"So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Romans 14:22-23)
Faith pleases God. In fact without faith it is impossible to please God ( Hebrews 11:6 ). So it makes since that everything we do should originate and proceed from faith, otherwise we are acting of our own accord. Faith is relying on and believing in God's provision instead of ourselves. Hebrews says that "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" ( Hebrews 11:1 ). The King James Bible says that faith is a substance and the Amplified says that "is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope" ( Hebrews 11:1 Amp ). So in the kingdom of God, faith is very important.
Paul says in today's passage that "everything that does not come from faith is sin" ( Romans 14:22-23 ). This seems like a radical statement, but knowing how important faith is to the believer helps put into perspective everything he has been saying in this entire chapter. We are to exercise our personal convictions as if in God's presence keeping ourselves striving to know and obey his truth and will. When we operate in this way, we are operating in faith and God is pleased with faith. This gives us the freedom to live without reservation in His presence and he accepts this. In fact the Bible tells us that we are blessed by this liberty ( Romans 14:22 ).
In the same way, the man who has misgivings or an uneasy conscience about the things he does, whether it is eating or drinking or something else, this man is not acting out of faith and so stands in condemnation before God. This is because he is not true to his convictions and brings judgment on himself. If our conscience condemns us then we will not have boldness before God. The awareness of sin will keep us from having the confidence we need to approach God in faith. This is why it is better not to do those things which go against our convictions, even if we see others doing it. Whatever does not originate and proceed from faith or is done without a conviction of its approval by God, is sin for us. It is better for us to keep a clear conscience before God so that we may boldly approach His throne and find grace.
As believers we are to live by faith. This is a process and comes by knowing God and His promises. If we do not know what he has said, then we cannot operate out of faith in accordance to those things. Today I encourage you to renew your mind to the truth that faith pleases God and whatever you do, should be done by operating in faith. I pray that you will hold true to your convictions and walk in the liberty to which you have been called in Christ Jesus. Do not let others hinder you. Let God reveal to your heart those things which are acceptable and good and live in this way. Live your life rooted and established in faith and you will be blessed in everything you do. May God continue to sanctify you through this word as you proceed and operate in it today, amen!
"Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall" (Romans 14:20-21)
I remember growing up my mom would say, "Actions speak louder than words". She would remind us that what we do shows our real convictions about what we think. We had an obligation to act properly toward our siblings in play, toward our teachers at school and toward our parents at home. This same principle needs to apply toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our actions should be born out of our convictions but must not come at the cost of others. Paul reminds us today that we should "not destroy the work of God for the sake of food".
Paul himself was convinced that every food was clean ( Romans 14:14 ), but his main point in Romans 14 is that we are to accept those weak in faith without passing judgment on their convictions or lack of understanding ( Romans 14:1 ). He stresses that we must operate in love toward one another at all times, this is our goal and if we confuse or cause our brothers to stumble over trivial matters then we are not acting in love ( Romans 13:10, Romans 14:15 ).
At first glance it seems that Paul says the same things over and over throughout this entire chapter, but it is because he really wants us to understand this truth and apply it. We do not belong to ourselves; we now belong to God as we have been bought with a price. We are now included in His large family of believers. As such we have a responsibility to act properly toward one another. It is wrong for us to hurt the conscience of others merely to exert our freedom. What is better is not to do anything that causes our brothers to stumble, hurt their conscience or offend them. This is how we act in love, building up the body instead of weakening and destroying it.
This has implications in the world as well. Jesus told us that we are the salt and light of this world ( Matthew 5:13-16 ). We provide the flavor and illumination here on earth. The world sees us and watches us very closely. Because of this we must act in accordance with the truth we know, the benefit is showing God's love and mercy to a dying world by our actions. Jesus says, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" ( Matthew 5:16 ). Our actions can lead people to Jesus or they can drive them far away. Because of this we should be aware of the things we do because others are watching. Our actions should lead people to glorify God.
If we are convinced that something is okay, then for us it is okay, as long as we cause no one to stumble by our freedom. This does not mean that we can live contrary to God's word and use our freedom as an excuse to continue in sin, rather we should live out of the liberty that God has revealed to us. Paul said in I Corinthians, "Everything is permissible"-but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"-but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" ( I Corinthians 10:23-24 ). Freedom in Christ is what we were born into and we should celebrate it, but it should never happen at the expense of others. We should always be aware of others and look first to their interest. Never using our freedom to crush them, cause confusion or make them fall. This is true freedom in Christ.
"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Romans 14:19)
As believers we have more in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ than we have with the natural family we were born into. When we accepted Jesus as our savior we were reborn into God's family and now share a wonderful heritage based on His promises. This all stems from faith in Jesus and is a bond that will transcend both time and distance. We will spend all eternity with these people so it makes sense for us to aim and eagerly pursue harmony and mutual edification with each other.
