Paul's Epistle to the Romans

 (49) Consideration For Our Neighbor
Romans 14:14–23

 

Scripture

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.
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:
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
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.
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.
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.
22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

 

Introduction

Our desire must not be to get everybody to agree with us; our desire must be to pursue peace, not cause others to stumble, and help others to mature in Christ. What starts as grieving (v. 15) can become offending (v. 21), making weak (v. 21), and causing others to stumble and fall (vv. 13, 21). The result might be destroying a brother’s or sister’s faith (vv. 15, 20). Is destroying another just to have your own way worth it?
 
Gaining Strength: The weak Christian does not yet understand and practice freedom in Jesus Christ. Jewish believers, raised under the Law of Moses, had a difficult time adjusting to their new life. Conscience becomes strong as we accept what God says about us in the Word and act on it by faith. However, it takes time for conscience to develop, and we must be patient with one another.
 

Commentary

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.

I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself:

I know—This is an admission made to the Gentile convert, who believed that it was lawful to partake of food of every kind. This, the apostle concedes; and says he knows all about it. But though he knew this, yet he goes on to say that it would be well to respect the moral values of others on the subject. It may be remarked here, that the apostle Paul had formerly held as many moral values as any of his brethren had then. But his views had been changed. This conviction grows in a mind in communion with Christ, and enlightened by his Spirit

I know, and am persuaded (am convinced) by (in) the Lord Jesus,

That is to say, not as a result of his own reasoning, but by virtue of his union with the Lord and the instruction received from Him. I know and am persuaded by (in) the Lord Jesus, i.e. this knowledge and persuasion I owe to the Lord Jesus; it is not an opinion founded on my own reasoning, but a knowledge derived from divine revelation.

After reasoning so long and so much with these contending parties on the subject of their mutual misunderstandings, without attempting to give any opinion, but merely to show them the folly and uncharitableness of their conduct, he now expresses himself fully, and tells them that nothing is unclean of itself, and that he has the inspiration and authority of Jesus Christ to say so; for to such an inspiration he must refer in such words as, I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus. And yet, after having given them this decisive judgment, through respect to the tender, mistaken conscience of weak believers, he immediately adds: But to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean; because if he should act contrary to his conscience, he must, by necessity, contract guilt; for he who acts in opposition to his conscience in one case may do it in another, and thus even the plain declarations of the word of God may be set aside along with things of the utmost importance, to make a place for the erroneous though well-intentioned dictates of his conscience; these are significant matters to the weaker brother, although others who are better taught know them to be of mediocre importance.

It is dangerous to trifle with conscience, even when its beliefs are erroneous; it should be tolerated and educated; it must be won over, not taken by storm. Its feelings should be respected because in spite of everything they are set on God, and have their foundation in respect for Him. He who sins against his conscience in things which every one else knows to be “not great” will soon do it in those things in which his fellowship is most intimately concerned. It is a great blessing to have a well-informed conscience; it is a blessing to have a tender conscience; and even a sore conscience is infinitely better than none.

By the Lord Jesus

This does not mean that any personal instruction was received from the Lord Jesus; but that the knowledge which he had received came by inspiration from the Holy Spirit, which is the nature of the Christian religion; that its followers "have the mind of Christ"—“ For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1Corinthians 2:16). The gospel of Jesus had taught Paul that the rites of the Mosaic system had been abolished, and among those rites were the rules respecting clean and unclean beasts, etc.

That nothing is unclean of itself:

This statement reasserts the principle of liberty, but with a view to urging upon the strong brother the necessity for a loving consideration for the weak brother. When Paul says here that there is nothing unclean of itself, we must realize that he is speaking only of these indifferent matters. There are plenty of things in life that are unclean, such as pornographic literature, suggestive jokes, dirty movies, and every form of immorality. Paul’s statement must be understood in the light of the context. Christians do not contact ceremonial defilement by eating foods which the Law of Moses branded unclean.

The distinction between clean and unclean meats is no longer valid. So far the Gentile converts are right. But they should remember that those who consider the law of the Old Testament on this subject as still binding cannot, with a good conscience, disregard it. The strong should not, therefore, do anything which would be likely to lead such persons to violate their own sense of duty.

but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

If one, who is uninstructed in the word of God, considers anything unclean, to his conscience it is so. It is wrong for him to eat it. The argument here is that the weak brother must not stumble, for, as far as his conscience alone is concerned, his scruples are valid, and everything must be done to prevent his violating them. Conscience alone is not an infallible guide as to the right or wrong of a thing, but to act against one’s conscience, even when it is misguided, is always wrong.

The apostle is not speaking here of what is morally impure, but simply of what is ceremonially so. To apply the statement that nothing is unclean of itself to what is morally impure is to pervert the meaning of this Scripture.

Man may be in error, but it would not be proper for him to act in violation of what he supposes God requires. This being the case, those Jewish converts who believed the distinction between clean and unclean meats to be still in force, would commit sin by disregarding it, and, therefore, should not be induced to act contrary to their consciences.

The Lord Jesus provided us with a good example of this line of reasoning by reminding His listeners of an incident from David’s life. “How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?”(Matthew 12:4). The point that our Lord makes is that in the case of necessity the ceremonial law might be overruled. He uses the illustration of David eating the showbread. These loaves were placed on the table in the holy place in the Tabernacle each Sabbath. They were to be eaten only by the priest and his family (See [1]Leviticus 24:5–9). The priests prepared the sacrifices on the Sabbath in spite of the general prohibition of work. If the necessities of temple worship permitted the priests to profane the Sabbath, there was all the more reason why the service of Christ would allow a similar liberty. I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. The application of this principle is that ethics are more important than ritual. The passage clearly asserts that Jesus had the right to interpret the Mosaic ordinances in light of their spiritual intention, rather than their literal application.

__________________verse 14 notes_____________________

[1] (Leviticus 24:5–9) “And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the LORD. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire by a perpetual statute.

 

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.

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.

When I sit down to eat with a weak brother, should I insist on my legitimate right to have a Coors Light with dinner; if I know he thinks it is wrong? If I do, I am not acting in love, because love thinks of others, not of self. Love foregoes its legitimate rights in order to promote the welfare of a brother. A dish of food isn’t as important as the spiritual well-being of one for whom Christ died. And yet if I selfishly parade my rights in these matters, I can do irreparable damage in the life of a weak brother. It isn’t worth it when you remember that his soul was redeemed at such a towering cost—the precious blood of the Lamb.

For if because of meat thy brother is grieved,

That is to say, if on account of what is eaten by the strong brother the weak brother is upset and has his weak conscience hurt. The one, who causes grief to the weak brother, departs from the path of love in which he has been walking as a believer.

If thy brother be grieved

If he thinks that you are doing wrong, and your conduct causes him to stumble, you have sinned against a brother. Being grieved means to be pained; as a conscientious man always is, when he sees another, and especially a Christian brother, do anything which he believes to be wrong. The pain would be real, though the opinion from which it arose might not be well founded.

With thy meat

On account of meat, or food; that is, because you eat that which he regards as unclean.

