My prayer is that the things I share from Romans will give you a hunger to search for the deep things of God. The principles Paul gives are timeless and firmly anchored in divine revelation.
Beginning in verse one, Paul exhorts us to accept the one who is weak in the faith. We are to receive him because Christ has already done so.
In Romans 15:7 we are told “receive one another as Christ has received us”.
The Church at Rome was one of great diversity. In Romans 1 Paul speaks of the cultured Greeks and the uncultured barbarians; He later talks about the learned and the unwise; There is also the slave and the free man. No doubt this mix was present in the Roman church as well.
Most of us, on the other hand, are part of churches where we have a shared a cultural and denominational background. That may make this teaching harder for us to grasp.
Differences of convictions and culture can cause schism and other problems if not handled very carefully.
Paul refers in this chapter to the weak and the strong in the context of issues of conscience. What are the issues in this passage?
The issue of meat was a big one in the first century of the church. There was the Jewish-gentile issue regarding clean and unclean meats, as well as the matter of meats offered to idols.
Here Paul addresses the issue of meat. He usually is referring it in regard to meat offered to idols.
The word used for meat is referring to food, not necessarily specific to flesh.
Another issue addressed here is the observance or honor of certain days. This may refer to Jewish holy days. It could also refer to the sabbath versus the Lord’s Day.
How are we to understand the weak and the strong ?
In verse one, Paul talks about someone weak in the faith. One who is weak in the faith is not necessarily someone who is weak in the faith or a legalist. A legalist mixes law and grace. We must not confuse this passage by imposing the contemporary terms “liberal” and “conservative” on the terms “weak” and “strong”.
Perhaps a characteristic of the weak is the misapplication of Scripture or the failure to think things through to their logical conclusion.
A person weak in the faith is usually one who has a weak moral sensitivity. He has not allowed his faith in Christ to guide him in ethical questions.
It is possible that the weak brother was Jewish or gentile. When one becomes a believer, one’s mind does not become an empty slate and all past influences are not necessarily removed.
For instance, the observant Jew would not necessarily feel completely free from the restraints of the Law. Also, a former pagan may have been repulsed by his former indulgent lifestyle and react by eschewing ham and steak.
One who is weak in the faith often has an over-sensitive conscience. It hinders them from living with confidence in Christ.
The conscience is indirectly referenced throughout this chapter.
See also I Cor. 8, 10
1) do not violate your own conscience
2) do not violate your brother’s conscience
3) do not cause your brother to violate his own conscience
Very few people think THEY are weak in the faith. Most people see themselves as the “strong” brother.
Romans 14 leans heavily on him who is strong to be sensitive and support the brother that is weak.
Strong believers have allowed the Spirit and the Scriptures to shape their minds and a mature faith. They also have a good and pure conscience.
The conscience is like an arrow— the arrow of a compass that points to the north, that tells you where to go. We must pay attention to it.
The conscience can be reshaped and enlightened by Scripture.
Let me quickly give you a few points in overview.
Principles to guide us in issues of conscience:
1) Receive one another as Christ has received us
2) we should not despise or judge one another
3) We must be sensitive to our brother’s conscience
4) nothing is unclean in itself I Timothy 4:4
5) The kingdom of God is not a matter of meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost
6) do not flaunt our liberties