A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 14:2-15:13. 2) Our relationship to the weak: (ii) Welcome him because Christ died and rose to be the Lord.
The argument moves on. If it is inappropriate to reject somebody whom God has welcomed, it is at least as inappropriate to interfere in the relationship between a master and his *oiketes*, his household slave. *Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?* (4a). In ordinary life such behaviour would be regarded as outrageous and would be deeply resented. Just so, we have no business to come between a fellow Christian and Christ, or to usurp Christ’s position in his life. *To his own master he stands or falls*. For he is not responsible to us, nor are we responsible for him. *And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand* (4b), giving him his approval, whether he has ours or not.
Paul now develops his second illustration of the relations between the strong and the weak. It concerns the observance or non-observance of special days, presumably Jewish festivals, whether feasts or fasts, and whether weekly, monthly or annual (cf. Gal.4:10; Col.2:16). He begins by describing the alternatives without comment. *One man considers one day more sacred than another* (the weak); *another man considers every day alike* (the strong). The latter does not distinguish between days any more than he does between foods. To whichever group his readers might belong, Paul’s first concern for them is this: *Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind* (5). Paul is not encouraging mindless behaviour. Nor is he friendly to unexamined traditions.
But assuming that each (weak and strong) has reflected on the issue and has reached a firm decision, he will then reckon his practice to be part of his Christian discipleship. *He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord* (6a). He does it, that is, ‘in honour of the Lord’ (RSV, JB), with the intention of pleasing and honouring him. And the same is true of the one who regards every day alike, although Paul does not mention him in verse 6. Instead, he reverts to the question of meat and in doing so adds an important double principle, which is related to thanksgiving. *He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God* (6b). Whether one is an eater or an abstainer, the same two principles apply, If we are able to receive something from God with thanksgiving, as his gift to us, then we can offer it back, as our service to him. The two movements, from him to us and from us to him, belong together and are vital aspects of our Christian discipleship. Both are valuable and practical tests. ‘Can I thank God for this? Can I do this unto the Lord? (See 1 Cor.10:30; 1 Tim.4:3ff.).
This introduction of the Lord into our lives, applies to every situation. *For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone* (7). On the contrary, *If* (that is, ‘while’) *we live, we live to the Lord; and if* (that is ‘when’) *we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord* (8). Life and death seem to be taken as constituting together the sum total of our human being. While we continue to live on earth and when through death we begin the life of heaven, everything we have and are belongs to the Lord Jesus and must therefore be lived to his honour and glory. Why is this? Here is Paul’s answer. *For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living* (9). It is wonderful that the apostle lifts the very mundane question of our mutual relationships in the Christian community to the high theological level of the death, resurrection and consequent universal lordship of Jesus. Because he is our Lord, we must live for him. Because he is also the Lord of our fellow Christians, we must respect their relationship to him and mind our own business, For he died and rose to be Lord.
(iii) Welcome him because he is your brother (10a).
After writing about the strong and the weak, the observers and the abstainers, the living and the dead, all in rather general and impersonal terms, Paul suddenly poses two straight questions in which he sets over against each other ‘you’ and ‘your brother’. *You, then, why do you judge your brother?* Or *Why do you look down on your brother?* (10a). Despising and judging fellow Christians (the same two verbs are used as in verse 3), ‘the smile of disdainful contempt’ and ‘the frown of condemnatory judgment’, are both now shown up to be totally anomalous attitudes. Why? Not only because God has accepted them, because Christ has died and risen to be our common Lord, but also because they and we are related to one another in the strongest possible way, by family ties. Whether we are thinking of the weak, with all their tedious doubts and fears, or of the strong, with all their brash assurances and freedoms, they are our brothers and sisters. When we remember this, our attitude to them becomes at once less critical and impatient, more generous and tender.