Now walkedst

To walk, in the sacred Scriptures, often denotes to act, or to do something: (Mark 7:5) “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?”;  (Acts 21:21) “And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs”; ( Romans 6:4) “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”; (Romans 8:1, 4) “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit…That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Here it means that if the Gentile convert keeps on using such food, in spite of the conscientious scruples of the Jew, he violated the law of love.

Charitably.

According to charity (or love); he would violate that law which required him to sacrifice his own comfort in order to promote the happiness of his brother—(1 Corinthians 13:5) “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil”; (1 Corinthians10:24,28,29) “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth…But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?”; (Philippians 2:4,21) “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others…For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”

Now walkest thou not charitably

Charity and love are often interchangeable in the Bible, which tells us to love our neighbor and that love causes no harm to its neighbor; but, if by you eating some particular kind of meat or drinking a certain beverage, on which neither your life or well-being depends, you have worked poorly to him by grieving and distressing his mind; and therefore you have broken the law of God, while pretending that your Christian liberty lifts you above his scruples.

Martin Luther, in his treatise On the Freedom of a Christian Man, wrote, “A Christian man is a most free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian man is a most dutiful servant of all, and is subject to all.” By this he meant that even though our liberty in Christ may permit us to engage in a certain activity, we nevertheless may not be wise in doing so. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself. Paul casts his lot with the strong in faith who are not given to the legalism of the weak. However he is well aware that he may become a stumbling block (Gr proskomma) to the weaker brother for the conscience of the weak will not allow him to engage in the activities of Paul. There is no virtue in flaunting Christian liberty. But if thy brother is grieved with your meat, you are not walking charitably. Believers must not insist on their liberty in the presence of those whose consciences would be offended. To do so is not to walk in love under the lordship of Christ.

Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

In this place, “to destroy,” means to deprive of the possibility of fulfilling the object of one’s existence. It is found elsewhere in the Epistle only at Romans 2:12—“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” In yielding to what is to him sinful, the weak brother is likely by that step to be led into a path that goes away from the will of God, with subsequent ruin to his present spiritual life, and finally to the ruin of his soul in hell: “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” (Matthew 10:28). If someone asked how the eating of meat by the Gentile convert could be connected with the Jew landing in hell, I would reply, that the apostle Paul presumes that a stumbling block would be created that would result in the Jew’s condemnation. He might be led by example to partake of the meat against his own conscience, or he might become overwrought, angry, disgusted, and then reject the Christian faith. Though the apostle believed that all who were true Christians would be saved (See [2]Romans 8:30-39), yet he believed that it would be brought about by the use of means, and that nothing should be done that would tend to hinder or endanger their salvation, (See [3]Hebrews 6:4-9, and [4]2:1). God does not bring his people to heaven without the use of means adapted to that end; and one of those means is that employed here to warn professing Christians against such conduct as might jeopardize the salvation of their brethren.

For whom Christ died

The apostle speaks here of the possibility of endangering the salvation of those for whom Christ died, just as he does with respect to the salvation of those who are in fact Christians. By those for whom Christ died, he undoubtedly refers here to true Christians, for the whole discussion relates to them and them only. (see [5]Romans 14:3, 4, 7, 8). This passage should not be used, therefore, to prove that Christ died for all men, or for anyone who will finally perish. Such a doctrine is undoubtedly true, (see [6]2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; [7]1 John 2:2; [8]2 Peter 2:1) but it is not the truth which is taught here. The propose is to show the criminality of a course that would lead to the ruin of a brother. For these weak brethren, Christ laid down his precious life. He loved them; and so should we.

It is not merely a case of being pained at seeing what the strong brother does, and perhaps hardened against him by a disapproving spirit; what is in view is that the weak brother has been caused to stumble by acting against his conscience.
The mention of the death of Christ forms the climax of the appeal. The divine love displayed at the Cross is put in striking contrast to the selfishness which sets more value upon one’s own desires and enjoyment than upon the spiritual welfare of a brother, and even runs the risk of bringing disaster upon him. “The worth of even the poorest and weakest brother cannot be more emphatically expressed than by the words, 'for whom Christ died.’” The same sentiment is expressed with equal sharpness in [9]1Corinthians 8:11. Whatever tends to make anyone violate his conscience is inclined to contribute to the destruction of his soul; and anyone who helps, whether knowingly or not, to bring about the violation is guilty of helping to accomplish the destruction.

Consider the purpose of Christ’s death: do not destroy, by eating meat, one for whom Christ died.
• First, enticing a soul to sin threatens the destruction of that soul. By shaking his faith, provoking his passion, and tempting him to act against the light of his own conscience, you destroy him by giving him the motivation to return to Judaism.
• Secondly, consideration for the love of Christ in dying for souls should make us very passionate for the happiness and salvation of souls, and careful not to do anything which may frustrate and hinder them. Did Christ quit a better life for souls, and shouldn’t we relinquish a morsel of meat for them? Shall we despise those whom Christ valued so highly? Did he think it worth while to deny himself so much for them, and then to die for them, and shouldn’t we think it worth while to deny ourselves a little meat for their sake?

_____________verse 15 notes_________________

[2] (Romans 8:30-39) “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

[3] (See Hebrews 6:4-9) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak."

[4] (Hebrews 2:1) Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”

[5] (Romans 14:3, 4,7,8) “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office…Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”

[6] (2 Corinthians 5:14,15) “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

[7] (1 John 2:2) “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

[8] (2 Peter 2:1) “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

[9 ](1Corinthians 8:11)But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

The principle here is that we should not allow these secondary things, which are perfectly permissible in themselves, to cause others to condemn us for our “looseness” or “lovelessness.”

The “good” is that which can be enjoyed or used to the advantage of a believer; here it may refer to the stronger faith and greater liberty which are not to be exercised detrimentally by the stronger brother toward the weaker brother, and detrimentally to the cause of Christ, through evil reported by unbelievers; “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you…” (Romans 2:24). Possibly this is a reference to what the weak brother regards to be good, namely, abstaining from meat and from wine. But, the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy. The kingdom of God does not consist in observing or not observing days, eating or not eating meats, or any other secondary issues of religious scruples, but in righteousness (perfect uprightness in our daily walk), peace (perfect peace with God and a consistent attempt to be a peacemaker of the brethren), and joy (perfect union and intimate love through the Holy Spirit. Let us therefore seek to do the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. Paul cautions the Romans not to ride moral or theological hobbyhorses but to pursue those issues which will tend toward building the common bond of faith between the weak and the strong. The basis of fellowship is not peripheral matters of eating or drinking but the salvation which both enjoy in Christ.

