RECEIVING THE WEAK
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” Rom. 14.1.
Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye.Â—In this verse, and onwards to the 13th of the following chapter, the Apostle, as in the 8th and 10th chapters of 1st Corinthians, establishes the duty of mutual forbearance among Christians. The subjects of dispute often vary, but the principles here laid down are always the same. The discussion in this chapter regards things in themselves indifferent, as the observance of certain days, and the abstinence from certain kinds of food; the errors, however, into which we may fall respecting them, are represented as springing from weakness of faith, to which every evil that appears among Christians may be traced.
Many commentators take it for granted that the weak are the Jewish, and the strong the Gentile believers. There is no ground in the text for this opinion. Many of the Jews might be fully instructed in the points which are here treated, and many of the Gentiles might be weak with respect to the defilement of meats offered in sacrifice to idols. Why should it be thought that the Jewish believers in general should be uninstructed, and that every Gentile believer should be fully acquainted with his duty respecting meats? Some of them might in this easily adopt the prejudices of the Jews, and others might have prejudices of their own. To confine what is left general by the Apostle, must be useless, and, in some cases, very hurtful.
Faith.Â—Faith here regards the doctrine of the gospel as a whole. Improper views of any part of it always imply something defective with respect to its nature. But partial ignorance may be consistent with so much knowledge as is connected with salvation. Some
understand this as referring to the Jewish Christian, who is weak in ; the faith concerning meats and days. But how does this consist with the 2nd verse, which represents the weakness, as confining itself to eating herbs? This was no injunction of the Mosaic Law. The weakness referred to is weakness of any kind, and will apply to or anything in which it is discovered. The meats and days are particular instances, adduced as illustrations of the general truth; but that truth applies as directly to weakness of any kind now, as to a weakness of a particular kind at that time. Receive ye.Â—That is, into the church, to the fellowship of the brethren, in all the ordinances of Christ’s house.
Doubtful disputations.Â—The phrase in the original is variously rendered and explained. The meaning seems to be, that when they , should receive a weak brother, they should not press him to receive ‘ their views by harassing discussions on the points on which he is ignorant. Such conduct would either tend to wound his mind, or induce him to acquiesce without enlightened conviction. Disputation seldom begets unanimity. If a statement of the will of Christ from the Scriptures has not the effect of producing conviction, lengthened discussions are more likely to increase prejudice than to resolve doubts. While, therefore, it is greatly important that believers who have inadequate views of any part of Divine truth, should be taught more fully the way of the Lord, it is
also true that the most likely way to effect this is to avoid disputations with them on the points in which they are weak. This observation is founded on experience, and it is warranted by the command of God. To push them forward faster than they are taught by the word and Spirit of God, will stumble and injure instead of making them strong. Christians seldom argue one another into their views, and more frequently each is more confirmed in his own opinion. When it is necessary to show the weak brother his errors, it is best to exhibit the truth in its evidences, to leave him to the general use of the means of edification, and to give him affectionate instructions, for the purpose of his becoming stronger in the faith ; and riper in his judgment, by the internal influences and teaching of the Holy Spirit. The principles on which the Apostle proceeds are not, that the views of those who differ among themselves are equally well founded, but that they are all brethren, having in view the glory of God and obedience to his will, and that as their Heavenly Father is so indulgent to his children, that, notwithstanding their defects in knowledge, and the consequent difference in their conduct, they ought not to be less forbearing to one another.