Paul’s point is that we must not misuse the freedom that we have in Christ by failing to love our brothers and sisters. In this passage Paul asserts that there are some clear prohibitions that must be obeyed, but first there are some equally clear principles that must be observed.
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (14) I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. (15) Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. (16) Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; (17) for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (18) For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. (19) Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. (20) Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. (21) It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. (22) Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. (23) But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. Romans 14:13-23
First, There are Some Clear Principles That Must Be Observed. Principle #1: A Distinction Between the Weaker Brother and the Pharisee
Principle #1: A Distinction Between the Weaker Brother and the Pharisee
- The weaker brother is one who thinks that since he is saved he cannot possibly do what you are doing.
- The Pharisee is the one who thinks that because of what you are doing you cannot possibly be saved.
Don’t forget that Paul is dealing here with things which are indifferent, not clear and open sin. In cases involving clear and open sin we have the responsibility to lovingly rebuke, but in the case of things indifferent we have the responsibility to not be an occassion for our brother to stumble.
The spoof Christian news site LarkNews recently had a story of a “weaker brother” who was asked to leave a men’s accountability group. This story, though fictional, illustrates the difference between the Pharisee and the weaker brother.
Tired of accommodating their legalistic friend, members of a men’s group have asked Harold Beihn to loosen up or move on.
“His standard of personal holiness fits us a little too tight,” says one member.
But Beihn says he just “wanted my guys to be holy as the Lord is holy. I think God put me in their lives to remind them of the rules.”
By all accounts, Beihn’s lifestyle was out of synch with the others’. He vetoed most activities the other guys wanted to do because they “didn’t accord with righteous living.” This ruled out movies, sporting events, even bowling because the atmosphere at the lanes is “too loose,” says Beihn.
Beihn also took accountability so seriously that he often called the other men at 7:30 a.m. and asked, “Did you kiss your wife yet?” If the answer was no, he’d report them to the men’s ministry pastor. http://larknews.com/february_2006/print.php?page=3
This man was not a weaker brother, but a Pharisee!
Principle #2: The Truth of our Liberty in Christ, vv. 14 & 20
Paul says in both verse 14 and 20 of Romans 14 that “there is nothing unclean of itself” and “All things indeed are pure.” This is a sure and certain knowledge expressed in Paul’s own words, “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself” (v. 14). This is no doubt a sure knowledge based on Paul’s understanding of Jesus’ teaching in Mark 7 and Matthew 15. In Mark’s account (7:14-19), Jesus says,
When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, Me, everyone, and understand: (15) There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. (16) If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (17) When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. (18) So He said to them, you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, (19) because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” Mark 7:14-19
Here Jesus makes the point that food that enters one’s mouth enters the digestive system and exits the body through the excretory system. Nothing that has such an existence can defile a man. Much more serious are the matters of the heart, for out of the heart comess all kinds of evil.
Likewise, Peter heard from the resurrected and ascended Christ abou this issue while on the rooftop of Simon the tanner’s house in Joppa. There he had a vision of a sheet descending from heaven with all kinds of animals thereon. This vision happened three times and each time Peter heard the voice of the Lord say to him, “Rise, kill and eat!” But each time Peter responded negatively and he was rebuked by the Lord who said, “Do not call common or unclean what I have declared to be clean” (Acts 10:9-16). The point was that Peter was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, but the truth used to make this point is that the distinction between clean and unclean animals has been done away. A believing Jews conscience need no longer be bound in this area. Principle #3: The Role of Conscience, vv. 14 & 20 First, we see that man’s conscience was given by God for our good. The conscience functions for the soul much like pain functions for our physical bodies. Just as we would experience great physical harm if we ignore the signals of pain, we can also experience great spiritual harm if we fail to heed the signals of our conscience. Second, man’s conscience must be properly informed. Our conscience is like a clock, it has to be set with the correct information. If the right information has not been imput, then the conscience will not function properly.
Principle #3: The Role of Conscience, vv. 14 & 20
First, we see that man’s conscience was given by God for our good. The conscience functions for the soul much like pain functions for our physical bodies. Just as we would experience great physical harm if we ignore the signals of pain, we can also experience great spiritual harm if we fail to heed the signals of our conscience. Second, man’s conscience must be properly informed. Our conscience is like a clock, it has to be set with the correct information. If the right information has not been imput, then the conscience will not function properly.
Second, man’s conscience must be properly informed. Our conscience is like a clock, it has to be set with the correct information. If the right information has not been imput, then the conscience will not function properly.