Paul reaffirms that the standpoint of the strong is right and good, but advises them not to let what is good become the object of misunderstanding, worry and anxiety. Jesus pointed this out in His Sermon on the Mount:
• (Matthew 6:31) “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” The Bible makes it clear that God is the Creator and sustainer of nature. He is not divorced from the world which He has made. Indeed, “this is my Father’s world!” Worry and anxiety are related to having little faith. Faith is total confidence in the provision of God. Faith in salvation is a total trusting of the complete work of Christ on the cross on our behalf. The Scripture reminds us: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23).
• (Matthew 5:6) “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Christians experience a deep desire for personal righteousness which is, in itself, a proof of their spiritual re-birth. Those who are poor and empty in their own spiritual poverty recognize the depth of their need and hunger and thirst for that which only God can give them. To hunger means to be needy. It is joined with to thirst; the born-again man has a God-given hunger and thirst (inner passion) for righteousness. This hungering and thirsting continues throughout the life of the believer. He continues to hunger and to be filled and to hunger and to be filled. God supplies his every spiritual need daily. This act of hungering and thirsting after righteousness is the by-product of a regenerated life.
• (Matthew 5:9, 10, 12) “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Peacemakers are the ones who are themselves at peace with God and live in peace with all men (see [10]Romans 5:1). They are called “the” peacemakers for they are not social reformers, but rather the ones reformed by the regenerating power of the gospel. They are peacemakers because they themselves are at peace with God. They have entered into the peace of Christ and as a result are able ambassadors of God’s message of peace to a troubled world. Hence, they shall be called the children of God.

As Jesus develops His message He makes it clear that by living a true Christian life style His people are in direct contrast to the world in which they live. Therefore He reminds them, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Notice what it says in II Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” This does not mean that every Christian will necessarily suffer physical abuse as evidence of true salvation. While many Christians have sealed their faith with their blood, many more have had to withstand the social temptations and pressures of the world in order to live effectively for Christ.

Rejoice is the command that grows out of the blessedness of the believer. Therefore, he glories in tribulation even as the Apostle Paul (see [11]II Corinthians 1:3–7). Great is your reward in heaven focuses attention upon the eternal, spiritual destiny of all things. If God is as real as He claims, if the Bible is true, if heaven is to be gained, then there is no temporary earthly trouble or persecution that can thwart the child of God from the eternal glory that lies ahead. In Romans 8:18, Paul proclaimed, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Do not use your Christian liberty in a way that causes the Gospel itself to be criticized. Whatever you do, do it in such a manner, spirit, and time to produce the greatest possible good. There are many who have such a gloomy method of doing their good acts that little or no good comes from them, but a great deal of evil does. It requires much good sense and vigilance to find out the proper time for performing even a good action.

Remember, you have greater knowledge than these weak brethren, and know that “nothing is unclean in itself that God has declared to be good.” But if you sternly insist on your right to do what the weak regard as sinful, your “good” will be evil spoken of.

________________verse 16 notes___________________

[10](Romans 5:1) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:”

[11](II Corinthians 1:3–7) Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink;

What really counts in the kingdom of God is not dietary regulations but spiritual realities. The subjects of the kingdom are not intended to be food faddists, gourmets, or wine connoisseurs. It was true that the Jews had been mainly characterized by these things, but the Christian church was to be distinguished in a different manner. They should be characterized by lives of practical righteousness, by dispositions of peace and harmony, and by mind-sets of joy in the Holy Spirit. The Jews made distinctions between different kinds of food, but Moses did not prescribe any particular drink or prohibit any; however, the Nazarites abstained from wine and all kinds of strong liquors; and it is not improbable that the Jews had invented some distinctions on this subject which they judged to be important. Hence, it is said in Colossians 2:16, "Let no man judge you in meat or in drink;" see [12]1 Corinthians 8:8 ; [13]4:20.

The kingdom of God is the sphere where God is acknowledged as Supreme Ruler. In its widest sense, it includes all who even profess allegiance to God. But in its inward reality it includes only those who are born again. That is its usage here. John the Baptist preached the simple message, “And saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Repent means a change of mind that leads to a change of action. Repentance is basically “a change of mind” which results in a change of conduct. Repentance is not sorrow. It involves a complete change of attitude regarding God and sin and is often accompanied by a sense of sorrow and a corresponding change in conduct. Such repentance does not arise within man himself, but is the result of God’s mercy in leading man to it (see [14]Acts 5:31; [15]Rom 2:4; [16]II Tim 2:25). Thus, repentance involves the very process of conversion whereby men are born again.

John’s message of repentance was necessary in order to prepare people for the kingdom of heaven which was at hand. The phrase “kingdom of heaven” is used only in the Gospel of Matthew and seems to be based on similar references in the book of Daniel. The phrase “the kingdom of God” is used more frequently by Mark and Luke. The change is perhaps due to Matthew’s Jewish background and outlook. Since the Jews regarded it as blasphemous to refer to God by name, it is possible that Matthew substituted the word heaven for that reason. Usually the two phrases are used interchangeably in the Gospels. The kingdom of heaven is the rule of heaven over earth. The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking forward to the coming of a Messiah who would reign in a Davidic kingdom on earth. It is this kingdom which Christ proclaimed was a literal earthly kingdom, based upon spiritual principles, which would demand a right relationship with God for entrance into that kingdom. Therefore, John the Baptist’s ministry is clearly seen as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ and the proclamation of His kingdom.

but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

These words are to be taken in their scriptural sense. Paul does not mean to say, that Christianity is based in morality; that the man who is just, peaceful, and cheerful, is a true Christian. This would contradict the whole argument of this epistle. The righteousness, peace, and joy intended, are those of which the Holy Spirit is the author. Righteousness is that which enables us to stand before God, because it satisfies the demands of the law. It is the righteousness of faith, both objective and subjective; peace is the harmony between God and the soul, between reason and conscience, between the heart and our fellow men. And the joy is the joy of salvation; that joy which only those who are in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost ever can experience.

But righteousness

Pardon of sin, and holiness of heart and life. More specifically, the word as it is used here means "virtue, integrity," a faithful discharge of all the duties which we owe to God or to our fellow-men. It means that the Christian must live so that he will be appropriately recognized as a righteous man and not a man whose whole attention is absorbed by the meager ceremonies and outward forms of religion. To produce righteousness, we are told, is the main design, and the principal teaching of the gospel: “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” ([17]Titus 2:12) ; Compare to Romans 8:13, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live”; and 1 Peter 2:11, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” In view of that, it is said in 1 John 2:29, "Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of God;" 1 John 3:10, "Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God." Compare these verses with the following:
• 1 John 3:7; “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
• 1 Corinthians 15:34; Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” Wake up to righteousness, open your eyes to the delusion of your spiritual superiority.
• 2 Corinthians 3:9; “For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.”
• 2 Corinthians 6:7, 14; “By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left…Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
• Ephesians 5:9; (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
• Ephesians 6:14; “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness” Clothed with the breastplate of righteousness both in character and conduct. The breastplate protects the vital organs in the chest area from the assaults of the enemy. Without it we would be vulnerable, disgraced, and defeated.
• 1 Timothy 6:11; “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” The temptation for riches is ever present and Timothy was to constantly run from this desire. Instead he was to follow (Gr diōkō) or “to run” after righteousness. This is not the imputed righteousness which every believer has by faith (see Romans 10:1–9), but is personal and practical righteous living which brings usefulness and rewards.
• 1 Peter 2:24; “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
• Ephesians 4:24; “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” This is not the reformation or renovation of the old man; this is the product of the new birth and results in a new creation. The new man is created in the manner of God and in the family likeness of God. The brand new man is known by the Christlikeness exhibited day by day in living out the new life. Righteousness refers to his new conduct toward his fellowmen. Holiness refers to his new conduct towards God. These two are the essential qualities and the evidence of the new man in Christ.
He that is a righteous man, who’s characteristic it is to lead a holy life, is a Christian. If his great aim is to do the will of God, and if he seeks to discharge with fidelity all his duties to God and man, he is renewed. On that righteousness he will not "depend" for salvation ([18]Philippians 3:8-9), but he will regard this character and this disposition as evidence that he is a Christian, and that the Lord Jesus is made unto him "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;" (1 Corinthians 1:30).

