside", then moving to comparison, "in comparison to", then moving to a difference in the comparison, as here, so "one person considers one day as better than another."

o}V ... krinei pasan hJmeran "another considers every day alike" - [but] another judges / esteems every day. "The others (the strong) take no account of special or holy days", Dumbrell; they judge them "to be the same", Moo, assumed.

plhroforeisqw (plhroforew) pres. pas. imp. "should be fully convinced" - let him be certain, assured. Gnomic present tense; "Convinced fully", BAGD.

en + dat. "in [his own mind]" - [each man] in [his own mind]. Local, expressing space. Paul is articulating the danger of behaving in line with another person's convictions rather than our own. "Each of us needs to understand the motivation behind our own actions."


oJ fronwn (fronew) pres. part. "he who regards / whoever regards [the day] as special" - the one setting the mind on, thinking of, regarding. The participle serves as a substantive, the present tense being gnomic. "Intent on a particular day rather than others", BAGD.

kuriw/ (oV) dat. "[does so] to the Lord" - in Lord [regards it]. Although without an article, Jesus is probably intended. Most likely a dative of of interest, advantage; "in honor of the Lord", BDF. Possibly locative, "in the realm of", or reference, "in regard to." Given the word order and particularly the opening address in v1, Paul is intent on reminding "the strong" that the piety (performance of law, both camel law [moral law] and insect law [minutia = health regulations, etc.]) of the "weak" (law-bound believers) is not unholy in itself. Piety performed to access grace (ie. advance standing before God for blessing) is damning, but piety performed in honor of the Lord is holy. Those freed from the shackles of the law are often tempted to condemn outward piety and to impose their libertine ways on those of tender conscience. Such impositions can be very destructive.

oJ esqiwn (esqiw) pres. part. "whoever eats meat [does so to the Lord]" - the one eating [to Lord eats it]. The participle serves as a substantive, the present tense being gnomic. The comparison seems to be between those who abstain for special days, they qronew, "think = consider, give regard to" the day, and those who do not abstain because they have no special regard for the day. Both acts can be kuriw/, "for the Lord", ie., dative of interest, advantage.

gar "for" - for [he gives thanks to God. and the one not eating to Lord does not eat and gives thanks to God]. Possibly causal, so NIV, "because", TEV, but it is more likely serving as a connective, introducing a new comparative clause with an assumed oJ esqiwn, "the one who eats", so, "the person who eats (does not regard special days) gives thanks to / for God (dative of interest), kai and the person who does not eat, that is, the person who does not eat for the Lord / who eats in honor of the Lord, he also gives thanks to / for God."


A follower of Christ strives not for their own gratification, but for the gratification of Christ. All believers strive toward the ideal of service to Christ, v7-8.

gar "for" - Probably more explanatory than causal in that Paul moves from the specifics of celebrating special days to / for the Lord or not celebrating special days to / for the Lord, to the general principle of living to / for the Lord; "This indeed is how the matters stand. None of us lives to be his own master, and none of us dies to be his own master", Cassirer. The point Paul is making in v7-8 is that believers are mutually interdependent on the Lord, and this applies to life as well as death.

eJautw/ dat. pro. "[lives] to himself" - [no one of us] to / for himself [lives, and no one to himself dies]. Either a dative of interest, advantage, "for his own advantage", "the life and death of each of us has its influence on others", JB, or a dative of respect/reference, "with reference to himself alone", "none of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master", NAB. Given v8, a dative of respect is possibly best. When it comes to meaning, Dunn argues that "to live for oneself" means "to live selfishly."


gar "for" - Here introducing a causal clause explaining why a believer does not live / die to themselves / to their our own master.

te ..... te ... "-" - and. This conjunction serves to establish a close link between the statements in this verse; "both ..... and ....."

ean + subj. "if" - The first of a series of conditional clauses, third class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, ... then ..."

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "to the Lord" - [we live] to the Lord [we live]. Probably again a dative of interest, advantage, "for the honor of the Lord." An instrumental sense is possible, "by the Lord", belonging to the Lord and thus enabled to live. Reference / respect is also possible.

apoqnhskwmen (apoqnhskw) subj. "we die" - [if] we die [to the Lord we die]. As in v7, the question is in what sense do we die? Physical death is preferred by most commentators, especially given v9, but a metaphorical (rather than spiritual) death, in the sense of a putting aside of worldly privileges out of respect for the Lord, should be considered. In the context, such a "death" would involve keeping certain days holy, eating certain foods, etc.

oun "so" - therefore. Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion.

ean te ..... ean te "whether" - whether [we live or] whether [we die]. Here the conditional construction serves for eite ... eite, a disjunctive comparative construction.

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[we] belong to the Lord" - [we are] of the Lord. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. as NIV. The "Lord" here surely means Christ, so Moo.


