Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.
What we find in this chapter of Romans is a discourse on the “strong believer” and the “weak believer.” When Paul said to accept the one weak in faith he was obviously addressing his comment to maturing believers. Under the Royal Family of God Honor Code, believers are to treat one another with respect and integrity regardless of their stage of spiritual growth.
Every believer advances to spiritual maturity at different rates, if at all. It is our responsibility as royal family members to be thoughtful and courteous to all believers, regardless of their stage of growth. The potential exists for any believer willing to learn and apply doctrine to advance to maturity. Some will and some will not, but in either case it is between them and God.
All believers enter into the Christian Way of Life with preconceived opinions (human viewpoint) which are not compatible with the standards set for them in Bible doctrine. The strong believer is the maturing believer. He is commanded to accept the weak believer who has opinions without knowing Bible doctrine. The weak believer emphasizes the non-essentials instead of the essentials. So it is the strong believer who is commanded to accept the weak believer into the society of the royal family without making an issue out of his false opinions. Therefore, do not make an issue of his erroneous opinions which will be corrected in due time by Bible doctrine and the Holy Spirit, if he/she is positive. If he/she is not positive, the Lord will discipline him, not you.
One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.
In Rome many forms of controversy existed with regard to food, wine, and the observation of holy days. Some believers emphasized taboos about eating and drinking.
The mature believer is to be inflexible in the essentials. But on the non-essentials he/she is to be flexible. He/she knows that he/she may eat all things. This conviction is based on application of accurate Bible doctrine. The weak believer is strong in his opinions and inflexible, but is minus the accurate Bible doctrine necessary to understand the freedom of grace. The weak believer therefore continues to operate with Human Viewpoint Thinking. He/she is weak because of insufficient doctrine and the insufficiency of doctrine results from negative volition toward doctrine, apathy toward doctrine, indifference or whatever it may be. Without doctrine perceived and resident in the soul the weak believer can be victimized by legalism, such as various food and beverage taboos. Only when the weak believer has learned enough accurate Bible doctrine will he/she realize the freedom he/she has in Christ.
Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.
The weak believer in refusing to eat meat has become a vegetarian on the basis of religious legalism and not diet. It is all right if he/she wants to be a vegetarian. It is not all right to try to make all Christians vegetarians. And, it is not all right to judge them if they don’t comply. To be a vegetarian for the purpose of gaining divine approbation is ridiculous. Disagreement in non-essentials should never destroy Christian fellowship. Non-essentials originate from human viewpoint not divine viewpoint.
Because of his understanding of Bible doctrine the strong believer may have a tendency to treat with contempt the weak believer who is ignorant of doctrine. The strong believer generally can distinguish between essential and non-essential. He/she understands that doctrine is the essential and that application of doctrine demands a certain amount of flexibility. He/she is inflexible about doctrine but is flexible about the non-essentials. The strong believer in this verse departs from his own norms and standards and lowers himself/herself to be contemptuous and intolerant of the weak believer who has false norms and standards from his/her background. The result is there is strife in the Royal Family of God. The problem with both the strong and the weak believer is arrogance in this matter of contempt on the part of the strong and judging on the part of the weak.
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
At the time of Paul’s writing it was considered ill-mannered to criticize house slaves belonging to another person. No one punished another man’s slaves. This was a breech of etiquette also and unprecedented poor manners. This custom of the ancient world is used by the Apostle Paul under the ministry of the Holy Spirit to illustrate the principle in this verse. Every believer in this context is a house slave. This means that we do not have the right to malign, to gossip, to judge, to be vindictively critical of another believer. Two exceptions: 1) parents have the right to judge and discipline their children and to superimpose their own standards on their children. And, the pastor of the local church has the right to judge and to be critical of those who violate this principle, and to have them removed from the congregation so that privacy of the priesthood might be restored and objectivity toward Bible teaching might continue. As household slaves all believers are under the authority of the justice of God, and God has not delegated that authority to the weak or the legalistic believer. The strong believer does not stand on the basis of criticism or legalism imposed by the weak believer.
One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.
You have the right to regard any day as a special day within the framework of your own life. But to try to superimpose that on everyone else is the problem. The weak believer in legalism distinguishes one day from another and judges it as a holy day, which is his prerogative. But then he judges everyone else in relationship to his opinion. Judging by false standards is always the habit of the weak believer.
The principle is that the mature believer is regarded in our context as the strong believer, and as such he regards every day alike. To the maturing believer every day is a special gift from God to be enjoyed equally. And as believers we are to redeem the time we have been given according to Ephesians 5:15-18. The norms and standards of the Christian life are not determined by legalistic taboos or the observation of holy days, but by the study and application of accurate Bible doctrine.
He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
Each believer must be convinced in his own mind and avoid spiritual bullying of others. So, with spiritual growth from perception of doctrine, opinions will change as divine standards fill the conscience. But they must be changed by doctrine and not by self-righteous and opinionated legalism, or distorting grace. At this point we are dealing with an immature believer who is positive toward Bible doctrine. He just simply hasn’t been exposed long enough yet to learn certain things which would change his mental attitude and change his norms and standards.
The mature believer must not regard with contempt the standard of the immature believer who only drinks water and eats vegetables. Nor should the immature believer judge the mature believer who drinks wine and eats meat. There is room for different standards under the privacy of the priesthood which is the central part of the honor code. These things must be observed so that each believer can develop his norms and standards from the perception of Bible doctrine. So every royal priest has the right to privacy and conviction which is compatible with his personal stage of growth. One believer cannot adopt the standards of a more mature believer without doctrine first, but if he is simply copying someone else, he is weak.
This immature believer is living his life as unto the Lord with what he has. He just doesn’t have much in the way of doctrine yet. He/she is doing the best he/she can with the doctrine he/she has learned, so why should he/she be handicapped by mature believers? Under the principle of the function of the priesthood certain functions demand both toleration and understanding on the part of the mature believer. The more doctrine you have the greater your responsibility to be sensitive to those in your periphery, believers and unbelievers.
For the weak believer to assume that any taboo or the observation of a holy day is spiritual or an advance to maturity is, of course, apostasy. While it is apostasy and incompatible with the Word it can be straightened out by doctrine if he will just continue in doctrine. Therefore, while he is wrong, he must be permitted to continue in doctrine without making an issue over non-essentials. The key in this verse is the giving of thanks to God.