Romans 14:20-21

“Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.  Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he heats.  It is good not to eat meat, or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.”

God’s Spirit is doing a work in all his followers.  Some are more mature than others.  Therefore, for those who are stronger in the Lord, Paul adjures them not to destroy what God is doing in the hearts of the weaker brother by eating food that causes their faith to stumble.

Paul argues that all food and drink are clean.  He shows how the Jewish food laws have been canceled in Christ’s death and resurrection.  But if their eating and drinking offends the lesser brother’s understanding of this subject, even they fall into sin when the lesser brother stumbles and may fall away from Christ in seeing how the stronger brother behaves.

Paul desires for the stronger brother to love and serve the lesser brother.  He may be right in his knowledge of what to eat and drink.  But his need to be right should be placed in subservience to his call to love the lesser brother.

The way we love one another is the proof of Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Does this describe you today?


Romans 14:19

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”

What are you pursuing today?  To be more successful and make more money?  Are you pursuing more power and prestige?  What is the master passion of your heart today?

Paul adjures all Jesus’ followers to pursue two things.  First, he asks us to pursue peace.  What does that mean?  First, it means personal peace.  Make sure we are at peace with God.  Make sure all our enmity against him has been confessed and forgiven.  Then the peace that passes all understanding will flood our soul.

Second, it means pursuing peace in the world.  Are we building up other people?  With our words?  With our actions?  Are they building up us?  Are we in community where other Christians encourage us?  Do we have any relationships that need to be forgiven?  Have we sought to serve others to make this world a more peaceful place in which to live?

These are the priorities of the kingdom of God.  If we are members of God’s kingdom, seeking God’s peace and building up others should be our focus today.

Are they for you?


Romans 14:18

“Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by him.”

Paul makes a simple yet profound point in this verse.  The person who desires to serve Jesus above all is the one who is acceptable to God.  They are the ones who prove, by the way they live, that they are selfless servants of Christ.

It’s not proven by following dietary laws—by what a Christian eats or drinks.  What proves faith is being a person who edifies and loves others, while striving for peace in the church.

Think today about whom you may serve.  Identify a person you could reach out to and extend the love of Jesus.  Do you have that person in your mind? Now make sure you go edify, love and serve that person.

You will be perfectly acceptable to and approved by God when you do so.


Romans 14:17

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus invites his followers to enter into his kingdom—his reign and rule over our personal lives and this world.  His followers are called daily to advance his kingdom in every possible way.

The advancement of his kingdom has little to do with what we eat or drink.  Those things are insignificant to his heart and causes.

Contrarily, his kingdom is about advancing these things:

1   Righteousness—that which is right and just.  The advancement of righteousness should  take place in our personal lives.  Followers of Jesus should also work hard for the advancement of God’s kingdom throughout the world.

2   Peace—for us personally and in the world.  Blessed are the peacemakers, Jesus said, for they are sons of God (Matthew 5:9).  Christians also have his perfect peace as we dwell in intimacy with him daily (John 14:26).

3   Joy—the inward reality of his eternal presence in our lives.  This joy has nothing to do with happiness.  Happiness needs circumstances to be perfect for happiness to happen.  Joy is different.  It's a constant reality a believer understands within when the King of kings is enthroned in our hearts.

Righteousness, peace and joy are all results of the Holy Spirit’s work in the follower of Jesus’ heart.  These things should be the focus of of a Christian’s life—not what we eat or drink.

That was what Paul wanted Christians to focus on.


Romans 14:16

“So do not let what you regard as good as spoken of as evil.”

Paul adjures stronger Christians to be patient with weaker ones.  Those who know need to be patient with weaker ones.

Paul is concerned that the goodness of the gospel will be seen by outsiders as evil if more mature believers are judging younger ones.  Their lack of love for the weaker believer will seem to outsiders as a contradiction of the love of Jesus for all.

Paul had the highest concern for the unity of the body of Christ and its witness to the world.  When Christians commit to love one another, that unity is cemented.  When Christians love one another, they give the right witness to the world and it draws the outsider to faith in Jesus.

Jesus said that Christians are to love one another.  By this the world would know that we belong to him, by the way we love one another (John 13:34-35).

It’s a good reminder for us all who follow Jesus.


Romans 14:15

“For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.  By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.”

The more mature Christian should not cause hurt in the heart of a less mature believer over their convictions about food.  They should refrain from any sort of judgment upon them regarding food laws.  They should make every effort not to destroy the faith of less mature followers of Jesus over non-essentials to the faith.

Paul reminds more mature believers that Christ died for the less mature believer as well.  They are very valuable in his sight.  The more mature believer should therefore continually love those who are not yet as mature as they are.

