Let us not therefore judge one another any more.

Romans 14:13

I do not consider that it is my place as a Christian to stand around making judgments and calling other people “hypocrites.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only man I know who was holy and perfect enough to call the religious leaders of the day hypocrites.

I am just a man with faults and shortcomings of my own, and I must always consider myself lest I be tempted!

I preach to my own congregation about our faults and our failings, with the warning that some of our professions of blessing and victory may get into the area of “unintentional hypocrisy.” Through the grace of God and the kindness of our spiritual ancestors, we may have spiritual light that some others do not have—but in all honesty, we are wretchedly far below what we should be in living up to it, day by day.

It helps us to be honest and frank and humble to know that the great God Almighty knows the secrets of every person’s heart!

Lord, You know the secrets of my heart, yet You love me unconditionally. I confess my sins to You, Lord. Forgive me when I fall.[1]

Don’t Cause Your Brother to Stumble

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. (14:13)

Therefore refers back to verses 10–12, in which Paul reminds his readers that God alone is qualified and has the authority to judge the minds and hearts of His people, who will all stand before His judgment seat (v. 10) and give account of themselves to Him (v. 12; cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). Judgment is God’s exclusive prerogative.

Consequently, we must not judge one another (cf. Matt. 7:1–5). It is the unloving attitude of contemptuous superiority by strong believers and the equally unloving attitude of self-righteousness by weak believers (v. 3) by which they judge one another. From Paul’s day to ours, those wrongful judgments have been major causes of disrespect, disharmony, and disunity in the church.

As reflected in the text of the New American Standard Bible (used here), Paul uses the same Greek verb (krinō) with two different connotations in verse 13. In the first phrase, let us not judge one another, the verb carries the idea of condemnation, as it does in verses 3, 4, and 10. But in the following phrase, the same verb is translated determine, which refers to making a decision. Those two connotations are also found in the English word judge. “Being judgmental” carries the negative idea of denunciation, whereas “using your best judgment” refers to making a careful decision, with no negative connotation.

Paul’s play on words demands that we should never be judgmental of fellow believers but instead should use our best judgment to help them. In relation to the second meaning, we should determine… not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. He gives the same warning in his first letter to Corinth, saying, “Take care lest this liberty of yours [the strong] somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor. 8:9). This carries the idea of stumbling into sin.

For example, although the New Testament does not forbid the drinking of alcoholic beverages, there are many good reasons for Christians to abstain. One of the most important is the detrimental effect it can have on a former alcoholic. Our drinking, even in moderation, could easily place a stumbling block in that brother’s way and cause him to fall back into his former addiction.

The same principle applies to any activity or practice that is not inherently sinful. Problem areas vary from society to society and from person to person, but the principle never changes. The loving, caring, strong Christian will determine in his mind and heart to be sensitive to any weakness in a fellow believer and avoid doing anything, including what is innocent in itself and otherwise permissible, that might cause him to morally or spiritually stumble.[2]

  1. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another; but rather, let this be your judgment, namely, that you should not put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Note the word-play: passing judgment … your judgment or decision.

Paul urges the weak to stop criticizing the strong, and the strong to cease finding fault with the weak. Both parties should decide not to place any hindrance in the way of their brothers. On the contrary—for the negative implies the positive—each group should help the other to become a more effective witness for Christ.

In view of the fact that both parties love the Lord, repose their trust in him, and wish to walk in his way, it would be wrong to hurt one another’s feelings by insisting that there be absolute unanimity with respect to every aspect of the practice of religion.

If, on a Sunday evening, perhaps after the church service, you invite six people to your home, but you happen to know that three of them have objections to the singing of a certain hymn, then, even though the other three plus yourself consider that hymn unobjectionable, you are not going to include that particular number in your evening social program. Instead, you are going to see to it that everybody receives a blessing and is happy. The same principle should be applied to ever so many similar situations. If an important religious principle is at stake, you are not going to be silent about your convictions, but in all circumstances you will observe the rule: “In things essential unity; in doubtful (or indifferent) liberty; in all things charity” (identity of the author of this motto not entirely certain). See also what has been said about Paul’s flexibility (pp. 12, 13).

The substance of this exhortation is certainly entirely in line with, and may even have been induced by, the teaching of Christ (Matt. 18:1–9; Mark 9:42–48; Luke 17:1, 2).[3]

13 The opening statement gives the gist of what has already been said in vv. 1–12. Both parties have been guilty of “passing judgment” on one another. Then by a clever use of language, Paul employs the same verb (krinō, GK 3212) in a somewhat different sense (“make up your mind”). He is calling for a determination to adopt a course of action that will not hurt others, a decision once for all to avoid whatever might impede others in the faith or cause them to fall. Though Paul does not single out the strong, it appears that he must have them in mind in this admonition against putting a “stumbling block” in the way of others. A stumbling block (proskomma, GK 4682) is literally something against which one may strike one’s foot, causing a stumble or even a fall. The second term (skandalon, GK 4998; here rendered “obstacle”) presents a different picture—that of a trap designed to ensnare a victim. It is used of something that constitutes a temptation to sin. Jesus applied this word to Peter when that disciple sought to deter him from going to the cross (Mt 16:23, “stumbling block”). In v. 13 it could be taken as a stern warning against deliberately enticing fellow Christians to do what for them would be sinful (cf. v. 23). Even if such an act were motivated by the desire to get such persons out of the “weak” category, it would still be wrong.[4]

14:13 Instead of sitting in judgment on our fellow Christians in these matters of moral indifference, we should resolve that we will never do anything to hinder a brother in his spiritual progress. None of these nonessential matters is important enough for us to cause a brother to stumble or to fall.[5]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 14:13). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 461–462). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 208–209). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1736). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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