Today: [Romans 14:]
Today: [Romans 14:] Allowances and Concessions in God: In chapter 14 of Romans Paul addresses very personal issues such as diet and holy days. Believers in his time were condemning one another to hell because they ate meat or worshipped on a wrong day. Things have changed little in our own day as the existence of the Christian denominational system attests. Paul gives us his judgment in pointing out allowances we may feel free to live out in our private lives and concessions we must make in our public testimony.
[Rom 14:1-23 KJV] 1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, [but] not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day [alike]. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth [it] unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard [it]. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, [As] I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in [his] brother’s way. 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that [there is] nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with [thy] meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ [is] acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed [are] pure; but [it is] evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21 [It is] good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor [any thing] whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22 Hast thou faith? have [it] to thyself before God. Happy [is] he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because [he eateth] not of faith: for whatsoever [is] not of faith is sin.
In chapter 14 we come to a meaningful discussion about faith and tolerance. Verse 1 instructs us to know those who are weak in faith around us and to accommodate them – to a point. This is very important to be aware of, and it is likewise essential to understand what “weak in the faith” means. To Paul, in the context of the scope of the book of Romans, a person weak in the faith would be someone dominated in their thinking with a performance-based approach to God. A person strong in the faith would be a person who understands that acceptance before God is not bound to a religious protocol or some quotient of moral excellence. A person strong in the faith knows that they are accepted before God because of who Jesus is and what He did 2000 years ago on your behalf on the cross. Who you are or what you have done have no bearing on your station before the Father because your good condemns you to an equal degree as any sin that you might commit. The cross and the cross alone is your basis of approach to God. Jesus in His person is your righteousness – all else as Isaiah affirms is filthy rags.
To illustrate Paul makes the point that a person strong in the faith (v. 2) eats anything he wishes but a person weak in the faith chooses a vegetarian diet only. Why was this the case? Because in ancient culture all meats when prepared for slaughter were first offered up to pagan deities which meant to partake of the meat was to partake of a covenantal transaction with the idol. Paul is saying that the mind of faith dismisses the facile connection with pagan practices realizing that it is not the act of abstaining from or partaking of the table of the idol that justified a person but rather FAITH in the person and work of Christ on the cross and nothing else. The actual partaking of what would otherwise be a pagan practice is dismissed by the heart of faith that looks only to Christ and not to outward practice or show. This is a truth as relevant today as it ever was in ancient times. There was a real problem in Paul’s day (v. 4) of one believer judging other believers for their conduct that at times unavoidably exposed them to pagan practices and behavior that otherwise would have condemned them IF they were judging themselves by outward actions or customs.
What about today? There are many unwritten rules today that constitute a framework for what we commonly consider making up good Christian conduct. For instance, what if a professing believer omits from his or her conduct a practice or belief that is generally considered to be essential by fellow believers? Paul would look to the strength of that person’s faith and condemn those who judged the person for violating some outward precept of Christian cultural conditioning. To those who were not so bound by outward compliance to religious expectation, he warns them not to flagrantly offend those who are still bound by their rules and regulations. This is something that seldom if EVER gets taught in Christian leadership because it is held to encourage sinful behaviors and sinful lifestyles. Thus we put rules around God’s rules, so we don’t break the rules. The exclusion of this balanced teaching on these issues produces in our culture two extremes, that of hyper-legalism on the one hand and moral laxity on the other.
In verse 5 Paul speaks to the issue of days of worship. Wars have been fought, and thousands have died over what day of the week Christians should worship or what the date of Easter should or should not be. It is not uncommon for legalistic believers to insist if you worship on Sunday you are part of the beast system and actually serving the anti-Christ. How does one reconcile that thinking with Paul’s insistence that one man esteems the day for a particular purpose whereas another esteems every day alike? The admonition is let every man be persuaded in his own mind which means regardless of any teaching otherwise that the day of worship is a personal and not an institutional issue. Believers who mock and scorn or otherwise condemn others who do not observe a specific day, or insist that we must call God “Yahweh” or Jesus “Yeshua” do so in ignorance of Paul’s teaching. Does this mean they are more informed? Remember that Paul’s understanding in this very book is that one day all men will be judged by his (Paul’s gospel) not by some legalistic, immature, loudly prating legalistic with their elitist attitudes by which they vilify and condemn otherwise sincere believers.
Does this condemnation of legalism give us leave to carry out our lives as we see fit without any social or moral responsibility to our fellow believers or those who are without? In verse 10 strikes the balance, saying that for the sake of our own belief we should neither judge our brother for believing otherwise neither should we set them at nought as though we could care less whether they are offended at the liberties we feel free to take – because one day (v. 11) every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess and give an account of themselves as to how your life and lifestyle affected fellow believers and those outside of Christ. Is this then a call to unlimited deference to what others believe whether we agree with them or not? No, as verse 1 reminds us – the context is “receive the weaker brother – but not to doubtful disputations…” No one has the right to impose their beliefs on you saying “I don’t care what you believe, your lifestyle offends me, therefore, you must do whatever I say …” That is a posture prohibited by Paul in this passage.
Paul goes on in verse to belabor the point. To Paul, this is not a minor issue. He foresaw a world-wide Christianity that would struggle with these issues when one culture would clash with another. Verse 14 tells us that nothing is unclean in itself. For instance – there is no sin in eating pork although many believers will quote numerous scriptures to convince you that you must refrain from pork if you wish to be a serious Christians. Others extend this to drinking diet drinks, or even eating foods high in carbs. If you walk with God long enough, you will be confronted by believers with strong opinions about everything from underarm deodorant to public school. How do we appease these people and still live a life that is authentically our own? Verse 15 instructs us to conduct ourselves in charity or love toward these “weaker brothers” even though what we call weakness they consider their greatest strength and deepest spirituality. Though they may insist otherwise always keep in your heart (v. 17) that the kingdom of God has nothing to do with what you eat or drink but rather righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
How do we proceed then? We are to follow after the things which make for peace and always strive to build one another up and not enter into debate or contention over things that will never be settled by argument (v. 19). Is this important? It cannot be overemphasized. Disagreement on these matter constitutes the very existence of the denominational system that shames the testimony of Christ so egregiously in the earth. How do we proceed? Purpose not to publicly offend others by our dietary allowances or whether we drink wine or not. If you have faith, v. 22 tells us to “have it to thyself at home before God…” Isn’t that hypocrisy? If it is then Paul is instructing us to be hypocrites. Are we to tout our liberties to others who may not see things the way we do? No, because if you encourage a doubting brother to indulge in your liberty, you may be damning him to a condemned conscience. It isn’t our job to correct the thinking of others in such matters rather our responsibility is to live our lives as paragons of love and tolerance without grieving the hearts or minds of those who may or may not agree with our chosen liberties or private lifestyle.
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