Community Disciplines: Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline (Romans 14 and Galatians)

Tim wrote,

Despite Paul’s efforts to the contrary, jews and gentiles remained at odds over issues such as food sacrificed to idols and circumcision (Galatians).

To believe that one position held by Paul trumps another, or visa versa, refuses to accept the context of each writer.


Your allusion to Galatians is very much on point. Galatians deals with some of the same controversies as Romans 14 — the honoring of special days, for example (Gal 4:9-10) — and yet in Galatians Paul declares his opponents to be teaching a “different gospel” (Gal 1:6-11) and declares that they’ve “fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4). Why the difference?

It seems clear that in Galatians, Paul’s opponents were insisting that adherence to their interpretations was essential to salvation. They were adding certain requirements to “faith expressing itself through love” (Gal 5:6) for salvation. They had made their scruples into fellowship issues. One might even say “marks of the church.”

(Gal 2:11-12 ESV) 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.

As a result, they failed to extend to their brothers the same grace they’d received from God and so were guilty of the sin of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:23-35). And they fell from grace. Amazingly, even Peter suffered condemnation because he separated himself out of fear of those with scruples.

In Romans 14, however, the church was not yet divided. There were no teachers urging separation. Rather, the members needed instruction on how to cope with differing scruples. And Paul instructed them on how to do it right, assuming they’d honor his teachings. Thus, Paul addresses them as brothers and sisters, with no hint of condemnation — despite the error taught by some.

The lesson for us seems scarily clear: Romans 14 is not an option. It’s not something we should hope one day to attain to. It’s a call for an immediate, real change in our hearts and attitudes.

Indeed, we can fall from grace by refusing to honor Paul’s teachings. The safe course, therefore, is not division. No, the only safe course is unity within faith in Jesus. To advocate for anything else is to misunderstand the gospel at a very fundamental level, even to teach a different gospel.

And unity within faith in Jesus, despite our disagreements and scruples, is exactly what Stone and the Campbells taught. True restoration begins with restoring a biblical understanding of grace and our response to grace. But if we refuse to restore the First Century teaching found in Romans 14, our fate is proclaimed in Galatians.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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9 Responses to Community Disciplines: Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline (Romans 14 and Galatians)

  1. rich constant says:

    jay ,

    have you happened to read…. for One,
    to say nothing of richard hays n.t.wright.
    and john mark hicks…
    a starter from the church of christ
    to miss this point is to miss the Simple meaning
    of gal. 3:23
    but before FAITH. came,
    what faith whose faith
    that would be the SEED’s faith to whom the Spirit is giving glory. that when applied to our lives produces the divine nature. the new man of the Spirit of the Son
    to whom we are trying to emulate.

    James Burton Coffman Commentaries on the Bible – StudyLight.or
    One of the leading authorities in the Church of Christ, Dr. James Burton Coffman presents a verse by verse look at God’s Word. Study the bible online.
    gal. 2
    Verses 15, 16
    But we being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by the FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST, and not by the works of law; because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

    This passage announces the great theme of Galatians, which is Justification by the Faith of Christ; and the key words in it have been properly rendered, in the light of the best scholarship on earth, and capitalized to emphasize the truth.


    The teaching set forth in this series of commentaries with regard to justification is advocated fully in my Commentary on Rom. 3:22; and the student is referred to that for a great deal of material that cannot be repeated here. Since the publication of that volume in 1973, further scholarly studies by distinguished theologians have fully confirmed the undeniable accuracy of translating “faith of Christ” instead of “faith in Christ” in this place and a number of other places in the New Testament. Of course, the KJV is correct in most of these places, though not in all; and strong voices have for years been crying out against the perversion inherent in changing God’s word to read otherwise than the way it is handed down to people in the Greek New Testament. Foy E. Wallace, Jr., decried the butchering of the passage at hand thus:

    In this verse (Galatians 2:16), “by the faith of Christ” is changed to “only through faith in Christ”; but” the faith of Christ” refers to the gospel system of faith, and they have manipulated this passage to teach justification by faith only, going so far as to change “the works of the law” (the law of Moses) to “deeds dictated by law”; yet faith itself is a law (Romans 3:27) …. A committee of text-makers who will artfully twist such a specific gospel passage to implement the false doctrine of faith alone will do anything in the name of translation. F28

    As recently as April, 1974, Professor George Howard, University of Georgia, published a study of “The Faith of Christ” in Expositor Times, pointing out that James Macknight in the 19th century, Gabriel Hebert in 1955, and other great scholars have demanded that this passage be translated correctly as “the faith of Christ.” F29 After citing dozens of scientific studies by distinguished linguists, he gave as his conclusion that:

    We may conclude then that, grammatically speaking, [Greek: pistis Christou] should be rendered “faith of Christ.” F30

    He even went further and affirmed that the usual definition of faith as the word is used in the New Testament is not trust/faith as usually thought, but “faithfulness,” in the sense of “obedience,” “reliability,” or “fidelity.” F31 That this is the truth appears from Paul’s references to “obedient faith” at both ends of the book of Romans (Romans 1:5; 16:26).

