Romans 14:1-13

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 2, 2009


Paul has moved through his doctrinal section in Romans and now has moved on to the practical side of things.   He’s talked to them about their obligations to each other like loving without hypocrisy, meeting needs, blessing, and not taking vengeance.  He’s talked about our need to submit to those in authority and the debt of love we owe others, as well as our motivation to obey because of Jesus’ soon return.

Now Paul goes into an area where we have lots of problems in church – how we tend to “judge” each other and put guilt trips on each other.

key word:  “judge”, the Greek word (krino) is found seven times in our passage.

Paul will divide the people in church into two categories, the “weaker” and the “stronger”.

Who is the weaker brother?

One who still feels like their relationship with the Lord depends upon their keeping certain rules or laws.  They have a struggle accepting by faith that Jesus’ righteousness is enough.

Paul is going to give several examples of these “gray” areas where people can differ in their opinions.  A “gray” area is one where the Scripture doesn’t specifically forbid a certain thing.  Some people take it one way, others take it another way.

He will talk about what to eat, what to drink, and what day is better than another.

CAUTION:  Sometimes we think that the person who has “given up” the most things in the church is the stronger brother.  It may not be so.

What are some potential “weak brother” issues for us?

Some of you may not like what I’m about to say.

Movies and TV – is it okay to watch?  What is okay?

Drinking alcohol.  Smoking.

An old saying was, “I don’t smoke and I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls that do!”
There are people who are very strong against smoking, saying that it defiles the temple of God.  But I think if you’re overweight it’s probably just as bad.  Christians who live in the South, where tobacco is grown, often don’t have any problems at all with Christians smoking.  Christians in England and Europe, strong Christians, will drink wine or brandy, and even smoke cigars.  Scripture says it’s wrong to be drunk, but it doesn’t say it’s wrong to drink.
Some of these things are more of a “forbidden” thing in a local culture than they are forbidden in Scripture.
These are things that seem to fall into kinds of “gray” areas, areas where I don’t think I’d see any specific prohibition in Scripture. 


Wrong is still wrong

I need to be clear here.  There are some things in Scripture that are non-negotiable.  There are some things that are just plain wrong.
(1 Cor 6:9-10 NKJV)  Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, {10} nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

People whose lives are characterized by these things won’t be in heaven.

There are certain things that are expressly forbidden in Scripture.  We need to stay away from those things.  But there are many things that aren’t specifically spoken to.  We need to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit guiding us.

:1  Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.

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

receiveproslambano (“toward” + “to receive”) – to take to; to take as one’s companion; to take or receive into one’s home, with the additional idea of kindness; grant one access to one’s heart; to take into friendship

Paul doesn’t just use the simple word for “receive” (lambano), but he uses a bit more intense word, one indicating closeness.

Paul uses a “middle voice”, meaning you “receive to yourself”

Paul uses an “imperative”, this is a command.

Paul uses a “present tense”, meaning that this is something we do now, perhaps even continually.

disputesdiakrisis – a distinguishing, discerning, judging

doubtful thingsdialogismos – the thinking of a man deliberating with himself; a thought, inward reasoning; purpose, design; a deliberating, questioning about what is true; hesitation, doubting; disputing, arguing

(Rom 14:1 NASB) but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.


Don’t try to straighten everyone out.

A.T. Robertson: “The “strong” brother is not called upon to settle all the scruples of the “weak” brother.  But each takes it on himself to do it.”
Sometimes us more “mature” Christians will try to take someone “under our wing” for the purpose of “setting him straight”.
Just be careful what you’re trying to straighten out.

Some things are wrong.  Some things are just “gray”.

There are some churches where if you expect to “fit in”, then you are going to need to dress a certain way, act a certain way, cut your hair a certain way, even talk a certain way.  What was so refreshing about Calvary Chapel in the late sixties was that Pastor Chuck learned to just love the hippie kids, even though they didn’t quite fit the mold of the average church-goer of the time.  I remember being in a church when a “long hair” showed up, and boy did they stick out like a sore thumb!
You don’t need to play “Holy Spirit” to your friends by trying to bring them under conviction.  The Holy Spirit does a fine job without your help.

:2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.

may eatphago – to eat; to eat (consume) a thing; to take food, eat a meal

eatsesthio – to eat; to eat (consume) a thing; to take food, eat a meal

vegetableslachanon – any pot herb, vegetables; from lachaino, to dig

There were and still are today some groups who hold to a strict vegetarian diet.  Others will hold to the Jewish dietary laws, forbidding the eating of pork, lobster, shrimp, etc.

But in reality, food doesn’t make you better or worse in your relationship with God.  Jesus said that it wasn’t what you ate that defiled you, but what comes out of your life that defiles you (Mark 7:15-23)

(Mark 7:15-23 NLT)  You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do!" {16}  {17} Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowds, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the statement he had made. {18} "Don't you understand either?" he asked. "Can't you see that what you eat won't defile you? {19} Food doesn't come in contact with your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then comes out again." (By saying this, he showed that every kind of food is acceptable.) {20} And then he added, "It is the thought-life that defiles you. {21} For from within, out of a person's heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, {22} adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness for lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. {23} All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God."