Jesus is Lord over all believers, legalists and libertarians, .......

gar "for [this reason]" - for. Explanatory, rather than causal, explaining how living and dying to the Lord, and belonging to the Lord, is realized, namely, in Christ's death and resurrection.

eiV touto "this reason" - to this. The preposition eiV expresses purpose while the pronoun touto references forward and back. The purpose of Christ's death and resurrection was so that we might belong to the Lord, v8, and that Christ might be Lord over both the dead and the living. Together, the cross and the empty tomb achieve the final victory enabling our purchase for God.

ezhsen (zaw) aor. "returned to life" - [Christ died and] lived. The aorist is probably inceptive/ingressive where the beginning of the action is emphasized, so "came to life again", NEB, "sprang to life", rather than "lived".

iJna + subj. "so that" - Introducing a purpose clause, "in order that", standing in apposition to eiV touto, "this very reason / to this end."

kurieush/ (kurieuw) aor. subj. "he might be the Lord" - he might rule over. "He" is either Christ or God, but Christ is to be preferred. Possibly again an ingressive aorist, "he might become ...."

kai .... kai "... and" - [he might be Lord] both [of the dead] and [the living ones].

nekrwn gen. adj. "of ... the dead" - The adjective serves as a substantive, genitive of direct object after the verb kurieuw, "to rule over"; "Lord over the dead and the living." "Dead ones" as above, ie., a believer bound under the legal requirements of the Lord.

zwntwn (zaw) gen. pres. part. "the living" - living ones. The participle serves as a substantive even though it is without an article, genitive of direct object as above. Note the order, we would expect living and dead. Probably following the order of the first part of the verse. Note also the possibility of a metaphorical sense as noted above. In any case, given the extent of Christ's lordship, he is Lord over the libertine and the legalist.


Paul now places the judgmental attitude of the weak / nomists, and the contemptuous attitude of the strong / libertines within an eschatological context - we must all face the day of judgment, v10-11.

de "-" - but, and. Transitional connective, indicating the next step in the argument, although Jewett argues that it is adversative, "but".

su "you" - Emphatic, "you then", TEV.

exouqeneiV (exouqenew) pres. "look down on" - [why do you judge the brother of you, or why indeed] despise [the brother of you]. "Why do you look down on your fellow Christian", REB.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why we should not judge/despise a brother, either: because we will inevitably face judgment, or because they will inevitably face judgment.

parasthsomeqa (paristhmi) fut. "we will [all] stand before" - [all] will stand beside. Predictive future. "Stand before" when God is the intended object.

tw/ bhmati (a) dat. "[God's] judgment seat" - the platform, the seat of a judge. Dative of direct object after the para prefix verb "stand before." The sense is "all of us will stand before God to be judged by him", TEV.


The introductory assertion from Isaiah 49:18 identifies "the Lord" (= Jesus) with God, and Isaiah 45:23 indicates that the worship of the nations is directed toward Christ.

zw egw "As surely as I live" - [for it has been written], I live [says the Lord God]. A statement in the form of an oath - an eternally living God is well able to complete what he says; "as I live", EVV.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of direct speech expressing the words said by the Lord which are covered by the oath.

kamyei (kamptw) fut. "will bow" - [to me] will bend [every knee]. An expression of adoration.

emoi dat. pro. "before me" - to me. This dative may be classified as a dative of interest, advantage, or dative of direct object when the verb kamptw takes the sense "bow before." It should be noted though that the LXX adds an accusative "God" to "will confess / acknowledge" for meaning sake. This is treated as an accusative of respect, so "with respect to God." Paul has similarly added "God" for meaning sake and so it is likely that both datives are adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to God every knee will bow and every tongue confess."

exomologhsetai (exomologew) fut. "will confess / will acknowledge" - [and every tongue] will consent fully, acknowledge. "Acclaim", Kasemann; "give praise to God", Moffatt.

qew/ (oV) dat. "God" - Dative of direct object after the ek prefix verb "to acknowledge."


Paul now summarizes his argument so far, v12. Given that we must all answer for ourselves in the day of judgment, there is little point in busying ourselves with the supposed failings of others.

ara oun "so then" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

hJmwn gen. pro. "[each] of us" - [each one] of us. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. The phrase itself is emphatic, so Jewett.

logon (oV) "an account" - a reason, account. The word is sometimes used of keeping an account, a ledger. Paul has encouraged us not to be critical of a brother or sister, of their piety or their liberty, now he implies we should be critical of ourselves since each of us will stand before the Judge to give an account.

peri + gen. "of [ourselves]" - concerning [himself]. Reference; "about, concerning ourselves."

tw/ qew/ "to God" - Dative of indirect object. Not found in some manuscripts, but certainly implied, and most likely original, so Cranfield, Moo, Dunn.


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