    Thus, the “faith of Christ” includes both his own trust/faith in the heavenly Father, and his perfect obedience and fidelity in the discharge of his mission of redemption. The doctrine of salvation through faith only is wrong on many counts. It is wrong in misunderstanding the sinner’s trust/faith as the ground of justification, whereas it is actually the obedient faith of the Son of God; and even in the Lord’s case, it was not faith only, but faith and perfect obedience. It is totally wrong to regard “faith in Christ” (as used in the New Testament) as reference to the theological concept trust/faith, or subjective faith of the sinner; because as noted by Howard, the usual definition in the New Testament is not that at all, but fidelity. There are other instances in which “faith in Christ” means “the Christian religion,” a definition Wallace applied in this verse, but which this writer feels is incorrect in this context. Over and beyond all this, let the key expression “in Christ” be given its proper emphasis, and it is at once clear that no man who ever breathed has “faith in Christ” when he himself has refused to be baptized into Christ, in which case he might have faith out of Christ,” but not “in him.” Another legitimate meaning of “faith in Christ” is faith exercised by one who is “in Christ,” having been baptized into him, made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and fully identified as a member of Christ’s spiritual body, the church.

    The faith of Christ …
    meaning his perfect fidelity and obedience, is actually the ground of man’s redemption. Absolute perfection is required of all who would be saved (Matthew 5:48), a state that is not attainable by any man who ever lived, save only Jesus Christ our Lord, Immanuel. Perfection being the sine qua non without which none shall enter eternal life, how may it be procured and in a sense achieved by man? God’s device of making one perfect, in the sense of being absolutely justified, is that of transferring him into Christ, identifying him with Christ and as Christ, a transference and identity achieved on behalf of the Christian when he is in the spiritual body of Christ. Thus Paul could say, “That we may present every man perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). See article on “Jesus Christ, Inc.,” in my Commentary on Romans. As Paul would say a little later in this chapter, the life which the Christian lives is not his own, but Christ’s (Galatians 2:20).

  2. rich constant says:

    also a little,
    ya know those to great commandments,about putting God first,
    and love your brother as yourself…
    these two put into practice as the lord did.
    absolutely predicates all action of teaching.
    some pretty strong language by Paul and the Spirit!
    i am learning i live in a glass house and try not to throw rocks at my neighbor.
    but over time i may influence him.
    how do i know, GOD GIVES THE INCREASE.

  3. Tim Miller says:

    Scruples…very good word! I think everyone (normal people) have them and it’s nice to find others with the same ones because it validates us, but I don’t recall Moses receiving the 10 Scruples. What he received was and is the basis of eternal principles of Godly humanity.

  4. eric says:

    This may be a little off subject, but this scripture concerning Peters fear of the circumcision party. Is a great reminder to me to make sure my motivations and actions first come from a love and healthy fear of God and then a love of the body of Christ as a whole. It seems very easy to get distracted from what is important to God and replacing that with a fear of men or a desire for praise from certain groups.

  5. Charles McLean says:

    So, RC, “the faith of Christ” is “the gospel system”, according to Coffman?

    Coffman is entiitled to express his opinion, but no sale here. We are saved by the work of a Man, not by working a system. As to Coffman’s commentary: Never before has a single preposition been called upon to bear the weight of so much supposition.

  6. guestfortruth says:

    Verse 3: The word despise (i.e., to make light of, to treat with contempt and scorn, to reject) and judge (i.e., to exercise censorial power over, to condemn, to declare lost) in this verse suggest that the attitude and behavior of both the strong and weak had been wrong. Both are here restrained from treating the other as if he were not a brother in Christ, Paul emphatically states of both, “God hath received him,” We need to be very careful that we accept as brothers (in fellowship) everyone that “God hath received,” and refuse fellowship to everyone that God has not received, or has rejected. This can be done by binding only what God has bound and loosing only what God has loosed. To say it another way, we must “speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent.” We must “continue” in the standard of God’s word (John 8:31-32).


  7. Jerry says:

    I am surprised that you write so dismissively without addressing the issue. The point is that, as Jay has pointed out many times, faith also carries the idea of faithfulness. It is the faithfulness of Christ that is in Paul’s view in Galatians. Burton Coffman has nothing to do with it. Though some translations render Galatians 2:16 as “faith in Christ,” the construction Paul uses is one that means Christ’s faith, not “faith in Christ.”

    His life of obedient faith, capped off by his sacrificial death, is our means of salvation. Had he not lived the life that he did, his death could not have been the offering of a perfect life to the Father on our behalf.

    Though I have heard many say that Jesus could not have had faith because he had seen God, this is to overlook the fact that “faith” can also mean (and often does mean) “faithfulness.” Hebrews 3:1-2 points out that the Christ was faithful to the one who appointed him. That should settle the question of whether or not he had faith.


  8. Jay Guin says:

    GFT wrote,

    We need to be very careful that we accept as brothers (in fellowship) everyone that “God hath received,” and refuse fellowship to everyone that God has not received, or has rejected.


  9. Jerry says:


    What we are prone to do, however, is to accept those whose opinions agree with ours and to reject those whose opinions and practices differ from ours.

    Instead of speaking where the Bible speaks and remaining silent where the Bible is silent, we often rationalize away what the Bible actually says – and interpolate our opinions about what God would (or should) have said if He had actually spoken about the opinion we hold that God has not expressed.


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