And peace

Peace in the soul, from a sense of God's mercy; peace regulating, ruling, and harmonizing the heart. This word peace, in this place, does not refer to the internal "peace" and happiness which the Christian has in his own mind—“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)—but to peace or harmony as opposed to “conflict" among brethren. The tendency and aim of the kingdom of God is to produce harmony and love, and to put an end to alienation and strife. Even though, there might be grounds for the opinions which some highly treasured in regard to rites and ceremonies, yet it was of more importance to maintain peace than to obstinately insist on those matters at the expense of strife and controversy. That the tendency of the gospel is to promote peace, and to induce people to lay aside all causes of conflict and bitter strife, is apparent from the following New Testament passages: 1 Corinthians 7:15, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace”; 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints”; Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith”; Ephesians 4:3, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”; 1 Thessalonians 5:13, “And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves”; 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart”; James 3:18, “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace”; Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”; Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”; Colossians 3:8, “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth”; John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”; John 17:21-23, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” This is the second evidence of holiness on which Christians should examine their hearts—a disposition to promote the peace of God’s kingdom.

An arguable, quarrelsome spirit; a disposition to magnify trivialities, a lack of desire for the things of God and discord; to sow discord on account of unimportant points of doctrine or of discipline, is full proof that there is no attachment to Him who is the Prince of peace. Such a disposition does infinite dishonor to the cause of religion, and perhaps has done more to retard its progress than all other causes put together. Controversies commonly arise from some small matter in doctrine, such as in how one dresses, and in observing ceremonies; and often the smaller the matter the more fierce the controversy, until he spirit of religion disappears:

“The Spirit, like a peaceful dove,
Flies from the realms of noise and strife.”

And joy in the Holy Ghost

Solid spiritual happiness; a joy which springs from a clear sense of God's mercy; the love of God being shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. In a word, it is happiness brought into the soul by the Holy Spirit, and maintained there by the same influence. Joy refers, no doubt, to the "personal" happiness produced in the mind by the influence of the gospel; We can rejoice in the fact that whatever we are like today, one of the benefits of having been justified is the hope that one day we shall be like Him; “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:2–3).

The phrase “joy in the Holy Ghost” signifies, not only that the Holy Spirit is the Minister of joy, but that the joy can be experienced only in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

___________________verse 17 notes________________________

[12] (1 Corinthians 8:8) But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.” Food in itself is not a matter of great consequence to God. Refraining from certain foods does not give us favor with God, nor does partaking of such foods make us better Christians.

[13] (1 Corinthians 4.20) For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” After all, it is power that counts, for the kingdom of God is not concerned principally with words but with action. It does not consist of profession, but of reality.

[14] (Acts 5:31) Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

[15] (Rom 2:4) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Repentance means an about-face, turning one’s back on sin and heading in the opposite direction. “It is a change of mind which produces a change of attitude, and results in a change of action.” It signifies a man’s taking sides with God against himself and his sins. It is more than an intellectual assent to the fact of one’s sins; it involves the conscience too, as John Newton wrote: “My conscience felt and owned my guilt.”

[16] (II Tim 2:25) In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;” At first, this might seem to suggest that there is some question as to God’s willingness to grant repentance to these people. That, however, is not the case. The fact of the matter is that God is waiting to forgive them if only they will come to Him in confession and repentance. God does not withhold repentance from anyone, but men are so often unwilling to admit that they are wrong.

[17] Our initial response to God’s grace must be denying ungodliness. Some very blindly accuse those who believe salvation is solely by grace of turning grace into a license to sin. Not so, for grace teaches to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. While in the world the believer is not of the world and his desires are not to be set on this world system and its values. Rather, we should live soberly. This same word in different forms is in verses 2, 4, 5, 6 of this chapter. Righteously, or in simple terms, just do right no matter what others may do! Godly means in a godly manner, not “holier than thou” but with true piety. In this present world. The gospel is not a pie in the sky, but it is for the here and now, and it teaches how to really live and not just exist, as the world does

[18](Philippians 3:8-9)Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” There are many today that have a righteousness of their own that they believe is produced by works, or by strict observance of the law, a righteousness that is self-achieved by conforming to a series of “do’s” and “don’ts.” Such self-righteousness is worthless. It is the opposite of the righteousness which is of God by faith. This righteousness is derived from God, obtained by faith, and is of infinite value.

18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God,

It isn’t what a man eats or doesn’t eat that matters. It is a holy life that honors God and brings God’s approval. Those who put the emphasis on righteousness, peace, and joy serve Christ by obeying His teachings. He who feels free to eat meat may be serving Christ as much as the one who abstains, but neither one of them can serve Him if righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit are lacking. On the other hand, where these things are employed he who manifests them can be assured of being pleasing to God and approved of men. God judges the inward motives. Man sees the outward effects.

For he that in these things

The man, whether Jew or Gentile, who in these things—righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, serves Christ—acts according to his doctrine, is acceptable to God; for he has not only the form of godliness in thus serving Christ, but he has the power, the very spirit and essence of it, in having righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and therefore the whole framework of his mind, as well as his acts, must be acceptable to God.

Serveth Christ

Or obeys Christ, who has instructed them. He receives Christ as his "master" or "teacher" and does his will. By doing these things Christ is honored and the excellence of his religion is displayed to all who scrutinize Christ’s Christians.

These spiritual graces add up to the essential part of religion; for he that experiences and employs these virtues, is regarded by God as a true Christian. Therefore, where these things are found, differences of opinion or way of life in reference to unessential points should not be allowed to disturb the harmony of Christian interaction. We will be both blessed and humbled to observe, that the exercise of the virtues mentioned here is indicated by the apostle as a service rendered to Christ; “he that in these things serveth Christ,” etc. which implies that Christ has authority over the heart and conscience.

Is acceptable to God and approved of men, whether he is converted from the Jews or the Gentiles. 

These three things, righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, are the things which God delights in, and men are compelled to approve— (Proverbs 3:4) “So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”;  (Luke 2:52) “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”; (Acts 2:47) “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”; (Acts 19:20) “ So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

Although Christians may be persecuted, even to death in some places, yet the righteous man, who is continually laboring for the public good, will generally be well-regarded. This was a very common form of speech among the Jews; that he who was a conscientious observer of the law, was pleasing to God and approved of men. People will "approve" of such conduct; they will expect it to be right, and to be in accordance with the spirit of Christianity. He does not say that the wicked world will "love" such a life, but it will commend itself to them as such a life that people ought to lead.