So many times we let minor divisions separate and cause dissension among us instead of realizing that we were called into one body. We should be pursuing peace among each other, encouraging and building up one another instead of tearing each other down by our actions and behaviors. No matter what convictions we hold to we are to always consider our fellow brethren and behave in a way that will build them up instead of causing confusion in their lives. Paul said in the previous verses, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men" ( Romans 14:17-18 ). There are more important things to consider than satisfying our own needs. We are a part of the kingdom and what we do has eternal significance.
So many people struggle over these kinds of issues such as eating, drinking or traditions and doctrines of the church. But Paul gave a great rule of thumb in I Corinthians, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God- even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved" ( I Corinthians 10:31-33 ). The bottom line is that whatever you do make sure you are doing it for the glory of God and it will be accepted. Our behavior should be above reproach in this world not because our acceptance with God depends on it, but because our behavior will be seen by others and by this thereby glorify our Father in heaven. Paul sought to please others in order that many would be saved. The same principle applies to us today, we should not seek our own interest but the interests of Christ and our actions should build and encourage His body.
What an amazing thing to belong to something so wonderful. We do not belong to ourselves anymore and as such we should live like WHO we are and WHOSE we are. Today I pray that you will have an eternal perspective in life and that your behavior and actions reflect that mindset. May you live your life leading to peace and mutual edification in the body of Christ and your actions lead others into this fellowship by turning them to Jesus who can save them, amen.
"Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men" (Romans 14:16-18)
Paul was incredibly practical and gave great instruction. He knew that all of us were accountable to God and every person was at a different level of understanding. Because of this he gave instruction that lead toward mutual edification and building up of the body instead of tearing down by focusing on these divisions. Much of his instruction in Romans 14 is about eating and drinking and what is acceptable, and the underlying principal is just as true today as it was then. The principle of what Paul is saying is that we are to live for God, what we do and don't do should come out of a heart conviction and not because of rules and regulations given by others. What God has revealed to us as acceptable before him, we should be confident in.
Paul also reminded us that we should be patient and loving with others in their walk without causing them confusion and putting stumbling stones in their way ( Romans 14:15 ). But in the same way we should not allow others to condemn us for the freedom that Christ has revealed to us. Perhaps that is accomplished by not giving them opportunity to criticize us. We can do this by abiding in our freedom without flaunting or making a big deal about it.
The bottom line is that the kingdom of God which we have been called into is not about these physical things and mental debates. We should settle in our hearts and walk in the truth we know, but the kingdom is about righteousness, peace and joy. Righteousness is the state which makes a person acceptable to God. Through Jesus we are righteous before God as we have been given His righteousness through faith ( II Corinthians 5:21 ). Next comes peace and joy, this should continually be the state of our heart. We should walk in supernatural peace and joy because these are the fruit of the Spirit that was given to us at salvation ( Galatians 5:22-23 ). Paul said in the next sentence, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit" ( Galatians 5:25 ). These things are the true things that we should consider important and which we should see operating in our lives.
When we understand that the kingdom isn't about the natural but is about the amazing things Jesus did and provided for us we can toss aside all of these minor details, habits and hang-ups that hold us back. Verse 18 says that "anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men" ( Romans 14:18 ). If we live this way in righteousness, peace and joy, then God has accepted and approved our behavior and we will win favor among mankind as well. Today, I pray that you understand this amazing truth and disregard the non-essentials that hinder you and I pray that you fully pursue God's kingdom today!
"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died" (Romans 14:13-15)
It is easy to read a passage such as this and think it does not apply to us today. In general we do not see the dietary struggles that the early church experienced because we are not trained with the Old Testament laws and regulations they were trained in. However the underlining principal that Paul is addressing in this passage still applies today.
First we are to judge ourselves to make sure we are not causing others to stumble by our actions. This should be a mindset not to use our freedom to destroy the faith of our brethrens. Paul was fully convinced that no food was unclean but it was how that food was received that made it unclean for that individual. If they weren't receiving from faith then to them it was unclean. Sometimes these truths take a while to take hold in our lives. Paul told Timothy, "For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer" ( I Timothy 1:4-5 ). Everything that God made is good and nothing has to be refused if we receive it with thanksgiving and from faith.
This struggle between the old covenant law and the new and better covenant that we enjoy today extends far past dietary laws of eating and drinking. Early Christians struggled over these things because they did not understand that they were a shadow of the things to come. Colossians 2 speaks directly to this very thing, "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ" ( Colossians 2:16-17 ). Likewise today, some Christians still hold to Old Testament ritual without any idea that the ritual has become reality in Christ. But now that Christ has come, the rituals are meaningless and can become oppressive. This is why it is important to fully understand the differences in the covenants so we can walk in the freedom and liberty that Christ purchased for us, ratifying it with His precious blood.
The bottom line is that we are all in different stages of maturity in Christ. We should encourage one another and we should decide to walk in the freedom that Christ has revealed to us while making up our minds not to cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble in their faith by our actions. How we do this is by loving our neighbor as ourselves. In the previous chapter Paul summarized that our duty was to love and act in love toward one another ( Romans 13:10 ). If we ignore the influence our actions have on others, we are not walking in love. So we must continue toward the freedom into which we have been called while loving and extending grace and patience with our fellow believers.