Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations.…
1. "Faith" is not here used in the sense of confidence in Christ, but of the faith. The question was, did Christianity or did it not require abstinence from certain meats, and observance of certain fasts and festivals? The man who maintained that it did is here held to be weak in the faith. He had but faintly grasped the breadth of Christ's redeeming work; while he who had attained superior light, and had been set free from all such scruples, was therefore strong in the faith.
2. Now, the apostle assumes that the latter was right. Had he been wrong, there could have been no discussion, and there could be no just ground for a moment's toleration of him. But he was not wrong (ver. 14). The Mosaic law on these subjects had been done away in Christ (Colossians 2:16, 17).
3. The question was whether the man who conscientiously abstained and observed might, or might not, be received into the Church. He was certainly not required in order to salvation to disregard the Jewish festivals, nor to eat unclean meats. But it never could be tolerated that he should set up his scrupulous conscience as the normal standard of Christian faith (Galatians 2:3-5; Galatians 4:9-11; Galatians 5:1-4). No one must bind burdens upon men which the Lord had not bound. Hence the weak in faith is to be received, but not to judgings or condemnations of opinions. If he is content to enjoy the advantages of fellowship with you, without insisting that you are all wrong, let him be received; but if his object is to promote contention, etc., then he has no rightful place amongst you.
I. LET NOT THE STRONG IN THE FAITH DESPISE THEM THAT ARE WEAK, for their convictions rest ultimately upon Divine revelation. The law of Moses was of Divine authority, and, although done away in Christ, was subject to it. Therefore it was not surprising if some of the Jewish converts still felt insuperable objections to its abandonment. It was a matter of conscience, and the man who respects his conscience deserves respect, even when prejudiced and wrong (ver. 6). The strong, therefore, must not put a stumbling-block in their brother's way. This may be done —
1. By a contempt of his scruples. The disposition to sneer at his stupid weakness will not convince him that he is either stupid or weak, but will rather drive him utterly away from those who tolerate such an ungenerous spirit, and perhaps to apostasy. Now, though the strong had a perfect right to disregard the distinctions of meats, he had no right to imperil the salvation of any one for whom Christ died (ver. 17). The weak are not required to abstain from meats, but you are not bound to eat them (1 Corinthians 8:13).
2. By example or persuasion. It was quite lawful for the strong to employ argument in order to convince the weak that he misapprehended the character and purpose of Christianity: but it was not lawful for him to laugh at his scruples, and to assure him, without adducing proof, that there could really be no harm in eating, etc. That might be quite true for him, but it would not be true for his weak brother. If this man presumed to eat the meat, or to disregard the day, while his scruples remained, his own conscience would accuse him of unfaithfulness. Thank God for thy liberty (ver. 22); but use it lawfully (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16; 1 Corinthians 8:9).
II. THE WEAK IN THE FAITH ARE NOT TO JUDGE OR CONDEMN THE STRONG IN THE FAITH, the thing to which they are always predisposed. Incapable of grasping comprehensive principles, that, e.g., of Christian love, they feel to require a multitude of minute prescriptions. Days and meats and dress must all be fixed by enactment. And so being most punctiliously conscientious themselves, are ready to condemn brethren who are not equally scrupulous. Admit them into the Church by all means, says the apostle; but they must lay aside this censorious spirit. For it is not suffered them to usurp the place of the great Supreme. These matters are in themselves morally indifferent (ver. 14; 1 Timothy 4:4). Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind, and act upon his own convictions. Your judgment is not binding upon any conscience but your own. As to all other matters there must be mutual forbearance and charity. Yet it is for each one to see —
1. That he is loyally and earnestly devoted to the service of his Lord. Whether strong or weak his object must be to approve himself unto the Lord in everything, and for the Lord's sake to promote the comfort and perfection of all his brethren.
2. That conscience is not offended. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth in his own practice. Where there is doubt, respect that doubt. Seek that your conscience may be well informed.
Parallel VersesKJV: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.