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Unwavering Faith. Romans 14:13-32
November 19, 2017

Most churches include dedicated, faithful believers whose consciences do not allow them to participate in or approve of certain practices. The Apostle Paul described those who exercise their legitimate liberty as “stronger believers”. Those who feel restricted in exercising legitimate liberty as “weaker believers”. When stronger believers, out of love for those brothers and sisters in the Lord, voluntarily restrict their own lives to conform to the stricter standards of the weaker believers, they build closer relationships with each other and the church as a whole is strengthened and remains unified. In this loving environment, the weaker believers are helped to become stronger. But as Paul emphasizes throughout Romans14:1–15:13, all responsibility does not fall on the stronger brother. Strong and weak believers have a mutual responsibility to love and fellowship with each other and to refrain from judging the other’s convictions in regard to issues that the New Testament neither commands nor condemns. Paul urges the weak to stop criticizing the strong, and the strong to cease finding fault with the weak. Both parties should decide not to place any hindrance in the way of their brothers. On the contrary—for the negative implies the positive—each group should help the other to become a more effective witness for Christ(Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, p. 461). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.)

 

In Romans 14:13–23 Paul continues his teaching about Christian liberty and the mutual obligation of strong and weak believers to accept each other in Christ without being judgmental or causing offense. In these eleven verses, the apostle mentions a number of principles, each given in negative form, that serve as guidelines for all Christians. The principles are closely related and sometimes overlap, but they seem to fall into six general categories: Our liberty should 1) Never cause a brother to stumble (v. 13), 2) to grieve or be devastated (vv. 14–15); and it should 3) never forfeit our witness for Christ (vv. 16–19), 4) tear down His work (vv. 20–21), or be either 5) denounced or flaunted (vv. 22–23).

 

In exercising legitimate Christian liberty we must take care:

1)      Don’t Cause Your Brother to Stumble (Romans 14:13)

Romans 14:1313 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. (ESV)

 

Therefore refers back to verses 10–12, in which Paul reminds his readers that God alone is qualified and has the authority to judge the minds and hearts of His people, who will all stand before His judgment seat (v. 10) and give account of themselves to Him (v. 12; c 2 Cor. 5:10). Judgment is God’s exclusive prerogative.

 

Consequently, we must not pass judgment on one another (cf Matt. 7:1–5). He is not talking about things plainly forbidden by God, but scruples harbored by earnest but weak believers. (Rushdoony, R. J. (1997). Romans & Galatians (p. 270). Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books.)

 

It is the unloving attitude of contemptuous superiority by strong believers and the equally unloving attitude of self-righteousness by weak believers (v. 3) by which they pass judgment on one another. From Paul’s day to ours, those wrongful judgments have been major causes of disrespect, disharmony, and disunity in the church. This is a PRESENT ACTIVE SUBJUNCTIVE with the NEGATIVE PARTICLE which implies stopping an act already in process. This is not a warning but a prohibition (Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 14:13). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.).

 

To pass judgment (krinō) on one another carries the idea of condemnation, as it does in verses 3, 4, and 10. But, lest we think there is no room for critical thinking, the same word to pass judgment is used in a positive connotation to decide/determine, which refers to making a decision. Those two connotations are also found in the English word judge.Being judgmentalcarries the negative idea of denunciation, whereas “using your best judgmentrefers to making a careful decision, with no negative connotation.

 

Paul’s play on words demands that we should never be judgmental of fellow believers but instead should use our best judgment to help them. This best judgement is called to decide/determine never to put a stumbling block or hindrance/obstacle in the way of a brother. Like the command to stop judging, this is a PRESENT ACTIVE INFINITIVE with the NEGATIVE PARTICLE which implied the stopping of an act already in process. (Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 14:13). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.)

 

Please turn to 1 Corinthians 8 (p.956)

 

A stumbling block (proskomma) is literally something against which one may strike his foot, causing them to stumble or even fall. The second term (skandalon, rendered “hindrance/obstacle” here) presents a different picture, that of a trap designed to ensnare a victim It is used of something that constitutes a temptation to sin (Harrison, E. F. (1976). Romans. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians (Vol. 10, p. 148). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.)

