Romans 14

1 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.
Romans 14:1-12 ESV

Many people can read this chapter and get caught up on the types of food. Is Paul indicating we are not suppose to eat pork? Are we supposed to be vegetarians? What Paul is really touching on is division in the church. Or what is officially known as “adiaphora”; those debatable things that are not God’s commands or forbidden. Things such as drinking soda, playing basketball with your shirt off or driving a Jeep. We know that many people, ourselves included set our own standards and draw lines in the sand.

Corinth meat market

Corinth meat market

In the days, Paul was battling the Corinthians and a likewise division was happening in Rome where people were dividing and judging based on standards of man, not God. This section is specifically talking about the act of eating the meat that was offered as a sacrifice. Some declared that the meat was not to be eaten and others believed the unblemished animal was the best meat to have.

We all know that there will be differences of opinion in the church. These can be disputable matters. Ones that are not a salvation issue. Paul says that we are not to quarrel about issues that are matters of opinion. Differences should not be feared or avoided, but accepted and handled with love.  Don’t expect everyone, even in the best possible church, to agree on every subject.

What are some of the biggest disputable matters that you have experienced in the church?

Through sharing ideas we can come to a fuller understanding of what the bible teaches. Accept, listen to, and respect others. Differences of opinion need not cause division. They can be a source of learning and richness in our relationships.

Who is weak? What does it mean to be weak in faith?

This chapter is not an isolation block of text. It deliberately builds on the last chapter of loving our neighbor.  If we recall, those are the people in our lives that we connect with, that we have some common ground and have compassion for.  We are all weak in some areas and strong in others. Our faith can be considered strong in an area if we can come in contact with sinners without falling into their patterns. We are weak in areas of our life if we have to avoid certain activities, people or places in order to protect our spiritual life.  It is always wise to do a periodic spiritual inventory in order to identify our strengths and weaknesses.  Some common dialog to have with yourself or with your discipleship partner are:

“Can I do that without sinning?”

“Can I influence others for good, rather than being influenced by them?”

Just like an athlete, growing strong is not instant. It takes training and endurance. As stated a great help is a discipleship partner. One that is with you when the battles get tough. One that will give advice and guidance. To let you know when you are dropping your guard, when the enemy is coming at you with a different tactic.  Have you ever noticed that the most competent cornerman a fighter can have is a mature one? One that has been through the battles.  They can assist in teaching us before we have to learn it on our own.  Earlier in Romans chapter 5, Paul laid this foundation of endurance and training:

3we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5 ESV

In this section about weak faith, Paul is referring to immature faith that has not yet developed  the muscle it needs to  stand against external pressures.  Paul relates to both believers, weak and strong. Indicating that they are acting according to their maturity and their conscience.  Many topics are argued over and brought into the church but do not need to be. Yet others need to be adhered to, specifically the doctrine of salvation, not opinions.

While two Christians may disagree over whether or not a Christian should drink wine or eat only vegetables, no Christian should dispute the fact that lying, stealing, and immorality are sin. These are biblical and moral absolutes. No two Christians should differ over the virgin birth or the deity of Christ, the physical resurrection of our Lord or the substitutionary atonement. These are doctrinal certainties.

Many Christians base their moral judgement on opinions, personal dislikes or cultural bias rather than on the Word of God. When a person does this they show that their own faith is weak. They can tend to believe that God is not powerful enough to guide and direct his children. That they need to govern and control or people will be lost for eternity.  When we stand before Jesus on judgement day, we won’t be thinking about what our Christian neighbor has done.

10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. – 2 Corinthians 5:10

Who are we to judge? If we had a frame of mind that is defined in verse 4, our world would be transformed. It is simple to read and believe, but it is difficult to walk it out.

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.

We are all servants of Christ, so who are we to despise another of Christ’s servants? If a servant is acceptable to Jesus, how can they not be acceptable to us?

Can you describe a change in your life where you have been transformed in this manner? Have you experienced victory with specific people, but giving grace, and walking in light of this verse?

To accept Jesus’ lordship in all areas of our life means to share his values and his perspectives. Just as we take Jesus’ view on the authority of Scripture, the nature of heaven and the resurrection, we are to have his attitude of love toward other Christians; which is some times referred to as a spirit of unity. As we grow in faith and come to know Jesus better, we will become more capable of maintaining this attitude of loving unity throughout each day.  We have the ability to love the lost more, tolerate those people that are inconsiderate and oppose our views and actions.

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. – Romans 14:13-23 ESV

In this second part of the chapter, Paul instructs us to refrain from exercising our own liberties when they will harm another Christian.

Can you rest in your confidence in Christ, regardless of your worldly experiences? Can you relish in the kingdom of God? In verse 17 Paul makes it clear that we will know the kingdom of God as a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. When we really get the central point of Christianity, whoever serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  But can that be possible? Not in its entirety. We know that by pleasing God there will be opposition and rejection, but we know that the ones that count will approve.

Sin is not just a private matter. Everything we do affects others, and we have to think of them constantly. God created us to be interdependent, to live together, not independent, isolating. We who are strong in our faith must, without pride or condescension, treat others with love, patience and self-restraint.