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Dealing with Messy Relatioships  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Some people feel like they can have nothing to do with a person who believes differently. At the other end are those who say we must not only accept any differences, but we must endorse those differences, as if it’s OK to have that opposing view. We need to recapture what it means to accept another person. The Book of Romans gives us practical direction on how we do this, especially within the body of Christ.
Romans 14: 1-4, 13-19 NIV
1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.
2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.
3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.
4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:
Verse 1:
1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.
1. We do not know for sure if Paul was aware of specific problems of fellowship that threatened the church in Rome. He was writing this letter while in Corinth, a city whose Christians were struggling with issues of rivalry and division (see 1 Cor. 1:10-12). Perhaps the Spirit impressed on Paul that the church in Rome needed help in this area too.
14: 1 one who is weak in faith Likely refers to Christians who remained committed to observing certain parts of the law, such as food laws and the Sabbath (vv. 2–3). The immediate context probably refers to Jewish Christians, though other practices concerning food and observing certain days (v. 6) were issues for non-Jewish people as well (see Gal 4:1–11). The law of Moses designated certain animals as ritually unclean, and it therefore prohibited Jews from eating them (see Lev 11:1–47).
Verse 2:
One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.
The apostle went on to describe a doubtful issue scenario in verses 2-3. Judaism made distinctions between “clean” and “unclean” foods. What did Christians believe about this matter? Paul affirmed that spiritually mature Christians believed they could eat all things—that is, any and all of God’s bounty, including meat (compare Acts 10:13-16). Other believers, however, chose to eateth herbs. They might have had concerns related to eating meat that had been used in pagan temple rituals before being sold in the market (see 1 Cor. 10:25-28).
14:2 believes he may eat all things Refers to the strong believers who were able to eat and drink all things with a clear conscience.
Jesus clarifies that is it not what a person eats that defiles, but actions toward others (Mark 7:14–23). Also, the Lord revealed to Peter that He made all meat ritually clean (Acts 10:9–16). By this revelation, God also indicated that Peter should no longer regard Gentiles (non-Jewish people) as ritually unclean and outside the realm of His salvation.
Verse 3.
3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.
While Paul acknowledged the two perspectives about a proper Christian diet—judging one to be a more mature view—his greater concern was the potential in the situation for truly improper behavior. The temptation was for Christians who enjoyed all kinds of foods to despise those who restricted their diet. Similarly, those who restricted their diet were tempted to harshly judge their fellow church members who ate anything. Both needed to realize that since God hath received them through grace by their faith in Jesus Christ, they were to respect one another too.
14:3 judge- The Greek verb used here, krinō, (cre-no) means “to pronounce judgment for wrongdoing.” The person who judges assumes the role of God (compare Rom 2:3). Paul points out that such judgment is inappropriate because God has accepted all people who believe.
Verse 4:
4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Verse 4. Paul illustrated the total lack of grounds one believer has to be critical of another believer’s sincere faith practices. He drew from the world of master-slave relationships, a situation that in Paul’s day was a widespread and accepted part of life. The term servant referred to a slave who served in the home of his or her master and often was considered a member of the household. Paul’s point was that such a servant had only one master to whom he or she was accountable. No one else had the authority to judge that servant’s acceptability.
No one else had the authority to judge that servant’s acceptability. As Christians, we are accountable to our own master no matter what our backgrounds before coming to faith in Christ. We must guard diligently against the temptation to criticize other Christians whose beliefs and practices regarding secondary matters differ from ours. We especially have no grounds to question their salvation over such issues. God alone is the One who is able to accept or reject someone from His household of faith. If God has accepted a person, that person will stand justified in the end for God is able to make him stand.
13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.
14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.
Verse 13:
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
Paul called on mature Christians to lead the way in building unity in the church by refraining from petty criticism of weaker church members. His reminder that believers should not judge one another summarizes verses 1-12. The apostle had used judge/judgest in verses 3, 4, and 10 to show what believers must not do.
Verse 14:
14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.
We should be careful to interpret verse 14 in context. Paul was talking about food alone when he wrote there is nothing unclean of itself and thus forbidden.
Faithlife Study Bible Chapter 14

In this context, Paul is referring to food, such as the meat of animals designated by the law as ritually unclean (see note on v. 1; compare Lev 11; Deut 14). Paul celebrates believers’ freedom from the requirements of the law. However, he qualifies this statement by reminding the strong that some things might be considered unclean by the weak, whose faith is challenged by such freedom.

