None lives for themselves. 14:1-12
From 14:1 to 15:22 Paul writes about "the weak" and "the strong." He particularly wants "the strong" to consider "the weak." "The strong" are Gentile believers who, as children of grace, have found liberty in Christ, although as Paul says, such liberty is not liberty to sin. Paul asks his new converts to consider their behavior before "the weak" (pietists, nomists - law-bound believers) so as not to offend them and drive them from Christ. "The weak" tend to think that their life as a believers is progressed by obedience to Biblical law. In the early church, these pious believers tended to be former Jews. Although Paul, in his letter to the Romans, seeks to demolish this wrong application of the law, and affirm that God's full blessings belong to those who rest in faith on the faithfulness of Christ, he does not want to undermine the faith of these weak believers, nor demolish the truth that the law properly serves as a guide to the Christian life. In our passage for study, Paul directs how "the weak" and "the strong" should treat each other.
v1. "The weak" should be fully included in the Christian fellowship, without quarreling over their religious sensibilities. Obviously, "the strong" are in a majority in the Roman church. This free-of-the-law Gentile crew have found liberty in Christ and Paul happily numbers himself with them. It is most likely that "the strong" were called "weak" by the pietists, the law-bound group, since they didn't apply themselves to the details of the law, eg. circumcision. In the eyes of a law-bound believer, keeping the whole law displays strength.
v2-4. "The strong" are not to despise "the weak" and "the weak" are not to judge "the strong." They both belong to the Lord and will be supported by him. Paul is even handed in his critique, even though his focus is primarily on "the strong." It is easy to pass judgement on those who seem overly pious in their law-keeping, but the truth is there is only one Judge, and he will determine whether we stand or fall.
v5-6. Each believer seeks to honour the Lord in their behavior, whether in their piety, or in their liberty. We must not condemn a brother whose intention is the same as ours, but whose methodology is different.
v7-9. "None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master", New American Bible. A follower of Christ does not live for their own gratification. Our ultimate aim is the gratification of Christ, to live under the ideal of service to Christ. The object is the same, namely "to the Lord", for the honor of the Lord, whether in our liberty, or in our piety. "Live" here probably means "live in liberty", while "die" probably means "live in piety" (eating kosher foods, regarding certain days as holy, ....).
v10-12. Judging, or despising a brother, because of their liberty, or their piety, is stupid, given that everything will be resolved in the final judgement when each one of us will have to give account of ourselves before God. One brother, with a particular viewpoint, style of worship, life-style.... has no right to judge another brother who takes a different line. Paul supports his warning about judging others by quoting Isaiah 45:23. He then draws out the implication that instead of focusing on the imperfection of others, we would be wise to focus on our own imperfections, given that each of us will have to give an account of our life before God.
"Judge not lest you be judged." "First pull the log out of your own eye before trying to pull the speck out of your brother's eye". How easy it is to judge others. Even with all these wonderful words from Jesus, his disciples still got into judgementalism. Like the time they came across someone preaching for Christ who was not in the apostolic band. "Will we stop him Lord?" Jesus had to remind them, "he who is not against us is for us." If he's on our side, why try to stop him?
Even today, we so easily slip into judging members of other churches. Lines like, "they are not Spirit-filled", "they don't have the full gospel", "they are not Word-centred", "they are liturgical", "they are catholic", .... Within the Anglican communion there are slurs like: "they are high church", "they are low church", "dear me, they use candles there!" We so easily judge the spiritual qualifications of others simply because they are different to us. Their style of worship, churchmanship..... is used to condemn them. Paul clearly denounces such behavior and reminds each one of us that we should be concerned for our own standing before God, for each of us will have to answer for ourselves.
Judgementalism within the local congregation is even more disturbing. Differences will always develop within a Christian community. To denounce others who hold a different opinion to ourselves is really quite ugly. To make a moral judgement on a person's views, to scandalize and condemn them, because we don't agree with them, is evil.
"None of us lives to ourselves alone". If "we belong to the Lord" then we belong to each other and have no right condemn each other. Each of us will have to give an account to God for our own actions. That is enough.
1. "The weak" and "the strong" in this passage represent a particular style of discipleship. Define each style.
2. Both "the weak" and "the strong" face different and similar dangers in their Christian lives. Discuss.