Following is an English transcript of the message from this morning.
Before we read the next section in Romans, I want to remind you that the Romans were Gentiles. They were the second group to learn of Jesus and to come to faith. The first group was the Jews.
Chapter 14 of Romans is teaching given to the Gentiles about how to live in harmony with new believers coming from the Jewish community. We know that the Jews had a long history of worshipping God that included all the rituals and regulations and holy days under the Law of the Old Testament. When Jesus came, He replaced the Old Testament with the New, which supersedes the Law and its rituals.
However, the new believers who had formerly worshipped under the Jewish tradition of the Old Testament, they had a hard time releasing their traditions from the Law. This was a difference between the Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians that sometimes caused division in the church. Paul is addressing some of those problems in this chapter.
Let’s read Romans 14:1-23.
“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.
For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.
Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him.
Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.
For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.
So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God. ’”
Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it.
Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat.
Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.
You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right.
But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”
Romans 14:1-23 NLT
In verse 1, he tells them to receive those who are weak in the faith. That is those who are new Jewish believers who are still holding onto traditions from the Old Testament. But he says don’t receive them simply to enter into arguments with them. That is not helpful or charitable.
In the next few verses, he talks about those who believe they cannot eat some things versus those who believe they can eat all things. This is a difference between Jews and Gentiles. Under the Old Testament, Jews were forbidden to eat various meats, such as pork. To the Jew, the pig was an unclean animal that would defile them and separate them from God.
Under the New Testament, God said there is not distinction between meats. He revealed this to the Apostle Peter in the Book of Acts Chapters 9 and 10. Of course, the Gentile believers never had this distinction. They could eat pork with a clear conscience because they had never been raised to consider pigs as unclean animals.
You can imagine the differences that arose between the two groups. The Gentile believers were trying to convince the Jewish believers to let go of their old customs and to be free under the new way that Jesus established. But the Jewish believers who had lived all their lives before carefully avoiding the unclean meat, could hardly bring themselves to eat pork, for example. They thought it was disgusting and gross.
Is it sin to eat pork? No. Is it sin to avoid pork? No. Therefore, Paul says don’t argue about things that do not matter. If the Jewish believer felt better avoiding the unclean meats from the Old Testament way, Paul says that the Gentile believers should exercise patience and forbearance and love toward them in those things.
And to go a step further, he encouraged them to avoid eating ceremonially unclean meats around those weak believers. It was better not to cause someone to be offended over a type of meat than to enjoy having a nice pork chop supper when your Jewish brother was visiting you.
Down in verse 5, we see the discussion of special days. The Jews had many special days or holy days. These were times they came before God to make atonement or to offer sacrifices and so on. All those things were fulfilled in Jesus and were done away with. However, some Jewish believers still set aside these special days to worship the Lord.
Naturally, the Romans did not observe those Jewish holidays. In fact, the Romans had other holidays from their culture. So, there was disagreement over which days should be observed, and which should not.
Is it a sin to have a special day of worship for the Lord? No. Is it sin not to follow the Old Testament calendar of holy days? No. Therefore, the church was taught not make an argument over those day. If someone was setting aside a special time for God, the rest of the church was to support and encourage them in whatever their worship was.
Here we see the problems that can come from a difference in cultures or a difference in worldviews. We can have that still today. Perhaps one branch of Christians has a particular way of doing things that is neither right or wrong, and another branch of believers has a different way of doing things. If it is not an issue of sin or of obedience to God, then we should work to live in peace about such things.
Sometimes divisions come from looking at the wrong person. Instead of looking to Jesus and using Him as our pattern, we look at ourselves or at each other. We insist that others must be just like us because we feel convinced that we are right. That focus is wrong. We should instead be helping others to be more like Jesus. If the issue is something that is not a matter of obedience to the Lord, we must be quick to let it go and include other believers in our fellowship.
And we must recognize that as verses 10 through 12 say, we are not the judge anyway. We are not sent to condemn people, even those people who are living in sin. No, our task is to present the way to God, to warn of judgment from Him, and to show the way of salvation. If others choose to go their own way, that is not our problem if we have faithfully spoken the truth of the Gospel. We will each stand before God as our judge someday. We must be more concerned with our own obedience and love, which is so often short of what it should be.
Paul goes over this again in the verses following verse 13. He tells the Roman believers that yes, it is okay for them to eat whatever meat or to observe various holy days. Jesus allowed for those things under the New Way. However, he warns that we hold the way of love and peace above all things.
He says that we are not destroy our brother over meat. That is to say, we should not discourage or offend someone over something that is merely a preference. If we see that a brother from another culture is struggling to adapt to our traditions, we should be eager to let him observe his own way, as long as he is in obedience to the Lord.
It takes a lot of love and humility to be okay with other people not being exactly like us. Why? Because pride is a root of all kinds of sin. And pride is always looking for ways to take over even our best intentions.
We are to live as verse 19 commands. We pursue those things that will build peace among believers in the church, and we seek for those things in Christ that will edify and build each other up. So, if you know a brother has an opinion about something that is unimportant, don’t try to argue with him about it. Rather, look for things you agree on that you can enjoy together.
This is hard to do. When we meet others, we notice our differences, and we immediately value which things are better or worse. Most often, we may consider our way to be best. If our way is best, then shouldn’t we convince everyone else to be like us?
However, because of a one’s culture or family values, a particular thing may cause his conscience to strike him. For example, in my family, my dad always made us say Aunt and Uncle when we were talking to our elders. I would always say Uncle Walter, never just Walter. But in Stephanie’s family, they do not always use the title of respect. They might sometimes say only Walter, when talking about Uncle Walter.
Is one way sin? No. But I would feel bad if I tried to talk about my elders in this way. It would strike my conscience. Stephanie could try to convince me that I am free to speak however I want, but I would always feel I was being disrespectful to my Dad and to my elders if I talked that way.
This is a simple example, but it is things like this that can cause big disagreements between couples, between friends, and between brothers in the church. We need to recognize which things are simply our way of doing things, our culture, and which things God has given a way to do.
We must never force another believer to go against his conscience on matters like this. It is far more important that he live carefully in respect to God and to his family traditions. This is a way for him to show honor to the Lord and to those from his culture. We must care for our consciences and the consciences of others.
But what about things that do matter? What about things that are clearly commanded in Scripture? That is what the thirteen chapters prior were talking about in many cases. God’s way always supersedes man’s way. If my culture or my traditions are in disobedience to God, they must be changed. If your culture and your traditions are in disobedience to God, they must be changed. That is truth.
Nevertheless, I am not the judge. I proclaim the truth. I can tell others what God says and what He expects. But I am not responsible to condemn them. I am responsible to love them. If I have a heart of compassion for others, when I see them living in sin, I will keep on loving them and being their friend in order to show them again and again the way to salvation through Jesus.
If I respond in anger or malice or judgment, it is very likely that I will drive them away from God. That is not my responsibility. Every believer must testify of the truth and power and love of Jesus. We are His ambassadors, but we do not carry His responsibility as Judge. If we are going to make a mistake, let us err on the side of loving others too much. I think that is an impossibility, but you get my point.
I will end the message by reading a portion from James chapter 3.
Let’s read James 3:13-18.
“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:13-18 NLT
Go plant the peace of Jesus wherever you go this week. May God bless you.