Hast thou faith? - The term faith seems to signify in this place a full persuasion in a man's mind that he is right, that what he does is lawful, and has the approbation of God and his conscience. Dr. Taylor has a judicious note on this passage. "There is no necessity," says he, " for reading the first clause interrogatively; and it seems to be more agreeable to the structure of the Greek to render it, Thou hast faith; as if he had said: 'I own thou hast a right persuasion.' Farther, there is an anadiplosis in εχεις, and εχε the first simply signifies thou hast, the latter, hold fast. Thou hast a right persuasion concerning thy Christian liberty; and I advise thee to hold that persuasion steadfastly, with respect to thyself in the sight of God. Εχω have, has frequently this emphatical signification. See Matthew 25:29, etc."
Happy is he that condemneth not, etc. - That man only can enjoy peace of conscience who acts according to the full persuasion which God has given him of the lawfulness of his conduct: whereas he must be miserable who allows himself in the practice of any thing for which his conscience upbraids and accuses him. This is a most excellent maxim, and every genuine Christian should be careful to try every part of his conduct by it. If a man have not peace in his own bosom, he cannot be happy; and no man can have peace who sins against his conscience. If a man's passions or appetite allow or instigate him to a particular thing, let him take good heed that his conscience approve what his passions allow, and that he live not the subject of continual self-condemnation and reproach. Even the man who has the too scrupulous conscience had better, in such matters as are in question, obey its erroneous dictates than violate this moral feeling, and live only to condemn the actions he is constantly performing.
Hast thou faith? - The word “faith” here refers only to the subject under discussion - to the subject of meats, drinks, etc. Do you believe that it is right to eat all kinds of food, etc. The apostle had admitted that this was the true doctrine; but he maintains that it should be so held as not to give offence.
Have it to thyself - Do not obtrude your faith or opinion on others. Be satisfied with cherishing the opinion, and acting on it in private, without bringing it forward to produce disturbance in the church.
Before God - Where God only is the witness. God sees your sincerity, and will approve your opinion. That opinion cherish and act on, yet so as not to give offence, and to produce disturbance in the church. God sees your sincerity; he sees that you are right; and you will not offend him. Your brethren do “not” see that you are right, and they will be offended.
Happy is he - This state of mind, the apostle says, is one that is attended with peace and happiness; and this is a “further” reason why they should indulge their opinion in private, without obtruding it on others. They were conscious of doing right, and that consciousness was attended with peace. This fact he states in the form of a universal proposition, as applicable not only to “this” case, but to “all” cases; compare 1 John 3:21.
Condemneth not himself - Whose conscience does not reprove him.
In that which he alloweth - Which he “approves,” or which he “does.” Who has a clear conscience in his opinions and conduct. Many people indulge in practices which their consciences condemn, many in practices of which they are in doubt. But the way to be happy is to have a “clear conscience” in what we do; or in other words, if we have “doubts” about a course of conduct, it is not safe to indulge in that course, but it should be at once abandoned. Many people are engaged in “business” about which they have many doubts; many Christians are in doubt about certain courses of life. But they can have “no doubt” about the propriety of abstaining from them. They who are engaged in the slave-trade; or they who are engaged in the manufacture or sale of ardent spirits; or they who frequent the theater or the ball-room, or who run the round of fashionable amusements, if professing Christians, must often be troubled with “many” doubts about the propriety of their manner of life. But they can have no doubt about the propriety of an “opposite” course. Perhaps a single inquiry would settle all debate in regard to these things: “Did anyone ever become a slave-dealer, or a dealer in ardent spirits, or go to the theater, for engage in scenes of splendid amusements, with any belief that he was imitating the Lord Jesus Christ, or with any desire to honor him or his religion?” But one answer would be given to this question; and in view of it, how striking is the remark of Paul, “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in what he alloweth.”