First, let’s look at the words of our Lord Jesus found in Luke 6:37-38 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
The Greek verb that is translated as “judge” is not just an observation about a person but instead is a negative opinion. It is easy to observe a person in action and get the whole picture wrong. The person who judges assumes the role of God. He or she claims to understand the inner motive of another person. We must leave all judgment to God. If all of ue do that we will reduce the gossip traffic to almost nothing. As we continue with our study of Romans we should determine to never cause another person to stumble because we passed judgment on them. You never know what’s going on in another person’s heart. Rather than being a judgmental, unforgiving person we need to become giving people. Jesus has assured us that when we avoid taking away another person’s reputation through a negative opinion we should instead be givers and God will give to us. He doesn’t just return to us what we have given up God will give good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. As he promised the prophet Joel, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming Locusts has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.” (Joel 2:25). Our God is not just a forgiving God He is a Giving God as well. We need to pattern our life like his! We must determine not to be a source of stumbling for another person. Our God is an awesome God and he has called us to have such an attitude that never pulls another person down. We need to lift up other people and never be responsible for putting them down. Now, let’s return to Romans 14 and…
Determine not to be a source of stumbling. Vv. 13–15
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.
Notice that Paul admonishes us not to pass judgment on one another “any longer”! The natural indication is judgment was being passed. In Paul’s desire was that judgment should be replaced with freedom of hindrances in relationships. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:12). Of course, he was addressing eating meat offered to a pagan idol. Paul was convinced both here in Romans and in 1 Corinthians that the meat offered to the idols was not actually harmful because the idol had no ability to bless or curse. However, if a Christian brother, or sister, believed the meat carried with it a curse and eating the meat offered to an idol might cause a new believer to return to pagan rituals. Therefore Paul’s freedom could lead to spiritual destruction. We need to remember the words of the Lord Jesus found in Matthew 18:6 whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Here Jesus is talking about children and the possibility of leading them to sin against God or another person. Folks, this is not a simple matter! Being casual about doubtful things must never characterize our lifestyle. While Jesus is certainly talking about little children he leaves room for new believers. After all Jesus came into the world so that all who received him, who believed in his name, received the right to become children of God (John 1:12-13). So a person who is newly born again might easily be referred to as a child in the faith. Our relationships should be characterized by love. Our lifestyle should reflect our new birth.
We need to be careful as we grow up as Paul told the Ephesians in chapter 5 verse two. We are to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. If we are careful to walk in love, or live in love, we will remember that he gave himself for us and calls on us to give ourselves up for those he has chosen. If we have such a sacrificial love for our brothers and sisters in Christ we will treat them with the greatest respect. We may not agree with them in every matter but we will love them. Every person we meet, dark skinned or light, is part of God’s creation. They join with us to be a part of God’s kingdom. Every person who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is a part of the kingdom of God.
When we see another person purposely separating themselves from God we need to remember that except for the grace of God we could be like that person. Instead we are to commit ourselves to live out the life of God in Christ Jesus. All of us were brought into the world as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. When they fell away from God we fell with them. God did not make us sinners we were born that way. I am not amazed that God has a plan to save some. I am amazed that he saved me.
I see the advertisements on TV telling us to be sure that we have gotten what we deserve. I know, they’re talking about some government health program. But I always find my thoughts turning to what if I got what I deserve spiritually! All mankind, you and I, along with everyone else, deserve death — the wages of sin — and an eternity in hell! This idea may not be very popular but it is completely, scripturally true.
If we are children of God we do not get what we deserve. We get what he purchased on the cross for us. When Jesus spoke the words, “it is finished”, he pronounced judgment on the sins of mankind. He paid the debt of sin for all those who would believe in him. He would transfer them from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Therefore we should…
Live as citizens of the kingdom of God. Vv. 16–18
So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
Living as citizens of the kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink. It is a matter of righteousness! The experience of God’s righteousness in our lives produces an intimate longing for holiness! We have a desire to know him better. The psalmist got it right — of course — when he wrote: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, or the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2). When we become a part of the kingdom of God we experience a growing desire to know him and to be known by him. We tend to observe what people do, how they dress, what they eat or drink and base our understanding of their relationship to God on what we see. When we observe another person we only see what is external. God sees the eternal and reminds us that the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Growing out of that understanding we find the words in it…
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
In the verses before this list there is a longer list of the works of the flesh. The love that the Spirit of God puts in us shows itself in joy. The joy overflows into peace. The love and joy and peace gives birth to kindness. These characteristics combine to show themselves in goodness. Love that releases joy and peace, kindness and goodness will always produce faithfulness. Faithfulness will show itself in an attitude of gentleness. The Spirit will take this fruit and enable us to exercise self-control. When the kingdom of God works in our lives our spiritual freedom will allow us to stop wasting time over the trivial day to day activities and we will…
Pursue that which brings mutual benefit. Vv. 19-21
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
When we exercise our freedom we need to think carefully about whether we are building others up rather than tearing them down. Here, Paul comes back to the basics. Don’t cause others to stumble! Quarreling over the benefit of food, here meat offered to idols, certainly doesn’t build up godly relationships. Whatever we do we should do it to the glory of God.
In verse 21 the Scriptures tell us “it is good”… The root sense of the word translated “good” is “beautiful”. So, using that meaning “It is “beautiful” to not eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. It is beautiful because it shows love in the body of Christ. It is beautiful because it is unselfish. It is beautiful because it shows a finely tuned sense of spiritual proportion. It is beautiful because it puts others first. Living out the life of the kingdom is reflected throughout Paul’s writings. As Paul instructed the Colossians chapter 3 verse 12 through 14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
We have to take an active step in revealing the love of God that is shown at the Christian life we are to “put on” heart attitudes that proves we love and understand each other. Again, it looks a lot like the Fruit of the Spirit, we are to be kind, humble, meek, and patient. We are to bear with one another and in the case of a need we are to forgive. Everything about the Christian life needs to be wrapped in love!
I remind you again as I often have, when we love each other with the love of Christ we prove we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:34-35).
Living out the Christian lifestyle is not just a matter of going through religious rituals.
Make sure that everything is done with a clear conscience. Vv. 22, 23
The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
What you believe about neutral things is between you and God. Keep it that way! You are blessed, or happy, if you do not condemn yourself while exercising liberty with a clear conscience.
Charles H. Spurgeon, one of the most powerful preachers of the 19th century, at the height of his fame, was one day walking down the street and saw a sign which read, “We sell the cigar that Charles Spurgeon smokes,” whereupon Spurgeon gave up the habit. He came to see that what was for him a freedom might cause others to stumble. “Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.”
R. K. Hughes in his study on Romans summarizes these verses this way: The wise Apostle Paul has detailed four “dos” if we are to build unity amidst our diversity. First, we must determine never to be a source of stumbling. Second, we must live as citizens of the Kingdom of God, concentrating on the eternals rather than the externals. Third, we must actively pursue that which benefits other believers. Fourth, we must do all that we do with a clear conscience.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.