Romans 14:16-23

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Text: Romans 14:16-23



What are you to do when you have two believers both of whom really love the Lord and one of them does something in order to the please the Lord and the other one refuses to do the same thing in order to please the Lord. Well, you check out what the Scripture has to say about the matter, and in checking you find out that the Bible is silent on the matter. It really does not say anything about the subject. What do you do then?

In Romans 14 Paul deals with this matter. He shows believers the appropriate course of action they should take when they have differing views on matters concerning which the Scriptures are silent.

Paul is illustrating the principle mentioned in Romans 13:8 , that believers are to love one another. How does love for each other work itself out in practice when sincere believers have differing views on matters concerning which the Scriptures are silent?

Love says that nothing whatsoever should be done which in any way might cause another to stumble.

Selfishness, however, insists on its own way without regard to the needs of others. What we will see is that believers must take steps to limit their liberties if necessary.

Let's look at the text and see what Paul has to say.

Romans 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

Romans 14:2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

Romans 14:3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

Romans 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

Romans 14:7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

Romans 14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Romans 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Romans 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

Romans 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Romans 14:15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

We continue with -

Romans 14:16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of.

Then draws an inference from what has preceded and is understood in the sense of therefore, accordingly, consequently, or so.

Let not your good be evil spoken of is your good must not be evil spoken of.

Your good is your right or your privilege and refers to the strong believer's right or privilege of eating whatever he wishes.

Be evil spoken of means ever begin to be evil spoken of or ever be evil spoken of.

Now, it is the weaker believer who is speaking evil of the stronger believer's good; and he must not be doing it.

At the same time, the stronger believer can flaunt his right or privilege before the weaker believer; and this may result in his right or privilege being evil spoken of by the weaker believer.

The strong believer, therefore, has a responsibility to do nothing which would in any way result in his good being evil spoken of; and the weaker believer has the responsibility never to speak evil of the right of the stronger believer.

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Verse 17 provides an explanation regarding why the stronger believer should not destroy the weaker believer with his meat and why the strong believer's good must not be evil spoken of.

The kingdom of God is best understood in the sense of the realm over which God rules.

Is not meat and drink means is not eating and drinking. The realm over which God rules is not something over which there will be all kinds of rules against eating and drinking.

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to the kingdom of God is not meat and drink.

The kingdom of God is righteousness which means uprightness and is a characteristic of God.

It is also peace, or harmony, and joy. Peace and joy are part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Although in the Holy Ghost may mean that in the person of the Holy Spirit peace and joy are brought into being, it seems that Paul intended to say that it is by means of the Holy Spirit that peace and joy are brought to pass. This is so because it is the Holy Spirit Who produces the righteousness in the life of the believer as well as the peace and joy.

Romans 14:18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

Verse 18 continues the thought of verse 17 as is indicated by for which is to be understood in the sense of now.

He that serveth Christ is the one who performs the duties of a slave to Christ, the one who serves Christ, or the one who obeys Christ.

In these things refers to righteousness, peace, and joy from verse 17 and probably is best understood in the sense of by means of these things or with these things, i.e. with the righteousness, peace, and joy characterizing his life.

Is acceptable to God means is pleasing to God.

And approved of men is and approved (i.e. respected or esteemed) by men where men is the generic term for human beings and includes females as well as males.

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Verse 19 draws an inference from what is said in verses 15-18 as is indicated by therefore, which is so then.

Let us . . . follow after literally means let us run after or let us pursue. When used figuratively, as in this verse it means, Let us be pursuing or, Let us be seeking after.

What we should be pursuing are the things which make for peace or the things which produce peace rather than things which would cause problems within the congregation or before unsaved people.

Not only should we be pursuing the things which make for peace, but we should also be pursuing things wherewith one may edify another, i.e. the things which will produce the building up or spiritual strengthening of each other. Believers should not be concerned about their rights and privileges but should be concerned with doing the things which will bring about peace and the building up of other believers.

Romans 14:20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

Meat is food, especially solid food.

For meat is because of food, on account of food, or for the sake of food.

Destroy is a present imperative which literally means demolish or dismantle. When used figuratively as here, it is used in the sense of tear down, demolish, destroy, or annihilate. With the negative it indicates that this process was already going on and needed to be stopped. Hence, it means stop destroying.

What they were already tearing down or destroying was the work of God. Sometimes it seems that people actually work faster to undermine the local church than the pastor and leaders of a church can work to build it up.

