Romans 14:23
And he that doubts is damned if he eat, because he eats not of faith: for whatever is not of faith is sin.
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(23) And he that doubteth.—The one thing which justifies a man in neglecting such nice and punctilious distinctions is a faith so strong that it can afford to make light of them. Where faith is not strong enough for this, and where the conscience deliberately approves one course, and the other course is chosen, this alone stamps the act as wrong. “He who hesitates as to what he ought to do is condemned, or does wrong, if he eats (in opposition to his conscience), for he has not the one faculty which can overrule the decisions of conscience, and give them a different direction.”

Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.—This is intended as a general principle, but only as a general principle covering this particular kind of case. Where the conscience is in doubt, faith alone can make it right to choose the side against which conscience inclines. Nothing is said about those cases in which conscience is either not appealed to at all, or approves what is done. Hence St. Augustine was wrong in arguing from this passage that even good actions, when done by unbelievers, were of the nature of sin.

14:19-23 Many wish for peace, and talk loudly for it, who do not follow the things that make for peace. Meekness, humility, self-denial, and love, make for peace. We cannot edify one another, while quarrelling and contending. Many, for meat and drink, destroy the work of God in themselves; nothing more destroys the soul than pampering and pleasing the flesh, and fulfilling the lusts of it; so others are hurt, by wilful offence given. Lawful things may be done unlawfully, by giving offence to brethren. This takes in all indifferent things, whereby a brother is drawn into sin or trouble; or has his graces, his comforts, or his resolutions weakened. Hast thou faith? It is meant of knowledge and clearness as to our Christian liberty. Enjoy the comfort of it, but do not trouble others by a wrong use of it. Nor may we act against a doubting conscience. How excellent are the blessings of Christ's kingdom, which consists not in outward rites and ceremonies, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost! How preferable is the service of God to all other services! and in serving him we are not called to live and die to ourselves, but unto Christ, whose we are, and whom we ought to serve.He that doubteth - He that is not fully satisfied in his mind; who does not do it with a clear conscience. The margin has it rendered correctly, "He that discerneth and putteth a difference between meats." He that conscientiously believes, as the Jew did, that the Levitical law respecting the difference between meats was binding on Christians.

Is damned - We apply this word almost exclusively to the future punishment of the wicked in hell. But it is of importance to remember, in reading the Bible, that this is not of necessity its meaning. It means properly to "condemn;" and here it means only that the person who should thus violate the dictates of his conscience would incur guilt, and would be blameworthy in doing it. But it does not affirm that he would inevitably sink to hell. The same construction is to be put on the expression in 1 Corinthians 11:29, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself."

For whatsoever ... - "Whatever is not done with a full conviction that it is right, is sinful; whatever is done when a man doubts whether it is right, is sin." This is evidently the fair interpretation of this place. Such the connection requires. It does not affirm that all or any of the actions of impenitent and unbelieving people are sinful, which is true, but not the truth taught here; nor does it affirm that all acts which are not performed by those who have faith in the Lord Jesus, are sinful; but the discussion pertains to Christians; and the whole scope of the passage requires us to understand the apostle as simply saying that a man should not do a thing doubting its correctness; that he should have a strong conviction that what he does is right; and that if he has "not" this conviction, it is sinful. The rule is of universal application. In all cases, if a man does a thing which he does not "believe" to be right, it is a sin, and his conscience will condemn him for it. It may be proper, however, to observe that the converse of this is not always true, that if a man believes a thing to be right, that therefore it is not sin. For many of the persecutors were conscientious John 16:2; Acts 26:9; and the murderers of the Son of God did it ignorantly Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8; and yet were adjudged as guilty of enormous crimes; compare Luke 11:50-51; Acts 2:23, Acts 2:37.

In this chapter we have a remarkably fine discussion of the nature of Christian charity. Differences of "opinion" will arise, and people will be divided into various sects; but if the rules which are laid down in this chapter were followed, the contentions, and altercations, and strifes among Christians would cease. Had these rules been applied to the controversies about rites, and forms, and festivals, that have arisen, peace might have been preserved. Amid all such differences, the great question is, whether there is true love to the Lord Jesus. If there is, the apostle teaches us that we have no right to judge a brother, or despise him, or contend harshly with him. Our object should be to promote peace, to aid him in his efforts to become holy, and to seek to build him up in holy faith.

