Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations.…
1. The weak one is —
(1) Not one that is weak and sick to death, erring in the foundation of faith — one who doth "not hold the Head" (Colossians 2:19), who "denieth the Lord that bought him" (2 Peter 2:1; 2 John 10).
(2) Nor one who is sick about "questions" (1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 5:13; 2 Timothy 2:13).
(3) But one who, though he hath embraced the Saviour, yet is not of a mature judgment, clear enough about the abolition of ceremonial observations, things [which] he judgeth ought to be forborne or done.
2. Charity is enjoined towards such. "Take them to you, receive them into your houses" (Romans 12:13; Luke 5:29). When they fly for their religion and lives, supply their wants, though not just of your opinion. Do not force them to practise what they cannot freely do, but receive them into your arms, love and converse, that you may instruct them and win them into your communion. Let not little differences cause the greatest distances (ver. 3).
3. The limitation of this exception. "Not to doubtful disputations."
I. DISPUTATIONS ARE NOT EASILY JUDGED OF BY SUCH AS ARE WEAK IN FAITH. This is evident from the first dispute that ever was in the world.
1. By this first dispute with the serpent, our first parents were foiled when in uprightness and strength of the image of God. But now sinful man is in a much more dark and doleful state. For —
(1) He cannot form an idea of anything as it is in itself (1 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:5).
(2) His judgment, therefore, must needs be dubious or wrong whereby he is to compare things that differ or agree (Hosea 9:7; Isaiah 5:20; Hebrews 5:14).
(3) His conclusions, therefore, must needs be distorted from these premisses; and the errors in the first and second concoction are not corrected and amended by the third. He who cannot make one straight step, can never take three together.
2. As we are lame in our feet by our naturals, so even those who by the light of the gospel and grace are brought over to better understanding, yet by virtue of the old craziness they are not thoroughly illuminated and refined. The very apostles themselves were plainly told by our Saviour of His sufferings and resurrection, yet "they understood none of these things" (Luke 18:33, 34; Luke 24:45). Paul says, We "know" but "in part" (1 Corinthians 13:12). We see but one side of the globe. These weak Jews were zealous for their ceremonies; the Gentiles, as hot for theirs; let no man think himself infallible, for these were all mistaken.
3. Nothing so convulseth men's reason as interest.
II. THE PRACTICE OF HOLY DUTIES IS THE READY WAY TO HAVE OUR MINDS ENLIGHTENED IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF PRINCIPLES. These practical duties —
1. Give light (John 3:21). The very entrance into the command giveth light (Psalm 119:130); the door is a window to him that hath a weak sight.
2. Advance light. Every step a man takes he goeth into a new horizon, and gets a further prospect into truth.
3. Keep from error or help out of it. Communion with the saints, e.g., as in a team if one horse lash out of the way, if the others hold their course, they will draw the former to the right path. "If any man will do this will of God, he shall know of the doctrine" (Psalm 35:14).
III. CHRISTIAN CHARITY AND RECEPTION WILL SOONER WIN WEAK ONES TO THE TRUTH THAN RIGID ARGUMENTS.
1. Opposition breeds oppositions. When men dispute, they jostle for the way, and so one or both must needs leave the path of truth and peace. The saw of contention reciprocated, with its keen teeth eateth up both truth and love; for such contentions are rather for victory than truth.
2. Loving converse taketh off those prejudices which hinder men's minds from a true knowledge of others' principles and practices.
3. Sincere love and converse breed a good opinion of persons who differ from us. They can taste humility, meekness, and kindness, better than the more speculative principles of religion.
(T. Woodcock, A.M.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.