A Stumbling Block
Today we are going to be talking about something that we have talked a little bit about before.
Written by the apostle Paul, this amazing book teaches us about God, about Humanity, and about Salvation (the Roman road). It was written around AD 57 to the church in Rome. Paul had not preached in Rome, this book is full of Paul’s theology.
In the preceeding verses of chapter 14 Paul is addressing tension between two groups of people in the church. The strong those who are able to regard all the food and drink as ritually clean with a clear conscience, and then the weak, those who were unable to give up their commitment to the dietary laws and observance of the Sabbath. They were clinging to parts the Old Testament law.
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 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.
I have two points that we are going to look at today, and we will break these verses down under each point as a section. The first point is “Am I Causing Others to Stumble?” The second is “Am I Doing this by Faith?”
Am I Causing Others to Stumble?
Am I Causing Others to Stumble?
This is the question we all need to ask ourselves, are we taking our Christian liberties and causing weaker believers to sin because of what we are doing.
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.
“Therefore” remember anytime we see this we must look back and see what we are there for. we must look back at verses 10-12 to see this.
Judgment is God and God’s alone, it is important that we are not judging others, the only judging we should be doing is on ourselves, but what Paul is talking about here is the weaker believers, and the stronger believers they were judging each other. Paul further defines what he is talking about in the next few verses.
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.
This is the point Paul is working to make. He knows and the stronger believers know that there is nothing unclean in itself (Christian Liberties), Paul is talking about food but this applies to all of our Christian liberties. If the weaker believer still followed some of the Old Covenant restrictions they should not be judged for that. Now it is important to understand that there is a difference in what we are looking at here and legalism, we must guard against legalism.
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.
Our main focus for enjoying our Christian liberties should be to glorify God, and advance His kingdom. And in that we should be more than happy to give something up so that we do not cause someone else to stumble.
16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.
Our liberties should not be used in a way that causes the weak to stumble and it should not be used in a way that causes our witness to the world around to be hindered.
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.
God’s kingdom is about more than just are freedoms in Christ. If we are not careful our liberties can cause serious problems in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as problems in the church as a whole. We must guard against this.
18 For the one who serves Christ in this way is well-pleasing to God and approved by people.
I used the LEB version for this verse because it makes it clear that those who serve Christ in the manner in which Paul is suggesting it is pleasing to God. Also approved by people, what this means, we will be above reproach the world may look for something to convict us of but will not find it. They may make slanderous claims but they are unfounded. Our goal in life should be to live a life that is well pleasing to God. As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 no matter what we are doing do it to the glory of God.
19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
If this life that Paul talks about is pleasing to God, then we should pursue these things. The word “pursue” carries the meaning to proceed along a path or a route, we are to proceed along the path that Paul is explaining to us, we are to be humble, showing selfless love and compassion for others. Our actions should not cause hostility but they should create harmonious relationships between our brothers and sisters in Christ.
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.
Which is more important, our desires or God’s work. Yes there is nothing unclean about food, but if it causes one to stumble then it is wrong, and we should stay away from it. We do not want to tear down God’s work.
21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
Paul here again reiterates about food and drink that may cause one to stumble.Now again we probably don’t have any problems with dietary restrictions as they did when Paul was writing this. But as I mentioned before it translates outside of that. This can apply to many areas of our lives.
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
Am I Doing This by Faith
Am I Doing This by Faith
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.
These last two verses are addressed to both groups of people here verse 22 is towards the strong. The word faith here is talking about their own convictions, if they are able to live their lives according to God, and be free, they should not allow their conscience to condemn them.
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.
Here Paul addresses the weaker believers. “The final verse is one that has caused me trouble over the years. This is a natural consequence of it being a principle instead of a rule. When I was a new believer, I knew there were things I should abstain from based on the negative impact they had on me before. But over time, as I gained more self-control and maturity, I began reconsidering whether it was really necessary to give up those things. I saw other believers doing them, and most of them had been following Jesus for a lot longer than I had. If all things are lawful and permissible, why shouldn’t I enjoy the same kind of freedom as the others? Here is where conscience comes in. It is not a matter of needing more faith to do something less advisable; it is a matter of how God has wired each of us. Some are able to do something without any twinge of conscience, without any doubt about its permissibility. Others, like me, know the doubts and questions in my heart that will condemn me. So if I choose to partake in something on the basis of seeing others do so, then for me it is not an exercise of faith, but an exercise in sin. And having been set free from bondage to sin, I have no desire to reclaim it in the name of “freedom.
Steven E. Runge, High Definition Commentary: Romans (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), 252.
A Stumbling Block
A Stumbling Block
We must be very careful in our actions as Christians. Yes we enjoy a lot of freedoms in Christ, but we cannot allow our freedoms to hinder God’s kingdom or cause others to stumble. We must make sound judgments of ourselves and our actions, using God’s word as our ruler for what is right and what is wrong.