Introduction: Not every choice we make involves issues of right and wrong. Some choices we make involve matters of personal opinion. One of the challenges we face as Christians is being able to distinguish between doctrine and opinion. First century Christians faced the same challenge. In Romans 14 Paul addresses some of these matters.
I. Dietary Preferences and Special Days (14:1-12)
A. Paul identifies two classes of people in verse two: those who believe that they may eat anything they like and those who eat vegetables only, the latter being identified as “the weak person.”
1. The church is told to welcome the weak brother/sister, but not for the purpose of arguing over this matter of personal judgment (14:1).
2. The one who eats meat is not to despise the one who doesn’t, and the vegetarian is not to pass judgment on the one who eats meat (14:3).
3. We do not have the authority to pass judgment on the servant of another (14:4). God is the master of my brother, not me. We do not answer to each other for our decisions, but to God.
B. Another example of a matter of personal judgment is in the area of special days. “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike” (14:5).
1. Whatever these days are, they are days that individual Christians are observing “in honor of the Lord.” The same is true for those who have dietary preferences (14:6).
2. The choices we make in life are not made in complete isolation. Our lives are lived for God and we belong to him, even in death (14:7-9).
C. Instead of passing judgments on each other over matters of opinion, we should focus on our own lives knowing that each person will give an account of himself to God (14:10-12).
II. Considering How Our Actions Affect Others (14:13-23)
A. Instead of passing judgment on each other over matters of personal opinion, Paul wants them to make sure that they are not putting hindrances and occasions of stumbling in the way of others (14:13).
B. Paul introduces in this section the role of the conscience and the importance of not violating it. In the case of eating meat, there is no law that prohibits eating meat. But if one cannot eat meat with a clear conscience, he should not eat (14:14).
C. Those who eat meat are to consider how that action might affect weaker Christians. If the meat-eater flaunts his right in front of weaker brothers, he is no longer walking in love and is offering the opportunity for something that is good to be spoken of as evil (14:15-16).
D. There are things far more important than eating and drinking. Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit are more important than what a person eats or drinks (14:17). Therefore, our desire should be to pursue things that promote peace, not conflict (14:18).
E. Paul restates the importance of not destroying a brother by causing him to stumble over a matter of opinion (14:20-21).
1. Remember: to make a brother “stumble” would involve that brother engaging in the action that he thinks is wrong.
2. Just because someone thinks that eating meat is wrong does not mean that everyone else must stop eating it. But if I use my influence to get someone to eat meat in violation of his conscience, then I’ve caused him to stumble.
F. With regard to these optional matters, we should not turn them into matters of argument and division. Happy are those who do not have to wrestle with their consciences over these things (14:22). But those who do should never violate their consciences (14:23).
Conclusion: It is not always easy to allow others to do things differently, even in matters of opinion. After all, I would not hold the opinions I hold if I did not think they were right. But in matters of individual judgment, we must allow each person to answer to his master, not to us.