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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Christian Freedom > The Weak Brother


Paul speaks of the “one who is weak in the faith” (Rom. 14:1). Who is “the weak brother”? He is one who brings to his Christian experience practices and beliefs that reflect his previous state of doctrine and conduct. Paul is dealing in these passages (Romans, Corinthians, and Colossians) with converts from Judaism and paganism, each with a mindset shaped by his former lifestyle. The weak brother is a new Christian, one who has not been taught the Truth of the Gospel. His understanding of the Christian faith is at the elementary level and his conduct reflects insufficient knowledge. He is a novice.

Some practice in his Christian life is not viewed as it should be viewed; the practice is not evaluated in light of a full understanding of the person and work of Christ, the believer’s identification with Christ, and the freedom that flows from that identification. God’s Revelation has not been used to illuminate the issue. Truth has not set him free; therefore, because of a lack of knowledge, the believer is living in error. He does not feel free to do what the stronger believer is doing. He feels condemned because there is no spiritual comprehension. Although he is conscientious and sincere, his knowledge is deficient. He may, and often does, view the stronger believer’s conduct with suspicion; and he may even condemn the conduct. At this point a stronger Christian limits his freedom in deference to a weak brother.

It is possible for a weak brother to deem some act of a believer to be wrong that indeed is acceptable for the believer. This is the very point being made in these passages under consideration. To the degree that one is devoid of God’s Truth, to that degree one is incapable of determining morality. Discernment follows illumination.

If the weak believer considers something “unclean” or wrong, then “to him it is unclean” or wrong (Rom. 14:14). And it is sin for that person to go against his conscience; “it is evil for the man who eats with offense” (v. 20). But the act itself, in and of itself, is not improper for a knowledgeable believer. Romans 14:23 says: “He who doubts is condemned if he eats,” condemned because “he does not eat from faith”; and “whatever is not from faith is sin” (v. 23). To eat without faith reveals weakness, a weakness that is the result of being a new Christian and not having sufficient knowledge. Paul sates: “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself” (v. 14). His conviction was anchored in his knowledge. It is this knowledge and conviction that the weak believer lacks.

If God forbade drinking,
would He have made wine so good?
Cardinal Richeliu

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