 

19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace,

We are given here another principal. Instead of bickering over inconsequential matters, we should make every effort to maintain peace and harmony in the Christian fellowship. Instead of causing others to stumble by insisting on our rights, we should strive to build up others in their faith.

The verse mentions two duties we have as regards our brethren; the first is found in this clause, and the second in the clause that follows. We must make every effort to create mutual peace. Many wish for peace, and talk loudly about it, but they do not go after the things that make for peace, but instead they do the opposite. Liberty in trivial things, condescension to those that are weak and tender, and enthusiasm for the great things of God which we are all agreed upon; these are things that make for peace. Meekness, humility, self-denial, and love, are also things that brings us peace. And finally, we were told in the preceding verses that the things of peace include righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit. Mutual up building in the faith can proceed effectively only under conditions of peace.

We are not always happy when we obtain peace; there are too many that delight in war: but the God of peace will accept us if we follow after the things that create peace, that is, if we make the effort.

Let us therefore follow after

Far from arguing about meats, drinks, and festival times, in which it is not likely that the Jews and Gentiles will agree anytime soon, let us endeavor to the utmost of our power to promote peace and harmony, so that we may be instrumental in edifying each other, in promoting religious knowledge and piety instead of being stumbling-blocks in each other's way.
The things which make for peace—are the high purposes and objects of the Christian religion, and not those smaller matters which produce strife. If men aim at the great objects proposed by the Christian religion, they will live in peace. If they seek to promote their private ends, and to stick to their own passions and prejudices, they will be involved in strife and arguments. There "are" great common objects before "all" Christians in which they can unite, and in the pursuit of which they will cultivate a spirit of peace. Let them all strive for holiness; let them seek to spread the gospel; let them engage in circulating the Bible, or in doing good in any way to others, and their smaller matters of difference will sink into comparative unimportance, and they will unite in one grand purpose of saving the world. Christians have more things in which they "agree" than in which they differ. The points in which they are agreed are of infinite importance; the points on which they differ are commonly some minor matters in which they may "agree to differ," and still cherish love for all who bear the image of Christ.

and things wherewith one may edify another.

The second duty as regards our brethren is found in this clause. We cannot edify one another, while we are quarrelling and opposing each other. There are many ways by which we might edify one another, if we were serious about it; by seeking good counsel, accepting constructive criticism and instruction—an example is building up not only ourselves, but one another, in our most holy faith. We are God’s building, God’s temple, and we need to be edified; and therefore we must study to promote the spiritual growth of one another. There are none so strong that they cannot be edified; none so weak that they cannot edify; and, while we edify others, we benefit ourselves.

And things wherewith

The meaning is, those things which we may make available to our brethren as "aid"; the doctrines, exhortations, counsels, and other helps which may benefit them in their Christian life.

May edify

The word "edify" means to "build," like a house; then to "rebuild" or "reconstruct;" then to adorn or ornament; and then to do any thing that will bestow favor or advantage, or which will further an object. Applied to the church, it means to do anything by teaching, counsel, advice, etc. which will tend to promote its great God and Savior; to aid Christians, to enable them to surmount difficulties, to remove their ignorance, etc.; [19]Acts 9:31; [20]1 Corinthians 8:1; [21]14:4. In these expressions the idea of a "building" is retained, reared on a firm, tried cornerstone, which is the Lord Jesus Christ; [22]Ephesians 2:20. Christians are thus regarded, according to Paul's noble idea (see Ephesians 2:20-22), as one great temple erected for the glory of God, having no separate interest, but as united for one object, and therefore bound to do all that is possible, that each other may be suited to their appropriate place, and perform their appropriate function in perfecting and adorning this temple of God.

_______________verse 19 notes___________________

19](Acts 9:31) Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”

[20](1 Corinthians 8:1) Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” Mere theoretical or speculative knowledge acquired in a vacuum has the effect of inflating a person and rendering him vain and conceited. On the other hand, love (Gr agapē) edifies. That is, it does not terminate upon itself as knowledge does, but goes beyond to seek the well-being and benevolence of others. And it is this incomparably higher principle which the apostle applies to this case.

[21](1 Corinthians14:4) He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” When a person speaks in tongues only one person is benefited. By way of continuing contrast, he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

[22](Ephesians 2:20)“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. Christ is the stone rejected by the Jewish builders but chosen of God as the Head of the corner (Mt 21:42). He is not only the Chief Corner Stone, He is also the foundation (I Cor 3:11).

 

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.

For meat destroy not the work of God.

God is doing a work in the life of each one of His children. It is frightening to think of hindering that work in the life of a weak brother over such secondary matters as food, drink, or special religious days. For the child of God, all foods are now clean. But it would be wrong for him to eat any specific food, if in doing so; he would offend a brother or cause him to stumble in his Christian walk.

Here, “the work of God” is said to be subject to destruction by the actions of a Christian; by marring the spiritual well-being of a brother Christian, or pulling down the work of God in a brother’s life, and it is put in contrast to the building up of a brother. The phrase “the work of God” suggests first, that the individual believer constitutes a part of God’s spiritual building, and, secondly, that the spiritual teaching he receives has the effect of continuing the spiritual building process: “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:17). Paul seems to have in mind unsaved people who may or may not be in the congregation, but who, in fact, are false believers. The prospect for such a one is a fearful one. The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Paul has built a syllogism here. In verse 16 he said, “You are a shrine of God.” Now he says, “The shrine of God is holy.” Therefore, the conclusion is, “you are holy.”

Consider “the work of God,” which is a work of grace, particularly the work of faith in a brother’s soul.  The works of peace and comfort are destroyed by offending a brother in Christ; take care, therefore; do not undo that which God has done. You should work together with God, do not countermand his work.

First, the work of grace and peace is the work of God; it is performed by him and for him; it is a good work from the beginning, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Here it is made clear that Paul is still firmly confident and will continue to be so. He has no doubts about their salvation or their security. God’s beginning the work is a pledge of its completion. What God begins, He will finish: “In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end” (I Sam 3:12). The good work has its initiation in regeneration (past); has its continuation in sanctification (present); and will have its consummation in glorification (future). In the past there was God’s unchangeable purpose; in the present there is God’s unlimited power; and in the future there is God’s unbreakable promise. This is God’s guarantee for the final preservation and perseverance of the saints. Salvation is all of God.

Notice that the same ones that Christ died for are called here the work of God; besides the work that was done for us there is a work to be done in us, in order to secure our salvation. Every saint is God’s workmanship, his husbandry, his building—“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10); “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

Secondly, We must be very careful to do nothing which would be inclined to cause the destruction of this work, either in ourselves or others. We must deny ourselves; deny our appetites, deny our inclinations, and deny ourselves the use of Christian liberty, rather than obstruct and prejudice our own or others’ grace and peace. Many destroy the work of God in them or in others by willfully offending them over such secondary matters as food, drink, or special religious days. Consider also that arguments may revolve around such insignificant things as where to position the pulpit, the songs to be sung by the choir, who can and cannot bring special music, should new members be required to attend a new member class, should new converts be baptized by immersion or sprinkling, and I could go on and on (nothing is more destructive to the soul than pampering and pleasing the flesh, and fulfilling the lusts of it). Think for a moment about what you have destroyed of the work of God and how you did it, and then think about why you did it; unconcern for your brother, to appear wise, to reassert your authority, so that others will agree with you, etc.                                                                                     

A rigid insistence on eating meat or doing anything that is offensive to one of the brethren may split the church. All things indeed are pure. All kinds of food are morally clean. But it is evil. It is morally unclean to him who eats even though it hurts his conscience.

