Romans 14:19-23

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

November 17, 1999


Paul has moved through his doctrinal section in Romans and now has moved on to the practical side of things.  This chapter talks about how we deal with others who have different convictions about certain "gray areas" than we have. Some example of "gray" areas might be:

What you can eat or not eat. Movies. TV. Dancing. Celebrating Christmas. Pokémon cards. Going to the beach. Drinking alcohol. Smoking. Clothing styles. Makeup.

Again, there are many things that are "black and white" for the Christian. There is no dispute about whether we are allowed to get drunk. There is no dispute about whether or not God allows premarital sex. There is no dispute about whether or not we ought to pay our taxes. Those areas are clearly spelled out. But there are these gray areas that are unclear.

Though I believe that it is possible for a Christian to do some of these things that lie in the "gray" areas, there are also reasons why we shouldn’t. Last week we talked about one of the greatest reasons to not do some of these "gray" things, and that was love.

(Rom 14:15 NKJV) Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.


:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace

follow afterdioko – to make to run or flee; to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after; without the idea of hostility, to run after, follow after: someone; metaph., to pursue; to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavour to acquire


Pursue peace

I’ve found some things which make for peace in the book of Proverbs by doing a study on the Hebrew word madown, or, "contention".

1. Be slow to anger.

Sometimes the thing that keeps us from peace with each other is our own temper.

(Prov 15:18 NASB) A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger pacifies contention.

(Prov 29:22 KJV) An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.

We can tend to think that our anger isn’t that big of a deal. After all, it’s not exactly like I’m killing them, right?

Jesus said,

(Mat 5:21-22 NLT) "You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.' {22} But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you say to your friend, 'You idiot,' you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Jesus likened our anger to murder. And when we treat other people with anger, there is a sense in which we are doing great damage to them. The person who gets angry and explodes will often feel bad about it for a little while, but afterwards they forget about it while the pain and damage tends to linger on in the person who felt their anger.

Confess your anger to God. Ask Him for forgiveness. Turn away from being angry. Don’t just hide your anger, give it up. Anger is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19). If we walk in the Spirit, we won’t carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).

2. Watch out for arguments.

Keep your radar on and avoid letting disagreements get out of hand.

(Prov 17:14 NASB) The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.

When you see an argument coming on, back off and let things cool down.

3. Lose the attitude

(Prov 22:10 NASB) Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, Even strife and dishonor will cease.

Sometimes we’re the "scoffer" (or, "mocker"). When we find ourselves making fun of people, we’re heading down the wrong road.

(Prov 28:25 KJV) He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.

Our own pride can keep things from being peaceful.

4. Don’t gossip

(Prov 26:20 NLT) Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.

Are you saying something about someone that you wouldn’t say to their face? It will only come back to bite you.

:19 and things wherewith one may edify another.

edifyoikodome – (the act of) building, building up; metaph. edifying, edification; the act of one who promotes another's growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness


Pursue building others up.

There are some specific things we can do to build others up in their walk with the Lord.

1. Speak God’s Words

1 Corinthians 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men [to] edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

The gift of prophecy is a supernatural ability to receive a message for a person or group from the Lord.

But you don’t have to have the gift of prophecy to do this, you can simply share Scripture with others.

(2 Tim 3:16-17 NLT) All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. {17} It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

2. Use your gifts

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us to build us up. The gift of tongues will build up the one who is speaking in the tongue (1Cor. 14:4), but the other gifts will build up those around you.

(1 Cor 12:7 NIV) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

For me, as a pastor/teacher, I’m told that my goal is to build up the church:

(Eph 4:11-12 NASB) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, {12} for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

The church is built up as God would use me and others to help train you for the work of the ministry. When you’re doing your ministry, the church is built up.

3. Love

(Eph 4:15-16 KJV) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: {16} From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

The church is built up as each of us are doing our part and as we are loving each other.

(1 Cor 8:1 NKJV) Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.

4. Speak good words

(Eph 4:29 NIV) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

It’s too often that we are just good at criticizing one another. We need to work at encouraging each other.


