Romans 14:1-12
The Lord's

Authored By Seminarian Mitsuyoshi Kuwa, Tokyo Theological Seminary First Year Graduate Student

 "Accept the person weak in faith."

1.  Today it is important for us to make sure we know what the significance of this phrase is.  Because this phrase from the Bible about looking out for oneself is based on our selfish way of judging [others], it is going in a direction which seems to have such an understanding.  Is this only the logic of the strong ones must watch out for the weak ones?  Even if that were not in the Bible, many people and many books claim it.  So why is such a thing written in the Bible?  What is the difference between the Bible and other claims?  Before proceeding in this, I would like to make clear who the weak persons in faith [are].

2.  In verse two it says about the weak person that this is a person who eats only vegetables; in other words, he or she doesn't put meat in his or her mouth and eats only vegetables.  Why is such a person called weak in faith?

3.  The audience to whom Paul was speaking was the people of the Roman church.  In brief, both strong and weak persons in faith were in the same church.  Together they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It wasn't a matter of which persons believed or did not believe.  This matter of being weak in faith is not speaking in the sense that they do not have faith. They were waiting together for the Lord Jesus Christ to come again.  That is, they were expecting God's kingdom to come.  However, the way they were waiting for the kingdom of God was different.  The person with weak faith was only eating just vegetables.  This was not in particular a case where meat could not physically be eaten.  That's not what it means, rather they were living a lifestyle in which they did not eat meat for their own personal progress.  Their understanding of the kingdom of God played a big part in this.  They were basing the kingdom of God on a kind of lifestyle in the garden of Eden.  What was the garden of Eden?  When God created humanity, it was the land in which he made humanity live.  God spoke to humankind as follows:

4.  Genesis 1:29-30  "God said. 'See.  You can reproduce in all the land; I give everything to you, the plants with their seeds and the trees which bear fruit with their seeds.  They will be your food.  To the beast of the land, the bird of the sky, the things creeping on the land and all the rest, I give all the green plants to all things which have life.'"  He said they eat plants.  As far as this matter goes, one may say that it is not written [here] that you should not eat meat and as far as that goes, another passage serves as their basis.

5.  Genesis 9:1-4  "God spoke and blessed Noah and his sons. 'Bear [children], increase, fill the land.  Every beast in the land and every bird of the sky, along with every thing that creeps on the land and every fish in the sea will tremble in fear before you, and will be entrusted to your hands. The thing which has life and is moving you should all use for your provisions.  As [I gave you] plants I give you all these things.  Only you will not eat meat with its blood included which is the life.'"  At first here [in the text] it says that he gave meat for food just as [he gave] plants.  The understanding of the kingdom of God for those eating only vegetables was the garden of Eden, as I said previously.  In the garden of Eden humanity began to live.  But since he sinned, it says he was banished from the garden of Eden.  It says Adam's sin, humanity's sin. After that, humanity became a sinful entity or thing and people took to living in sin's midst.  They understood the arrangements in Genesis 1:29-30 were things before the time that humanity sinned.  Furthermore, they thought the message that they should eat meat just as [they should eat] plants was given as an arrangement made after they had sinned and was a message given to Noah.  In other words, they considered the sinless life, that is, this matter of food in the coming kingdom of God, as a life of eating only vegetables and a life before humanity had yet sinned.

6.  They were waiting for the kingdom of God.  And they tried to point theirlifestyle in the coming kingdom of God even in their churches.  For that reason, they were captivated by a lifestyle in which they placed their lifestyle of the kingdom of God in the garden of Eden and would live eating only vegetables.  The very basis of their actions we could say was coming from a faith that earnestly was waiting and hoping for the kingdom of God. As we listen to what has been said so far, we might think it was such a terrible faith.  We too seem to be waiting for the kingdom of God almost [as they did].  That's how we just might be thinking.  But, be advised. Was Paul at this point calling such a person as this a person of strong faith?  Not hardly.  He was saying that they themselves were persons weak in faith.  Why does he say [in the scriptures] their faith was weak?