 

Paul gives the same warning in his first letter to Corinth, saying:

1 Corinthians 8:5-13 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (ESV)

  • Although eating meat previously offered to idols is not in itself forbidden, when exercising this liberty knowing that it directly offends, we should voluntarily refrain, lest we provoke a weaker believer to stumble into sin.

 

Since this example is directly a first century one, how might this look today? Consider Alcohol. Although the New Testament does not forbid the drinking of alcoholic beverages, there are many good reasons for Christians to abstain. One of the most important is the detrimental effect it can have on a former alcoholic. Our drinking, even in moderation, could easily place a stumbling block in that brother’s way and cause him to fall back into his former addiction. The same principle applies to any activity or practice that is not inherently sinful. Problem areas vary from society to society and from person to person, but the principle never changes. The loving, caring, strong Christian will determine in their mind and heart to be sensitive to any weakness in a fellow believer and avoid doing anything, including what is innocent in itself and otherwise permissible, that might cause them to morally or spiritually stumble. Therefore, for his sake the strong believer should be willing to forgo many things that they would otherwise be able to enjoy because of their own sense of spiritual freedom (Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The New Humanity (Vol. 4, p. 1766). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.).

 

Illustration: Often little children are afraid of the dark and think there is something hiding in the closet. Of course, Mother knows that the child is safe; but her knowledge alone cannot assure or comfort the child. You can never argue a child into losing fear. When the mother sits at the bedside, talks lovingly to the child, and assures them that everything is secure, then the child can go to sleep without fear. Knowledge plus love helps the weak person grow strong. (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 560). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

 

In exercising legitimate Christian liberty we must take care:

2)   Don’t Grieve or Devastate Your Brother (Romans 14:14–15)

Romans 14:14–1514 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. (ESV)

 

A second way to build up fellow believers without offending them is to be careful not to say or do anything that might cause them to be spiritually grieved or hurt. As far as nonsinful things are concerned, the apostle says, I know and am persuaded/convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. He was not stating a personal opinion or preference about such things but was persuaded/convinced in the Lord Jesus; that is, he knew by divine revelation.

 

The strong Christian is therefore entirely right in their conviction that they are at liberty to enjoy anything the Lord does not declare to be sinful (1 Tim. 4:3–5; Titus 1:15). The weak Christian, on the other hand, is wrong in their understanding about some of those things. But they are not wrong in the sense of being heretical or immoral. They are wrong in the sense of not having complete and mature understanding, which causes their conscience to be unnecessarily sensitive. For that reason, it is unclean for anyone who thinks it is unclean in their mind.

  • For various reasons, there are certain things that we know are not sinful but that we do not feel comfortable in doing or even being near. And as long as we feel discomfort about any such thing, we should avoid doing iteven if it would not cause offense to other believers. If we ourselves consider anything to be unclean, then to us it is unclean. And if we persist in violating our conscience, that conscience will become more and more insensitive until it is“seared… as with a branding iron” (1 Tim. 4:2). It then is no longer as sensitive as it needs to be to protect us from sin.

 

But Paul’s major emphasis in this passage is on how our words and actions affect the spiritual welfare of fellow Christians. Therefore, as he says in verse 15,  For if your brother is grieved/hurt by what you eat, referring to the direct issue of contention in Romans 14, we are no longer walking in love. Grieved/hurt translates lupeō, which has the basic meaning of causing pain, distress, or grief. It is lamentable when Christians are harmed by unbelievers. But it is tragic when Christians are grieved/hurt by a brother Christian, particularly over matters that are not inherently wrong. A weak Christian can be grieved/hurt or distressed from watching another Christian say or do something they consider sinful. The pain is deeper if the offending believer is admired and respected by the weaker one. A weak Christian also can be grieved/hurt when, by word or example, they are led by a stronger brother to go against the convictions of their own conscience. That is by far the greater offense. Being upset over what another Christian does can certainly can certainly cause one to be  grieved/hurt, but that hurt is not nearly so severe and damaging as the offense to  a believer’s conscience over what they themselves have done. They suffer feelings of guilt, and forfeit much of his peace of mind, joy, witness, and perhaps even their assurance of salvation. A Christian whose careless use of liberty causes other believers to be grieved/hurt is no longer walking in love. The best safeguard against grieving another believer’s conscience is to determine to do the opposite of what the insensitive and unloving person does: to always be walking in love.

