Romans Chapter fourteen

VERSES 1-4 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy– 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (Jude verses 24-25).

The old covenant law was “written in stone”, but the new covenant Law is written upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit and through the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts.

…because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:5).

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:1-3).

The law is not based on faith;… (Galatians 3:12). Some legalistic people are often intent upon judging believers by the strict letter of the old covenant Law – and they ignore and undermine their faithfulness to Christ through which the redeemed are made righteous.

Even King David and his companions acted in faith when in fact, according to the strict application of the Law, they did what was unlawful:

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” 3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread–which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:1-8).

Being justified by faith – is being assured that we have the Spirit of Christ living within us, leading us and setting us free from sin and death – and we are not under the Law nor are we judged by the Law any longer if we have put to death the old sinful nature.

The dietary laws of the old covenant were to teach the Israelites the principles of being discerning through obeying the word of God – and they were to refrain from eating unclean foods. Scavengers and animals which eat the flesh of other animals were generally among the animals deemed unclean for food for God’s people.

However, the spiritual lesson is that we must live only by the word of God and be discerning of empty philosophy and the deceptive teachings of Satan and demons – which ultimately lead to destruction.

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. 32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left (Luke 8:26-37).

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 23 “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive (1 Corinthians 10:18-23).

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

(For more on the meaning of kosher {clean} foods etc. see our article on our web site: The real meaning of kosher

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law (Galatians 3:25).

Under the old covenant there were matters of dispute as to the correct interpretation and application of some details of the Law – but on the whole, the people were under the supervision of the strict letter of the Law.

However, now, under the new covenant, we are no longer under the supervision of the strict letter of the external law if we are led by the Holy Spirit and instructed in the teaching of Jesus Christ.

David Lipscomb, whose commentary I find very helpful and which I also recommended, however wrote in his commentary on chapter 14 verse 4: “If a person is faithful in obedience to the laws God has given, God will own and sustain him regardless of his peculiarities on questions concerning which God has given no law.”

However, this does not clarify the matters of dispute arising out of things which were indeed written in the old covenant Law – but which are no longer binding upon believers – if they have indeed been set free through the work of the Holy Spirit.

We are no longer judged by the old covenant Law and nor are we to judge other believers by the old covenant law.

However, some men from Judea tried to impose the old covenant Law upon the believers at Galatia, including the compulsion to be circumcised.

Those who tried to impose the old covenant Law upon believers, indeed made their appeal to the fact that they were written commands given by God through Moses – but Paul’s emphatic teaching was that believers who are led by the Holy Spirit have been set free from the old covenant written law.

The issue of the old covenant Law and whether it should be binding upon believers was indeed once consider a disputable matter but was very soon resolved by the apostles.

This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you (Galatians 2:4-5).

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall (1 Corinthians 8:9-13).

If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake– 29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God– 33 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. 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:27 – 11:1).

The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is evident through the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit – which are all formed and motivated by the love of God against which there is no law.

However, the work and fruit of the Spirit cannot be perfectly evaluated or assessed by an external written law or other rules and regulations – and some legalists may tend to undermine the effective work of the Spirit as they try to impose strict religious rules and regulations to govern the believer in the place of the governing and leading of the Spirit.

In his commentary on verse 4, David Lipscomb added his own words which indicate his understanding of the passage – The verse reads: Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?  And he added: “When the master has given no rule to govern his servant” – but as I have pointed out already, the teachers of the Law insisted that certain matters were written law given by God and were therefore still binding.

VERSES 5-8 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

There is a new wind of teachings within the church, referred to as “Jewish roots” or in another more extreme form as “Messianic Judaism” – through which many believers are now “observing” the old covenant feasts and Jewish religious holidays implying that there religious observance is more authentic than what is practiced by main-line Christianity which they also suggest has lost the connection to its origins.

However some of those Feasts required for the people to go up to the Temple in Jerusalem – and most of them required various animal sacrifices to be offered by the worshippers – which were all only shadows of the reality which is now made known in Christ.

As Paul wrote to the church in Colosse:

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. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).

