Romans 14:13-23

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 9, 2009


Last week we talked about the issue of judging other people, especially the issue of judging other Christians.

In the church there are “weaker” brothers and “stronger” brothers.  Those of us that might be considered “stronger” or more mature believers need to be careful of not judging or even “fixing” those who are “weaker”.

Paul has been talking about those gray areas, things that we might disagree on as to what is right and wrong.

For Paul, one of the issues is what a person eats – should they eat just vegetables or can a believer eat meat as well.  The one who struggles with eating meat is the “weaker” brother.
We also talked about the issue of “days” – specifically what day/days should we worship on.

Now Paul brings to a conclusion about what we do with this “judging” each other…

: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.

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

Sounds like carelessness – leaving something laying around that someone might trip over.

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

This sounds a little more devious – laying a trap for another person so they will get caught.

:14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

uncleankoinos – common; ceremonially unclean

In the Old Testament, “unclean” is close, but not quite sin.  Unclean things might be foods you were not to eat, people with certain diseases, but not necessarily outright sin.  An “unclean” person was not allowed to come into the Tabernacle.  An “unclean” person was supposed to stay away from other people.

nothing – I don’t think Paul is making a blanket statement here.  After all, sin is sin.  Don’t pervert this passage to say that there’s nothing “unclean” about internet pornography.  In the context of the passage, Paul is talking about food.

convincedpeitho – to be persuaded; to believe; have confidence

It’s a perfect tense, something that’s happened in the past but the effects continue on into the present.  Paul was persuaded a while back, and he’s still persuaded.

considerslogizomai – to reckon, compute; count up or weigh the reasons, to deliberate

This sounds like a more “logical” word.  It’s not like Paul or the other person have not done their homework.  One is “convinced”, the other has “deliberated”.

God’s definition of “unclean” changes in the New Testament.

When Jesus was confronted about the issue of what to eat and becoming unclean, He said,

(Mark 7:18-19 NLT)  "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.)
I don’t think this entirely eliminates the Levitical Law of what foods were to be eaten and which were not.  But Jesus is saying that it does not affect your relationship with God.  Yet there is still some great value to the Levitical Laws.  One of the big things that was forbidden was the eating of “fat”.  The “fat” belonged to God.  Our modern dietary science tells us the same.  I also don’t have a problem with the laws against eating some foods like vultures and buzzards (Lev. 11:13), bats (Lev. 11:19), and “winged insects that walk” (Lev. 11:20).

Peter had an encounter with “unclean” things that changed him as well:

(Acts 10:10-15 NKJV)  Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance {11} and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. {12} In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. {13} And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." {14} But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." {15} And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."
Peter’s vision was about more than food.  It was really about people.
After this vision, Peter had some visitors sent from the Gentile Cornelius, asking Peter to come and speak to them at Caesarea.  When Peter arrived at Caesarea, he told Cornelius,
(Acts 10:28 NKJV)  Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Even though the truth is there is nothing “unclean”, Paul’s point is that when a person thinks something is unclean, then it’s as good as if it were actually unclean.

Some people don’t have a problem watching some things on TV.  They find some shows entertaining on TV, though some are not so good for your brain.

Some people that feel they can’t have a TV in their house because TV is evil.

:15 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.

grievedlupeo – to make sorrowful; offend

loveagape – love based on a choice to value another person.

Four reasons to say “no”

1.  Conscience

That’s the issue in verse 14.  If you are having a hard time getting yourself to eat roasted bat wings, just because you know all food is “clean”, doesn’t mean that you should be eating it!  If you have a struggle with your conscience about drinking alcoholic beverages, even though you realize that the Scripture allows it (as long as you aren’t getting drunk), then you shouldn’t be doing it.

2.  Bondage

(1 Cor 6:12 NKJV)  All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Keep in mind here that we’re still talking about the things that fall into the “gray” areas.  I don’t think you can twist Paul’s words to say that “all things are lawful” could cover something like immorality.  Paul makes it very clear in this very same passage that there are some things that aren’t negotiable (1Cor. 6:9,14).
There may be some things that are perfectly fine for you to do.  But the question is, can you stop?  Does this thing bring you into it’s power?  People say, “Oh, I can quit any time.”  But can you?  Do you have to do it?
If there is something other than Jesus Christ in control of your life, then something’s wrong.  This often requires that we need to die to something in our life, to be “crucified” to it.  A.W. Tozer said,

“In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne.  And the Christian is on the throne until he puts himself on the cross.  If he refuses the cross, he remains on the throne.”

Does the thing have control over you?  Put Jesus on the throne and yourself on the cross.

3.  Profitability

(1 Cor 10:23 NKJV)  All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.
There are lots of things that we can be spending our time doing.  The question is, “is it profitable”?  Is it worth spending time doing?  Does it build you up?  Does it build others up?
I kind of wonder if sometimes we need to be a little careful here.  Some of us are very good at laying guilt trips on ourselves.  We can fall into a trap of thinking that only hard work is profitable and never learn to take a rest.  God says that He created the Sabbath for our sakes, because we needed rest.