They were not pursuing the things which make for peace, and they were not pursuing the things which resulted in the edification of others. Instead, they were squabbling over whether they should eat meat or whether they should not eat meat. Some were insisting on their rights, and some were led into sin because of those rights. It was having a disastrous effect upon the local church.

All things indeed are pure is a statement of fact.

Indeed is to be sure. To be sure, all things are pure.

Pure is used in the sense of clean and probably understood in the sense of ceremonially pure or ritually pure.

But introduces a strong contrast. The contrast is that although, to be sure, all things are clean, it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

Evil suggests that it is wrong and constitutes sin.

For that man is for that human being or for that person and includes females as well as males.

For that man who eateth with offence is for the weaker believer who believes that something is wrong for a believer to eat.

Offence is the word for stumbling. Consequently, if the weaker believer believes that it is wrong to eat something but he eats it because he sees a stronger believer eating it or because he is pressured into eating it, he violates his conscience when he eats it and is wrong in so doing. The strong believer ought not to lead him (or to push him) into doing it.

Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

Verse 21 indicates that believers should not do things which result in a fellow believer involving himself in sin or in weakening him in his Christian life by causing any problem whatsoever.

Good describes the rest of verse 21. The subject of the sentence is the entire phrase: neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth or is offended or is made weak. This is good.

Flesh is a term which means meat, but it is not the same one translated meat previously in the chapter. Eating flesh and drinking wine or anything else which would result in a brother stumbling is not worth it. The stronger believer should limit his liberty in Christ because of his love for his fellow believer. Unfortunately, the opposite is too often the case. The stronger believer selfishly insists on his rights, not caring that another believer falls into sin as a consequence of his ill-conceived behavior.

Thy brother is a reference to one's fellow believer.

Stumbleth literally means strikes or stumbles; and when used figuratively as it is here, it means takes offense at, feels repugnance for, or rejects. It is the verb form of the term translated stone of stumbling in Romans 9:33 .

Is offended is the verb form of the noun translated rock of offence in Romans 9:33 . As a verb it means is caused to fall and is used in the sense of is caused to sin.

Or is made weak suggests or is made powerless. He is weakened as a Christian when he violates his own conscience.

Romans 14:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

In hast thou faith, thou is emphasized. It is you (singular). The very nature of the question suggests that it is a reference to the one who considers himself to be the stronger believer.

To have faith or trust suggests faith, belief, or trust that one can eat all things.

There is nothing wrong with having faith; but Paul says, Have it to thyself before God. This suggests that the faith or belief that the strong believer has should be kept as a matter of privacy between himself and God, and it should never be flaunted in any way before another.

Happy is blessed or privileged.

Is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth describes the one who is happy or blessed.

Condemneth is the word translated judge throughout this chapter and is used in the sense of passes an unfavorable judgment upon, criticizes, finds fault with, or condemns. Previously, it was used of the weaker believer criticizing or finding fault with the stronger believer. Here, however, it is used of the stronger believer; and he is bringing this criticism or unfavorable judgment upon himself because of something which he allows in his life but which results in a weaker believer falling into sin.

Alloweth is approves. In that thing which he alloweth is because of that thing which he allows or because of that thing which he approves.

Romans 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Verse 23 provides a slight contrast with the strong believer who is blessed when he does not condemn himself in the thing which he approves. And is understood in the sense of but.

He that doubteth refers to the weaker believer, i.e. to the one who is weaker in faith; and it means is at odds with himself, doubts, or wavers.

Is damned may suggest to the English reader that he will spend eternity in hell, but this is not the meaning of the Greek term. It means he is condemned.

What brings about this condemnation is if he eat, suggesting if he eats something which violates his conscience.

The reason he is condemned is because he eateth not of faith, i.e. because he is eating things he believes he should not be eating.

For whatsoever is not of faith is sin means that he violates his faith and thereby commits sin.

Whatsoever is simply what, and is not of faith is what is not by means of faith.

Is sin describes whatsoever is not of faith. When an individual does something which goes against his belief, he commits sin. Thus, when the weaker believer, i.e. the one who is weaker in faith violates his conscience, he sins; and when the one who is stronger in faith leads the one who is weaker in faith to do something which violates his conscience, he is also guilty of sin. Thus, they are both guilty. Far better it is to do nothing than to do something which would cause a fellow believer to stumble.


Let's remember that whatever we do, we are to do it out of love for the Lord and for each other. This will help the weaker believers not be critical of the stronger ones, and it will help the stronger ones not treat the weaker ones with contempt.