We then that are strong
Meaning not only ministers of the Gospel, who are men of strong parts, great abilities, mighty in the Scriptures, valiant for the truth on earth, and pillars in God's house; for though the apostle includes himself, yet not merely as such, but as expressing it to be his duty in common with other Christians; and the rather he does this, to engage them to the practice of it: but the stronger and more knowing part of private Christians are here intended; the Apostle John's young men, who are strong, in distinction from little children, or new born babes, that are at present weaklings; and from fathers who are on the decline of life, and just going off the stage; see ( 1 John 2:12-14 ) ; when these young men are in the bloom and flower of a profession, in the prime of their judgment, and exercise of grace; who are strong in Christ, and not in themselves, in the grace that is in him, out of which they continually receive; who are strong in the grace of faith, and are established and settled in the doctrine of it; and have a large and extensive knowledge of the several truths of the Gospel; and, among the rest, of that of Christian liberty:
ought to bear the infirmities of the weak;
of them that are weak in faith and knowledge, particularly in the knowledge of their freedom from Mosaical observances: their "infirmities" are partly their ignorance, mistakes, and errors, about things indifferent; which they consider and insist on, and would impose upon others, as necessary and obliging; and partly the peevishness and moroseness which they show, the hard words they give, and the rash judgment and rigid censures they pass on their brethren, that differ from them: such persons and their infirmities are to be borne with; they are not to be despised for their weakness; and if in the church, are not to be excluded for their mistakes; and if not members, are not to be refused on account of them; since they arise from weakness, and are not subversive of the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel: they are not to be treated as wicked men, but as weak brethren; and their peevish tempers, morose dispositions and conduct, their hard speeches and censorious expressions, are patiently to be endured; they should be considered as from whence they arise, not from malice and ill will, from a malignant spirit, but from weakness and misguided zeal, for what they take to be in force, when it is abolished: moreover, they are to be complied with in cases not sinful, as the apostle did in circumcising Timothy, ( Acts 16:3 ) , and purifying himself according to the law, ( Acts 21:26 ) ; and so to the weak he became weak, to gain some, ( 1 Corinthians 9:22 ) , and therefore could urge this exhortation by his own example with greater force; and which he represents, not only as what would be honourable, and a point of good nature, and as doing a kind action, but as what "ought" to be; what the law of love obliges to, and what the grace of love, which "bears all things", ( 1 Corinthians 13:7 ) , constrains unto; and which indeed if not done, they that are strong do not answer one end of their having that spiritual strength they have; and it is but complying with the golden rule of Christ, to do as we would be done by, ( Matthew 7:12 ) ( Luke 6:31 ) :
and not please ourselves:
either entertain pleasing thoughts of, and make pleasing reflections on their stronger faith, greater degree of knowledge, superior light and understanding; which being indulged, are apt to excite and encourage spiritual pride and vanity, and generally issue in the contempt of weaker brethren; nor do those things, which are pleasing and grateful to themselves, to the offence and detriment of others; for instance, and which is what the apostle has reference to, to gratify their appetite, by eating such meat as is forbidden by the law of Moses, to the grieving of the weak brethren, wounding their consciences, and destroying their peace; these things should not be done; stronger Christians should deny themselves the use of their Christian liberty in things indifferent, when they cannot make use of it without offence.