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Bible: What Does Romans 14 Teach Us About Christian Liberty?
Dietary Laws: Are They For Today?
Are believers required to follow Old Testament dietary laws today?
Romans 14: Christian Liberty
Accept Brethren with Weaknesses
Now Paul instructs the church in Rome about the issue of Christian liberty, commanding them to accept—not censure—weak brothers; that is to say, those who do not have “full knowledge of how to live as a Christian” (Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 283; v. 1).
As an example, he addresses the existing dispute between “vegetarians and omnivores.”
The apostle orders the omnivores not to hate the vegans, and the vegitarians not to judge the omnivores, since God has accepted both groups of believers (vv. 2-3).
Paul censures the “strong” Romans’ hypercriticism, asserting that the “weak” bear their responsibility to the Lord alone as their Master. He assures the strong that God’s grace can make the weak succeed (v. 4).
Believers differ among themselves as to religious practice; whether or not they observe special days and eat special foods is a matter of Christian liberty, not an issue of divine prescription.
Those who disagree with their brethren on such peripheral matters should not make the difference an occasion for disputation.
Since every Christian, in life and in death, belongs to the Lord, each one should develop convictions about his/her positions, and then practice them consistently to the glory of God (vv. 5-8).
Christ died and lives again, so that He could judge and rule over both those who have died and those who are still living (v. 9).
The Judgment Seat
The Judgment Seat of Christ
Is salvation the issue at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
The Judgment Seat of Christ
Employing rhetorical questions again, Paul reiterates his displeasure with their judgmental attitude toward their brethren, and then informs them that Christ will judge every believer one day at His bema (v. 10; cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).
Interestingly, the apostle quotes Isaiah 45:23, a verse that refers to God’s universal judgment, not to that of believers only (v. 11).
Every person will testify before an omniscient God as to his/her service or disservice to Him (v. 12).
For this reason, Paul encourages his readers to stop judging each other; instead, believers should seek to keep themselves from tempting others and causing them to fall into sin (v. 13).
Attitudes Within the Family of God
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Curb Liberty for the Sake of Love
Dietary laws continue to be a cause of disagreement in those days; Paul expends an extraordinary amount of energy ironing out concerns about clean and unclean food (vv. 14-23).
He states his Christ-informed conviction that “all things indeed are clean” (cf. v. 20b), but reminds the strong that some immature brethren still believe some foods are not (v. 14).
If the strong exercise their freedom to eat all foods and, in the process, show no regard for the scruples of the weak (thereby causing them grief), then they (the strong) are not showing love.
Paul admonishes them not to destroy the faith of a fellow believer (“one for whom Christ died”) for the sake of expressing their liberty [v. 15].
To avoid causing the weak to regard as evil the practice the strong find acceptable, the latter should simply abstain from performing actions that make the former stumble (vv. 16, 21).
The apostle reminds the strong that the spirituality of God’s kingdom takes precedence over any celebrating they might want to do as citizens of that kingdom (v. 17).
Both God and human beings will stay happy when the servant of Christ seeks peace with other believers, wishing to build them up in the faith (vv. 18-19).
Paul engages in a little repetition now, saying that the strong should not destroy the weak (“the work of God”) for food’s sake, that believers should regard all foods as clean, and that they should not eat certain foods if they give offense (v. 20).
The believer who freely lives by his convictions will remain happy when he does not offend the weak (v. 22).
If the mature Christian eats certain foods he believes are hurting a weak brother’s faith, then he is sinning; he is not living according to love (v. 23).
© 2013 glynch1