Romans chapter fourteen is one of the best and hardest sections of Romans, and of all of Scripture. Paul is so clear, so articulate, and so controversial in this chapter that we can’t help but be amazed and perplexed at the same time.

You see, Paul deals with a fundamental human, and Christian, issue: how do I treat those with whom I disagree? And these are no small disagreements that Paul addresses. These are not preferences for sweet or unsweet iced tea, or what color the carpet in the foyer should be. The ESV and NASB don’t make matters better when they describe the disagreements as “opinions.” Paul is not dealing with “opinions” for which there is little or no scriptural support. He is dealing with moral differences, with sincere believers who come from their understandings of God and His will with opposite conclusions about appropriate Christian conduct.

One group believes it is unadviseable, and, probably, sinful, to eat certain kinds of meat, while an opposing group finds nothing wrong in eating any meat, no matter what kind or what the source. This is a moral problem about which the scriptures speak volumes–the Law of Moses has an abundance of guidelines regarding clean (holy; God-approved) and unclean food, and even Paul, himself, will offer his judgment in this very chapter (see v. 14).

However, Paul still tells both groups that they have a responsibility toward one another: they must not despise or judge one another (vv. 3-4), they must not intentionally or unintentionally cause one another to be tempted or sin (vv 13, 15), they must seek the good of one another over self (15:2) and they must accept one another the way Christ has accepted each one of them (v. 15:7).

All the while, the individual is charged with the responsibility of following his or her own conscience. In fact, Paul says that if a Christian practices something they believe is wrong then they sin, whether the practice itself is wrong or not (v. 23).

The reason, of course, 1) that violations of conscience can be sin, 2) that Christians must not despise or judge brothers and sisters they disagree with, and 3) that conscientious Christians will do whatever they can to keep others from stumbling is because of the Gospel. The Gospel has been Paul’s primary concern from the beginning of the Roman letter (see 1:16-17), and all that he says in chapter fourteen is founded on what he has already said about justification, salvation, and redemption.

If we are saved by the grace of God through faith (3:23-25), that means, first of all, that God can forgive every sin we or others commit; that means, second of all, that forgiveness comes by faith, our sincere desire to serve and please God, and not by how much, how long, or how correctly we serve.

Hence Paul’s instructions in Romans fourteen: if I believe my brother is wrong about how he interprets and practices the principles of scripture (other than Gospel principles), but what he does proceeds from a sincere desire to serve God (faith), then I must not judge or despise him because God accepts him based on his faith; if I believe something is wrong, I must not do it, even if everyone else does, because to do so would violate a sincere desire to serve God (faith), and would be sin. This also explains why Paul refers to each individual’s views on the particular doctrines and moral problems in question as his or her “faith” (v. 22).

The most important thing, Paul is telling us, is that whatever we do must be motivated by faith, a desire to serve God, and love, a desire to seek the good of others. Unity and fellowship depend on it, and anything else violates the Gospel.

New Direction

Posted: July 26, 2010 by cthoward in Romans 14, Unity and Fellowship
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The Ironing Board has been out of commission for some time now. However, several contributors have been corresponding recently by email regarding the subjects of unity and fellowship, especially with regards to Paul’s teaching in Romans 14.

We want to bring that discussion to this forum to 1) better organize our thoughts and responses, and 2) open up the discussion to other spiritually-minded followers of Christ.

All first-time comments will be moderated, but, once approved, your comments will publish immediately.

Please also respect the subject matter of each post, and try to keep comments and questions within that particular realm of discussion (e.g., don’t bring up “baptism for the dead” if the discussion in the post is about the deity of Christ). If you have an unrelated topic you would like to discuss, feel free to email one of the blog administrators (see “Contact” in the left bar) about the topic, and we will try to introduce it as a new post.

Acts 20:7-11 records Paul’s visit to Troas. In this short section Luke writes of breaking bread twice, in verses 7 and 11. We would like to explore several questions here:

Are these two bread-breakings a reference to the same thing (namely, the Lord’s Supper or a common meal), or two different events (one the Lord’s Supper and the other a common meal)? Whatever your response please explain how you reached your conclusion.

Did the second bread-breaking occur on the first day of the week or the second day of the week? Again, please explain your conclusion.

What lessons, if any, can we learn from this text about the Lord’s Supper and/or the use of “break bread” in Scripture?

(Thanks to Jason S for suggesting this discussion)

Credit to Brian for this new question; should be a good discussion:

I want to know if you guys have had any contact with the idea of “church planting movements.”

If not, you can go to this web-link and listen to the 4 videos about it. They are called “CPM Awareness – Parts 1-4″

If you have seen these, what do you think about them? Is it what the Bible teaches about spreading the gospel? Is there anything missing in the model?

Apocryphal Books

Posted: December 22, 2008 by cthoward in Topical Question
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Merry Christmas, everyone. You may be busy and you may not want to address this question right away. But, it will be here waiting for you when you get back…

Why aren’t the apocryphal books included in our Bible? What about the fact that Jude references Enoch? Shouldn’t the book of Enoch, then, be part of the canon? Why do we include some books, but exclude other Christian/Jewish writings of the same time periods?

Questions submitted by Creek.

Does Paul teach in 1 Cor. 11:3-16 that women must wear a head covering when they are “praying in worship” or not? Please prove by sound exegesis.

Submitted by Brian.

“Where do we get the authority to change the bread and the wine, to matsa bread (crackers) and grape juice?”

Suggested by Johnny B…

Wholly Blameless

Posted: December 10, 2008 by cthoward in Scriptural Question
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Paul writes in 1Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV):
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What does he mean by “completely sanctified”? Can one be partly sanctified? How does God keep our “whole spirit and soul and body…blameless”? How can our spirit and soul become guilty (rather than blameless)? What is the difference between the soul and the spirit?

My thanks to David for suggesting a very good topic for our discussion board concerning blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The three synoptic gospels record the words of Jesus concerning this: Matt 12.31-32; Mark 3.28-30; Luke 12.10. When you read these passages, it is clear the matter of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a serious thing.

So this brings up some questions: what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? What is not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Why can it not be forgiven? Is this something people can still do today? Have at it!

Practically, how can we help the members of the Lord’s body where we’re serving to discover & employ their own spiritual giftedness?  (Emphasis on discovery)  I am just wondering what you guys are all trying and what’s working and what’s not.  (question from Brian King)