ROMANS - CHAPTER 14 - Happy is the Man Who Does Not Condemn Himself
Romans 14 - HAPPY IS THE MAN WHO DOES NOT CONDEMN HIMSELF
October 2, 2023, the Year of Our Lord.
Be Blessed with a Happy Conscience
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
Last week our promise was to “Put on Christ,” put on the armor of light” the glorious garments of Jesus’ great grace. In this chapter, Paul again exhorts us to put on Kingdom righteousness.
“Righteousness and the Kingdom of God are inseparable. When Jesus spoke of righteousness exceeding that of the Pharisees (Mt. 5:20), He forever contrasted Pharisaical type of righteousness with Kingdom Righteousness. Kingdom Righteousness has its roots in the King’s heart. It is not based on legal standing nor does its justice approximate man’s concepts about justice or judgment. Its judgments reach beyond the simple reasoning of courts and legislation, for it is based on imitation of the King.” (C. R. Oliver – Holiness and Righteousness)
Romans 14:17: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Paul lays out the righteousness of Jesus Christ in comparison to the righteousness of the Law. We are to emulate Christ’s inner Being, His ways, His methods, His desire to redeem mankind and grant mercy. This is Kingdom Righteousness and when it is practiced by His children, it is not defined as filthy rags. It is a rich garment to be worn for His glory.
Pharisees judge all things according to man’s righteousness and have no comprehension of Kingdom principles. Kingdom Righteousness is more than faithful execution of social order or spiritual tenants, for without entering the very nature of God, no righteousness exists. In the kingdom, the King rewards those who align with His heart and purpose. As we allow the Word and the Spirit to work the graces of this chapter into our hearts, we are then putting on Christ and living in the realm of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus is applied to the gulf that was fixed between them as like the spiritual gulf that separated the rich man’s unrighteousness from Lazarus’ Kingdom Righteousness.
Kingdom Righteousness finds definition from the “Branch of Righteousness” (The One so designated to be the “order of Melchizedek,” who is King of Righteousness and Peace).
His ministry was (and is) the “ministry of Righteousness.”
2 Cor. 3:9: For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.
Glory rest upon the Ministry of Righteousness, for out of it flows all ministries. There is no true ministry apart from the ministry of righteousness, peace, and joy. Every action of God issues from it. Every believer has a ministry of righteousness, or he/she is not a believer.
Romans 14:22: Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he that condemns not himself in that thing which he allows. (K.J.V.)
Romans 1: 1-3: As for the brother who is weak in faith, make him feel at home in your fellowship and don’t argue with him about his scruples. You are not called to straighten out his conscience. One man, for example, has the faith to eat anything, while the weaker man eats vegetables only. The man with the freedom to eat meat should not despise the man that is not that free. The vegetarian, on the other hand, must not judge the meat eater for God has accepted him.
Salvation is not in view here. Paul is comparing Christians---the strong in faith with the weak in faith. The apostle is instructing them concerning their attitude toward each other. Not all believers have the same knowledge of the things of Christ, nor the same faith to appropriate liberty in the Lord. Therefore, they do not have the same freedom from tradition. In every fellowship there are those whose consciences will not allow them to do this or that. They have scruples. Then there are those who understand that Christ has set them free from customs and tradition and they enjoy wide liberty in the Lord. Their consciences allow them to do anything they can do as unto the Lord (Col. 3:17). Such a Christian the apostle regards as strong in faith. Because of the big difference between these two types of Christians, the apostle feels it important to counsel each how to treat the other. In the first verse, his instructions are aimed at the stronger Christian. He is to open his heart to the weaker Christian, admitting him to the fellowship with no thought of straightening out his scruples.
In the early days of the church, the matter of eating meat was touchy. Consequently, it provided Paul with a good illustration of what he means by the weaker Christian. A considerable amount of meat sold in the marketplace had been slaughtered on pagan altars and offered in heathen sacrifices. Therefore, some Gentile converts refused to eat it. They felt it involved them with the idols. Only those with strong faith in Jesus’ words had the liberty to eat it. Some of the converts from Judaism had similar scruples about eating meats that were declared unclean in the O.T. To them it was outright disobedience to do so. They feared it would injure their fellowship with the Lord. This was their faith until they came to the place where they understood their former customs and traditions were done away in Christ.