Love is the preeminent virtue.  It proves someone is truly following Jesus.

Paul reminds all Jesus’ followers of this truth today.

How are you doing in the love area today?


Romans 14:14

“I know and I am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.”

Paul is persuaded of something the Lord has revealed to him.  What is it?  That Christians are no longer under the old covenant laws.  Under those laws, some foods are unclean and some are not (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14).  Now, through Jesus, all foods are clean for his followers.

But Paul also wants to show grace to those Christians who still believe certain foods are unclean.  If so, they are unclean to them.  Therefore, let them maintain that conviction until further truth is revealed to them.  Paul wants the more mature Christian to be patient with the less mature one, loving him or her, for the sake of unity in the body of Christ.

Love is patient and kind.  It is not jealous or rude.  It’s not haughty or proud.  It does not insist on its own way ( Corinthians 13:4-7).  Christians are to love in all areas of life.

Those are good reminders for all who follow Jesus today.


Romans 14:13

“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

The entire debate in the Roman church that Paul is addressing has to do with what foods are considered clean or unclean.  Paul knew that Christians are no longer under the ceremonial food laws of the old covenant.  Therefore, he can’t accept the fact that some foods are clean and others are not in accordance with Leviticus 11.

Paul therefore adjures mature Christians not to put a stumbling block in the lives of younger believers by declaring foods clean that the more immature believer doesn’t think are clean.  Give the younger believer grace and not hinder his development on this lesser issue of the faith, Paul states.

Yielding what you may believe is right on minor issues to help younger believers grow in their faith is a way way serve them.  It’s also a sign of spiritual maturity.

Don’t allow your grace to cause someone else to feel they are sinning.  If anyone thinks certain foods are unclean, they are unclean to them.  Therefore, be gracious and kind, patient and understanding, waiting for your brother to learn the grace you’ve been given.

That is a part of Christian discipleship as well.


Romans 14:12

“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

This is a chilling reminder that every person needs regularly to ponder.  It’s not meant to scare us.  But it is to remind us we serve a holy God.  This life we possess is not our own.  It’s on loan from the master in heaven.

And one day, in his perfect timing, he will call us before him.  He will hold us accountable for how we’ve lived this life he has authored and given to us.  Any just and loving master would do the same.

Are you ready to stand before the holy God of the universe?  Can you state with conviction that you’ve been justified by the grace of Jesus Christ and you’ve received eternal life solely by faith?  If so, your salvation is secure.

However, there is a judgment of works for all who believe in Jesus.  He also holds his followers accountable for how they’ve lived their lives.  Has your life been filled with love?  Have you served others?  Given generously to others?  Served others with fervor?

If so, you can expect his great “Well done” and eternal rewards.  They should motivate us all to good works until that great day when we see him face to face.


Romans 14:11

“…for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’”

Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to stop despising and judging one another.  Their call is to love one another, as Jesus has loved them.  Paul reminds them all that they will one day face the perfect God of love at his judgment seat.  That should be a strong motivator to love our fellow Christians, not despise them.

To make his point, Paul quotes from Isaiah 45:23.  This verse reminds us that every person will give an account for his life to God.  This judgment is a constant reminder for Christians to love, not hate, other people—especially those in the church.

Salvation is purely by grace through faith.  However, the New Testament writers, and especially Paul, remind believers that what we do affects God’s evaluation of our obedience to his service.  Rewards then flow to us based on this service (I Cor. 3:10-17; 2 Cor. 5:10).

Loving others, even our enemies, even those who persecute us, is the evidence Jesus lives in us.  It’s how he lived.  It’s now his love that pulsates through the lives of his followers.

Does his love flow through you?  Does this describe your life?  How else can his followers live?


Romans 14:10

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother?  Or you, why do you despise your brother?  For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;…”

Paul hated the way some people were passing judgment on others in the Roman church.  The strong were despising the weak.  The weak were despising the strong.  This should never happen!  Why? Paul reminds them of a major reason.  All of them would one day stand before the judgment seat of Jesus.  We will all give an account of the way we have lived.

God’s call is for his children who call Jesus Lord to live in love.  We are to love one another.  This love should be so profound that the world knows we are true followers of Jesus.  It would draw them to know him as well (John 13:34-35).

One day all Jesus’ followers will face the God of love and be asked if we loved as we were supposed to.

It’s a profound reality that all Christians should daily consider.


Like you, I was stunned to read of the skilled, well-timed, vicious and coordinated suicide bombings in Paris last week.