All things indeed are pure;
“All things indeed are pure”
is a repetition of the sentiment delivered in Romans 14:14, but in different words. Nothing that is proper for sustaining a brother Christian is unlawful to be eaten; but it is evil for that man who is offended when he eats it—the man who either eats contrary to his own conscience, or so as to cause a brother to stumble, does an evil act; and however lawful the thing may be in itself, his conduct does not please God.

All things are indeed pure

The apostle asked this question “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” (Romans 14:14). The principle found in this verse is that each believer is a servant of the Lord, and we have no right to sit in judgment, as if we were the master. It is before his own Master that each one stands approved or disapproved. One may look down on someone else with icy condescension; sure that he will make shipwreck of the faith because of his views on these matters. But such an attitude is wrong. God will sustain those on both sides of the question. His power to do so is adequate. This passage is a concession to those whom he was exhorting to peace. All things under the Christian dispensation are lawful to be eaten. The distinctions of the Levitical law are not binding on Christians.

but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

All things indeed are clean; howbeit it is evil for that man who eateth with offense.—this has been taken in two ways: (1) as referring to the strong brother, who, by his eating, causes the weak brother to stumble; (2) as referring to the weak brother who, by his eating, stumbles due to acting against his own conscience. Verse 23, to which the argument is leading, indicates that Paul is speaking of the weak brother and of the condemnation into which he falls through eating against the dictates of his own conscience; he thereby lapses from spiritual truthfulness.

Consider how very evil it is to offend a brother in Christ, and what an abuse it is of our Christian liberty. Paul concedes that all things indeed are pure. We may lawfully eat flesh, even those meats which were prohibited by the ceremonial law; but, if we abuse this liberty, it turns into sin for us: It is evil to him that eats what has offended him. Lawful things may be done unlawfully. For example, we can eat meat; it is perfectly legal for a Christian to do so, but if a brother holds onto the old ways and therefore, he is offended by my actions, I have sinned against him and Jesus Christ.

First, Let not then your good be evil spoken of (v. 16)

Beware of doing any thing which may give others the motive to say bad things either about the Christian religion in general, or of your Christian liberty in particular. The gospel is for your good; the liberties and license, the privileges and protection, granted by it, are for your good; your knowledge and strength of grace to discern and use your liberty in things disputed are for your good, a good which the weak brother does not have.

Now let not this be evil spoken of.

It is true, we cannot prevent careless and undisciplined tongues from speaking malicious things about us; but we must not (if we can help it) give them any occasion to do so. Do not allow the accusation to take place due to any fault of yours; as 1 Timothy 4:12 asserts, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” At the time of this Letter, Timothy was probably between thirty and thirty-five years of age. In contrast with some of the elders in the assembly at Ephesus, he would be a comparatively young man. That is why Paul says here, “Let no one despise your youth.” This does not mean that Timothy is to put himself on a pedestal and consider himself immune from criticism. Rather, it means he is to give nobody the motivation to condemn him. By being an example to the believers, he is to avoid the possibility of justified criticism.

So here, the admonition is, Do not use your knowledge and strength in such a way that would give people the motivation to call it presumption and careless living, and disobedience to God’s law. We must deny ourselves in many cases for the safeguarding of our good name and reputation, being careful to do that which we know is right and lawful, when our doing it may be harmful to our good name.  We should manage all our good duties in such a manner that they may not be evil spoken of. That which is good and proper may sometimes, by mismanagement, be turned into a falsehood that creates a great deal of censure and criticism. Good praying, preaching, and conversation, may often, because it comes at the wrong time and under the wrong circumstances, be evil spoken of. Although a thing is pure in itself, yet it may give rise to sin, if another is hurt by it. It is evil to the man who pursues a course that will offend a brother; that will pain him, or tend to drive him off from the church, or lead him in any way into sin.

 

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.

This statement broadens the principle already set forth, so as to include abstinence from everything on the part of the strong which would be injurious to the weak. It is a thousand times better to refrain from meat or wine or anything else than to offend a brother or cause him to decline spiritually. Giving up our legitimate rights is a small price to pay for the care of one who is weak.

It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine,

The spirit and self-denying principles of the Gospel teach us, that we should not only avoid eating or drinking every thing which may offend one of  our brethren and perhaps cause him to renounce his faith, but instead we should be prepared to lay down our lives for them if it should become necessary to do so.

Wine was a common drink among the Jews, and usually considered lawful. But the Nazarites were not allowed to drink it—“He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried” (Numbers 6:3), and the Rechabites, according to Jeremiah 35 drank no wine, and it is possible that some of the early converts regarded it as unlawful for Christians to drink it. Moreover, wine was used in [23]libations  in pagan worship, and perhaps the Jewish coverts might be against its use for this reason. The caution we are given here shows us what should be done "now" in regard to the use of wine. It may not be possible to prove that wine is absolutely unlawful, but still many of our brethren regard it as such, and are upset at its use. They regard the habit of using it as prone to overindulgence, and as encouraging those who cannot afford expensive liquors. Besides, the wines which are now used are different from those which were common among the ancients. That was the pure juice of the grape. That which is now in common use is mingled with alcohol, and with other intoxicating ingredients. Little or none of the wine which comes to this country is pure. And in this state, the command of the apostle when applied to Christians is to abstain even from the use of wine?

There is yet another ground, on which some of the early Christians thought it essential for them to abstain from wine, it was because they feared they might be led to use wine which had been offered to the gods; they had the same objection to meat which had been presented in sacrifice.

nor any thing whereby thy brother [24]stumbleth, or is offended,

In general use, the word stumbleth (stumble) means to strike, to hit the foot against a stone in walking, so as to halt, and be impeded in one's journey. But here the usage is spiritual—any thing by which a man is so confused in his mind that he is prevented from making progress in the Christian way of life. Also, anything by which he is caused to stop making progress or to be indecisive, and undecided; and under such an influence no man has ever yet grown in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

or is made weak.

Weak in this place refers to strength; without mental vigor; without power to sufficiently distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, lawful and unlawful. To get under the dominion of an erroneous conscience, so as to judge that to be evil or unlawful which is not so.

 

22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

Hast thou faith?

This verse brings to mind verse 2: “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.” A believer who walks in full enjoyment of Christian liberty has faith, based on the teachings of the New Testament, that all foods are clean. They are sanctified by the word of God and prayer ([25]1 Tim. 4:4, 5). A believer with a weak conscience may have qualms about eating pork, or any other meat, for that matter. He may be a vegetarian.