Jesus declared all food clean. Mark 7:18-19: He said to them, “Are you so without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatsoever thing from outside enters into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it enters not into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats? And He said, “That which comes out of the man that defiles the man. For from inside, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from inside, and defile the man.”
There are many things a Christian encounter in the course of a day for which he has only his conscience to guide him. The Bible does not tell us everything we can or cannot do. Such matters as going to movies, the length of skirts, the length of our hair, our taste in clothing, etc. are not spelled out for us specifically. So the rule is this: when the Word of God is silent on a matter, the conscience becomes the VOICE OF GOD to the soul and acts with the full authority of God. If a man goes against his conscience, he is rebelling against the rule of God over his life.
In Paul’s illustration, the weaker brother is the one who is a vegetarian by conscience. He is not referring to the man who abstains from meat for health reasons. That is another matter. He is speaking of the man who believes that eating meat would cause God to be displeased with him.
When a Christian thinks he is more spiritual because of scruples, he is prone to condemn the brother who walks in liberty. Paul labels him the weaker Christian. He has yet to see that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected.” (1 Tim. 4:4).
The man with liberty is not to despise the man with scruples, the weaker Christian is not to judge his stronger brother. This is not to give license to unscrupulous living but being able to enjoy many things as unto the Lord, which the weaker brother will not allow himself.
Romans 14:4: Besides, what right have you to criticize someone else’s servant especially when that someone else is God? It is not up to you to say whether a man stands or falls, that’s up to his master. In this case, the man will stand because his Master has the power to make him stand.
Paul says you have no right to make a judgment against a servant of the Lord. Every Christian is the Lord’s servant. Only Jesus has the right to judge anyone. Then Paul adds this fascinating word, Yea, he shall be helped up; for God is able to make him stand. If a person’s master is satisfied with him, what does it matter if others are not? It is not only pointless for a weaker brother to pass judgment, but also dangerous to do so.
In this verse, it appears the Lord is speaking that the stronger brother is guaranteed not to fall in the use of his liberty. The weaker brother has no such guarantee. He is not promised any support to stand in his scruples. He could fall and this verse is in effect, a warning. We see further that the stronger brother is responsible only to the Lord for His actions. When a church begins to make rules affecting what believers can eat and drink or any moral trivia, it is out of line. These matters are settled between the Lord and the individual Christian.
14:5-6: One man feels certain days should be set aside for special worship of God, while another man doesn’t see any difference between the days. To him, every day belongs to the Lord. When it comes to such things as these, let each Christian make up his own mind and settle it between the Lord and himself. That way, those who feel the day itself is holy, will keep it as unto the Lord, and those who feel they can eat anything will eat unto the Lord, for they thank God for the food. The same is true of the person who abstains from meat. He too is concerned for Jesus’ Lordship, inasmuch as he also gives thanks that he can forego certain foods for the Lord’s sake.
The question was raised at Rome as whether or not Christians should keep the holy days of the Jews. Those days were spelled out in the O.T. That was the only Bible they had. Paul is writing the Epistles of the New Testament. Most serious was the matter of the weekly Sabbath, the seventh day. The practice of keeping that Sabbath (Saturday) was in direct conflict with keeping the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Sunday). This had become the practice in the churches to commemorate the Lord’s resurrection.
Acts 20:7: On the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight (K.J.V.).
Paul Himself had directed offerings be gathered on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2). Now some (weaker ones) said, we must keep the Jewish Sabbath. Others said it was ridiculous to invest any day with special sacredness because every day belonged to the Lord. Paul said, “Let each Christian make up his own mind about it.” I hear this argument from time to time now among Christians. The principle of observing one day in seven as Holy unto the Lord still holds.
I have made up my mind personally. Sunday is the day I choose for special worship and gathering with the Saints. Yet, I have entered the Sabbath rest of the Lord and true all days are Holy unto Him. Those in Christ are removed from the legal and external requirements of the Law. They are guided by another principle---the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is opposite of the position of some institutional churches which give all authority to the church.
Paul says for the individual to decide, when it comes to eating meat and keeping days, those are minor matters. Such questions as, “Can I do this? Can I go here or there? How should a believer act in this situation?” All are matters of individual conscience.
