Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 18, 1951

An Abused Passage

Norman Gipson, Amherst, Texas

You are familiar with this line of thought: "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin; _________is not of faith, because it is not mentioned in the Scriptures, and "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." therefore,______is sin." In the blanks, you may place almost any practice of a congregation or individual Christian, and you have a ready- made argument against things not specifically stated in the word of God. This argument has been used against instrumental music in the worship; Bible classes; individual cups, and so on.

The principal thing wrong with this argument is, it is untrue. The word "faith" in Romans 14:23 does not mean the same thing as it does in Romans 10:17, so any attempt to link the passages does violence to both.

The term faith, as used throughout Romans 14, signifies a conviction that one's actions are right. The trust implied in the word "faith" is here placed in ones deeds. On the other hand, "faith" in Romans 10:17 refers to trust in God and His word.

"Him that is weak in faith receive ye, yet not for decision of scruples." (v.1). That is, do not sit in judgment on his conscience. Every man's scruples are his own personal property, and should remain such. He should not try to bind them on others. This whole realm is that where God has not made laws either requiring or prohibiting a practice. One example is immediately discussed in the chapter: eating meat. Has God required us to eat meat? No. Has he forbidden us to eat meat? No. One man, then, "hath faith to eat all things (including meat); another, who is weak, eateth herbs." How are these brethren to regard each other? He who can conscientiously eat the meat, must not "set at naught" his brother who cannot. He who cannot conscientiously eat the meat, must not "judge" his brother who can; for God has received him (see verse 3).

It is an error to apply Romans 14 to matters on which God has legislated. The things of this chapter deal only with those things that are all right within themselves, but neither forbidden or required by our Lord. "All things indeed are clean; howbeit it is evil for that man who eateth with offence" (verse 20). That is, all foods may be eaten; but if a man partakes of meat with a guilty conscience, it becomes an evil deed to him. For anyone to conclude that even things forbidden by the Lord are "clean" is far beyond the scope of this passage, or any other in the Bible.

Now what about Romans 14:23? Seldom do we hear the quotation of the entire verse: "But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Is it not clear that the man who does not eat in faith is the man who is condemned if he eats? But, on the other hand, if a man "doubts" and does not eat, he has committed no sin. Logic requires this conclusion. But what about the man who has doubts, and is weak in faith, toward God? Does he sin?

The passage simply teaches: Do nothing which your conscience does not approve, even of things that are all right within themselves; for whenever you do, you have no faith in your action, and so are guilty of sin before God.