Romans 14 Study Notes
Updated: Jun 23, 2022
Please check out these bible study notes below and a video!
H. A. Ironside writes, “In chapter 14 and the first seven verses of chapter 15 the Holy Spirit emphasizes the believer’s responsibilities toward his weaker brethren. He is to walk charitably toward those who have less light than himself.” That’s a great summary and as always we’ll go through verse by verse and look at some of these specifics.
1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
So we need to recognize the distinction between heresy and someone who is just a new believer. It seems like the new believer in mind in this chapter would be a recent convert from Judaism, who formerly had very strict dietary laws, but now all foods are clean and he can eat them all.
The new convert that is weak in faith could also refer to former pagans who placed a high emphasis on meat sacrificed to idols, so in order to avoid eating such meat on accident they abstained from all meat just to be sure, which the next verse hints at. Asceticism could also be in view here.
1 Corinthians 8 is a great chapter that should be read alongside Romans 14 here. I won’t read the whole chapter but 1 Corinthians 8:4 reads, “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.”
We should receive that recent convert into our congregation but not for the purpose of arguing with them or making them feel weak because they haven’t yet understood the full liberty that we have as believers in Christ. They should learn from the pastor, and from Scripture, and we should show them love.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
So out of fear of accidentally eating meat that was offered to idols, some didn’t eat meat at all. You know, you’re walking through the outdoor market center and all these booths are set up, probably many of them operated by questionable characters, and so you’re extra cautious just in case that one guy with all the gold necklaces might have offered that warthog to some fake deity.
For the mature believer, strong in his faith, we know there is one God and that idols are meaningless, so we’re going to buy that warthog meat as long as it looks fresh and unspoiled and all that.
BUT if we happen to be in that marketplace with our weak-in-the-faith new believer, we should NOT buy that warthog meat if it’s going to unsettle his conscious and make him worry about possibly sinning by eating it. This chapter mentions more of that later on.
Oh and by the way, if someone wants to be vegan, or vegetarian just because that’s their preferred diet, there’s nothing wrong with that all. This isn’t a chapter on diet but on showing love to others. Eating just meat or just fish or just vegetables or whatever is not a moral issue.
Also, nobody ate meat in the Garden of Eden, and nobody will eat meat in the new heavens and the new earth. There won’t be any death.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
So don’t look down on someone that’s extra cautious about what they eat, and the person that’s extra cautious shouldn’t be judgmental towards one who gladly eats anything.
R. M. Edgar says, “Differences of opinion upon non-essentials must not break up the brotherly feeling; and Paul shows with wonderful power where the safety lies. It is in the assertion of Christ's Lordship over the conscience.” He also adds, “The over-scrupulous in these instances were the weak; the others, more certain of their line of action, were the strong.” God has received both strong and weak.
Whether one eats all food or rejects some of it because he has a sensitive conscience, that’s between him and God. These are not moral issues like I said before; in matters that concern morality, we SHOULD hold fellow believers accountable and the Bible talks about that elsewhere.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
This is an important verse to answer the question of whether Christians are still required to keep the Sabbath day. No, we are not. If you want to make Tuesday a special day of devotion, great, if every day is the same to you, great. Colossians 2:16 is clear on this point as well, and actually is a good verse that is basically a condensed version of Romans 14. The verse reads: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.”
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
You can reject food for God, you can receive food for God! 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
And 1 Timothy 4:1-5 is a very good section on this topic as well.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
Remember 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, you belong to God and you are not your own!
Thomas Coke writes here, “…we are all Christ's, we are his disciples and subjects; and His will should be the rule of our consciences and conduct. As therefore we should not make our own wills or sentiments a rule to ourselves, much less should we make them a rule to others; as if they were to live to us, or, like servants, pay us obedience.”
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
“Set at nought” means to look down upon or despise your brother.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
This is quoted from Isaiah 45:23 and it’s also seen in Philippians 2:10.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
We won’t give account for anyone else but to ourselves alone.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
H. A. Ironside writes, “It is far better to abstain from ought that would trouble the conscience of a weak brother than to turn him aside by insisting on liberty, and so be responsible for his failure and the break-down of his discipleship.”
