NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson XI)
Methodist scholar Adam Clarke takes note of Paul’s statement that God did not put us here to live simply for what we want in life. Since we’ll lose everything when we die, what’s the point? He saw that Greek writers often used the words “I live” to signify: acting according to one‘s own judgment by following one‘s own opinion. However, Christians must act in all things according to the mind and will of God and not follow their own will. After all, they now have the mind of Christ.1 The Apostle Paul seems to intimate that in all he has discussed so far, each person must endeavor to please God for they are only accountable to Him for their conduct in these less important things such as what we eat or drink. God is our Master, we must live for Him since we live openly in His sight enjoying His goodness. Therefore, when our journey here on earth is over and we go to our place of rest to await the resurrection we continue to be in His care. That means, whatever we do or whatever we leave undone will affect our meeting Him in eternity, something that can happen at any minute.2
Robert Haldane summarizes his understanding of what Paul is advocating here by pointing out that since both the Jews and Gentiles in Rome are acting the way they do in an effort to serve the Lord, he now extends this duty so as to embrace all Christians in all their actions. No Christian lives just for what they can get out of life here on earth. If there are any who do live that way, they are acting inconsistently with Christian character. Believers ought to consider themselves as responsible under Law to God in every action of their lives. Even in earthly things, such as eating and drinking, they should keep in mind the glory of God that we are to share with Christ. To live for the Lord supposes that in all things we regard His will as the sole rule of our conduct and His approval as our great aim in all that we do is to seek His glory.
Haldane also suggests that we all must be aware that we are under His control and at His disposal in order to bless Him whether in adversity or prosperity; that we submit to His decision to keep or let go of what He gives or takes away. And finally, that we only live to serve Him and bring Him praise. So, whether as Christians we live or die we continue to belong to the Lord; that He will take care of us as He sees fit; confident that, as being the object of the Savior’s love, whatever may come our way we are safe in His arms. There is no danger, then, however great, or difficulty, however grueling that ought to prevent us from obeying the will of our Lord. Our talent, ability, character, career, life itself ought to always be ready to serve Him. But it is obvious that many people have no conception of what living means except to meet their needs and wants. Do not the masses of mankind follow their own interest to the neglect of the authority of God? Even among those who make a profession of Christian faith how few are there who follow the Lord at the expense of any great earthly sacrifice? Haldane says, that not many are persuaded to act consistently with the character of a Christian in everything they do.3
Charles Hodge gives a good exposition of what Paul stated in these verses concerning a believer’s living and dying while being subordinate to Christ’s will. In verse 7, Paul had stated, negatively, that Christians should not live according to their own will, or for their own pleasure. Then he states affirmatively, that they should live according to the will of Christ and for His glory. When this is the case, a believer then proves to be a true Christian; they belong to Christ and should be so recognized and treated by other believers.
It is very obvious then, especially from verse 8, which speaks of death and resurrection that when Paul uses the word “Lord,” he is referring to “Christ.” It is for Christ, and in subjection to His will, that every Christian endeavor to regulate their heart, their conscience, and their life. This is the most profound respect any creature can render to their Creator. Also, when it comes to the service which the Scriptures require us to render to the Redeemer, it, of necessity, supposes that Christ is God. This is rendered still plainer by the interchange throughout the passage of the terms “Lord” and “God;” The person who feels free to eat certain foods, eats to the Lord, for they first give God thanks. We live for the Lord; we belong to the Lord. For this reason, Christ died and rose, that He might be our Lord, It is clear that in the Apostle’s mind: Christ is God. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. We are not our own, but Christ’s.4 This right of possession and the consequent duty of devotion and obedience are not founded on creation, but on redemption. We are Christ’s because He bought us with the price of His life and blood, so should not our life and blood be His.5
Albert Barnes makes note that to live just for ourselves means that the number one priority is to become rich or famous or to indulge in the ease, comfort, and pleasures of earthly life. These are the aim of most people, except for Christians. Furthermore, there is nothing else Christians do that is more different from the world than in this.6 There is no more vital point than this that Christians must examine their attitude and mindset. In fact, “to live the way we want” is evidence that we are strangers to holiness and sanctification. And if the top motive of our lives is to live in ease – to gratify the flesh, to gain property, or to be distinguished in places of fashion and amusement7 – it is evidence that we know nothing of the power of the Gospel which teaches us to deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily and act like Christians8.9