 

Now Paul intensifies the warning to not destroy (Apollumi) our brother. This is a PRESENT IMPERATIVE with the NEGATIVE PARTICLE which usually means stop an act already in process. The freedom of some Christians should not cause the destruction of other Christians! This does not refer to a loss of salvation, but the loss of peace, assurance, and effective ministry.( Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 14:15). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.)

 

Paul implies, Christ has already paid the supreme price for that “weak” Christian, how can the “strong” refuse to pay the quite insignificant price of a minor and occasional restriction in their diet,  (or other such equally insignificant liberty choices)? (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 855). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

Illustration: Exercising Christian liberty is very much like walking a tightrope. As you walk the rope with balancing pole in hand, at one end of the pole is love for others and at the other is Christian liberty. When these are in balance, your walk is as it should be. Martin Luther had it right when he began his treatiseOn the Freedom of a Christian Manby saying, “A Christian man is a most free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian man is a most dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” We are all immensely free in Christ. Our only bondage is the bond of love to our fellow believers. (Hughes, R. K. (1991). Romans: righteousness from heaven (p. 269). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.)

 

In exercising legitimate Christian liberty we must take care:

3)      Don’t Forfeit Your Witness (Romans 14:16–19)

Romans 14:16–1916 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. (ESV)

 

A third purpose for building up rather than injuring weaker believers is to avoid forfeiting our witness before the rest of the world. It is possible to so abuse our liberty in Christ in regard to fellow believers that we create conflicts within the church that give the world cause to criticize and condemn those who claim to hold brotherly love in such high esteem. So/Therefore, Paul says, do not let what you regard/is for you as good/a good thing be spoken of as evil. Although it brings much blessing and enjoyment to those who understand and exercise it properly, Christian liberty is not simply for our own benefit and certainly not for our selfish abuse. It is a gracious gift from God and a wonderfully good thing. But like every other divine blessing, it can be misused in ways that are outside of, and often contrary to, God’s purposes. This good thing of liberty is to be used carefully, with loving concern for our weaker brethren and with concern for its witness to the unbelieving world. It should not cause those brothers to stumble, be grieved, or harmed in any way; and it should never give the watching world an excuse for it to be spoken of as evil. When believers persist in flaunting their freedom in certain areas, this could result in that very freedom being slandered because of their unloving attitude. This has no place in Christian congregations and would be a poor advertisement of Christianity to unbelievers (Barton, B. B., Veerman, D., & Wilson, N. S. (1992). Romans (p. 267). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.).

 

Please turn to 1 Corinthians 10(p.958)

 

As mentioned before, many Gentile believers could not bring themselves to eat meat that had been used in a pagan ritual. Paul carefully dealt with that problem in his first letter to Corinth, which, as one would imagine, included many Gentile converts who continued to have social contact with unbelieving Gentiles as well as with fellow believers. The apostle therefore advised them:

1 Corinthians 10:23-3223 All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, (ESV) (cf. 1 Pt. 2:16)

  • The situation was this: A strong and a weak Christian sometimes would go to dinner at the house of an unbelieving Gentile. When the host served the meal, he might mention that the meat had been used in a pagan sacrifice. The weak believer would be immediately disturbed and tell the other believer that he could not in good conscience eat such meat. Out of love for his weaker brother, the strong Christian would join in refusing to eat the meat, understanding that it is better to offend an unbeliever than a fellow believer. Although that unusual and selfless act of love might temporarily offend the unbelieving host, it might also be used of the Spirit to show the depth of Christian love and draw him to the gospel.

 

Paul’s dual message was, in effect, “Don’t apologize for or renounce your freedom in Christ, and don’t let your own conscience be bothered. Take advantage of your liberty with joy and gratitude, because it is a precious gift from God. But, on the other hand, be willing at any time to forfeit the exercise of your freedom if it might cause spiritual harm to a believer or become an unnecessary offense to an unbeliever. Before the church and before the world, it is much more important to demonstrate our love than our freedom.” He told the Corinthian church, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (1 Cor. 9:19).

