Romans 14

Romans 14:1

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

(a) Accept everyone in the church including those who see things differently from you.

The church in Rome had a mix of Jewish and Gentile believers and each came with baggage. The Jewish believers had been raised under the strict law of Moses, while the Gentile believers had grown up in an idol-worshipping culture. Each brought with them strong opinions that could have divided the church. Paul pre-empts this by saying, “Accept everyone and judge no one for God accepts us all” (Rom. 14:3).

(b) The one who is weak in faith is the one whose conscience is under the rule of law, especially in regards to diet (verses 2–3) and special days (verses 5–6). In context, Paul was thinking about believers who refused to eat meat that may have been sacrificed to idols.

Romans 14:2

One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.

(a) He may eat all things. Paul’s conviction was that the believer could eat anything (Rom. 14:14), but he understood that others who did not share his view might be offended by his freedom (Rom. 14:3).

(b) Eats vegetables only. He eats vegetables because he fears the meat may have come from an idol temple.

In the first century, it was not uncommon for sacrificed animals to be sold at temple markets (1 Cor. 10:25). This created an issue of conscience for believers. Was eating idol food the same as partaking of idol worship? This was such a big issue that Paul devoted three chapters to it in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 8–10).

In that letter, Paul made a number of helpful suggestions for dealing with idol food (e.g., don’t flaunt your freedom lest you cause others to stumble (1 Cor. 8:9); steer clear of idol feasts (1 Cor. 10:20); don’t ask questions about the origin of food bought in the marketplace or given to you by friends (1 Cor. 10:25–27); do everything for the glory of God and for the good of many so that they may be saved (1 Cor. 10:31–33).

Romans 14:3

The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.

(a) Not to judge. Christians come in all stripes and flavors. Some vote Republican; others vote Democrat. We ought not to look down on those who see things differently, but accept them as brothers and sisters in the Lord. We Christians are to be known for our love and acceptance of one another (John 13:35).

(b) God has accepted him. If God accepts the other, who are we to reject them?

Romans 14:4

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

(a) Who are you to judge. We are all at different stages of our walk with Christ and it is not our place to judge those we regard as immature in the faith. Paul was persuaded that all things were lawful and that no food was unclean (Rom. 14:14). Others did not share his views and that was fine with Paul. He loved them nonetheless.

(b) To his own master he stands. If a fellow Christian has a different conviction from you, it is between him and the Lord. Your job is not to judge or condemn them but accept them as they as in Christ.

(c) He will stand. The Lord who saves us is well able to keep us from stumbling (Jude 1:24). We do not need to correct or convict every believer who disagrees with us. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Our part is to love them unconditionally and stand with them in the faith.

Romans 14:5

One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.

(a) One day above another. For 2000 years some Christians have regarded the Sabbath as a day above the rest while others have regarded it as just another day of the week. The apostle of grace does not lay down any law regarding this matter other than to say “let no one judge you on these matters” (Col. 2:16).

(b) Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. If you are not fully convinced one way or the other, you will be susceptible to condemnation.

Romans 14:6

He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.

Observes it for the Lord. Some Christians may have a different conviction from you, but if they are doing it for the Lord their heart is in the right place.

Romans 14:11

For it is written,

This wonderful prophecy, which comes from Isaiah 45:23, and which Paul repeats in Philippians 2:10-11, tells us that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God (Rom. 14:10). It does not mean that everyone is or will be saved.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10:13). Those who call to God for salvation shall have it. But in this passage people aren’t calling to God, they are merely acknowledging him. (The original word for praise means to acknowledge.) Just as the demons acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God (Matt. 8:29), all will come to bow before God. When the Lord shows up in glory, it will be impossible not to.

The context here is not salvation, but criticism and judgment. “Why do you judge your brother?” (Rom. 14:11). Put it altogether and Paul is saying something like this: “Since we shall all be judged, let us not play judge now” (Rom. 14:13). Judging is the Lord’s job.

Further reading: “Was Paul a universalist?

Romans 14:12

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to be recompensed for what we have done in this life (see entry for 2 Cor. 5:10). Those who have put their faith in Christ shall receive eternal life; those who reject the free gift of life reap the wage of unbelief.

Since we must all give an account for ourselves, we shouldn’t give an account of others. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matt. 7:1). Judging people is God’s business.

Romans 14:13

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.

(a) Let us not judge one another but accept one another as Christ accepted us (Rom. 15:7.

(b) Determine this—not to put an obstacle. Be sensitive to the needs of others.

If you put a glass of wine in front of someone who thinks that drinking alcohol is a sin, and you are inviting them to stumble. You are no longer walking in love (Rom. 14:15). Either they will drink and violate their conscience or they will be tempted to view you with contempt.

Romans 14:14

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

(a) I know and am convinced. Paul had a conviction about these matters. “All things are lawful” and “to the pure all things are pure” (see 1 Cor. 6:12, Tit. 1:15).

(b) Nothing is unclean in itself. Paul had the same revelation that Peter got from his heavenly vision (Acts 10:13–15). Nothing that goes into our mouths defiles or makes us unclean (Matt. 15:11).

Romans 14:17

for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

(a) Not eating and drinking. Many religions are known for what they eat or do not eat, but Christians are recognized by their love for one another (John 13:35).

(b) Righteousness and peace. In the kingdom, peace always follows righteousness (Rom. 5:1, 2 Tim. 2:22, Heb. 7:2, 12:11). If you are more conscious of your sin than his righteousness, you will never enjoy peace with God.

See entry for Righteousness.

Romans 14:21

It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.

(a) It is good not to eat meat if doing so builds up others. “If food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again” (1 Cor. 8:13).

Paul was not anti-meat and he was not preaching a law of vegetarianism. His personal view was that all foods were acceptable and those who refused to eat meat, perhaps because of its association with idol temples, had weak faith (Rom. 14:2). But love for others trumps all personal convictions on matters of eating, drinking, and special days.

(b) Or to drink wine. Paul was not anti-wine but he was opposed to flaunting your wine-drinking freedom in front of non-drinking brothers and sisters.

Romans 14:23

But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

(a) He who doubts is condemned not by God but by his own conscience (1 Cor. 8:7).

(b) Faith here refers to your personal conviction on matters of eating and drinking (see previous verse). For example, “My faith permits me to eat meat provided I don’t ask questions about its origin” (see 1 Cor. 10:25).

(c) Whatever is not from faith is sin. All things are lawful, but if your conscience condemns you then that is a sign you’re not operating in faith. If you have misgivings about the food put in front of you, it would be a mistake to eat it.

Paul is not giving us a definition of sin (which he defines in Romans 3:23 as missing the mark; see entry for Sin). In context he’s talking about eating food that may have been sacrificed to idols (see entry for Rom. 14:2).

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