23. And—rather, "But"

he that doubteth is damned—On the word "damnation," see on [2261]Ro 13:2.

if he eat, because he eateth not of faith—On the meaning of "faith" here, see on [2262]Ro 14:22.

for whatsoever is not of faith is sin—a maxim of unspeakable importance in the Christian life.

Note, (1) Some points in Christianity are unessential to Christian fellowship; so that though one may be in error upon them, he is not on that account to be excluded either from the communion of the Church or from the full confidence of those who have more light. This distinction between essential and non-essential truths is denied by some who affect more than ordinary zeal for the honor and truth of God. But they must settle the question with our apostle. (2) Acceptance with God is the only proper criterion of right to Christian fellowship. Whom God receives, men cannot lawfully reject (Ro 14:3, 4). (3) As there is much self-pleasing in setting up narrow standards of Christian fellowship, so one of the best preservatives against the temptation to do this will be found in the continual remembrance that Christ is the one Object for whom all Christians live, and to whom all Christians die; this will be such a living and exalted bond of union between the strong and the weak as will overshadow all their lesser differences and gradually absorb them (Ro 14:7-9). (4) The consideration of the common judgment-seat at which the strong and the weak shall stand together will be found another preservative against the unlovely disposition to sit in judgment one on another (Ro 14:10-12). (5) How brightly does the supreme Divinity of Christ shine out in this chapter! The exposition itself supersedes further illustration here. (6) Though forbearance be a great Christian duty, indifference to the distinction between truth and error is not thereby encouraged. The former is, by the tax, made an excuse for the latter. But our apostle, while teaching "the strong" to bear with "the weak," repeatedly intimates in this chapter where the truth really lay on the points in question, and takes care to call those who took the wrong side "the weak" (Ro 14:1, 2, 14). (7) With what holy jealousy ought the purity of the conscience to be guarded, since every deliberate violation of it is incipient perdition (Ro 14:15, 20)! Some, who seem to be more jealous for the honor of certain doctrines than for the souls of men, enervate this terrific truth by asking how it bears upon the "perseverance of the saints"; the advocates of that doctrine thinking it necessary to explain away what is meant by "destroying the work of God" (Ro 14:20), and "destroying him for whom Christ died" (Ro 14:15), for fear of the doctrinal consequences of taking it nakedly; while the opponents of that doctrine are ready to ask, How could the apostle have used such language if he had believed that such a catastrophe was impossible? The true answer to both lies in dismissing the question as impertinent. The apostle is enunciating a great and eternal principle in Christian Ethics—that the wilful violation of conscience contains within itself a seed of destruction; or, to express it otherwise, that the total destruction of the work of God in the renewed soul, and, consequently, the loss of that soul for eternity, needs only the carrying out to its full effect of such violation of the conscience. Whether such effects do take place, in point of fact, the apostle gives not the most distant hint here; and therefore that point must be settled elsewhere. But, beyond all doubt, as the position we have laid down is emphatically expressed by the apostle, so the interests of all who call themselves Christians require to be proclaimed and pressed on every suitable occasion. (8) Zeal for comparatively small points of truth is a poor substitute for the substantial and catholic and abiding realities of the Christian life (Ro 14:17, 18). (9) "Peace" among the followers of Christ is a blessing too precious to themselves, and, as a testimony to them that are without, too important, to be ruptured for trifles, even though some lesser truths be involved in these (Ro 14:19, 20). Nor are those truths themselves disparaged or endangered thereby, but the reverse. (10) Many things which are lawful are not expedient. In the use of any liberty, therefore, our question should be, not simply, Is this lawful? but even if so, Can it be used with safety to a brother's conscience?—How will it affect my brother's soul (Ro 14:21)? It is permitted to no Christian to say with Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Ge 4:9). (11) Whenever we are in doubt as to a point of duty—where abstinence is manifestly sinless, but compliance not clearly lawful—the safe course is ever to be preferred, for to do otherwise is itself sinful. (12) How exalted and beautiful is the Ethics of Christianity—by a few great principles teaching us how to steer our course amidst practical difficulties, with equal regard to Christian liberty, love, and confidence!