Paul said that God gave us food to eat, and we ought to be thankful about it, all of it:

(1 Tim 4:4-5 NKJV)  For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; {5} for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

It’s the “weak” brother who is the one who has trouble eating meat.  Sometimes we think that the person who has a problem in a certain area is really the spiritual one.  If someone talks about how they don’t go to certain kinds of movies, or go and do certain kinds of things, they may actually be a “weaker” brother.


What’s your motive?

When it comes to things in the “gray” area, I think it all depends on why you do or don’t do certain things. 
Brownie points or lost the taste?
If your reason for not going to the movies is because you think it will get you “brownie points” with God, then you are a weaker brother.  If your reason is because you simply have lost the taste for those kinds of movies, and it really doesn’t matter whether you go or don’t go, then perhaps it is just Jesus conforming you into His image. 
But you need to be careful that you don’t go put your trip on somebody else.

:3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat,

despiseexoutheneo (“out of” + “nothing”) – to make of no account, despise utterly, to look on someone as totally worthless

This seems to carry the idea that you look at a person and think they’re not saved anymore because of what they’re doing.

Here the idea is that the “strong” brother, who doesn’t have a problem eating different kinds of foods, shouldn’t look down on a person who is struggling with food problems.

:3 and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

judgekrino – to separate, to pick out, select, choose; to approve, to prefer; to judge; to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong; the 1st we’ll see this word.

Paul is saying that these “weaker” brothers should not stand back and criticize those who are smoking, especially when they don’t seem to have a problem with smoking.

receivedproslambano (“toward” + “to receive”) – …to take into friendship

This is the same word used in verse 1.  In verse 1 we are told that we need to now continually “receive” this person.  Here in verse 3 we find out that God has already “received” them.

If God has “received” them, who am I to not “receive” them?

Do you have contempt for or judge others who do or don’t do certain things?

Sometimes we judge those who seem to have more liberty than we do because we wish we were able to do the same things.  We’re jealous of them.  We think, “How come they can do this things and get away with it while I feel condemned when I do it?”

There may be times when you are not listening to the Spirit and following His leading.  Sometimes your convictions are more a product of what your parents thought than what the Lord thinks.


Life ain’t fair.  Get over it.

There may be times when you feel a conviction about something from the Holy Spirit, and you may indeed be correct.  But that doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit has put the same conviction about the same thing on others as well.
As parents, we often try very hard to make sure that one child isn’t exalted above the others.  If you buy a shirt for one child, you buy one for each of the others.  But sometimes you just can’t keep things balanced.  Sometimes one child will simply get blessed with something that just can’t be matched for the others.  And when the other children will complain (which they will), the only thing you can respond with is to say, “Sometimes life isn’t fair!”  And that’s absolutely the truth.

Just because the Holy Spirit convicts you about a certain area doesn’t mean that you have to make sure that everyone has to learn the same lesson as you, just to be fair.  Sometimes it isn’t going to be fair.

The important thing is not whether life seems fair.  The important thing is that you are learning to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

When Peter heard that John was going to live longer than he was, he complained…
(John 21:22 NLT)  Jesus replied, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me."

:4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

judgekrino – 2nd  time for the word

servantoiketes – (“house”) one who lives in the same house as another, spoken of all who are under the authority of one and the same householder; a servant, a domestic

The problem comes when we get to thinking that we’re “better” than another person because of our superior beliefs.  We can even start thinking that we’re the “lord” of that other person.

In reality, we are all servants in the same household.  We all report to the same master.


God wants you to make it

It might seem that some people don’t want you to succeed in following Jesus.
God on the other hand wants you to make it.
Jude says:
(Jude 1:24 NKJV)  Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
Give God time to finish the project He’s working on.
(Phil 1:6 NLT)  And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.

God is the potter who is shaping the clay.  We are the clay and are responsible to stay pliable in the potter’s hands. You may be a part of God’s process of growing people up, but the responsibilities for their growth lie with God and with them, not you.


Use the exit.

It’s important to realize how God helps us to stand.
(1 Cor 10:13 NKJV)  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
There is an important part we play when it comes to “making it”.
God promised to always provide an “exit” to get out of every temptation.  The trick is to use the exit.
The “Exit” door is always going to be there.  It may be a phone call that temporarily breaks the thought processes of the temptation.  It may be that you hit all red lights on the way to your sin.  It may simply be the still, small voice of a Scripture calling out for you to flee. The real question is whether or not you use the exit.

:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

esteemskrino – 3rd & 4th time for the word

Daysbe fully convincedplerophoreo (“full” + “to wear like clothes”) – to bear or bring full; to fill one with any thought, conviction, or inclination; to be persuaded, persuaded, fully convinced or assured

Another “gray” area. The subject here is “days”.  Do we consider one day better than another, or all days the same?

In Paul’s day, the Jewish believers were giving honor to God on the Sabbath, on Saturday.

There are people who think that if you worship on Sunday that you are evil and in rebellion against God.  They say that Saturday is the day.

In contrast, the Gentile believers of Paul’s day were already worshipping on Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2), out of respect for the Resurrection, which took place on a Sunday.

Some folks feel that all days are really the same and that we really ought to be thinking about worshipping God every day!  I kind of like that idea myself.

There is no right or wrong way to these things.  You need to make up your own mind on these gray areas and then just be faithful to your convictions without judging others.

Be faithful to what you are persuaded about.

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

observesphroneo (“mind”) – to have understanding; to feel, to think; to direct one’s mind to a thing

:7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.

Keep in mind that Paul is addressing believers.  He’s making a generalization, that believers live their lives for the Lord, to be pleasing to the Lord.

:8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

:9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

roseanistemi (“again” + “to stand”) – to cause to rise up, raise up

lived againanazao (“again” + “to live”) – live again, recover life

He might be Lordkurieuo – to be lord of, to rule, have dominion over

Jesus’ death and resurrection make Him “Lord”.

Fellow servants don’t judge one another.  That’s the job of their “Lord”.

:10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

judgekrino – 5th time for the word

show contemptexoutheneo (“out of” + “nothing”) – to make of no account, despise utterly; Same word as “despise” in verse 3.

stand beforeparistemi (“alongside” + “to stand”) – to place beside or near; to present; to present a person for another to see and question

judgment seat bema – a step; a raised place mounted by steps; of the official seat of a judge; Herod built a structure resembling a throne at Caesarea, from which he viewed the games and made speeches to the people ; (play Caesarea theater clip).


The Judgment Seat of Christ

It is not to determine whether or not we go to heaven, but to determine our rewards when we’re in heaven.  It is where our deeds are judged after having become a Christian.
(2 Cor 5:10 NKJV)  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Paul talks about our lives being like a build on a foundation.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior, God lays a foundation in our life.  What we do with our lives after that is the building that we build.  It’s the building we build that will be judged.
(1 Cor 3:12-15 NKJV)  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, {13} each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. {14} If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. {15} If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

God’s method of judging our works will be to put them through the fire.  Whatever survives the fire of God’s judgment is worth keeping.  Whatever burns up is worth losing.

What’s the difference between a “gold” kind of work and a “stubble” kind of work?  It’s our motives. 
The best motive to do anything, the motive that will produce rewards in heaven, is love:

(1 Cor 13:1-3 NKJV)  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. {2} And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. {3} And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Ultimately, if we don’t do things out of love, then it’s worthless.

:11 For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God."

Paul is quoting from Isaiah 45:23.

(Isa 45:23 NKJV)  I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.

Paul also quotes this in Phil. 2:8-11.

confessexomologeo – to confess; to profess; acknowledge openly and joyfully; give praise to

:12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

accountlogos – a word; matter under discussion, account as in a bookkeeping ledger

:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

judgekrino – 6th time for the word

resolvekrino – 7th time for the word

stumbling blockproskomma – a stumbling block; an obstacle in the way which if one strikes his foot against he stumbles or falls

cause to fallskandalon (“scandal”) – the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick; any person or thing by which one is (entrapped) drawn into error or sin


Let Jesus do the judging

Part of the influence of Rome upon the world in Paul’s day was that Rome had spread its love for the “games”.  Many cities around the world had their smaller versions of the Roman Coliseum, where cities would have various types of competition, some purely athletic, others quite violent and deadly.  The average person in the Roman Empire knew of the picture of an athlete standing before the king or judge to receive their prize.
Clip from “Gladiator”, the “thumbs up”
But here, the king that we are going to stand before is no earthly king, it will be Jesus.  We will all stand before Him.
Let Jesus take care of the judging of other Christians in these “gray” areas.
Warren Wiersbe writes,

Two of the most famous Christians in the Victorian Era in England were Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker, both of them mighty preachers of the Gospel. Early in their ministries they fellowshipped and even exchanged pulpits. Then they had a disagreement, and the reports even got into the newspapers. Spurgeon accused Parker of being unspiritual because he attended the theater. Interestingly enough, Spurgeon smoked cigars, a practice many believers would condemn. Who was right? Who was wrong? Perhaps both of them were wrong! When it comes to questionable matters in the Christian life, cannot dedicated believers disagree without being disagreeable? “I have learned that God blesses people I disagree with!” a friend of mine told me one day, and I have learned the same thing. When Jesus Christ is Lord, we permit Him to deal with His own servants as He wishes.

St. Augustine put it this way: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”