The appeal is still to the strong and provides a further reason for abstinence. The faith spoken of is that by which he who is strong regards it as lawful to partake of all kinds of meat. He is not called upon to renounce a principle or to think that anything was wrong which was not actually so, but rather to exercise his liberty with a view to the welfare of the weak brother. Faith is necessary indeed, but it is not to be displayed, as if to show one’s superiority to those who have scruples about things. The responsibility is to act before God, that is, in the secrecy of communion with Him.

The apostle asks the question, “Hast thou faith?” or Art thou strong in the faith, and possessed of knowledge that the weaker brethren does not have? —The word "faith" here refers only to the subject under discussion—to the subject of meats, drinks, etc. Do you believe that it is right to eat all kinds of food, etc? The apostle had admitted that this was the true doctrine; but he maintains that it should be held lightly so that it does not offend a weak brother.

have it to thyself before God.

Faith here means a firm conviction before God that what you believe is right. Paul remarks that it is proper to have and cherish a conviction, but we must not force our convictions upon others. We do not have the prerogative to do so. We must persist in our convictions before God. And the one that has misgivings about eating meat is damned if he eats it. For the translators of Scripture the word damned did not have the force it does today. It did not mean that if someone violates his conscience by eating that which he feels is wrong he will be damned to spend eternity in hell. Rather the meaning is that he is condemned in his conscience for doing that which it will not allow. If he does not eat in faith believing that it is acceptable to God, he eats in sin for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. If our actions do not arise from our convictions then they are sinful actions and unacceptable to God.

There are two ideas included in this phrase. The first is, keep it privately, i.e. do not parade it, or make it a point to show that you are above the weak scruples of your brethren; and the second is, that this faith or firm conviction is not to be renounced, but retained, for it is founded on the truth.

Have it to thyself

Do not push your faith or opinion on others. Be satisfied with cherishing the opinion, and acting on it in private, without bringing it to the fore to produce disturbance in the church.

Before God (i.e. in the sight of God)

God may be your only witness, and He sees your sincerity, and will approve your opinion. Cherish that opinion and act on it, but not in a way that offends the brethren, and may even produce some disturbance in the church. God sees your sincerity; he sees that you are right; and you will not offend him. Your brethren do "not" see that you are right, and they will be offended.

Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth

Paul did not wish believers to consider a thing to be sinful which was not sinful, or to curb their own consciences with the scruples of their weaker brethren. He simply required them to use their liberty in a considerate and charitable manner.
I may have complete liberty to partake of every kind of food, with thanksgiving; not being hampered by unwarranted scruples. But I should not needlessly flaunt that liberty before those who are weak. It is better to exercise that liberty in private, when no one could possibly be offended. We should constantly remind ourselves that it is better to forego one’s legitimate rights than have to condemn oneself for offending others. One who avoids whatever might cause another to stumble is the happy person.

This part of the verse follows closely the preceding verse and shows the value of faith that is exercised in this way. It also recalls the closing statement of verse 5, “Let each man be fully assured in his own mind.” The happiness consists, not so much in being free from scruples about doing anything, but in being free from having to judge himself for running the risk of causing his brother to question his beliefs. He may approve of eating meat, but if he abstains in order not to cause the weak brother to stumble, he will be saved from having to pass sentence upon himself for his actions. The exact opposite is true for that one that is unhappy because he does condemn himself, because he trampled on the law of love by allowing himself the right to eat all kinds of meats, etc., and did it to the injury of his brother. This is, as a rule, an excellent saying, and every genuine Christian should be careful to test every part of his conduct by it. If a man does not have peace in his own heart, he cannot be happy; and no man can have peace who sins against his conscience. If a man's passions or appetite allow or prompt him to do or say a particular thing, let him listen to his conscience to see if it approves what his passions allow, and that he lives without continual self-condemnation and regret. “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21). Here is the attitude of one who has a clear conscience before God. It is not that this person has been living sinlessly, but rather that he has been quick to confess and forsake his sins. By doing this, he has confidence before God and boldness in prayer. Thus, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.

It is a sad-but-true saying: Many people indulge in practices which their consciences condemn, and many others in practices of which they are in doubt. But the way to be happy is to have a "clear conscience" in what we do; or in other words, if we have "doubts" about a course of conduct, it is not safe to indulge in that course, but it should be abandoned at once. Many people are engaged in a "business" about which they have many doubts; many Christians are in doubt about certain courses of life. But they can have "no doubt" about the correctness of abstaining from them. They who are engaged in the production of pornography; or they who are engaged in the manufacture or sale of illegal drugs; or they who frequent the adult entertainment establishments, or who slow down on the job when the bosses back is turned, if they are professing Christians, MUST often be troubled with "many" doubts about the aptness of their manner of life. But they can have no doubt about the appropriateness of an "opposite" course. Perhaps a single inquiry would settle all disputes in regard to these things: "Did anyone ever become a prostitute, or a drug dealer, or go to gay bars, or engage in scenes of uncontrolled behavior, with any belief that he was imitating the Lord Jesus Christ, or with any desire to honor him or his religion?" there is only one answer that could be given to this question; and in view of it, how out of the ordinary is the remark of Paul, "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.” It is a source of great happiness to be sure that what we do is right, and, therefore, the firm conviction to which some Christians had attained, was not to be undervalued or renounced. This explanation seems better suited to the context, and to the force of the words, than another which is also frequently given, “Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself, i.e. give occasion to others to censure him for the use which he makes of his liberty.” Indeed, this gives the general idea, but it does not adhere very closely to the meaning of the text, nor does it agree well with what follows.

_________________verse 22 notes____________________

[23] Libations something poured out as sacrifice: a liquid, e.g. wine or oil, poured out as a religious offering.

[24] StumblethIt means here that by eating, a Jewish convert might be led to eat also, contrary to his own conviction of what was right, and thus be led into sin.

[25](1 Tim. 4:4, 5) “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.”

23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

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 for 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.

And he that doubteth is damned if he eat,

But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not with faith;—The strong brother is reminded that the weak brother who is influenced to act contrary to his conscience, and consequently is troubled about his act, is condemned; not that he comes under the condemnation referred to in chapter 8:1, but that he is proved to be guilty of having acted apart from faith, and therefore of displeasing the Lord. This, though addressed to the strong, is intended as a warning also to the weak. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1) From the valley of despair and defeat, the apostle now climbs the heights with the triumphant shout, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!” This may be understood in two ways:
First, there is no divine condemnation as far as our sin is concerned, because we are in Christ. There was condemnation as long as we were in our first federal head, Adam. But now we are in Christ and therefore are as free from condemnation as He is. So we can hurl out the challenge:

 

Reach my blest Savior first,
Take Him from God’s esteem;
Prove Jesus bears one spot of sin,
Then tell me I’m unclean.
—W. N. Tomkins

Second, it may also mean that there is no need for the kind of self-condemnation which Paul described in chapter 7. We may pass through a Romans 7 experience, unable to fulfill the law’s requirements by our own effort, but we don’t have to stay there. Verse 2 explains why there is no condemnation.