In this verse is another aphorism, respecting especially the weaker Christian.

He that doubteth of the lawfullness of any meat, whether he may or may not eat it,

is damned if he eat, i.e. His own conscience condemns him, or he makes himself liable to damnation,

because he eateth not of faith. The word eateth is not in the original, but it is aptly inserted by our translators. What a man doth doubtingly, he doth sinfully: he showeth a wicked heart, that is not afraid of sin, but in great readiness to commit it.

For whatsoever is not of faith is sin; this is a confirmation of the foregoing assertion. By faith here is meant knowledge, or full persuasion, as Romans 14:22: q.d. Whatever a man doth with a wavering mind, without being persuaded that it is pleasing to God, and warranted by his word, he sinneth in the doing of it. Though we may not nourish doubts and scruples, yet we must not act against them. An erring conscience binds us to act nothing contrary to it: he sins that doth any thing against it, though the fact or thing done should not be sinful. Nature itself teacheth as much: that is a known saying of Cicero: Quod dubitas, aequum sit an iniquum, ne feceris: If thou doubtest whether a thing be lawful, or not lawful, thou shalt not do it. See Hebrews 11:6. And he that doubteth,.... Or makes a difference between meats and meats, or is in suspense whether any difference should be observed or not,

is damned; not with everlasting damnation, which is not the consequent of, nor connected with such an action, as eating of a thing indifferent, with a scrupulous conscience; but such an one is condemned in his own conscience; he is self-condemned, his conscience condemns him for what he himself does; and he is self-condemned in judging and censuring others, for the same things: so the Syriac renders it, , "he becomes guilty", or he contracts guilt to himself, or is self-condemned; and so the Arabic, "he is already condemned",

because he eateth not of faith: or of a full persuasion in his own mind that he is right in eating; he halts between two opinions, and is doubtful in his own mind what is best to do, and therefore, whilst this is his case, he ought to refrain:

for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. This is a general rule, or axiom, which is not only applicable to the present case, but to any other, whether of a natural, civil, moral, or evangelic kind: "whatsoever does not spring from faith", as the Arabic version renders it, cannot be excused of sin; whatever is not agreeable to the word and doctrine of faith, ought not to be done; whatever is done without faith, or not in the exercise of it, is culpable, for without faith nothing can be pleasing to God; and whatever is contrary to the persuasion of a man's own mind, is so far criminal, as it is a violation of his conscience; whatever men do, especially in a religious way, they ought to make faith of it, or to be fully persuaded of it in their own minds, or they act amiss: in the Arabic version, the Complutensian edition, the Alexandrian copy, and some others, Romans 16:25, "now to him that is of power", &c. are here added; which have induced some to think, that the apostle intended to have finished his epistle here; but having more time, and other things occurred to write of, he proceeded.

And he that {s} doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

(s) Reasons with himself.

Romans 14:23. ὁ δὲ διακρινόμενος ἐὰν φάγῃ κατακέκριται: such, on the other hand, is the unhappy situation of the weak—a new motive for charity. For διακριν. cf. Romans 4:20, Jam 1:6, Mark 11:23. The weak Christian cannot be clear in his own mind that it is permissible to do as the strong does; it may be, he thinks one moment, and the next, it may not be; and if he follows the strong and eats in this state of mind, κατακέκριται he is condemned. The condemnation is absolute: it is not only that his own conscience pronounces clearly against him after the act, but that such action incurs the condemnation of God. It is inconsistent with that conscientiousness through which alone man can be trained in goodness; the moral life would become chaotic and irredeemable if conscience were always to be treated so. ὅτι οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως, sc., ἔφαγεν. The man is condemned because he did not eat ἐκ πίστεως: and this is generalised in the last clause πᾶν δὲ ὃ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως ἁμαρτία ἐστίν. All that is not of faith is sin; and therefore this eating, as not of faith, is sin. It is impossible to give πίστις here a narrower sense than Christianity: see Romans 14:1. Everything a Christian man does that cannot justify itself to him on the ground of his relation to Christ is sin. It is too indefinite to render omne quod non est ex fide as Thomas Aquinas does by omne quod est contra conscientiam: it would need to be contra Christianam conscientiam. All a man cannot do remembering that he is Christ’s—all he cannot do with the judgment-seat (Romans 14:10) and the Cross (Romans 14:15) and all their restraints and inspirations present to his mind—is sin. Of course this is addressed to Christians, and there is no rule in it for judging the character or conduct of those who do not know Christ. To argue from it that works done before justification are sin, or that the virtues of the heathen are glittering vices, is to misapply it altogether.23. And he that doubteth] This verse, like the last clause, is really aimed at the “strong” Christian’s mistaken conduct. He is reminded of the real sin he may occasion in his “weak” fellow-Christian. See last note but one.