Or maybe I shouldn’t have been.  ISIS shot down a Russian jet leaving Egypt just a few weeks ago.  A double suicide bombing killed several, injuring dozens more, in Beirut, Lebanon right after the jet was shot down.  It happened in a Muslim Shia neighborhood, another enemy of ISIS.  

Then, suddenly, the Russian jet that was shot down and the Beirut bombings seemed lost in the ferocious fog of Paris where 129 were killed and hundreds more injured.

I’m still processing Paris.  I know my Christian faith believes that God is all about life.  He commands his children always to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).  Jesus came to give us life and to give it to us abundantly (John 10:10).  I just can’t twist my mind around a religion that promotes death in the name of God.  It’s impossible for me to understand how a person believes that taking another human life grants entrance into God’s heavenly presence.  It’s unfathomable for me to comprehend.

So you will need to give me some more time to completely process Paris.

But of this I am certain.  I can’t give into fear.  Terrorists want to do just that: create terror in the hearts of their enemies.  And I just can’t let that happen.  I won’t let them succeed in this endeavor.

So I will fight fear and terror at every level in my life.  Here are some steps I’m taking.  I hope they help you as well:

  1. I will constantly remind my brain that my heavenly Father oversees this world.  The jet in Egypt, or the Beirut and Paris bombings, and all terrorist activities, did not catch him by surprise.  He oversees history.  All is in his hands.  Therefore, I refuse to be afraid.
  2. Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).  His life is in me.  My life is in him.  My eternity is secure.  Though I may die, still I live.  I will live as more than a conqueror because of this powerful promise  from my Lord and Savior (Romans 8:37).
  3. I will not give ISIS, or anything else in this world, the power to create terror in my heart.  That’s their goal.  They will not win.  That’s my small way of fighting back.  Jesus conquered death.  He was never intimidated.  I will follow my Master in his example.
  4. Finally, I believe suicide bombers will face a God of justice at the moment of their deaths and will be held accountable for their terrible theology and atrocious acts of violence.  They won't get away with what they’ve done.

And I will choose, every day, to live by this petit maxim.  Fear knocked on the door of my heart.  I sent Jesus to answer.  Fear was gone.

Terror, where is your sting?  Thanks be to God for the victory we have in Christ Jesus, the Lord over all—including terrorism (2 Corinthians 2:14).


Romans 14:9

“For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

For what end did Christ die and be raised from the dead?  The answer is found in verse 8: whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.  Jesus died and was raised from the dead to own us.  Previously, we were prisoners to sin.  Now we are not.  We are set free.  We are not our own.  We are bought with a price, purchased by his shed blood.  We are owned by Jesus himself.

Because of his death and resurrection, Jesus is now Lord of all—both the living and the dead.  He reigns victoriously over all creation.  Every knee now bows and tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord over all the universe.  In his humiliation on the cross he is now exalted through his resurrection.

Praise God!  Jesus is Lord over all.

We can therefore trust him with everything in our lives.


Romans 14:8

“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”

If we have truly come to faith in Jesus, we realize that we are not our own but bought with a price—that price being the shed blood of Jesus (I Corinthians 6:19-20).  When this reality is rightly realized, we know that both in life and in death, all Christians belong solely to the Lord Jesus Christ.  He solely is the judge of all our lives and actions.

And if we all belong to him, we are all on the same team.  We are to work together for his purposes and plans.  To please him is our life’s highest aim and desire.  Squabbling among ourselves about theological minutia should be minimal to the higher calling of following and obeying the one we all call Lord, Jesus Christ.

This conviction should unify the church of Jesus Christ into a powerful army, a force of good in the world.

That was Paul’s point in writing these words.


Romans 14:7

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.”

Paul’s point here is simple: no Christian lives an isolated life.  He is connected to Christ and to fellow believers in the body of Christ.  He is not his own.  His life belongs to the one who died for him and was raised from the dead—Jesus Christ.

Both the mature and immature believer belong to the Lord.  Therefore, they should let love be the preeminent virtue that binds them together.  This minute theological debate over the Sabbath and food is secondary to the broader, more important issue of loving and serving one another.

That’s what Jesus wants from all his followers.  It’s a good reminder for all Christians today.

As someone once said to me, “Theological debate is for people with full bellies.”


Romans 14:6

“The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.  The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”

Paul continues to give instruction to the stronger and weaker Christians in the Roman church.  Here are his instructions.

If you think the Sabbath is a special day, go ahead and follow it.  Just make sure you honor the Lord and constantly give thanks to him above anything and everything else.  If you don’t believe the Sabbath is a special day of the week, always honor the Lord and give thanks!

If you eat meat, make sure you honor the Lord and give thanks, Paul instructed.  If you don’t, make sure you honor the Lord and give thanks, Paul also said.