Smart Dog

A dog walks into a butcher shop with a purse strapped around his neck. He walks up to the meat case and calmly sits there until it’s his turn to be helped. A man, who was already in the butcher shop, finished his purchase and noticed the dog. The butcher leaned over the counter and asked the dog what it wanted today. The dog put its paw on the glass case in front of the ground beef, and the butcher said, "How many pounds?" The dog barked twice, so the butcher made a package of two pounds ground beef. He then said, "Anything else?" The dog pointed to the pork chops, and the butcher said, "How many?" The dog barked four times, and the butcher made up a package of four pork chops. The dog then walked around behind the counter, so the butcher could get at the purse. The butcher took out the appropriate amount of money and tied two packages of meat around the dog’s neck. The man, who had been watching all of this, decided to follow the dog. It walked for several blocks and then walked up to a house and began to scratch at the door to be let in. As the owner opened the door, the man said to the owner, "That’s a really smart dog you have there." The owner said, "He’s not really all that smart. This is the second time this week he forgot his key."


Charles Spurgeon tells this fictional story:

Jesus arrived at the gates of a certain city, and he sent his disciples forward to prepare supper while he himself walked through the streets into the marketplace. He saw, at the corner of the market, some people gathered together looking at some object, and he drew near to see what it might be.

It was a dead dog with a halter round his neck, by which he appeared to have been dragged through the dirt, and a viler, more abject, more unclean thing never met the eyes of man.

"Ugh!" said one, holding his nose, "It pollutes the air!"

"How long," said another, "will this foul beast offend our sight?"

"Look at his torn hide," said a third. "You couldn’t even cut a shoe out of it."

"And his ears," said a fourth, "all bedraggled and bleeding."

Jesus looked down compassionately on the dead creature said, "Pearls are not equal to the whiteness of his teeth."

The people turned to him with amazement and said among themselves, "Who is this? This must be Jesus of Nazareth, for only he could find something to pity and approve even in a dead dog." Ashamed, they bowed their heads and went each on his way.

What do you say about your dog?

:20 For meat destroy not the work of God.

meatbroma – that which is eaten, food

destroykataluo – to dissolve, disunite; (what has been joined together), to destroy, demolish

When a person abuses their freedom to do a certain thing in the "gray" area, instead of bringing peace and building others up, they are dissolving and destroying the Body of Christ.

We would consider it an outrage if someone defaced a great work of Rembrandt or Michelangelo. How much more if we destroy the work of God Himself?

:20 All things indeed are pure

purekatharos – clean, pure

We saw this back in verse 14:

(Rom 14:14 KJV) 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.

Jesus has made all food "acceptable" (Mark 7:19). You aren’t going to be hurt in your relationship with God based on what you eat.

:20 but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

evilkakos – of a bad nature; base, wrong, wicked

offenceproskomma – a stumbling block; an obstacle in the way which if one strikes his foot against he stumbles or falls; that over which a soul stumbles i.e. by which is caused to sin

Same word used in vs. 13 as "stumbling block".

(Rom 14:13 KJV) 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.

The verse is aimed at the stronger brother, and the offense is what can be caused through your abusing of liberty –

(Rom 14:20 NASB) 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.

If you use your liberty and end up causing someone to stumble, then what you’ve done is sinful.

I may be convinced that I can drink alcohol (which I’m not), and go out and "have a few beers" with my friends. But if I cause a brother who is struggling to have victory over alcohol to stumble, then my drinking is WRONG.

: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.

goodkalos – beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable

fleshkreas – (the) flesh (of a sacrificed animal)

stumblethproskopto – to strike against; of those who strike against a stone or other obstacle in the path, to stumble; i.e. metaph. to be induced to sin. Same as in verse 13, 20.

is offendedskandalizo – to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend. Same as in vs. 13.

made weakastheneo – to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless

This is the same word that started off the chapter, the "weaker" brother (14:1). Some versions don’t have the phrases "or is offended, or is made weak"

Does this mean that if I have "liberty" to do a certain thing, that I can still never do it because I may cause someone to stumble?

It depends.

