It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)It is good neither to eat flesh.—These direct, clear, incisive sentences are as characteristic of the style of the Apostle (when he is dealing with moral questions of present urgency, and not with the abstract problems of theology) as the generous impulse which prompts them is of his heart.
Any thing—i.e., to do anything; all three words have to be supplied.
Or is offended, or is made weak.—There is a remarkable division of authority for the omission or retention of these words, the Sinaitic and Alexandrine MSS. with the Paris rescript being on the one side, and the Vatican, with the Græco-Latin Codices, on the other; and the versions pretty nearly divided. Here internal evidence comes in, and decides us to omit the words as most probably a gloss.
To eat flesh - That is, such flesh as the "Jewish" convert regarded as unclean; Romans 14:2.
Nor to drink wine - Wine was a common drink among the Jews, and usually esteemed lawful. But the Nazarites were not allowed to drink it Numbers 6:3, and the Rechabites Jeremiah 35 drank no wine, and it is possible that some of the early converts regarded it as unlawful for Christians to drink it. Wine was moreover used in libations in pagan worship, and perhaps the Jewish coverts might be scrupulous about its use from this cause. The caution here shows us what should be done "now" in regard to the use of wine. It may not be possible to prove that wine is absolutely unlawful, but still many friends of "temperance" regard it as such, and are grieved at its use. They esteem the habit of using it as tending to intemperance, and as encouraging those who cannot afford expensive liquors. Besides, the wines which are now used are different from those which were common among the ancients. That was the pure juice of the grape. That which is now in common use is mingled with alcohol, and with other intoxicating ingredients. Little or none of the wine which comes to this country is pure. And in this state of the case, does not the command of the apostle here require the friends of temperance to abstain even from the use of wine?
Nor anything - Any article of food or drink, or any course of conduct. So valuable is peace, and so desirable is it not to offend a brother, that we should rather deny ourselves to any extent, than to be the occasion of offences and scandals in the church.
Stumbleth - For the difference between this word and the word "offended," see the note at Romans 11:11. It means here that by eating, a Jewish convert might be led to eat also, contrary to his own conviction of what was right, and thus be led into sin.
Or is made weak - That is, shaken, or rendered "less stable" in his opinion or conduct. By being led to imitate the Gentile convert, he would become less firm and established; he would violate his own conscience; his course would be attended with regrets and with doubts about its propriety, and thus he would be made "weak." In this verse we have an eminent instance of the charity of the apostle, and of his spirit of concession and kindness. If this were regarded by all Christians, it would save no small amount of strife, and heart-burnings, and contention. Let a man begin to act on the principle that peace is to be promoted, that other Christians are not to be offended, and what a change would it at once produce in the churches, and what an influence would it exert over the life!
thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak—rather, "is weak." These three words, it has been remarked, are each intentionally weaker than the other:—"Which may cause a brother to stumble, or even be obstructed in his Christian course, nay—though neither of these may follow—wherein he continues weak; unable wholly to disregard the example, and yet unprepared to follow it." But this injunction to abstain from flesh, from wine, and from whatsoever may hurt the conscience of a brother, must be properly understood. Manifestly, the apostle is treating of the regulation of the Christian's conduct with reference simply to the prejudices of the weak in faith; and his directions are to be considered not as prescriptions for one's entire lifetime, even to promote the good of men on a large scale, but simply as cautions against the too free use of Christian liberty in matters where other Christians, through weakness, are not persuaded that such liberty is divinely allowed. How far the principle involved in this may be legitimately extended, we do not inquire here; but ere we consider that question, it is of great importance to fix how far it is here actually expressed, and what is the precise nature of the illustrations given of it.flesh or wine, or any indifferent thing whatsoever. These words, any thing, are not in the original, but they are understood, and well supplied in our translation. Thus to do, he says, is good, as the contrary, in the foregoing verse, was said to be evil: it is good in regard of God, to whom it is acceptable and pleasing; and in regard of our brethren, to whom it is profitable and advantageous; the positive (it may be) is pnt for the comparative; it is good, for it is better: so Matthew 18:8,9.
Whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak: some distinguish these three words, stumbleth, is offended, made weak, making the first to be the greater, and the last the lesser injury: others will have the first to be the lesser, and the last the greater injury. But there are those that think they all three do signify the same thing; and the Syriac interpreter renders them all by one word, viz. is offended: and the same thing may be expressed by divers words, to insinuate the great care we should take, that we do not put a stumblingblock (as it is Romans 14:13) or an occasion of falling into our brother’s way. The apostle seems to practise what he here prescribeth, in 1 Corinthians 8:13. 1 Corinthians 8:13.