4.  Love

That’s the issue here in verse 15.
(1 Cor 13:5 NKJV)  … (love) does not seek its own
A person exercising agape love does not concern themselves with their own needs before they are concerned with the needs of others.
(Phil 2:3-4 NKJV)  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. {4} Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
A person who is learning to walk in agape won’t be thinking things like, “Well I have a right to this!”
Many of the problems we encounter in our relationships with one another occur because we are thinking selfishly, we are thinking only about ourselves, and we trample on those around us.
Some people would hold to the idea that what they are doing is actually permissible.  It may be permissible, but it’s not loving.
(1 Cor 8:1 NLT)  Now let's talk about food that has been sacrificed to idols. You think that everyone should agree with your perfect knowledge. While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church.

:16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;

be spoken of as evilblasphemeo – blaspheme; to be evil spoken of, reviled, railed at

(Rom 14:16 NLT)  Then you will not be condemned for doing something you know is all right.

The “good” things we have are the things we have a liberty to be doing.  These things are “good” to us.  But when we abuse our freedom by causing others to stumble, we cause them to speak badly of our liberty. Sometimes we can make people curse God.


My actions can lead others to blasphemy.

We may not ever actually blaspheme with our own mouths, but our actions might legitimately cause others to curse God.
When David had committed adultery and murder with Bathsheba, he was confronted by the prophet Nathan –
(2 Sam 12:13-14 NKJV)  So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. {14} "However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die."
In Romans, the case is not so much outright sin, but because we might cause others to stumble in acting against their convictions.

:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

righteousnessdikaiosune – state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God

peaceeirene – peace, between individuals, inner peace

joychara – joy, gladness


Focus on the right things

Too often we get sidetracked with little, tiny, inconsequential issues.
What’s important is that we find life in the Holy Spirit.
When you go to a ballgame, sometimes the crowd can get quite excited about what’s going on.

If it’s a close game, nothing matches the excitement of coming from behind and it’s the bottom of the 9th inning – two outs, down by one run, men on second and third base, the batter goes to a full count, then hits a bloop single into right field scoring the runners and winning the game. The high fives, the crowd goes wild.

Sometimes in church we get so sidetracked about little issues like criticizing other people in the church, what’s wrong with this, what’s wrong with that.  Maybe we ought to be a little more focused on getting excited about what God is doing???
Several years ago, on a Saturday before Easter in another city, I was struggling under how to try to preach the Easter message to all the varied people who would gather. How do I tell that news? I was out with my children wanting to take some quality time with them.
But I was burdened under this sermon, and the kids were flitting away like butterflies on the loose, way down the road as we were walking through the neighborhood. Suddenly they called out my name. The shield went up a little bit, and they said, “Daddy, can you do this?” I looked, and my kids were skipping along the road. “Yeah, I can do that,” I said, and went back to pondering this theological treatise.
And they said, “No, Daddy, can you? I mean, really, can you go skipping? We’ve never seen you.”
“Well, of course, I can go skipping. Everybody’s been skipping.” “Well ...” You know what they said: “Then show us.”
I hate to be beaten by the kids. But I couldn’t go skipping. I’m an adult, and I have a doctorate degree, and I pastor First Church, and we have members who live in this neighborhood. Neighborhood associations are worried enough when a preacher moves into town. It makes prices volatile in the neighborhood. But if he goes skipping around, well, that does it. I couldn’t do that. What did they say? “Na-na-na-na-na. You can’t do it.” So I looked around, then I did it.
I can’t remember why I ever stopped skipping as a child. It’s not hard on your knees. It’s easier than jogging, and you can get a lot of distance. Maybe it’s because adults just aren’t that happy any more, not that carefree. Unless they get hold of Easter. Unless Easter gets hold of them.
Allen Walworth, "Running through the Cemetery," Preaching Today, Tape No. 151
All this is found in “the Holy Ghost”.
God’s desire is that we focus on what the Holy Spirit has for us.

:18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

Follow this principle of not causing other people to stumble is a good thing!


A better witness

Our goal isn’t to “impress” people, but to “impact” them.
When they see that we care enough for others to limit our own freedoms, they begin to get a taste of what Jesus is all about.  It’s all about His love.
(John 13:34-35 NKJV)  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. {35} "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.


Building up or tearing down?

(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.
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.”
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.
Charles Spurgeon
What do you say about your dog?  How about your friends?  How about the people you work with?

:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.

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, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.

offenseproskomma – a stumbling block

Even though there is nothing wrong with eating things, if you do it to cause another person to stumble, then it becomes wrong.

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 meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.

Don’t do things that you know might cause another person to stumble.  Out of love, not out of legalism.

:22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God.

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 who does not condemn himself in what he approves.

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

:23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith;

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.”

:23  for whatever is not from faith is sin.

sinhamartia – to miss the mark, to do or go wrong


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.