7.  What Paul was saying here was that the idea of trying to point to the kingdom of God by a lifestyle in which one only eats vegetables was a person weak in faith, because if a person cannot fulfill such a rule by himself** then he calls the person who is not maintaining his faith a person weak in faith.  On the other hand, they end up only thinking that their faith is canceled out by eating meat.  They live their lives with such a rule as a prop, as a help for their faith.  Without such a support they cannot keep their faith.  When Paul said there was a person weak in faith he was pointing to this kind of person.  "Please accept a person weak in faith.  Don't be judgmental about their ideas."  This message was spoken to the people who maintain faith without such props and who keep on waiting for the kingdom of God.  They are said to be strong in faith.  They should not be judgmental of the people weak in faith.  Because criticizing them will definitely lead to taking away their very faith itself.  But, Paul wasn't just talking here about only the one strong in faith accepting the one weak in faith.  In addition to that there was another issue.

8.  Verse three: "The one who does not eat should not condemn the one who does because God has accepted such an one."  You should not condemn [others]. On the other hand, this shows that the person who only eats just vegetables was in reality judging those who say that you may eat anything [out there].  Simply put, it was not just a matter of being weak in faith.  They would have rules as a prop of their faith.  This matter of eating vegetables and not meat was one of their rules.  Furthermore, because they were holding those particular rules they were condemning by such rules those persons who did not adhere to them.

9.  Paul said to those type of persons that they should not judge [others]. He was not judging their very rules themselves.  Rather, if these rules lead to propping up their faith, he thought it was fine for them to continue having them as they were without changing.  What Paul was strongly criticizing was that such rules might end up becoming their very faith itself and might not just [remain] as a prop of their faith.  If a person determines that observing rules is the faith and not observing them is the opposite of faith, then it would wind up being a return to the evil of legalism which was before the coming of Jesus Christ.  Paul himself, before he met Christ, was a member of the legalist crowd.  Paul himself has spoken of it ([in] Philippians 3:5-6).  For this very reason he felt stronger about falling into that type of thinking pattern than other people did.

10.  What does it mean when a person condemns another?  The words of verse four [say]:  "What kind of person are you when you condemn another man's servant?  Whether the servant stands or falls depends on his or her master.  But the servant will stand.  [The servant will stand] because his or her lord is able to make him or her stand."  Who is the master of the church?  [Who is] our master?  Only the one who is the master, it says, can judge his servant.  This is because the servant is his master's, [the master's possession].  Who is our master?  To whom do we belong?

11.  Can we really say that I belong to myself?  Are we able to judge ourselves by ourselves?  This matter of judging is not some superficial thing. Judgment will come after every person.  It is a situation dealing with life.  The results of the judgment mean death.  And at the same time reconciliation at the judgment means life.  Can we judge others while saying I belong to myself?  We certainly may be able to kill ourselves. But only that.  Will we be able to keep ourselves alive by ourselves? Aren't our lives being kept alive only by just the Lord?  Our master, our very [master] is Jesus Christ, our Lord God.  This Lord bears all of us up.  He makes our death as well as our life his business.  We are made the Lord's, [the Lord's possessions].  Because of this very reason he says [some more] in verses seven through eight.

12.  What does it mean that we are the Lord's?  Both a person weak or strong in faith is made alive by being the Lord's.  Their walk was waiting and hoping together for the kingdom of God.  And all of their lifestyle was for the Lord, and it say in verse six they were basing it all on thanksgiving to God.  God became a master and came down, not flinching to any evil and was so strong that all the powers could not oppose him.  Until then the master was the power of sin.  It granted death but it could not grant life.  Only Jesus Christ won a victory over that former master and became our owner. "Christ died and lived" that was "so he would become Lord to the dead person as well as the person who was alive."  The Lord died and was resurrected.  We are promised that we also will take part in his resurrection.  Death is no longer our final goal.  If death were the last goal, our daily life would not be for the Lord but it would become a completely thankless life.  But that's not how it was.  Our Lord was not a person who died and had nothing else to do with [us].  The Lord is able to make servants stand.  That is we are made into living beings by this Lord through participating in the resurrection after we die.  The Lord will let us stand.

