A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 14:1-15:13 Our relationship to the weak: (iv) Welcome him because we will all stand before God’s judgment seat (10b-13a).
There is an obvious link between our not judging our brother (10a) and our having to *stand before God’s judgment seat* (10b). We should not judge, because we are going to be judged. There seems to be an allusion to the word of Jesus: ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.’ (Mt. 7:1). What kind of ‘judging’ was Jesus referring to, however? He was not forbidding criticism, or telling us to suspend our critical faculties. If we did that, we would not be able to obey one of his next instructions, namely to ‘watch out for false prophets’ (Mt. 7:15). No, what is prohibited to the followers of Jesus is not criticism but censoriousness, ‘judging’ in the sense of ‘passing judgment on’ or condemning. And the reason given is that we ourselves will one day appear before the Judge. In other words, we have no warrant to climb on to the bench, place our fellow human beings in the dock, and start pronouncing judgment and passing sentence, because God alone is judge and we are not, as we will be forcibly reminded when the roles are reversed.
In order to confirm this, Paul quotes from Isaiah 45:23: ‘*As surely as I live,’ says the Lord* (an introductory formula which occurs before several other prophetic oracles, though not in this text), ‘*Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God*’ (11). The emphasis is on the universality of God’s jurisdiction, in that *every knee* and *every tongue* will pay homage to him. *So then*, Paul continues, in the light of this Scripture, *each of us* individually, not all of us in a mass, *will give an account of himself*, not of other people, *to God* (12). *Therefore*, because God is the Judge and we are among the judged, *let us stop passing judgment on one another* (13a), for then we shall avoid he extreme folly of trying to usurp God’s prerogative and anticipate judgment day.
Four theological truths, then, undergird Paul’s admonition to welcome the weak, and neither despise nor condemn them. They concern God, Christ, them and ourselves. First, God has accepted them (3). Secondly, Christ died and rose to be the Lord, both theirs and ours (9). Thirdly, they are our sisters and brothers, so that we are the members of the same family (10a). Fourthly, all of us will stand before God’s judgment seat (10b). Any one of these truths should be enough to sanctify our relationships; the four together leave us without excuse. And there are still two to come!
Tomorrow: Romans 14:13b-23. b). Do not offend or destroy the weak person.