Now accept one who is weak in faith, but not for disputes over opinions. 2 One man has faith to eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Don’t let him who eats despise him who doesn’t eat. Don’t let him who doesn’t eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you who judge another’s servant? To his own lord he stands or falls. Yes, he will be made to stand, for God has power to make him stand (Romans 14:1-4, WEB).
The Apostle Paul grew up as an observant Jew. He kept the dietary laws, the Sabbath, and was diligent to obey the 613 commandments found in the Mitzvah. He can also sympathize with the Gentiles who were not raised to conform to these biblical principles found in the Torah and Ketuvim. This is why the Apostle Paul focuses more on accepting one by faith and finding common ground rather than division or strife by one’s convictions to eat or not to eat.
That being said, it’s important not to take this verse out of context. Paul talks about those who “eat only vegetables.” This implies that Paul doesn’t have the dietary laws in mind. Otherwise, he wouldn’t exclude all meats since even Jews could eat fish, beef, chicken, etc. Instead, Paul is referring to believers who have a hard time accepting food sacrificed to idols.
In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul clearly talks about this idea when he tells mature believers to be careful how to exercise their faith since it could be a stumbling block to immature believers. In verse 10, Paul states: “For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?”
The key here is your faith. If you truly believe there are real gods that these foods are being sacrificed to, your conscience is weak and therefore can become defiled. However, if you are biblically sound and understand that idols are not real because only the God of Israel exists, then your mind is not sinning. You realize that all foods God declares as clean are acceptable and available to eat for the believer.
5 One man esteems one day as more important. Another esteems every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks. He who doesn’t eat, to the Lord he doesn’t eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord. Or if we die, we die to the Lord. If therefore we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died, rose, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
We know that Scripture teaches God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day he rested—blessing and sanctifying the Sabbath as an eternal ordinance. Therefore, is Paul contradicting what God said in Genesis when he says all days are alike or is there an alternative explanation?
First, it’s important to realize that Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to abolish the law. I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” So then, the law is not just applicable to the Israelites before the new covenant was established by Jesus. The Sabbath day still applies to us since it was a creation ordinance and an everlasting covenant—both to the Jews and to the Gentiles. But there is a fulfillment in Jesus that makes it unique from before.
For example, when Jesus died on the cross, He made a new way: there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). This means that all of us are free to worship God without restrictions.
For instance, Jesus said to the Samaritan that there is coming a time when people will no longer worship in Samaria or in Judea—rather all will worship God in spirit and in truth. There is no need to go to the temple in Jerusalem since the Holy Spirit dwells within all of us. We are the temples of the living God.
God did create the Sabbath day as holy and unique. But the other days are still to be received with grace and thanksgiving. For God’s mercies renew every morning. Every moment we breathe is a moment for us to worship God. Each day there is an opportunity to share the gospel as commanded by Jesus. Therefore, as we live, live to the Lord. As we eat, eat and give thanks to the Lord.
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘to me every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess to God.12 So then each one of us will give account of himself to God.
As a messianic Jew, I still desire to keep God’s laws. I do not keep the law in order to be saved. I keep the law because I am saved, and I desire to give glory, honor, and praise to the risen King—for Jesus said: “If you love me, obey my commands.”
While I do believe this is a better way to serve the Lord, I can also understand where Christians and evangelicals come from. They do not want to fall prey to being a Judaizer and focusing too much on the law. For we all know that the law can’t save us; it’s all about grace through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9).
For these reasons, I find common ground and heed to what Paul says here: It’s not my role to judge because everyone will give account of himself to God. The piece that unites us is the firm agreement that God’s beloved Son Jesus is the only righteousness we have.
13 Therefore let’s not judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block in his brother’s way, or an occasion for falling. 14 I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself; except that to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if because of food your brother is grieved, you walk no longer in love. Don’t destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Then don’t let your good be slandered, 17 for God’s Kingdom is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Paul is absolutely correct here. We should not put a stumbling block in our brother’s way. For it’s not a matter of what we eat or drink that defiles us; it’s whether or not we allow sin to enter into our hearts and minds. An individual can keep the dietary laws but have a lack of authentic relationship with God just as someone can be baptized but not truly be saved.
However, this doesn’t therefore nullify the importance of the dietary laws and baptism. The animal itself is not unclean, but it is unclean to disobey God. Similarly, it is not the water in baptism that has any salvific power. A person with an unclean spirit can go under the water to symbolize the death, burial, and resurrection—but have no true faith.
This act, however, is holy and good. It should still therefore be a requirement. Acts 2:38 clearly says to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. When one has true faith and is baptized to wash away their sins, I believe this physical act unveils the spiritual significance of being born again in the Spirit.
18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then, let’s follow after things which make for peace, and things by which we may build one another up. 20 Don’t overthrow God’s work for food’s sake. All things indeed are clean, however it is evil for that man who creates a stumbling block by eating. 21 It is good to not eat meat, drink wine, nor do anything by which your brother stumbles, is offended, or is made weak.
The living God desires unity. As believers, it’s our duty to build one another up, to exhort each other daily, forgive graciously, and empower others to live a life of virtue and integrity. Furthermore, Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. He has commanded us to love our enemies and to do good to those who even persecute us. This radical kindness is only found in the grace of Christ.
Also, Paul’s point here is to inform mature followers of Jesus that they should restrict their freedom to prevent others from stumbling. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul talks about how he becomes like a Jew to win the Jews under the law. He imitated the Gentiles who did not have the law so he could find commonality. To the weak, he became weak. He became all things to all people so that he might save some. As Christians, this is the mindset we should have to bring the world into a powerful relationship with the King of kings.
22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who doesn’t judge himself in that which he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because it isn’t of faith; and whatever is not of faith is sin.
Whatever is not of faith is a sin—this is a powerful statement because it exemplifies the importance of this attribute in our lives. Our faith is not blind; it is not devoid of logic and reasoning—rather, faith is trusting in someone who has determined themselves to be trustworthy. Our faith is therefore directly correlated to whether or not our trust is in the Lord.
Scripture also states that a person is happy when he or she is not constantly judging themselves for approval. An individual who doesn’t have confidence in their convictions is an unstable person. Just as it states here, that if someone doubts and feel condemned for eating, it causes them to actually sin. Therefore, we need to avoid judging ourselves and leave the judgment up to God by trusting in what He says.
24 Now to him who is able to establish you according to my Good News and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret through long ages, 25 but now is revealed, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known for obedience of faith to all the nations; 26 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen
While the mystery of God was hidden, it is now revealed. Romans 1 says that God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen in nature so that humanity is without excuse. While humans suppress this truth in unrighteousness because they love darkness more than light, God continues to shine his light and goodness through the created order.
Moreover, Christianity is not an esoteric religion—it is not secretive or needs to be decoded in some mysterious way; rather, God has spoken plainly to all of us. He even took on human flesh, experiencing all our emotions so that He could truly empathize with our weaknesses and struggles. This is the amazing God we serve.
Commentary written by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div)
Translation by World English Bible (WEB)—public domain.
I am so thankful for the World English Bible Translation. This is their mission statement: “The Holy Bible is God’s Word. It belongs to God. He gave it to us freely, and we who have worked on this translation freely give it to you by dedicating it to the Public Domain.”