The balance which is taught in Romans is that we should not allow the freedom that we have in Christ from the old covenant Law to become a stumbling block to those whose faith is not yet strong enough to allow such freedom.

If Jesus were still living in the flesh, then it may well be argued that we should follow such example as he lived while in the tabernacle of his earthly body, but for the revelation of the new covenant Jesus died – and he has also called us to take up our cross to follow him which includes putting to death the things of the earthly nature – for through being born again we have become citizens of heaven even while we live in the tent of this body.

Under the old covenant the way into the heavenly realm had not yet been disclosed. But now we know that this body of flesh is like a veil which we will soon put aside.

The Holy Spirit was showing by this [the old covenant types and shadows] that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings–external regulations applying until the time of the new order (Hebrews 9:8-10).

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…(Hebrews 10:19-22).

In order to be set free from the old and live according to the freedom of the new – through the power of the Spirit, we must first die to the old – which also includes dying to the sinful nature that once controlled us.

VERSES 9-15 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’

Those who avoid coming to Jesus – and to the cross which he bore for us, remain in the dark. Those who avoid the judgment of the Law, also try to justify their sinful lives in the flesh, but they are effectively already dead in their sins and transgressions and if they are not set free through faith in Jesus who died for us – and if they are not cleansed through faith in his atoning blood, then they will die in their sins and be eternally condemned.

But if we judged ourselves [now by allowing the Word of God to probe our hearts – see Hebrews 4:12-13], we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:31-32).

VERSES 12-13 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 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 far as judging others, we should take care not to pass final judgment ahead of the appointed time:

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God (1 Corinthians 4:3-5).

It is God who, through his mercy, grants us the opportunity to repent – and as long as we live in the tent of this mortal body, we may also have the opportunity to repent if we humbly receive the living word of God in our hearts which is able to save us.

It is impossible to have the assurance of genuine faith by which we are justified – if our consciences still condemn us on account of some unconfessed sin or other ungodly practice of which we have not yet repented.

But our faith is not determined by any observance of external rules and regulations but by our submitting to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit who works within us.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13).

VERSES 14-15 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. 15 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.

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood” (Acts 15:19-20).

No food in itself is unclean – but it is its association with that which is unclean that makes the eating of it unclean. In other words if a person eats food without knowing its origin or whether it was or was not used in sacrifice, then it is not in itself unclean, for their consciences are pure, but if we know that it is part of a ceremonial sacrifice associated with the worship of idols or demons, then we should refrain from eating it.

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But the man who loves God is known by God. 4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 7 But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).

VERSES 16-23 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 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. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. 22 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. 23 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.

For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good (Titus 1:10-16).

Ironically, it is often strict legalists who condemn others by their strict rules and regulations but who are really under conviction and condemnation themselves because they are faithless and still corrupt in their sinful hearts and minds – not having been purified through the washing with the word nor having confessed their sins and been cleansed by the atoning blood of Jesus.

However, genuine faith based upon the new covenant law written upon people’s hearts through the leading of the Holy Spirit cannot be judged or assessed by the strict letter of the old covenant law.

To the pure-minded who walk by faith and who are sanctified by the Holy Spirit – all things which they do in such faith are pure, but of our conscience is not clear in the freedom we exercise, then we are no longer acting in faith.

This also implies that some things of which the Holy Spirit had not brought us under a conviction of when we were still young in our faith, may become things that we should abstain from as we grow and mature in our faith.

The Christian walk is not a matter of strict laws, rules and regulations which apply to all people regardless of their maturity in the faith. That is why we should also show respect to others who are weak in their faith. As we mature in our own faith we should take care to refrain from doing anything that would cause others to stumble – either by our own freedom which we enjoy or by insisting that people observe strict rules and regulations such as found in the old covenant Law.

Everything that does not come from faith is sin.

The devil is the accuser of mankind – and he particularly tries to condemn Christians and cause them to stumble, doubt and to lose faith in Jesus the Saviour.

Jesus said: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

Jesus enables us to stand by faith as we put our trust in him and obey his word.

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:10-11).

…without faith it is impossible to please God… (Hebrews 11:6).

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (Isaiah 7:9).