Karl Barth makes an interesting point by saying that there is no such thing as life in itself: there is only life in relationship to God. In other words, when Jesus said that He came so that we could not only have life but have it in abundance,10 He was pointing to where life really begins. Up until a person is born again as a new creation in Christ,11 all they have is existence. Barth goes on to say: “There is no such thing as death in itself; there is only death in relationship to God.” To put it another way, only the body dies, not the person’s soul. They will go on living in the spirit world to await the Day of Judgment. Barth concludes that the weak need to get rid of the suspicion that the relative contradictions and divisions and controversies which they must deal with every day only concerns their biological death. The strong, being possessed with far more mature choices, are, it is true, aware that the death which we seek after must be a death that gives quality to our lives by qualifying us for the resurrection to meet Christ in the air and nothing else.12
John Stott believes that the introduction of Jesus as Lord of our lives applies to every situation. For none of us lives to ourselves alone and none of us dies to ourselves alone. Life and death, therefore, seem to be taken as constituting together the sum total of our human existence. While we continue to live on earth and when through death we begin the life of heaven everything we have and are belongs to the Lord Jesus and must, therefore, be used to bring Him honor and glory.13
Verse 9: That is why Christ died and rose from death to live again – so that He could be Lord over those who have died and those who are still living.
It’s obvious that Paul seems to begin a new section here. As Dr. Bray said, we are in no position to pass judgment on one another because, in the final analysis, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. A voice from heaven told Peter that no food God has made is uneatable.14 But some people are not convinced of this, and if we offend their consciences we are guilty of causing them to stumble. Christians must be prepared to acquiesce to these secondary matters in order that peace and harmony may be preserved in the church. Those who know better can keep their knowledge to themselves and God will respect them for it. But to force someone to go against his or her conscience is to lead that person into making bad choices. Do not let what you eat or drink cause the ruin of one of those for whom Christ died.15
In Paul’s mind, failure on the part of believers to own up to the fact that their complete dependency for salvation is on God, and to explore potential for greatness given them by their new life in Christ takes away so many possibilities they have in becoming more in Christ than they could ever dream of being on their own. Who can forget the stirring words spoken of the Messiah through the prophet Isaiah: “My Servant, will carry the punishment of many and He will carry their sins. So I will give Him a share among the great. He will divide the riches with the strong because He gave up His life.”16 That’s why Paul could joyously tell the Philippians: “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”17
But there is another factor involved. Jesus reminded His doubting followers, as He walked incognito with them on the road to Emmaus: “Did not the Messiah have to go through these hard things to come into His shining-greatness?”18 Their Lord was trying to tell them that they should use Him as a model on how to succeed in being significant in this world. Paul expressed it this way to the Corinthians: “The Messiah’s love has hold of us.”19 Yes, this Messiah that Paul told the Philippians: “Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to selfishly cling to.”20 That’s why our Lord willingly gave up His divine privileges and lived among us as a humble servant so He could show us how it was done. So, says the writer of Hebrews, let’s keep looking at Jesus. He’s the one we should emulate because He was willing to suffer everything that was thrown at Him because of all the joy He knew was His in the end.21
1 Philippians 2:5
2 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 269
3 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 598
4 1 Corinthians 6:19
5 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 653
6 1 Peter 4:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; 10:21; Luke 9:23
7 Amos 6:1
8 Matthew 16:24
9 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
10 John 10:10
11 2 Corinthians 5:17
12 Karl Barth: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
13 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
14 Acts of the Apostles 10:15
15 Bray, Gerald. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised), Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press., p. 331
16 Isaiah 53:11b-12a
17 Philippians 4:19
18 Luke 24:26
19 2 Corinthians 5:14a – Complete Jewish Bible
20 Philippians 2:6
21 Hebrews 12:2