Based on an article by Joe Crews with little editing by Me.
There is a very important common theme running through this chapter. Almost every verse relates to the subject of judging, a problem which was most malignant in the early Christian church, even as it is in the modern church today. In order to understand the counsel given by Paul in Romans 14, we must first recognize the parties involved in the judging and the issues over which the judging was taking place. There were two main groups in the early church -the Jewish Christians who had been converted from Judaism, and the Gentile Christians who had been won from heathenism. These two groups did not get along very well. They were constantly judging each other. Now let’s notice what the division was all about. The Gentile Christians judged the Jewish Christians because they were eating meat which had been offered in sacrifice to idols. To the Gentile convert, such food was unfit to be eaten. Even though he was now a Christian, he could not forget how he once offered food to idols, and in his mind the eating of such food was connected to idol worship. The Jewish convert, on the other hand, had no such compunctions because he had always acknowledged only one God, and naturally felt no guilt about eating the meat which had been sacrificed to idols. It was sold in the market place at a cheaper price, and the Jewish Christians considered it a desirable bargain.
Now let’s read the first few verses of Romans 14 concerning the brother who was weak in the faith. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?” Romans 14:1-4. Can we, by comparing other Scrip- tures, locate the weak brother? Can we also locate the problem which created the “judging” situation? Yes, we can. Paul had to deal with it at considerable length in 1 Corinthians 10 and 1 Corinthians 8. Notice his description: “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. … Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. … But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-9, emphasis added. Here we locate the weak brother of Romans 14:1-3. He was the Gentile Christian who felt that it was sinful to eat the meat which had been offered to idols. Paul agreed with the Jewish con- verts that there was nothing wrong with the food, since there is only one God after all. But he advised that the food not be eaten in front of the Gentile believers lest it be a stumbling block tothem. Compare this language with Paul’s counsel in Romans 14:13: “Judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” In 1 Corinthians 8:11, 12, Paul asks this question: “And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” Compare that statement with this one in Romans 14:15: “Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” Also read Romans 14:21: “It is good er to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” Obviously the accounts in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 are referring to the same problem.
Identical language is used in describing them, and the same judging was taking place in reference to the problem. One more point needs to be clarified. The meat in question was not “unclean meat” in the biblical sense. The question only revolved around food that was “esteemed” unclean by the Gentile Christians because it had been offered to idols. Actually, the heathen did not offer swine or other unclean animals in their sacrifices, as Acts 14:13 establishes. So when the Jewish Christians bought the food which had been offered to idols, it was not wrong in itself, as Paul pointed out. It became wrong only when it offended the “weak brother,” or the Gentile Christian, who esteemed it to be unclean through association with the idol. Some of the Gentile believers were so strong against it that they abstained from meat altogether and ate only herbs for fear they might eat some meat that had been offered to idols.
In Romans 14:1-3, Paul urges the Roman church to receive such people and honor their conscience. It was not a moral issue and should not be permitted to divide the church. By examining these apparent contradictions in the Bible relating to diet, we have also discovered the root of much theological confusion in today’s religious world. A simple understanding of the circumstances behind the writing enables us to grasp the words and phrases in their original format and to recognize the beautiful harmony and unity of Scripture. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother tooffend. 1 cor 8:13 compare this with But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died…. 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. rom 14:15,21 Besides this Paul is talking about normal meat (Pure meat) For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. rom 14:20 He is not talking about the unhealthy and impure meat which we are eating now.