There is where Paul is going.  He believes that the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.  If both sides choose to honor the Lord and give thanks to him, the disagreements about the Sabbath lessen in importance.  Both sides stay unified in Christ.  And they can continually express their love to one another because they know how much Jesus has loved them.

It’s a good word for all Christians today as well.


Romans 14:5

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

Weaker Roman believers in Jesus thought that some days were more important than other ones.  Many of these new believers undoubtedly came from a Jewish background.  Therefore, the “day” to which Paul is referring is surely the Sabbath.  They thought Sabbath observances were essential for Christians.

Conversely, the stronger in faith think that every day is the same in the eyes of the Lord.  With the resurrection, every day is a day when Christians should enter into the Sabbath rest, realizing that Jesus took all our sins upon him and we never have to labor for God’s approval (Hebrews 4:9).  Therefore, the Sabbath holds no greater importance for Christians than any other day.

Paul clearly states here that rigidly following the Sabbath is no longer a binding commitment for Christians.  Rather, he emphasizes it as a matter of personal conviction.  This would mean that Paul saw the Sabbath much like the ceremonial, sacrificial and dietary laws of the book of Leviticus.  They are no longer as binding for the believer as the other nine commandments are.

However, Paul most assuredly would emphasize the need for a weekly day of rest and worship for the Christian, as commanded by God in his creation mandate.

The key for the strong and weak believer is to be fully convinced in his own mind.  If the Sabbath is a certain, fixed day, needed for growth in Christ for the weaker believer, that is what one should do.  If a stronger brother is not convinced of this reality, that should not divide people in the body of Christ.

Unity in love drove Paul as he instructed the church at Rome.  It should drive Christians today as well.


Romans 14:4

“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?  It is before his own master that he stands or falls.  And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

Paul continues his instructions on how the strong in Christ should handle those who are weaker in their faith—especially in the area of whether they should eat meat or not.  He is also instructing the weak how they should respond to the strong.

The strong in the faith are tempted to make fun of the weak for following a sensitive, weak conscience.  The weak are tempted to “pass judgment” on the strong who feel their liberty in Christ gives them the freedom to eat as they wish.  

The weak are adjured not to stand in judgment of their stronger Christian friends.  God has accepted the stronger believer in Christ, as he has the weak.  The strong believer is liable only to “his own master,” God himself, as is the weak one.  God will give all the strength to stand against all onslaughts of criticism from any quarter.  

Nevertheless, the weaker brother is not to wrongly stand in judgment of his brother or sister in Christ.  That’s solely God’s job.  

That was Paul’s simple adjuration.  All believers in Jesus should be careful about passing judgment on other believers.

Wise words to be followed today as well.


Romans 14:3

“Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.”

All people who come to faith in Jesus come solely by God’s invitation through grace.  He welcomes all into his church through the forgiveness of Jesus.  Therefore, all are brothers and sisters in Christ before the Father in heaven’s enormous love.

But when people enter the church, they have different understandings of the biblical teaching.  In Paul’s day, the less mature believer believed he needed to abstain from meet.  He read the Old Testament dietary food laws and believed he was unclean if he ate meet.  The more mature believer knew that Jesus’ death and resurrection was a fulfillment of all the dietary laws.  Therefore, he knew he could eat meet without God’s condemnation.

Paul adjures both parties here not to pass judgment on each other.  They were to welcome each other in the church as God had welcomed them all.  They were to give grace to one another as God had given grace to them.  They were to love one another as God had loved them.

It’s a good reminder for all followers of Jesus today as well.  We are called to love one another as Jesus has loved us.


Romans 14:2

“One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.”

Paul is drawing here a comparison between the weak and strong Christians as concerns food and dietary laws.  The strong Christian knows that Jesus fulfilled all the dietary laws of the Old Testament.  Therefore he knows he can eat both meat and vegetables.  The weak Christian eats only vegetables, thinking to eat meat means they are eating unclean foods.  Thus, the person who ingests the food is considered unclean in the sight of God.

Looking back at verse 1, Paul instructs stronger, more mature Christians to avoid any and all quarreling over these kinds of debates.  He knows division can easily come from these quarrels.  The unity of the church is destroyed.  Its witness to the world of Jesus’ great love is hindered.

The mature Christian is called to walk in love.  In time, he can teach the weaker Christian the principles of grace—what Jewish laws have been superseded in Christ’s death and resurrection and which ones haven’t.  Until that opportunity arises, Paul’s clear adjuration is for the mature believer to walk in Jesus’ unfathomable grace and avoid all quarreling.

That’s a good word of all believers today as well.