 

Such careful exercise of Christian liberty is vital to the unity of the church and to the church’s witness before and to the unbelieving world. Forsaking a freedom is a small concession to make for the sake of both believers and potential believers. As verse 17 notes: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. When those three attributes characterize individual Christians and the local church in which they worship and through which they serve, the work of Christ is advanced and blessed in the Holy Spirit.

 

Righteousness in our daily living should always be more precious to us than the exercise of our liberties. Even though those liberties are God-given, we should seek continually to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God(Phil. 1:11) and to always be wearing “the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14).

 

Please turn back to Romans 12 (p.948)

 

Peace in the churchthe loving, tranquil relationship of believers who are more interested in serving others than in pleasing themselvesis also more important than individual liberties and is a powerful witness to the unbelieving world. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). God’s people, in Romans 12, are called to

Romans 12:10-13 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (ESV) (cf . James 3:17).

  • Those are marks of genuine peace.

 

Like peace, the joy of believers is a product of righteousness. It is both a mystery and a strong attraction to the world and is often used by the Holy Spirit to draw men and women to Christ. Also like peace, joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Even in the midst of hardship and persecution, we are able to have, and should always seek, “the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6).

 

Paul notes in verse 18, that the loving and selfless Christian “serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Dokimos (approved) refers to acceptance after careful examination, as when a jeweler carefully inspects a gem under a magnifying glass to determine its genuineness and value. When we serve Christ selflessly, we prove ourselvesto be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world(Phil. 2:15). Consistent with this is the thought of Jesus throughout the chapter as the Lord who directs daily conduct (vv 6, 8, 18) with a view to God as the final arbiter (vv 6, 10, 18) (Dunn, J. D. G. (1998). Romans 9–16 (Vol. 38B, p. 832). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.).

 

So then, Paul continues in verse 19, let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding/the building up of one another. Humility, selfless love, and compassion for the needs of others are among what makes for peace. In the closing remarks of his second letter to Corinth, Paul said, “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11). An indispensable part of faithful witnessing is “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Those virtues, along with the willingness to for sake our liberties for the sake of fellow believers, also achieve mutual upbuilding/the building up of one another in Christian fellowship.

 

Illustration: A missionary who had served in Laos told of an interesting situation that illustrates what Paul is saying here. Years ago, before national boundaries were set, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas where it was hard to tell “who was who.” But values saved the day. For example, the Laotians ate short-grained rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents. The Vietnamese, on the other hand, ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons. As for taxation, the location of a person’s house was not what determined the nationality. Instead, each person was taxed by the country (kingdom) whose values they exhibited in their way of life. It should be the same with believers in Christ. Regardless of how circuitous the boundaries between believers and unbelievers are (the church is in the world but not of the world), it should be obvious where the Christians are by the values they exhibit. Unlike kingdoms of this world, or other religions of this world, Christians should not be known for what they eat or drink, or how they decorate their houses or churches, but for their love, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.( Boa, K., & Kruidenier, W. (2000). Romans (Vol. 6, p. 427). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

 

In exercising legitimate Christian liberty we must take care:

4)      Don’t Pull Down the Work of God (Romans 14:20–21)

Romans 14:20–2120 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. (ESV)

 

A fourth reason for building up rather than injuring weaker believers is not to destroy/tear down the work of God for the sake of food. To not destroy/tear down translates the present imperative of kataluō, suggesting that Paul was commanding certain believers in Rome to discontinue something they were already doing. Our responsibility is to seek to build up the fellowship (19), not to tear it down (20).  (Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (p. 367). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)

 

As we have seen, in the days of the early church many offenses against the consciences of weak brothers involved food. For Jews it related to eating food that was declared ceremonial unclean under the Mosaic law. For Gentiles, it related to eating food, most commonly meat, that had been used in a pagan sacrifice. But in the broader context of Romans 14 and 15, Paul’s warnings about food and drink relate to anything not sinful in itself that might be said or done that would cause a weaker Christian to be offended and spiritually harmed.