Verse 15:
15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died
Paul clearly emphasized the importance of striving for peaceful relationships among believers. Mature Christians put the law of love above the law of liberty in situations where their exercise of freedom might grieve or destroy a weaker Christian.
Paul reminded his readers that Christ died for weaker Christians too. In light of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, how could mature Christians risk destroying the spiritual growth of another believer over something as inconsequential as what they ate? The apostle emphatically urged his readers not to do that.
16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;
17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.
19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
Verse 16.
16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.
Paul previously had encouraged the Christians in Rome to strive toward building an honorable reputation not only with those inside the church but also with those outside (see Rom. 12:17-18). In other letters, he urged Christians to “be blameless and harmless” and “shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). Paul required that church leaders have “a good report of them which are without” (1 Tim. 3:7). Clearly Paul taught that church members needed to take seriously the impact their conduct could have on their reputations as well as on the church’s reputation in the community (see 1 Cor. 5:1-3)
Verse 17:
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Thus Paul went on to challenge mature believers to transcend their legitimate Christian privileges, such as the freedom of eating certain foods, in favor of pursuing eternal values. Kingdom values do not include meat and drink (what is merely external). To focus on the external or to argue about such issues is to miss the point of the gospel. Christ came to transform us from the inside out. When we are concerned about helping others become more Christlike, then we truly love them.
Paul summarized three kingdom qualities briefly. These are possible only because the Holy Ghost is active in the lives of those in the kingdom.
Righteousness refers to a right relationship with God. Romans 1–11 is all about how God gives sinful persons a right standing with Him by grace through faith in Christ. Such righteousness then becomes evident in right living.
Peace refers primarily to honorable relationships with other people, although peace with God is not excluded. Christ alone makes peace possible (Rom. 5:1; 12:18). Romans 12–16 focuses on how peaceful relationships are worked out among believers.
Joy embraces both the present and the future experiences of knowing Christ personally.
Verse 18:
18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
It was not enough, Paul taught, for Christians to be self-assured that their eating habits were acceptable to God. He wanted mature Christians to be guided by greater spiritual discernment. By carefully guarding their conduct—willingly foregoing activities that would draw criticism from weaker Christians—the mature would in fact be serving Christ, would be acceptable to God, and would build their good reputation in the community
Verse 19:
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Paul urged his readers to pursue two important lifestyle qualities. The Greek word rendered follow after also is the verb Paul used in Philippians 3:14 to describe his efforts to press on toward the goal of God’s heavenly call on his life. It doesn’t refer to pursuing salvation through human effort but rather to striving to live out one’s salvation in Christ in every possible way.
How can we Live it Out:
> Extend grace. If someone has offended you because their actions go against your convictions, forgive. Do not hold these actions over their heads.
> Let go. You may feel perfectly free in Christ to participate in some activities, but others do not. Let go of your freedom to engage in the activity in order to respect and serve the other person.
> Agree to disagree. Meet with someone with whom you have a difference of opinion. It might help if you each communicated why you hold to a certain conviction; in the end, however, you may still choose to agree to disagree. Maintain love and respect for the other person in spite of the difference.
Don’t let differences of opinion damage your relationships.
The most important things in life are not meats and vegetables. Though we must eat to live, we do not live to eat. So what is to be our main focus?
• We live to make the kingdom of God and His glory known throughout the earth.
• We live to build His kingdom and promote His purpose.
• We live to see our Savior return in power and glory, with our lives prepared and poised for service.
Scripture compels us to do our part to preserve relationships. The kingdom of God is about “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
Conclude by thanking God for the Holy Spirit who makes our accepting others possible. Ask Him for the wisdom to accept differences of opinion while holding fast to the truth.
The New International Version Chapter 14

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.

Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ro 14:1–4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 14:1–14). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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