Romans 14 Part 2
Recap of last week, Romans 14:1-12
Passing judgment on others who are weaker in their faith.
Eat - vegetarian vs omnivore
Drink - water, juice, wine
Cannot judge someone else’s servant - we are not to judge others as they are God’s servant.
Watchful over how we treat others who observe one day vs all days to honor God.
Not to pass judgment on believers over things that have no eternal consequence.
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.
Finishes up the first part of the chapter dealing with passing judgment.
Notice this is in the present tense - judging and condemning was still occurring between Christians (any longer). Paul is getting to the root of the problem, the judgment (critical opinions being formed) was still taking place between mature/immature, the Jews and the Gentiles, those who thought they were vs those who were. We see a heart issue - the heart of the believers was not focused on creating unity in the body of Christ, but of trying to one-up the other!
But then Paul starts into a different discourse - we must instead decide - a personal choice made by each believer, we must judge OURSELVES and decide to not be a stumbling block or hindrance. Stumbling block, proskamma, means to place obstacles in the way of someone, and the word used for hindrance is “skandalon” - literally the part of the trap where the bait is applied. We must choose to not intentionally lead or cause a fellow believer to sin - this can be done either by preventing them to be righteous, or encouraging them to sin.
Paul had already decided, in his own mind, that there was no food that God considered unclean (ritualistically impure).
15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
However, he also kept in consideration the thoughts and beliefs of those who may see certain foods as being unclean. Because of this, he chose to not be a stumbling block to others by eating those foods around them.
Harm to Others
Harm to Others
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.
Paul points out why our actions are so important - they do have an impact on other believers and their perception they have of us. We can harm our witness because of our actions - even the foods we eat and the liquids we drink - if some other believer finds them to be offensive. So what is Paul’s solution? Do not destroy the on for whom Christ died - in a sense what he is saying is we should not cause irreparable spiritual harm by our actions.
Even though we might have worked out our own faith and recognize that the food we eat and the liquids we drink are acceptable by God, we cannot disregard others feelings and must guard against actions that will cause harm to our reputation.
There is more to Christianity than just food and drink. It has to do with our own heart and regard for other believers. We must never allow our witness to be tarnished. We must adhere to God’s moral law, but also should like free from disputes and happy with OTHER believers as we are led by the Holy Spirit.
When we put ourselves last and others first, we then are a true servant to God - we allow ourselves to lower our status and find satisfaction from God, as we have been examined and proven by God and man.
21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.
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.
SO THEN (as a result)
We are to make every effort to deliberately create an area of peace and harmony, free from disputes with each other, so it will draw us all closer together and draw us closer to God. Think of it this way, it is not acceptable to try to forcefully push our liberty on others who feel more constrained by their personal convictions. And yes, it can even be over carpet, paint, or paneling…we are not to force our opinions on other people as a condition of fellowship in the church.
We should not allow these insignificant mindsets to destroy God’s work in the believers. Paul goes on to state, there is no food that is unclean in God’s eye, but the spiritual health of a fellow believer is more important than our own personal convictions. Again, going back to stumbling - trying to deliberately cause someone to sin, or fall away from the faith, even if it is in their own mind. Remember, we each individually have to set our boundaries as to what we feel are acceptable and unacceptable in our convictions as led by scripture.
8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
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.
Paul reminds us that whatever we believe about food and drink, the days we worship, everything that are personally decided between the believer and God, and not contrary to scripture, we should keep between us and God. Remember last week my statement, there is sometimes a huge difference between what is PERMISSIBLE and what is PROFITABLE to the believer.
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
We should be confident that what we believe aligns with God’s law, moral standards, and scripture - we can have a perfectly clear conscience. But we should not insist on influencing a believer that differs with us to change their ways. If we force them, or convince them, otherwise what happens when they get home and start to question their decision? Have we affected the conscience of that person? Have we caused them to sin - to cross over the line of something they feel goes contrary to or ignores God’s law or character? Even if it is in their own mind, we have impacted their core belief system, and Paul reminds us that those actions are not Godly.
Looking at Paul’s words, if I could re-write them into today’s thinking, it may go something like this:
Now, as a believer you are no longer allowed to criticize other believers. Instead make the conscious decision to not set a trap that may cause other believers to question their faith. The Lord has convinced me that there is nothing that is impure in His eyes, but there are others who believe differently. For if a fellow believer is offended by what you are eating, the fact that you eat it in front of them means you are not treating them with the same love as Christ and you are damaging you spiritual character to them. It is true, the kingdom of God does not focus on what you eat or drink, but it does focus on adhering to God’s moral standards, avoiding unnecessary disputes, and being happy in the Holy Spirit. As a servant, one who serves Christ, you please him and are proven, tested, examined, and found acceptable by God and others when you do this. So then, you are to search for peace and harmony, run away from disputes and arguments, and then we ALL will grow closer to the fullness of our completion in God. Do not, for the sake of food, cause this to relationship to fail and destroy everything God has tried to accomplish. Yes, everything is clean in the eyes of God, but it is wrong to eat or drink anything that may tempt another person to sin. It is not acceptable for you to eat meat or drink wine causing a fellow believer to sin or fall away from their faith. Just because your faith in jesus is strong, keep that between you and God. You will be blessed with a clear conscience if you are convinced that all you do is acceptable to God. But, for those who are uncertain, their conscience will subject them to guilt or fear of punishment if they eat, because they are not eating if faith. In other words, they do not feel it is acceptable to God. Remember, whatever you do that is not acceptable to you by faith, whether it is in your thoughts, feelings, speech, or action, is a sin.
How does our actions impact other believers and unbelievers? We have to be careful to not be so comfortable in our own faith that we may negatively impact others. How does it affect our witness? How does it impact another’s ability to possibly withstand a temptation? How do our actions possibly affect their relationship with God, or their thoughts about us? We are not to lord over other believers, but grow together in love as brothers and sisters in Christ.
While we may not see any issues with it, while we may be confident in our faith that God does not condemn our actions, if we wonder what OTHERS may thing, remember the old saying “when in doubt, don’t”.