Q&A Forum: Romans 14:1

Is reception mentioned in Romans 14:1 to assembly fellowship?

Understanding the context is the key to answering this question. Romans 14-15 form part of the practical section of the epistle to the Romans, chapters which are all about internal matters of culture and conscience causing friction in the assembly in Rome. The issues surrounded what was, or was not, permissible to eat, and the matter of “special days” of the year or of the week. The Jews saw these issues one way; the Gentiles, another. Paul therefore urged these believers, all of whom were already in assembly fellowship, not to destroy the work of God in Rome over such things (Rom 14:20). He cautioned, “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (14:21, KJV). So, when he says in 14:1 (KJV), “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations,” or in 15:7 (KJV), “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God,” he is telling two classes of people in the assembly, Jews and Gentiles, to be affectionate toward each other and to warmly acknowledge one another as brethren in Christ, despite their different backgrounds and viewpoints. The word he uses, (“receive,” 14:1 and 15:7) means “to take to oneself.” If Christ took us to Himself, despite all our sin and weakness, how much more should we bear with one another and have warm communion with each other. Going strictly by the context therefore, neither Romans 14:1 nor 15:7, KJV (“Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God”) are suitable verses to put on letters of commendation. Neither verse is about receiving believers into assembly fellowship, either initially or by letter. Rather they concern internal relationships between believers who have cultural differences and are struggling with how to handle matters of conscience. However, when we come to Romans 16:2, Paul does speak about “reception to assembly fellowship.” There he commends a sister (Phoebe), who was moving from Cenchrea to Rome, and asks the assembly at Rome to “receive her in the Lord” (reception is always from, to, and by the whole assembly). Romans16:2 actually employs a different word for “receive” which, in this verse, carries the idea of being “admitted” to fellowship. The context is not meat, drink, and days, nor internal friction in an assembly, but the commendation of a sister who is moving to a new city. Thus, Romans 16:2 (KJV) is a fitting verse to put on a letter of commendation: “Receive her [or him] in the Lord, as becometh saints.” Paul uses the same word (receive/admit) when he commends Epaphroditus to Philippi, telling the saints there to “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation” (Phil 2:29, KJV). In summary, Romans 14:1 encourages us to bear with one another’s different backgrounds and consciences, but it has nothing to do with reception to an assembly.