The Lord wants believers to make up their own minds about such things. Why? So, they will mature. The only way he can get us to grow up and be like Him is to put us on our own for such things. That’s why we are guided by principles rather than rules. That’s why he leaves so many things to conscience.
Any parent, teacher, leader or pastor who tells someone every little thing to do will stunt the growth of the person they are responsible to disciple. The Lord has provided us with everything we need for an enlightened conscience---the Word, the Holy Spirit, and the example of Jesus. He places us in the “valley of decision” free to follow our conscience. If people have faith to appropriate their freedom in Christ, they will be free to do many things.
Without that Faith, the believer will regard the bible as a rule book rather than a revelation of God’s person and try to emulate Him of our own free will.
Christian liberty is limited to pleasing the Lord. We are not to please ourselves. However, no two Christians set about to please the Lord in the same way. The apostle illustrates this by saying, if one brother can eat meat as unto the Lord, that’s his privilege. If another brother cannot, that is his privilege. As long as, it is the aim of each to please the Lord.
14: 7-9: The fact is, not a one of us lives as his own master and not a one of us dies as his own master. While we’re alive, we live as the Lord’s servants. And when we die, we die as the Lord’s servants. That’s why Jesus died and returned to life again so that He could be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
As Christians, we don’t embrace a cut and dried faith that fits us into an act-alike, think-alike, dress-alike, eat-alike, live-alike model. We are free to think for ourselves and approach God any way we like. We can be what we want to be before the Lord, and we don’t have to copy anyone else. Yet we learn from Verse 7, that our individualism is to be regulated by the Lordship of Christ. We are not the masters of our own lives. We cannot arrogantly say, “It’s my life.” “I did it my way.” The fact is the Lord bought us with His own blood and we are His. He is the Master now, not us. It is the clearly defined will of God that we should be conformed to the image of His Son. We are obliged to follow the example of our Master.
Our service to Jesus doesn’t stop when we die. It continues into the realm of Heaven. How did Jesus acquire this absolute Lordship? He died to purchase (redeem) us (1 Cor. 6:20). On that basis, He has the right to demand whatever He pleases from us. He is Lord on both sides of the grave. By His resurrection, He proved that there is no such things as death to the soul which has been “born again of the Spirit” (Jn. 3: 7-8).
Jesus’ resurrection guarantees His rule over us throughout eternity. We are His servants now---and forever! If Jesus is absolute Lord over our lives, who but He has the right to tell us how to live? So, if a weak brother or a strong brother, insists that their way of living is the rule for all the rest of us, he trespasses the Lordship of Jesus. He/she is assuming a privilege that belongs to Jesus alone. Either the one with liberty, or the one of the Law, transgresses into a religious spirit if they judge and impose their beliefs on one another.
14:10-12: You there, why do you judge your brother? And you over there, why do you despise your brother? One day, every single one of us will personally stand before the judgment seat of God. Then will be fulfilled what we read in Scripture: “As I live, says the Lord, everybody will kneel before Me, and everybody will confess that I am God!” So you see, each one of us must give an account of himself to God. He is the One to Whom we must all answer.
In that day when we stand before the Lord your opinion of me won’t make any difference, and neither will my opinion of you. All that will matter is what Jesus thinks of us. At this judgment, the secrets of men’s hearts will be laid bare. Then it will be seen that only the Lord Jesus can render a proper judgment. Only He knows our motives and the secrets of our hearts. Only that part of us that is One with Him will live.
We are forbidden to regard one another with contempt. It is not even to be in our hearts. Contempt is the fruit of pride.
There are two thrones of judgment:
1. Judgment Seat of Christ – Believers (2 Cor. 5:10).
2. Great White Throne Judgment – Unbelievers (Rev. 20:11).
A Christian’s sin is not judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Sin is judged at Calvary. If a man refuses Christ, he is guilty of all sin. (James 2:10), Gal. 6:7: Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
The Judge will be Jesus. John 5:22: The Father judges no man but has committed all judgments unto the Son.
14:12: So, then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
1 John 2:28: Now, little children, abide in Him; that, when he shall appear, we have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
14: 13-14: In view of the judgment of God, let’s put an end to judging one another. If we must judge, let’s judge ourselves and make sure we don’t do anything to cause a brother to stumble or fall in his Christian walk. And yet as I say that, I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus Himself that there is nothing in all of God’s creation that is unclean of itself. Still, if a man believes something is evil and will damage his fellowship with the Lord, he’s right---it will.
