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The Bible Teacher's Commentary
Romans 14:13-23 Love's Greater Call is part of the last section of Romans, Romans 12-16 where God's people are in various situations exhorted to love one another. Further clarification on how to happily live with those one might differ with are provided. Part of The Bible Teacher's Commentary on the Book of Romans.
14 “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. 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.
15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 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.” (Romans 14:13-23).
Again, we are called not to judge another but to love him. Our attitudes can cause a brother or sister to fall (stumble). This is not what the Lord wants for us.
There is a whole better way of life through which we sacrifice our preference for the building up of others. We deliberately, and as regularly as needed, defer from eating what we like or doing what we please, so that we will not cause another brother or sister to stumble.
The idea behind this is that by doing something that they think is wrong will tend to lead them along with you even though it goes against their conscience. So even though it is not sin in and of itself (we are still speaking of amoral issues rather than moral ones), when they join us in some activity such as watching (in their eyes) a questionable movie, they sin.
Paul knows there is nothing unclean but this does not give him the freedom to do whatever he wants whenever he feels like it.
Anytime we live for our enjoyment to the other’s demise, we have really missed the calling to follow Jesus. If Jesus died for them, then they belong to Him as we belong to Him. We are to treat highly those to whom redemption has come.
If at any point we place food over gracious treatment to our brethren (such as in refraining to eat certain things), then we have messed up. What we consider good, can become evil. This is similar to how something amoral can become wrong (immoral - see discussion verses 1-2).
We are to work towards the expansion of God’s kingdom on earth. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Below are a number of ‘love’ commands that Paul lists. In other words, we are not to focus on judging another but on how to love one another. This way of love is so much greater than seeking to happily live out our lives the way we want.
Do not judge others (14:13).
Do not be the cause of another’s fall (14:14-16).
Concentrate on doing what is acceptable to God (14:17-19).
Don’t destroy God’s work for the sake of truth (14:20-21).
Don’t act in doubt (14:22). [Live by a good conscience.]
Always act in faith (14:23).
A lot of Christians struggle over their conscience. They should not. Each believer should live by his or her conscience. If one person believes he or she should or should not refrain from some particular activity (e.g. amoral action such as how he conducts himself on the Lord’s Day), then he should live by his conscience.
It is so much better to live out a consistent life rather than struggling, falling into sin, finding cleansing through Christ’s blood and standing up again. Instead we live from ‘faith to faith.’ We are glad for Christ’s forgiveness but that whole struggle with sin is unnecessary and brings us away from the powerful life of a Spirit-filled believer.
By living by a clean conscience, we are deliberately making choices to care for others. The result is a stronger more vibrant life than otherwise which is caught in the struggle with the flesh. “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (14:22).
Your companion might not believe the same thing as you and want you to do something that you feel is wrong. Your companion should be sensitive to your principles (you might need to speak up and tell him!) and not encourage you to break them even though, in his eyes, there is nothing wrong with it.
The reason Paul gives in 14:23 is ‘whatever is not from faith is sin.’ In other words, if I eat in doubt of whether it is proper, then I sin. Don’t say to another, “Oh, that is okay. I have done it before.” When you do that, you encourage him to defile his conscience. Do not try to convince the brother but just limit one’s own activity.
Reflect on your own life and choices before the Lord in prayer. Seek Him with regards to any area that you might have ‘dirtied’ your conscience. Where the Lord brings counsel, make sure you confess sin and present yourself wholly ready to do His will.
Paul cares about the church. In Romans chapters 1-12 Paul spoke about the creation of God’s people while in these last chapters he focuses on how to maintain the unity within the church. In this case, the various groupings of believers in the church had bitterness and pride.
They were wrongly judging others when they should have focused on loving them. Instead of insisting their way was the right way, they should have adjusted their ways so not to cause others to stumble. Paul’s guidelines are clear and helpful in reminding us how to love others even when others disagree with us.
Our churches have many issues that are not always right or wrong. We as believers need to train ourselves to be more sensitive as to what situations are always wrong or sometimes wrong but also to how to best assist others in their spiritual growth.
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