(1 Cor 10:23-33 NLT) You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is helpful. You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is beneficial. {24} Don't think only of your own good. Think of other Christians and what is best for them. {25} Here's what you should do. You may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace. Don't ask whether or not it was offered to idols, and then your conscience won't be bothered. {26} For "the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." {27} If someone who isn't a Christian asks you home for dinner, go ahead; accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you and don't ask any questions about it. Your conscience should not be bothered by this. {28} But suppose someone warns you that this meat has been offered to an idol. Don't eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. {29} It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person. Now, why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? {30} If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it? {31} Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God. {32} Don't give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. {33} That is the plan I follow, too. I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don't just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved.

If you are unaware that you might cause a person to stumble, then it might be an okay thing to do what you are free to do. But when you become aware that there’s a person that might stumble (probably by the questions they ask you), then back off.

When we started off the chapter, we spent a lot of time talking about these "gray" areas. It’s possible that some might have been thinking, "Well, it’s good to know that there are so many things that I’m free to do!"

But if we are going to walk in love, if we are going to not cause another person to stumble, we actually have quite a limit to our freedom. We don’t limit ourselves because it makes us better before God. We limit ourselves because we care so much for others that we don’t want them to stumble.

We don’t want to put an obstacle in the way of others believing.

(1 Cor 9:12 NLT) If you support others who preach to you, shouldn't we have an even greater right to be supported? Yet we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ.

:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.

faithpistis – conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things. Here I think it carries the idea of the "convictions" we have concerning what’s right and wrong. Do you have convictions about what is right and wrong?

beforeenopion – in the presence of, before.

There’s a sense in which my personal convictions about the gray areas need to be my personal convictions. I shouldn’t be living according to what others have as personal convictions.

But I also need to be honest with myself in standing in God’s presence with these convictions.

Do you have your personal convictions because it just happens to please your flesh? Do you have the freedom to go see "R" rated movies, because you just want to see "R" rated movies? Or could you honestly stand before God and watch your "R" rated movie? Only you and God know whether you’re being honest about it.

:22 Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

happymakarios – blessed, happy

condemnethkrino – to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose; to approve, esteem, to prefer; to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion; to judge; to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong

allowethdokimazo – to test, examine, prove, scrutinize

It’s a truly happy person who doesn’t do things that their own conscience tells them not to do.

:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith:

doubtethdiakrino – to separate, make a distinction, discriminate; to be at variance with one's self, hesitate, doubt

damnedkatakrino – to give judgment against, to judge worthy of punishment; to condemn

Pastor Chuck Smith: "It’s wrong to talk someone out of his convictions. When a person is pressured to act against his convictions, he feels condemned before God. His conscience will whip him, and Satan will take full advantage of his feelings. He’ll try to make the weaker brother feel alienated from God. Be wary of becoming an unwitting tool in Satan’s hands by urging a brother to act against his convictions. Let everyone serve God according to his own measure of faith."


Stay sensitive.

It’s important that we learn to listen and follow our conscience. Sometimes God is prompting us, and if we grow callous to our conscience, then we can become callous towards God’s leading. Sometimes our conscience is just goofed up and we have silly ideas about what is wrong and what is right. There’s a place for growing and becoming freed up from those things, but in the meantime, don’t transgress your conscience.

:23 for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

sinhamartia – sin, to miss the mark, to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong


Life principle – live by your convictions

If you doubt, don’t.

There’s a balance needed here. There are times when a person’s convictions are way out of hand. I know of people who feel guilty about everything. If one of these people followed this completely, they wouldn’t do anything.

As a general rule, this is a good principle to follow in making decisions.


The mighty Niagara River plummets some 180 feet at the American and Horseshoe Falls. Before the falls, there are violent, turbulent rapids. Farther upstream, however, where the river’s current flows more gently, boats are able to navigate. Just before the Welland River empties into the Niagara, a pedestrian walkway spans the river. Posted on this bridge’s pylons is a warning sign for all boaters: "Do you have an anchor?" followed by, "Do you know how to use it?"

-- Paul Adams in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.

Following your convictions, following after the things that you have "faith" for, can be one of those anchors in life. Learn to follow your convictions now rather than wait until you go over the falls that you were warned about with those little inner promptings.