Art Toombs Ministries

Online Bible Commentary

In Doubtful Matters, Liberty
Romans 14:1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way. (NKJV)






The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome during a three month visit to the church in Corinth, Greece in late 56 and early 57 A.D. The letter is heavy with Christian Doctrine, Christian teaching.

The major doctrinal portion of the letter ends with chapter 11. Going forward, the next section (chapters 12-15:13) takes this doctrine and applies it through practical Christian living.

There is a Christian saying “In essentials, unity: in doubtful matters, liberty: in all things, charity. The saying has been attributed to Augustine, Wesley, and Rupertus Meldenius, at various times.

Regardless of the origin, it is an important Christian statement. This passage brings to mind that statement.

Christians are united in the essentials of the Christian faith, such as we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Christ Jesus.  In non-essentials, however, we should be given the liberty to disagree with our fellow Christians. These non-essentials are referred to in this passage as “doubtful things”.

In this passage, Paul begins by writing “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” (v. 1). Christians come in all flavors, from those who are mature in their faith to those who are beginners.

Paul refers to beginners here as “weak”. There is no slight intended, only a realization that some believers are farther along in their walk with God than others. All are to be received in Christian charity, or love.

While we have liberty to “dispute” the “doubtful things”, we should not allow these disputes to cause problems for Christians to grow in their faith. All opinions concerning doubtful things should be respected.

Next, Paul cites two examples of “doubtful things”. The first has to do with dietary restrictions.

He writes “For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.” (vv. 2-3).

The first century church was composed of converted Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews). The converted Jews would sometimes hold on to the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Law.

Paul did not want this to become a distraction in their Christian walk. He states that it is not important and that other Christians should not “judge” them for this.

Paul writes “Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” (v. 4). We are not to “judge” our fellow Christians on these “doubtful things”. As Christians, we will be judged by our “master”, Jesus Christ, and will be rewarded when we get to Heaven.

Next, Paul writes “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.” (vv. 5-6). The second example of “doubtful things” has to do with the Sabbath.

The converted Jews were accustomed to the Sabbath being on Saturday, while the Christian day of worship had been designated for Sunday. The Resurrection of Christ and the establishment of the church at Pentecost both fell on Sunday.

In reality, our bodies are the temple of God because the Holy Spirit resides within us. Therefore, Christians should worship God always, “every day alike”.

In summary of these two examples, Paul writes “He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.” (vv. 7-8). No matter what we do as Christians, we do it unto the Lord. The “doubtful things” do not matter. We have liberty, from God.

Paul writes “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (v. 9). Jesus died for us on the cross, was resurrected and sits at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven. He is “Lord” of all Christians, both “the dead and the living”. The souls and the spirits of the dead are with Him in Heaven.

Next, Paul writes “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (v. 10). Christians should not judge each other regarding the “doubtful things”.

These are non-essentials, the Bible is not clear on them. Jesus will judge us at the “judgment seat” of Christ and will reward us accordingly for the good, or bad we have done in this life.

The Greek word translated “judgment seat” is the word “Bema”. In the Roman world, the Bema was the platform that the winners of the Olympic style Greek games would ascend to receive their rewards from the chief of the games.  

Paul writes “For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (v. 11-12). Here, Paul quotes from Isaiah 45:23.

Both Christians and non-Christians will be judged by Jesus. Since Christians have already been forgiven by God, they are only judged according to their rewards at the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ. Non-Christians will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment and will be sentenced to eternal separation from God in Hell.

Paul concludes this passage by writing “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.” (v. 13). Christians are not to judge each other regarding doubtful matters, non-essentials of the Christian faith.

We are not to be a “stumbling block”, causing other Christians to stumble, or fall, in their walk with God. In doubtful matters we should have liberty, allowing for discussion without judging. .