Romans

Romans 14

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
   and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Do Not Cause Another to Stumble

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

***

Those who are weak in the faith should be welcomed by those who are stronger or have more understanding, but the stronger should not quarrel over opinions. Paul was dealing with an issue in the Church where some people believed it was sinful to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. See, during this period, it was difficult, depending on where one lived, to purchase meat that had not first been offered to an idol; either by the butcher, or bought by the butcher from one of the numerous temples. Paul wanted to show that opinions over what was right and good are just that: opinions – and that we should respect one another’s opinions, not quarrel over them.

Paul’s conclusion is that we belong to Christ, therefore, if I am convicted not to eat meat that might have been sacrificed to an idol, or not to drink wine, or to mark certain days as holy; then that is an honor to Christ, and for His glory. Therefore, it is okay, and other believers should respect those convictions, since ultimately we will all answer to Christ alone. And, if we answer to Christ, then who is our fellow man to pass judgement on us?

Now, Paul would be the first to jump in and correct someone if they were believing false doctrines, or truths, about God. He did so many times, and he is not suggesting that we do not hold our brother’s accountable for sin they are committing. Paul is dealing here with the grey areas – the areas where scripture is silent – and men make up their own rules.

A good example of this would be drinking. The scriptures never say that we should never drink a drop of wine. There are actually times in scripture when a glass of wine was encouraged (Paul to Timothy). However, there are many people who are personally convinced that any drinking is wrong. It may be that they are convicted because of excess, or perhaps have experienced the ravages of alcoholism in their family; whatever the origin of their conviction, we should respect that conviction, not argue about it, not try to convince them differently, but respect their conviction as being from God and honoring to Christ. We should abstain from drinking in their presence, and respect their position.

Paul’s main thrust in this chapter is to build unity in the Church by putting preferences and personal convictions in their place. He makes the case that the unity of the Church is worth it, and reminds us that we are not called to eating and drinking, but to bringing honor and glory to Christ Jesus. Paul does caution that whatever one does apart from faith is sin, which I take to mean that we should respect our conscience in regards to matters where scripture is silent, or unclear.

If you decide to eat or drink something but in your heart you feel it is wrong, then you are not doing it in faith. If, when you eat or drink, your heart is set firmly in the knowledge that these things were provided to you and for you by God to nourish your body so you may be able to carry on the task He has laid before you, then by all means eat and drink. If ever there is a time when you know in your heart something is wrong with what you are doing, then you should analyze your motives. This goes for eating, drinking, working, speaking – all things. In themselves they are good, but man has a tendency to place those good things in front of God. Paul asks us to live to Christ in all things.

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2 thoughts on “Romans 14

  1. This has been one of my favorite passages of scripture for several years now. As you say, I think this passage uses the specific example of eating meat do describe a larger principle.

    When I decided, for a time, to stop eating meat completely, this passage of scripture provided the basis for that decision. I realized that, because of knowledge that I had gained about the effects of meat on the body, I had lost faith in the action of eating it. Practically, I realized one night while praying before our meal that I literally had no faith in the part of the prayer “and bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies”. I did not believe that it would really be good for us.

    When the Holy Spirit revealed that to me, I understood that because I was doing something without faith, that, because of Rms 14:23, I was in sin.

    I think this passage of scripture speaks to man’s conscience. That reasoning in our minds that tells us whether something is right or wrong. In this case we’re not talking about doctrine or about issues clearly defined in scripture. We’re talking about, as you say “the grey areas [where] men make up their own rules”. In that area, decisions are based on emotion, personal experience, knowledge, and conviction. That is what I mean by “conscience”.

    Sometimes our conscience is wrong. Sometimes you may feel it’s right to do an particular thing, but the scripture says otherwise. Our conscience must ALWAYS be tempered by scripture. But when there is no clear word one way or the other, that’s when we rely on conscience.

    There are a host of things in life that I think fall into this area: entertainment, alcohol, financial planning, child rearing, etc, etc, etc.

    If you ever catch yourself saying “I know it’s wrong but I’m going to do it anyway”, those are times when you really need to examine your conscience, because if you’re doing it without faith, then you may be in sin.

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    • Exactly! I was impressed very much by studying this chapter on not forcing my convictions on others in matters where Scripture is silent. I think the key is to understand that we are all being sanctified by the Holy Spirit for a purpose which we do not presently understand (often), and He determines what areas of our lives need to be made low / made straight, sometimes using other people’s input, but not by creating disunity in the body of Christ. I have been guilty of judging others for their convictions, and have been judged by others for my own, but I now see that if they are honoring Christ through that conviction, then I should be willing to agree to disagree, and respect their convictions.

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