Romans 14:1-12

a student at a small non-denominational Bible college I recall a rather animated
debate between two classmates on the issue of a Christian shopping at a grocery
store that sold beer. One colleague argued that to frequent such an establishment
was an implicit endorsement of the sale and consumption of beer. Indeed, it
might be an occasion to cause a weaker brother to stumble. The other argued
that it was impossible to find a store that didn’t sell something objectionable.
And, besides, even good things can be used for evil purposes.

2004 Presidential campaign exposed a divide among people of faith. On the one
hand social conservatives assumed that an anti-abortion stance, support for
school prayer, government support for faith based initiatives and sanctity of
marriage issues were enough to sway Christian conscience toward those politicians
who shared their concerns. While more liberal social activists indicated that
opposition to the war and capital punishment were also pro-life issues. The
need for a social safety net was seen as essential to a just society.  And
these issues warranted Christian conscience supporting those candidates who
shared their concerns.

deals with the problem of the weaker believer and meat that has been offered
to idols – hardly a significant issue in the culture wars of our day. But the
principles he enunciates are timeless and have their foundation in our focal
passage today.

are some basic assumptions which are developed in the larger context of Romans
14. Paul suggests that we learn to distinguish between matters of command and
matters of freedom. (14: 14, 20) Obviously, no Christian would think it permissible
for a believer to directly disobey a direct command or prohibition of Scripture
such as “don’t commit murder.” But the biblical witness is more ambivalent regarding
a Christian’s duty in a time of war.

encourages believers to “let all be convicted in their own mind.” (14:5) In
other words, each should develop their own convictions on debatable issues.
What may be right for one Christian in a given context may be the occasion for
stumbling by a different believer facing a different set of circumstances.

primary point of the discussion of meat offered to idols (meat that was used
in pagan worship and then sold on the open market) seems to be that one is to
allow fellow believers the right to determine their own convictions – even when
their convictions differ from one’s own. In the end, Paul reminds us that “each
of us will be accountable to God.” (14: 12)

are several principles outlined in Romans 14 that are instructive for caring
for the weaker brother – a Christian who is of uncertain conviction on a given
issue who might use the liberty of another as an occasion for sin in his own

reminds those who are strong – who have definite convictions in areas of freedom
of conscience – that they must be willing, when necessary, to limit their liberty
according to the principle of love. (14: 12 – 15: 2) The stronger believer should
not put a “stumbling block” in the way of the weaker one. (14:13) Paul warns
against destroying with food, which would allow one’s good to become evil, and
thereby tear down the work of God. (14:15, 16, 20) If the stronger brother of
sister gives offense then he or she has contributed to causing a weaker brother
or sister to stumble. (14:21)

more mature believer is to model the kind of love that is willing to lay aside
one’s own rights for the greater good of the body of Christ. The goal is to
serve Christ, pursue peace and build up one another. (14:18, 19)  Believers
should always seek to reflect the spirit of Christ by being servants to one
another. (15:3-13)

Friesen suggests in his book, Decision Making & The Will of God,
that there is a difference between a weaker believer and a Pharisee. A weaker
believer is sincere but immature and has not yet had opportunity to fully develop
personal convictions in areas of legitimate differences of opinion. A Pharisee
is proud in his conviction that he is right and will take offense if anyone
disagrees with his position. While Paul encourages sensitivity to the weaker
believer, Jesus grew increasing impatient and openly rebuked the legalism of
the Pharisees.

a Christian dance, drink, go to movies, read novels or __________? (Fill in
the blank with whatever is a “doubtful thing” in your fellowship.)  Perhaps
the better question is should a Christian do such and such. Paul discussed the
same issues in 1 Corinthians 10. While it may be permissible, is it beneficial
and constructive? (10:23) Will our exercise of freedom (or limitation of freedom)
glorify God? (10:31)

a self-centered culture where it is popular to demand one’s rights, those who
would be followers of Christ are called to live by a higher standard. We are
to be peacemakers and, in the title of Brian McLaren’s latest book, to display
a generous orthodoxy.


brief provided by: Dr. L. Joseph Rosas III, Pastor, Crievewood
Baptist Church, Nashville, TN

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