 

Also in this context, the work of God clearly refers to believers, all of whomare His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10). It is therefore not only a serious offense against a weaker brother to cause them to stumble but a serious offense against the work/purposes of God. We would consider it an appalling crime for someone to deface a Rembrandt painting, to shatter a sculpture by Michelangelo, or to smash a Stradivarius violin. How infinitely worse it is to destroy/tear down the work of God, a believerfor whom Christ died” (Rom. 14:15). Any use of Christian liberty which disregards the damaging effect it may produce upon a weak brother is a bad one. (Lenski, R. C. H. (1936). The interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (p. 848). Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern.)

 

The apostle reminds us again that he is not speaking about sinful and unholy things, but about discretionary liberties that are good gifts from God. Those foods, drinks and items created by God, in essence: Everything is indeed clean and good not specifically prohibited, in itself (c vv. 14, 16). The danger is that, when they are exercised selfishly and carelessly by strong Christians, those very blessings can become wrong/evil for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.

 

Therefore, as he notes in verse 21, it is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, which are in themselves good, or to do anything else that is good in itself, that causes your brother to stumble, because such stumbling hinders the work of God in and through that believer. God is endeavoring to build that believer up (Eph. 4:11–15) while a stronger believers carelessness is tearing them down.

 

The issue concerns doing anything at all that causes your brother to stumble. The pleasure of eating offensive food or drink, or the pleasure of doing anything else our liberty allows us to do, is absolutely trivial compared to the spiritual welfare of a brother or sister in Christ. It is worse than trivial. It becomes actually sinful if we have reason to believe it might cause one of the little ones for whom Christ died to stumble.

 

Illustration: When a child comes into a home, everything has to change. Mother and Father are careful not to leave the scissors on the chair or anything dangerous within reach. But as the child matures, it is possible for the parents to adjust the rules of the house and deal with their child in a more adult fashion. It is natural for a child to stumble when they are learning to walk. But if an adult constantly stumbles, we know something is wrong. Young Christians need the kind of fellowship that will protect them and encourage them to grow. But we cannot treat them like “babies” all their lives! The more mature Christians must exercise love and patience and be careful not to cause them to stumble. But the younger Christians must “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). As they mature in the faith, they can help other believers to grow (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 561). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

 

Finally, in exercising legitimate Christian liberty we must take care:

5)      Don’t Denounce or Flaunt Your Liberty (Romans 14:22–23)

Romans 14:22–2322 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.  (ESV)

 

The fifth and final reason for exercising our liberty with great care is that we can harm even ourselves when we do not view our liberty from God’s perspective. We lose that divine perspective when we denounce or belittle good things He has given us or when, at the other extreme, we lovelessly flaunt our liberty without caring about how we affect others.

 

Verse 22 obviously is directed to the strong Christian, the one who understands and appreciates their freedom. Paul’s counsel to them is simple and direct: The faith that you have, keep between/have as your own conviction between yourself and God. Blessed/Happy is the one who has not reason to pass judgement/does not condemn himself for what he approves. When by sincere faith and a correct understanding of Scripture we have a conviction between ourselves and God that a custom, a practice, or an activity is worthwhile and good, we dare not denounce it as sinful. Nor should we allow our conscience to pass judgement/condemn us for exercising it—with Paul’s repeated stipulation that we gladly relinquish that freedom for the sake of a brother or sister in Christ.

 

Finally, verse 23 just as obviously is directed to the weak Christian, the one whose conscience is still offended by certain religious carryovers from their former life. The apostle’s counsel to them is just as simple and direct: Whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed/is not from faith is sin. Whatever is done without the conviction that God has approved it is by definition sin. God has called us to a life of faith. Trust is the willingness to put all of life before God for his approval. Any doubt concerning an action automatically removes that action from the category of that which is acceptable (Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, pp. 258–259). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).

 

The corresponding stipulation is that, just as the strong believer commits sin by causing a weak brother to go against their own conscience, the weak brother is condemned, when, contrary to the convictions of their own faith, they succumb to that which their conscience condemns. First, their faith must be strengthened, their consciences enlightened; and then they can follow the “strong” in exercising Christian liberty together. (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 864). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

(Format note: Outline & some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (p. 300). Chicago: Moody Press.)

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