13.  Where are we who assemble in the church directing our gaze?  We are waiting and hoping by looking for the second coming of the Lord and the second coming of the  kingdom of God.  At that time, we will be made to stand before the Lord.  We all will stand at that time at the judgment seat of God.  Paul said it therefore like this in verse ten to the Romans.  Why does a person condemn another?  Can a person do anything for anyone else for one to be saved?  We could pray for [their] salvation.  But does the one who is not God make the decision concerning their salvation?  Could he hand down a judgment regarding salvation for a person?  We are coming to the time when God will surely come.  Who will point out the judgment at that time?  Won't that itself be a haughty place for humanity?  When did a person become God?  Shouldn't our eyes be directed only on the Lord God? The place we ought to keep looking and waiting in hope is not at the judgment humans being conduct.  Shouldn't [our gaze] be on the facts that the kingdom of God is coming and Christ is coming again?

14.  The passage of scripture in verse eleven speaks on the figure of the coming judgment and its circumstances.  Every tongue will praise God.  It says that the very posture of praise, the final figure, is the arrival of the kingdom of God.

15.  The recipients to whom Paul was writing this letter, namely the church at Rome, were among both persons who ate and did not eat and persons who honored a [particular] day and persons who didn't honor [that day], and that scorn and disdain were practiced [by them].  But Paul wrote that God has accepted these persons (verse three).  He wrote that they were made God's (verse eight).

16.  Among people of the church accepted by God and who have been made the Lord's, why is condemnation in practice against one another?  In addition
to that, this mutual condemnation is not just a humanly mutual condemnation.  If it were just a case of humanly stressing each other out or if Paul just made a recommendation for reconciliation that would be great.  He could probably have said please forgive one another.  But their mutual judgment of each other was simply not a situation between one person and another.  It was a situation having to do with a person's salvation. They ended up turning themselves into gods.

17.  For this reason, isn't it so very easy for a person to fall?  We often have bouts with someone and exert stress on others.  Or we look down on those who do such things. We forget the other person is participating in the same salvation, especially when we are in the middle of a strain with someone and we seem to end up thinking only of condemning them at that time.  We get to the point we can't even talk about entering the kingdom of God together.  At that time that person make his salvation absolute and he ends up making God a personal ally and possession.  Is God really ours to possess?  [Is he our thing?]

18.  It is we who are the Lord's, we are the Lord's possession.  We are.  Not me, but it is us.  If now you have been judging someone else, what profit does it have for you and the kingdom of God?  Will there be joy in heaven? We will be explaining ourselves before the Lord one by one (verse twelve). We will not be making accusations against any other person.

19.  But, here in the place of judgment, every tongue will praise God.  Because the Lord will accept together both the weak and the strong, both you that would judge [another] and the one who would have been judged [by you].  The seat of judgment is no longer just for judgment.  Rather, it will be filled with voices of praise and will be a place of joy.  Let's wait in hope for the second coming of Christ.  Because the time of his arrival is filled with joy and thanksgiving.  "If we live, we live for the Lord, if we die, we die for the Lord.  Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's."  Amen.

End Note:

*"The Lord's possession."  This sermon plays on the Japanese word "mono" which is used about 32 times in this message.  It means "thing, object, possession, business" and can serve as a nominalizer of a verbal phrase (turns a verbal phrase into a noun) in statements like the fourth from the last sentence in paragraph four or as in paragraph six "all things that creep" that is "all creeping things."

**If I add the feminine pronouns e.g. "herself" here, the sentence will be
even harder to follow, so I omit inclusive language in this sentence.

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