doubteth] He whose conscience is not at ease on the question of “meats.”

is damned] Lit. hath been condemned. The perfect gives the thought that ipso facto, then and there, he passes under God’s sentence of displeasure, as a rebellious child.

The idea of eternal doom is not, of course, at all inherent in the words; the sentence may be only one of merciful chastening. But even thus, this verse is a suggestive comment on the Divine view of the sinfulness of the lightest transgressions.

not of faith] i.e. he “takes a liberty,” not on the right principle but on the wrong; not from clear conviction that it is authorized by his acceptance in Christ by faith, but from neglect of conscience. And all such acts, as being results of a known wrong principle, are sins.

It is plain from the context that St Paul does not assert that every act is sinful which is not directly based on conscious faith in Christ; but that every act of “liberty” of the kind in question, not so based, is sinful; for it can be based only on neglect of conscience.

for] Lit. but, or now; the argumentative word.

At the close of this chapter many MSS. place the Great Doxology, Romans 16:25-27. See on this question, Introduction, ii. § 3.Romans 14:23. Ὁ δὲ) The reason, why the stronger ought not to induce the weak to eat.—ἐὰν φάγῃ, if he eat) This must be understood both of a single act and much more of frequent eating.—κατακέκριται, is condemned) Comp. Galatians 2:11, note.—ἐκ πίστεως, of faith) of which Romans 14:2; Romans 14:5 at the end, 14 at the beginning, 22. Therefore it is faith itself that is indicated, by which men are reckoned to be believers, informing and confirming, as it does, the conscience, and constituting partly the foundation and partly the standard of upright conduct.—ἁμαρτία, sin) and therefore obnoxious to condemnation.Verse 23. - But he that doubteth (or, wavereth) is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. For sense of διακρίνεσθαι, cf. ch. 4:20; Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23; James 1:6. Faith here denotes an assured belief that what one does is right; nor is it necessary to give the word a wider or different sense in the concluding clause (Ταῦτα δὲ πάντα περὶ τῆς προκειμένης ὑποθεσεως εἴρηται τῷ Παῦλῳ οὔ περὶ πάντων, Chrysostom). Hence to see in it (as has been done) the doctrine of the sinfulness of all works done apart from faith in Christ is to introduce an idea that is not there.


In Christ. "So far as it brings with it the moral confidence as to what in general and under given circumstances is the right christian mode of action" (Meyer).

Some authorities insert here the doxology at Romans 16:25-27. According to some, the Epistle to the Romans closed with this chapter. Chapter 16 was a list of disciples resident at different points on the route, who were to be greeted. Phoebe is first named because Cenchreae would be the first stage.

Ephesus would be the next stage, where Aquila and Priscilla would be found. Chapter 15 was a sort of private missive to be communicated to all whom the messengers should visit on the way. The question seems to be almost wholly due to the mention of Aquila and Priscilla in ch. 16, and to the fact that there is no account of their migration from Ephesus to Rome, and of an after-migration again to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:19). But see on Romans 16:14.

Others claim that chs. 1-11, 16. were the original epistle; that Phoebe's journey was delayed, and that, in the interval, news from Rome led Paul to add 12-15.

Others again, that ch. 16 was written from Rome to Ephesus.

Against these theories is the stubborn fact that of the known extant MSS. of Paul (about three hundred) all the MSS. hitherto collated, including all the most important, give these chapters in the received connection and order, with the exception of the doxology. See on the doxology, ch. 16.

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