And he that doubteth

This verse is a necessary part of the preceding, and should be read thus: ‘But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith’ The meaning is sufficiently plain. He that feeds on any kind of meats prohibited by the Mosaic Law, with the persuasion in his mind that he may be wrong in so doing, is condemned by his conscience for doing that which he has reason to think God has forbidden.

Is damned

We apply this word almost exclusively to the future punishment of the wicked in hell. But it is of importance to remember, in reading the Bible, that this is not necessarily its meaning. Its correct meaning is to "condemn;" and here it means only that the person who should thus violate the dictates of his conscience would incur guilt, and would be at fault in doing it. But it does not affirm that he would inevitably sink to hell. The same construction is to be put on the expression in 1 Corinthians 11:29, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself."

because he eateth not of faith:

On the meaning of "faith" here, see on Romans 14:22.
As far as the weak brother is concerned, it is wrong for him to eat anything about which he has conscientious scruples. His eating is not an act of faith; that is, he has a bad conscience about it. And it is a sin to violate one’s conscience.

It is true that a person’s conscience is not an infallible guide; it must be educated by the word of God. But, writes Merrill Unger, “Paul lays down the law that a man should follow his conscience, even though it be weak; otherwise moral personality would be destroyed.”

for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Faith is the basis of the believer’s relation to Christ, and should be the guiding principle of all his actions, leading him to do whatever he does because he belongs to Christ, whom it is his aim to please, and because he must give account at His Judgment Seat. If a believer acts from any other motive than that of faith, if he acts, for instance, through simple compliance with the opinion of another person, his act is sin. Right motives never justify wrong actions. What is evil cannot be excused on the ground of good intentions.

Whatever he does, without being fully persuade in his conscious mind, (see Romans 14:22) is to him sin; for he does it under a conviction that he may be wrong in so doing. Therefore, if he makes a distinction in his own conscience between different kinds of meats, and yet eats indifferently of all the different kinds, he is a sinner before God; because he eats either through false shame, base compliance, or an unbridled appetite; and any of these is in itself a sin against the sincerity, ingenuousness, and self-denying principles of the Gospel of Christ.

Some think that these words, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” have a more extensive meaning, and that they apply to all who do not have genuine religion and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Every effort of such persons is sinful in the sight of a holy God, because it does not proceed from a pure motive. On this ground our Church says, Art. xiii, "Works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they are not of faith in Jesus Christ; yes, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin." To this we may add, that without faith it is impossible to please God; every thing is wrong where this principle is lacking.
"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." This is evidently a reasonable interpretation of this clause. It does not affirm that all or any of the actions of unrepentant and unbelieving people are sinful, which it is, but that is not the truth taught here; nor does it affirm that all acts which are not performed by those who have faith in the Lord Jesus, are sinful; but the discussion pertains to Christians; and the whole scope of the passage requires us to understand the apostle as simply saying that a man should not do a thing doubting its rightness; that he should have a strong conviction that what he does is right; and that if he does not have this conviction, it is sinful. In all cases, if a man does a thing which he does not "believe" to be right, it is a sin, and his conscience will condemn him for it. It may be proper, however, to observe that the converse of this is not always true, that if a man believes a thing to be right, that therefore it is not sin. For many of the persecutors were conscientious—“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2). Excommunication from the synagogues was considered by most Jews to be one of the worst things that could happen. Yet this would happen to these Jews who were disciples of Jesus. The Christian faith would be so hated that those who sought to stamp it out would think they were pleasing God. This shows how a person may be very sincere, very zealous, and yet very wrong. And the murderers of the Son of God did it ignorantly— “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). Having charged the men of Israel with the death of the Lord Jesus, the apostle Paul now addresses them as his Jewish brethren, graciously allowing that they did it in ignorance, and urging them to repent and be converted.  “And yet, they were believed to be as guilty of enormous crimes…Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:23, 37). So mighty was the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that there was an immediate response from the audience. Without any invitation or appeal from Peter, they cried out, “What shall we do?” The question was prompted by a deep sense of guilt. They now realized that the Jesus whom they had slain was God’s beloved Son! This Jesus had been raised from the dead and was now exalted in heaven. This being so, how could these guilty murderers possibly escape judgment?
No matter how sure a man may be that what he does is right, he cannot expect others to act on his faith alone. If a man thinks a thing is wrong, to him it is wrong. He, therefore, who is uncertain whether God has commanded him to abstain from certain meats, and therefore he proceeds to indulge in them, evidently sins; and he brings himself under condemnation. Because whatever is not of faith is sin; i.e., whatever we do which we are not certain is right, to us is wrong. The sentiment of this verse, therefore, is nearly the same as that of verse. 14. “To him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” There is evidently a sinful disregard of the divine authority on the part of a man who does anything which he supposes God has forbidden, or which he is not certain he has allowed. The principle of morals contained in this verse is so obvious, that it occurs frequently in the writings of ancient philosophers
For whatsoever is not of faith is sin -- a maxim of unspeakable importance in the Christian life.
Note,
 
1. Some points in Christianity are unessential to Christian fellowship; so that though one may be in error to go along with them, he is not on that account to be excluded either from the communion of the Church or from the full confidence of those who have more light. This distinction between essential and non-essential truths is denied by some who display more than ordinary zeal for the honor and truth of God. But they must settle the question with our apostle.
2.  Acceptance with God is the only proper decisive factor of the right to Christian fellowship. Whom God receives, men cannot lawfully reject—“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. 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” (Romans 14:3, 4)
3. Since there is much self-pleasing in setting up narrow standards of Christian fellowship, so one of the best preservatives against the temptation to do this will be found in the continual remembrance that CHRIST is the one Object for whom all Christians live, and to whom all Christians die; this will be such a living and exalted bond of union between the strong and the weak as will overshadow all their lesser differences and gradually absorb them
4. The consideration of the common judgment-seat at which the strong and the weak shall stand together should be incentive enough to prevent us from sitting in judgment of one another. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 14:10-12). Because this is true, it is folly for an over scrupulous Jewish Christian to condemn the brother who doesn’t keep the Jewish calendar and who doesn’t limit himself to kosher foods. Likewise, it is wrong for the strong brother to show contempt to the weak brother. The fact is that every one of us is going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and that will be the only evaluation that really counts.
5. Zeal for comparatively small points of truth is a poor substitute for the abiding realities of the Christian life.
6. "Peace" among the followers of Christ is a blessing almost too precious, and, as a testimony to them that are without Christ, too important, to be shatter for trifles, even though some lesser truths are involved in these.
7. Many things which are lawful are not appropriate. In the use of any liberty, therefore, our question should be, not simply, Is this lawful? But even if it is lawful, Can it be used with safety to avoid doing damage to a brother’s conscience? -- How will it affect my brother's soul? No Christian can say along with Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9).
8. He that doubts is damned if he eats. He is contrasted with him “who has faith” (verse 22). He does not have faith, and he does not believe that it is right to eat these meats. Hence he is condemned (“damned”) by his own conscience. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. The context shows that Paul means that whenever actions are done by a Christian which he does not believe are right, he sins in doing them. If he is doubtful whether they are right, he must not do them.

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