The Book of ROMANS
James J. Barker
QUESTIONABLE THINGS PART 2
Text: ROMANS 14:13-23
- Romans chapter 14 deals with “doubtful disputations” (14:1), or “questionable things.”
- Certain things are clearly wrong (13:9, 13), and where the Bible is clear we must take our stand.
- But there are certain areas of conduct on which the Bible is not clear. Romans chapter 14 provides some helpful guidelines.
- The New Testament teaches that all such matters as foods and days are in themselves indifferent. And the New Testament also teaches the importance of Christian charity and love (14:15; cf. 13:8-10).
- In fact, the same word translated “love” in Romans 13:10 is translated “charitably” in Romans 14:15.
AN EARNEST EXHORTATION (14:13).
- Because we are all going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ someday, “Let us not therefore judge one another anymore” (14:13).
- We should determine not to put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in our brother’s way (14:13).
- W.H. Griffith Thomas said, “It is a primary duty to avoid anything which will cause a shock, and, still more, a fall” (St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans).
- The apostle Paul said he was persuaded by the Lord Jesus “that there is nothing unclean of itself,” but if a Christian considers certain things to be unclean, then to him it is unclean (14:14; cf. 14:5).
- When Paul says that “there is nothing unclean of itself” (14:14), he is speaking only of these “questionable things.” Or what some refer to as things that are morally neutral.
- There are many things in life that are definitely unclean, such as pornography, dirty jokes, dirty movies and television shows, etc.
- But Paul is referring here to “questionable things,” and Romans 14:14 should be understood in that context. Paul's point is that Christians are not defiled by eating foods which the Mosaic Law called unclean (cf. 14:15).
- The emphasis is on eating or not eating certain foods (14:2, 3, 15, 17, 20, 21, 23).
- The Lord told Peter, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15). “Common” here means, “unclean, defiled, profane.”
- First Timothy 4 says, “commanding to abstain from meats” was a “doctrine of devils.” First Timothy 4:4 and 5 says, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
- We are at liberty to eat whatever we want.
- And we are at liberty to enjoy anything the Bible does not declare to be sinful. First Timothy 6:17 says God has “given us richly all things to enjoy.”
- But on the other hand, we are always to consider fellow Christians (Romans 14:15). “Destroy” is a strong word. It should be taken literally.
- The same exact word is used in Matthew 10:28. Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
- Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
- Therefore, “destroy” is a strong word. Spurgeon said, “You have liberty to do as you please, but do not use that liberty if it would be mischievous to your brother in Christ. If your action, though right in itself, would have a tendency to destroy his soul, deny yourself for love's sake.”
- “Deny yourself for love's sake.” A certain thing may be right in itself, yet if indulging in it is harmful to a Christian brother, then that indulgence is a violation of the “law of love” (cf. 13:8-10).
- Let “no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way” (14:13b).
- William MacDonald said, “Love foregoes its legitimate rights in order to promote the welfare of a brother.”
- Verse 16 says, “Let not then your good be evil spoken of.” Let not then your good (your liberty regarding meats and holy days) be evil spoken of; that is, by reason of the evil it does to others.
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE (14:17, 18)
- “The kingdom of God” (14:17) in this context is the spiritual sphere where God is acknowledged. It is the heavenly sphere of life in which God’s Word and God’s Spirit govern.
- Therefore, the essence of Christianity is not “meat and drink.” It is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (14:17).
- Christianity is internal, not external – “joy in the Holy Ghost.” W.H. Griffith Thomas said, “This is the true attitude of the genuine man of God, and the life thus lived with constant regard to helpfulness to our fellow Christians will have the twofold effect of being acceptable to God and approved of men (verse 18)” (St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans).
- The Christian life must be lived in the light of the Lordship of Christ (14:8).
- The Christian life should be lived in the in the light of the Judgment Seat of Christ (14:10-12).
- The Christian life must be lived in the light of love (14:15).
- The Christian life should be lived in the in the light of the cross (14:15b).
- This is the proper Christian attitude.
AN URGENT NECESSITY (14:19-23).
- We need to have our priorities right. “Let us therefore follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (14:19).
- We need to have our priorities right. What is more important, a piece of “meat” or “the work of God” (14:20)?
- It is far better to abstain from certain things that might trouble the conscience of a weaker brother than to cause him to stumble by insisting on liberty (cf. 14:1, 2).
- If a weaker brother stumbles through us, then we are responsible for his failure (cf. 14:7). As Christians we cannot live for self.
- H.A. Ironside said, “If one has faith that he can safely do what another condemns, let him have it to himself before God and not flaunt it flagrantly before the weak” (Romans).
- Romans 14:23 says, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Although some things may not be morally wrong, if it “is not of faith,” it is sinning against the conscience and therefore sinning against God.
- A different Greek word translated “destroy” is used in verse 20 (cf. vs. 15). Here “destroy” means “to subvert, to overthrow.”
- “For meat destroy (subvert, overthrow) not the work of God” (14:20). It is “evil” for a believer to offend a fellow believer, and to make him stumble by eating certain foods or drinking wine (14:21).
- What a Christian believes about neutral things is between him and God, and he is “happy” if he keeps it that way (14:22).
- I will conclude with quotations from two great preachers of the past, CH. Spurgeon, and H.A. Ironside.
- Spurgeon said, “Do nothing about which you have need to ask a question. Be quite sure about it, or leave it alone. Whatsoever you cannot do with the confidence that you are doing right is sin to you. Though the deed may be right to other people, if you have any doubt about it yourself, it is evil to you.”
- Ironside illustrated Romans 14:23:
Sandy was a thrifty Scot who objected to needless laundry expense, so when he wore a dress shirt to a banquet, he put it away carefully for future use. On one occasion when dressing for such an event, he took a used shirt out of the drawer and examined it with care, hoping to be able to wear it that evening. Not being quite sure of its strict cleanliness, he took it to a window, where he was looking it over under a better light than the room afforded. His wife, Jean, noticed him shaking his head as though fearful that it would not pass careful scrutiny.
“Remember, Sandy,” she called to him, “if it’s doubtful, it’s dirty.”
That settled it. The shirt went into the discard and another—a fresh one—took its place. Jeans’ words may well speak to every believer concerning things about which conscience raises any question whats