In view of the coming judgment, says Paul, Christians must stop judging one another for such moral trivia as food and drink. But there is something Christian’s should judge---that they don’t put a stumbling block in the path of a weaker brother or cause him to fall. Believers should be steppingstones to maturity, rather than hindrances. Troublemakers look for a crack to cause trouble. Troublemakers enjoy the attention they get from stirring up trouble. It is a “naughty” spirit.
Pro. 6:12: A naughty person, a wicked man, walks with a froward mouth.
A strong Christian may feel the liberty to do many things. However, he is not to be guided solely by his own thoughts in the matter. He must also be guided by what his actions produce in the mind of his weaker brother. Christianity did away with the ceremonial requirements of Judaism.
Jesus fulfilled all the Law, Temple Ordinances and Sacrifices. But if a weaker brother doesn’t understand this, and thinks a certain thing is unclean---then as far as his conscience is concerned, it is unclean. Let us not be unwise or unloving in the use of our liberty. In doing so, if we are leaders, we can hurt a weaker brother.
Nor does that mean that we come under the bondage of the weaker Christian to please them. This is a trap for pastors and leaders. If a weaker Christian puts forth demands, “either or,” and the Pastor or leaders give in to those demands, then the weaker Christian is controlling the church.
We can cripple weaker Christians if we cause them to stumble. A believer stumbles when the sheer force of his brother’s example causes him to do what his conscience tells him is wrong.
The apostle then states the truth that nothing is unclean of itself. He arrives at this conclusion –by knowledge I know and am persuaded. To walk in Christian liberty requires knowledge and conviction (persuaded by the Lord). Paul is speaking of ceremonial (religious) uncleanness, not moral uncleanness.
The apostle is referring to those neutral matters such as customs and traditions, i.e., amusements, what is proper dress, etc.
14: 15-16: Therefore, if you know a brother feels that way about something you are eating, and you go ahead and eat it anyway, you are not acting out of love. How can it possibly be right to use your freedom to damage someone for whom Christ died? If you do that, you are taking something that is good, as far as you are concerned, and making it look like evil to someone else.
In this church, women have the liberty to wear pants to minister the gospel, stand behind the pulpit and preach the gospel as well as minister to both male and female. However, there are those churches that do not operate in that liberty. When I go to one of those churches, I submit to their rules. Nor do I impose my liberty on their conscience. We are to handle our freedom in such a way that it doesn’t become an object of scorn.
We are obliged to display tender concern so as not to injure a weaker brother. We are not to flaunt our liberty to injure others. If we do, our liberty becomes a religious spirit which is not any different that those who are in bondage to the Law, traditions, customs, and rules.
14: 17-18: After all the Kingdom of God does not consist of eating and drinking, does it? Indeed not. Rather it has to do with righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the man who exalts Christ by putting these things first in his life, not only pleases God, but wins the approval of men as well.
So, let’s set our hearts on those things which make for peace in the fellowship and strengthen one another in the faith. What Christian really wants to tear down the work of God in a brother over a dish of food? While it’s true that everything is pure, anything can become evil when a stronger brother uses it to cause a weaker brother to stumble. Therefore, it is a Godly thing to abstain from meat or wine or anything else that would hurt a brother or sister.
Do you have the faith to do things which others can’t do and still have a happy conscience? That wonderful. But if you want to continue in that blessedness, make sure your actions do not go beyond your convictions. And don’t flaunt your freedom before a brother who doesn’t have your convictions. Keep your happy conscience to yourself and God. On the other hand, the man whose conscience questions the rightness of what he is about to do should stop at once. If he proceeds with doubt in his mind, he will condemn himself. He is then acting from a bad conscience and not from faith. Any action not based on faith is sinful.
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
Eastgate Ministries Church, 10115 West Hidden Lakes Lane, Richmond, TX
I entered the labors of C.S. Lovett’s Lights on Romans. (C. R. Oliver – Holiness and Righteousness) Sermons by Pastor Sissom 10/24/10; 5/15/18. Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of those from whom I glean.