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
So all foods are clean, and this is mentioned many times in the New Testament starting with Matthew 15:11 where Jesus says, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”
But if someone with weaker faith will feel guilty for eating something and so their conscious is offended, to him it is sin and unclean.
There’s a cult called “Hebrew Roots” or “Hebraic Roots” that thinks the Old Testament laws should be followed, or some of them that THEY choose to follow, but this verse in Romans is one of many places that refutes this heresy. The entire book of Galatians was written to refute this nonsense of “going back to the law.”
15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
So no food is unclean, but if a new believer thinks that some sin is being committed by eating certain meat, don’t show off the Christian liberty we have by telling him to eat in spite of his conscious or even carelessly eating in front of him. Wouldn’t it be better to just skip a meal than to cause your brother to stumble?
Don’t use your Christian liberty to give people opportunity to make unkind remarks about the Faith, or to fall into petty arguments about it. Arguments and contentions can cause our good to be evil spoken of.
This is an extremely important and generally neglected teaching of Scripture that I wish we could spend more time on. So we’ve been reading about meats as an example, but the principle being taught here extends to many other things. For example, some Christians think it’s terrible to smoke tobacco, others don’t see it as a moral issue; there are many other issues like that. If it will upset the faith of a weak believer, don’t do XYZ in front of him. That could cause him to stumble, that could “upset” his walk with the Lord. Remember we stand individually before the judgment seat of Christ like verse 10 says.
We don’t want to use our Christian liberty to cause quarrels or problems and put the church or ourselves in a bad light.
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
This is a wonderful verse, the central message of the chapter. William Burkitt says, “Learn hence, That the essence of Christianity, and the life of religion, is far from consisting in little and indifferent things: and therefore for persons to lay a mighty stress upon them one way or the other, is neither wise nor safe.”
18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
John Chrysostom says, “Men will approve of such a person, not so much because of his perfect state but because of his devotion to peace and good relations.” Disputing about temporary things like meat and drink doesn’t edify anyone. Christians shouldn’t be known for dietary restrictions or ceremonies but for our love for one another. John 13:35 reads, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
Godet explains this very simply saying, “It matters not that food is free from uncleanness in itself; it is no longer so as soon as man uses it against his conscience.” Let’s say you think drinking any wine is a sin, but then do it anyway, then it IS sin because you’ve rebelled against your conscious and willingly sinned even if wine by itself is neither good nor evil.
“All things” in this verse clearly refers only to the things being discussed in context. This obviously isn’t saying that fornication is somehow pure for example.
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
“Surely, if Jesus surrendered life for the weak brother, dying to redeem him, we ought to be ready to surrender meat or to surrender wine, if by so doing we can promote our weaker brother's welfare.” That’s a great quote by R.M. Edgar. Our love and charity towards one another is more important than enjoying our liberty in Christ.
Do not parade your strong faith and liberty needlessly before others.
Look at the next verse.
22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
The NASB translates this as, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is the one who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” If you feel guilty about doing something in matters like food or clothing or something like that, don’t do it!
1 John 3:21 says, “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.”
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
Albert Barnes writes, “Whatever is not done with a full conviction that it is right, is sinful; whatever is done when a man doubts whether it is right, is sin.”
He continues with a summary of this chapter: “In this chapter we have a remarkably fine discussion of the nature of Christian charity. Differences of ‘opinion’ will arise, and people will be divided into various sects; but if the rules which are laid down in this chapter were followed, the contentions, and altercations, and strifes among Christians would cease. Had these rules been applied to the controversies about rites, and forms, and festivals, that have arisen, peace might have been preserved. Amid all such differences, the great question is, whether there is true love to the Lord Jesus. If there is, the apostle teaches us that we have no right to judge a brother, or despise him, or contend harshly with him. Our object should be to promote peace, to aid him in his efforts to become holy, and to seek to build him up in holy faith.”