Nor to drink wine; not only the wine of libations to Heathen deities, but wine in common; which was not prohibited by the law of Moses, but in the case of a Nazarite, and of vows:
nor anything, be it what it will,
whereby thy brother stumbleth. The Syriac version reads, "our brother"; anyone that stands in such a spiritual relation to any of us; and for which reason care should be taken, that no stumblingblock, or occasion to fall, should be put in his way; particularly that Christian liberty in things indifferent be not unseasonably and imprudently used, and so become a means of stumbling and staggering to weak minds:
or is offended; to that degree, as to censure and judge him that eats, as an impious person, and a transgressor of the law; with whom he cannot keep his communion, but withdraws himself from it, and is even tempted to drop his profession of the Christian religion entirely, being ready to think it is not right, since contrary to the law of Moses:
or is made weak; more weak in the faith than he was before, and his love is weakened and grows very cold and indifferent to his Christian brethren, that can take and use a liberty which he cannot. These two last phrases are not in the Syriac and Ethiopic versions, nor in the Alexandrian copy, though in others, and are used for the sake of explanation and amplification.It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Romans 14:21. Maxim for the strong in faith, which results from the preceding ἀλλὰ κακόν κ.τ.λ.: “It is excellent, morally right and good, to eat no flesh, and to drink no wine, and (generally) to do nothing whereby thy brother takes offence,” etc. Comp. 1 Corinthians 8:13. On μὴ, as joined to the infinitive with the article, see Baeumlein, p. 296. The article belongs only to μὴ φαγ. κρ. With the second μηδέ, the general ποιεῖν is simply to be supplied (Winer, p. 542 [E. T. p. 729]; Buttmann, p. 336), and ἐν ᾧ also refers back to the eating of flesh and drinking of wine. Rückert and Köllner (following Luther, Grotius, Flatt) are mistaken in holding that καλόν is to be taken comparatively, and that the comparison lies in ἐν ᾧ κ.τ.λ.; in which case we should have very arbitrarily to assume that the apostle, instead of following it up with an ἤ κ.τ.λ. (see on Matthew 18:8), had been led away from the construction. According to Hofmann, we should read μηδὲ ἕν. But this would in fact denote, not, as Hofmann thinks, nor yet anything at all, but neque unum, or ne unum quidem (see on 1 Corinthians 6:5; John 1:3), which would be unsuitable here. Quite unfounded withal is the objection against the reading ἐν ᾧ, that προσκόπτειν with ἐν is not elsewhere found; for προσκόπτει is to be taken by itself (absolutely), and ἐν ᾧ means whereby, as ἐν is also to be understood in Sir 30:13; see Fritzsche on Ecclus. p. 167. On the absolute προσκοπτ. comp. Sir 34:17; Sir 13:23, also John 11:9-10.
The following threefold designation of the same thing, namely, of the giving occasion for conduct opposed to conscience (comp. Romans 14:13), is explained by the urgency of the sorrowful thought.
ἀσθενεῖ] not: becomes weak, but, as it always denotes: is weak, i.e. morally powerless to withstand temptation and to follow his moral conviction,—not different in substance from the two preceding figurative designations already employed in Romans 14:13.
Further, that in Romans 14:21 not a merely problematic extension of abstinence is expressed, as those suppose who hold the abstinence on the part of the weak not to refer to all flesh, and to refer to wine either not at all, or only to the wine of libation (see introd. to the chapter, and on Romans 14:2), is evident from Romans 14:2, where abstinence from all flesh is expressed; and hence here, alongside of the μὴ φαγεῖν κρέα, the μηδὲ πιεῖν οἶνον admits of no other conclusion than that the weak in faith drank no wine, but held the use of it likewise (see Romans 14:14) to be defiling.Romans 14:21. A maxim for the strong. For καλὸν cf. Mark 14:6. Abstinence in order that others may not be made to stumble is morally noble. ἐν ᾦ: usually προσκόπτειν takes the Dat, Romans 9:32 1 Peter 2:8. That there were those in the Church at Rome who had scruples as to the use of flesh and wine, see on Romans 14:2. Paul would not have written the chapter at all unless there had been scruples of some kind; and he would not have taken these examples if the scruples had concerned something quite different.
 dative case.21. It is good] The word is in antithesis to the “it is evil” just before. The “strong” Christian might deem his own exercise of liberty good per se; and his “weak” brother’s obedience to scruples evil per se. The Apostle shews him that the exact contrary might be the case. Not the principle of liberty, but its application, might be positively mischievous, and the practical “breach” of the theory might be its truest “honour.”
For a still stronger expression of the noble principle of this verse, see 1 Corinthians 8:12. Never did that principle more need to be remembered than at the present day.
offended] Here, of course, as throughout this passage, the word bears its antiquated meaning—“is made to stumble.”
is made weak] In his obedience to the sense of duty.Romans 14:21. Μηδὲ, ἐν ᾧ) neither, viz. to eat, drink, do anything, in which, etc.—προσκόπτει) stumbleth, and is wounded, induced rashly to imitate thee, with the loss of righteousness. As there is a difference between righteousness and joy, so there is a difference between the loss of each.—σκανδαλίζεται, is offended) is ensnared and impeded, feeling a repugnance to thy action [in eating, and yet doing it in imitation of thee], accompanied with the loss of peace.—ἀσθενεῖ) is made weak, or at least remains so, 1 Corinthians 8:9-10; defective in mental strength, and hesitating between imitation and horror, with the loss of joy: comp. Romans 14:17. כשל, LXX., ἀσθενεῖν.
The two points of the weak brother's special scruple. Omit or is offended or is made weak.
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