Romans 14 - Grow Together In Christ

INTRODUCTION: Paul addressed the need for believers to accept each other and avoid disputes and criticism over differences in their traditions. He emphasized that all believers serve the Lord; therefore each person must have a clear conscience before God about the manner of their worship. All believers are servants to the Lord, who therefore is their master, and judgment belongs only to him. This chapter of Romans is in my own paraphrase, to some extent in an amplified style, prepared by examining several translations, and with some use of Greek and Hebrew lexicons.

NOTE: Verses in the comments are from the 1769 King James Bible.


A - DON'T ARGUE OVER RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS

Romans 14 "1 Accept those who are still growing in the faith, and don't argue about traditions that they view as essential. 2 Some believe they may eat all foods without restriction, while others may believe they are required to eat only vegetables. 3 Those who don't follow dietary restrictions should not look down on those who observe them; and those who do observe dietary restrictions should not condemn those who are free from such regulations: for God has accepted both. 4 Who are you to judge another man's servant? Each one will be accepted or rejected by their own master. Yes, they shall be established: for God as their master is able to assure that they stand firm. 5 Some regard with special respect certain days above others: while some consider every day the same. Each person should be fully persuaded in their own heart and mind. 6 Those who observe certain days as sacred do so to the Lord; and those who don't observe certain days, do so to the Lord. Those who eat freely, eat to the Lord, for they gives God thanks; and those who abstain from certain foods, do so to the Lord, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to our self and none of us die to our self. 8 For whether we live, we live to the Lord; and whether we die, we die to the Lord: therefore in either case we belong to the Lord."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted the believers who practiced many Jewish traditions, and those who did not feel bound by them, to accept each other in the Lord. Those who hold on to tradition should not condemn those who don't; and there should be no attitude of superiority in those who don't feel bound by traditions. Many years earlier, the apostles at Jerusalem sent a message back to Antioch because Gentile believers were being told by Jewish believers that they must be circumcised.

Acts 15 "22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; [namely], Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23 And they wrote [letters] by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren [send] greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, [Ye must] be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no [such] commandment: 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell [you] the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well."

Over the centuries traditions have continued to be a matter for our attention as there are many differences within nations, languages, and even church denominations. We need to take note that when Paul said we should not judge the servant of someone else, he was reminding us that each one who believes in Christ is the servant of Christ, and he will establish them. Paul advised that every believer then should follow their heart with a clear conscience as they live each day as servants of the Lord.

Believers have been given liberty in Christ Jesus as he allows our many differing social and ethnic backgrounds to be dedicated with care to honor our God. Though we have this special kind of freedom we are not to live only for ourselves. If we have love for other believers we will show it with humility as we serve the Lord who is the master of all believers. As long as we are alive we belong to the Lord, and when we die we will still belong to the Lord.


B - DON'T JUDGE ONE ANOTHER

Romans 14 "9 Christ died, and rose from the dead, and lives again for this very purpose that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living. 10 So why do you question and condemn another believer, or even view them as inferior? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, as I live, said the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore we must not make judgments about one another any more: but each one of us should determine not to put a stumbling block in the way of another, or give them some reason to waiver in faith. 14 I know, and am convinced by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to the one who counts anything to be unclean, to them it is unclean. 15 So if another believer is grievously upset with a specific food that you eat, you are not acting out of love. Don't cause such disruption by your practice before one for whom Christ died. 16 Don't let what is good become something spoken of as evil because of you: 17 for the kingdom of God is not identified by food and drink; but by righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For the one who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God, and has the approval of men."

COMMENTS: Christ conquered death by his own resurrection so he is Lord over the believers who have already died, as well as those presently alive. Therefore don't condemn or look down on the way other believers live for him since we shall all submit to the judgment seat of Christ, and this was not new in Paul's letter. Isaiah 45 "22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth [in] righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." So instead of making judgments about one another, each one of us should be careful about things we do that may be a stumbling block or something to cause another believer to waiver in faith.

The Lord Jesus spoke a parable about the necessity of humility in each person to receive approval that comes only through the mercy of God. Luke 18 "9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

We can be convinced along with Paul by knowing that Jesus taught that things we eat and drink are not inherently unclean. Matthew 15 "17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man." But some believers may set aside certain foods as prohibited, and it is an act of love when other believers do not make that an issue just because they have liberty in that area. It is better to remember righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit among believers is the essence of the kingdom of God. Paul said the one who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God, and has the approval of men.


C - PURSUE PEACE AND THE EDIFICATION OF OTHERS

Romans 14 "19 Therefore determine to earnestly pursue the things which bring about peace, harmony, and agreement to allow us to edify, build up, and enrich each other. 20 Don't destroy the work of God by disputes and debates about foods. Indeed all things are pure; but it is an evil thing to eat something that knowingly brings offense. 21 It is genuine and commendable not to eat meat or drink wine, or anything else that will trip up another believer by offending, and thus weaken them. 22 But have your assurance about these things in the sight of God. You will be blessed if you don't cause arguments by the things that you accept. 23 If you waiver and hesitate about foods then you are worthy of criticism, because your stand is not of faith: for whatever is not of faith is sin."

COMMENTS: Since we don't live only for ourselves, harmony and mutual growth in the Word of God should be a main goal for our interactions with other believers. This not only includes avoiding arguments about what may seem to us to be restrictive practices to honor God; but also we should avoid unnecessary offense to other believers by our own positions. It can be an act of love without compromising our belief if we refrain from something because it would be directly offensive to another believer. Whatever traditions you follow, be sure in your own heart that your position is acceptable in the sight of God, because whatever is not of faith is sin.

Paul had written to the church at Corinth in an earlier letter and gave similar guidance. 1 Corinthians 10 "28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof: 29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another [man's] conscience? 30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved." Paul demonstrated through his earnest ministry to all types of believers that he was living to build up the body of Christ.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I want to be sensitive to the way you have opened salvation in Christ around the world with a degree of freedom for believers to follow cultural practices that can be dedicated to honor your name. Guide me to leave judgment to you about the practices that I do not follow; and help me to be careful that the ways in which I express my faith do not offend other believers. I pray that each believer will sincerely realize that we don't live for our self interests, but we live for you and belong to you, Lord, and should therefore give thanks to you always. I believe that Christ died, and also rose from death to make his mercy and grace available to believers of all ages.

The Holy Spirit guided Isaiah to assure us that the one true God is the sole judge and everyone will stand before his judgment seat. We could never take the place of God to judge who truly believes. I want to also be very aware that you, Lord, are judging my actions that may cause another believer to stumble or waiver in faith. I don't want to exercise my faith in Christ in such a way as to create discord among believers. Lord, please impress upon my heart whenever I am with other believers to earnestly pursue the things which bring about peace, harmony, and agreement that we may edify, build up, and enrich each other. I want to be assured that my pathway of faith is acceptable in the sight of my God as I continue to search the scriptures. I pray that I will keep in mind that whatever is not of faith is sin. Amen.

Published 15 July 2016