Romans 14 Matters of Conscience
This is a continuation from the previous chapter where Paul addressed the Church of Rome’s relationship with civil government officials. In this chapter he addresses issues that were causing contention between new converts to the faith from Gentile and Jewish backgrounds. The Jews wanted to retain portions of their distinctive laws concerning what kinds of food to eat, retaining festivals and what day to worship on. These are often referred to as “matters of conscience”; how do we inter-relate as believing Jew and believing Gentile in regards to these issues was the main question.
Paul’s reference to “one who is weak in faith” and dealing with diet, appears to be focused toward the Jewish believers, as under the Law there were exclusions as to their diets. Paul admonishes the Gentile believer to “receive one who is weak in the faith” in this regard/matter; but cautions against the issue turning into a “dispute” as the matter is “doubtful”, i.e. unsettled. To those on both sides of the diet issue he exhorts us not judge.
The next issue addressed dealt with which day to worship and the keeping of festivals. There are a great many personal friends of mine that born-again and Spirit filled that have a Jewish ancestry. Not one of them has ever condemned, judged or attempted to persuade or coerce me to keep any dietary law or Sabbath (Saturday) worship or keep the festivals. There have been many, what I refer to as “wanna be Jews” that cannot authenticate a Jewish ancestry who have become very contentious in declaring it is essential for my faith to be real and genuine, I would have to keep the Law every, jot and tittle of it.
Paul clearly declares that kind of individual is in error. A dear missionary friend of mind recently shared that while ministering in a conference an individual spoke on that issue, declaring essentially they had to go back under the Law. There is little doubt this individual has read Romans 14.
We have a mutual concern to be considerate of one another’s cultural backgrounds; yet there is NO BIBLICAL BASIS for a Gentile to “go back” and keep the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law was given to the Jewish people; 400 years after Abraham had righteousness accounted to him. He didn’t keep the Law and neither did his descendants until Moses received the Law after having been delivered from Egyptian bondage. Were Abraham’s children, grand-children, great grand-children and great great grand-children less Jewish or non-Jewish because they didn’t even have the Law?
It is in this context Paul writes we’re not to “judge” our brother. This admonition has been taken out of context so frequently and applied to correction of doctrine and heretical issues, many are reluctant to make such judgments or bring correction. The context clearly deals in “matters of conscience” and not matters of doctrine. Where there is heretical teaching or anti-God laws; we ARE CALLED TO MAKE JUDGMENT. It’s called “righteous judgment”. That includes ministers as well as Presidents.
There will come a time, whether a believing Jew or believing Gentile, that “every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God”.
Again, keep in mind Paul is writing to a CHURCH, not to the world. Those who have truly put their faith in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, regardless of their cultural, ethnic or racial backgrounds will declare His Lordship. PTL! With that in mind, “let us not judge one another anymore” and not become or “put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
When reading this next verse (14), remember Paul was from the strictest of Jewish upbringing, a Pharisee. For this man to say “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him who considers anything unclean, to him it is unclean” was a mind bending statement; especially to the “religious Jew”. What is eaten or drank is a matter of conscience, not a matter of Law. Yet if we know our eating or drinking will offend a brother or sister who has a different conviction of conscience, we have a responsibility to be considerate.
It is interesting that he speaks to those who have liberty in those areas be considerate toward those who don’t; yet there isn’t a command for those who have a conviction of conscience about certain foods or drink to violate the “conscience” of one who has a different conviction. If that happens, it’s sin. He goes further to say the kingdom is worth more than what we eat or drink.
It’s been said a number of times, but it bears repeating again; keep in mind this is written to corporate expression of the Body of Christ, the Church in Rome, and not to an individual nor to the world. The “kingdom of God” in verse 17 refers to that “corporate expression” or Church. The kingdom of God is “righteousness (right standing before God through faith in Jesus Christ) and peace (wholeness, or oneness from brokenness) and joy in the Holy Spirit (authentic joy based on intradependent relationships in the Body). As we walk out righteousness, peace and joy; our serving the Lord is acceptable to God and approved by men (in the kingdom), not necessarily those outside. In fact the world has an increase of “anti-Christ” spirit than ever.
The apostle closes this chapter by pleading with the believers in Rome and believers of all ages to live our lives in such a manner so that they will result in mutual edification and peace. Don’t destroy God’s work IN ANOTHER BROTHER OR SISTER over an issue that is a “matter of conscience”.
When the CHURCH lives life as described by Paul in this chapter, the world will take note of our authentic love, care and concern for one another and be drawn to the Christ Who reigns in our midst!