“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. (Romans 14:1 ESV)
Paul is actually talking about the legalist here when he is talking about one who is weak in the faith. The legalist may not think of himself as weak in the faith because in his mind he is keeping all of the law so he is the most religious person in the room. But Paul has, all this time been talking about the legalist. The legalist has their rules and “the law” and their rituals and they may be keeping their list probably mentally and checking it off with what they do that makes them the superior Christian. However, we have seen through this whole book of Romans that Paul is trying to point the Romans to a relationship with Christ and not just a list of rules to keep. Paul talks in the first part of this chapter about food. Which may not mean much to us this day and time but to the Christians and the Jewish people of Paul’s day there were lots of rules regarding food and what was clean and what was unclean and what you should eat when and what you couldn’t eat. And while Paul is trying to let the Roman Christian know that there is nothing off limits to him, if he is causing his brother to stumble who may still be struggling with those rules and regulations then that is sin. And to me it also appears that not only were they partaking of It but they were arguing over it. Paul wants them and us to realize that we should live in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. And that leaves no place for arguments and judgment.
The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. (Romans 14:6-7)
In other words, we are walking this Christian path and while we are all on the same path, we are all at a different place on our path. For the person who has been walking their path for a long time, they may have way more freedom in Christ than the person who has not been walking very long at all. For instance for some people when they first become a Christian they have so many things that they may be worried about that they have to become so tight in their walk with the Lord so as to keep temptations at bay. Whatever works for them is what is right for them. While the one who has walked in freedom for a long time may have lain down some of the struggles of their early walk. However, it is the job of the more mature Christian to make sure that their freedom in Christ does not become a stumbling block to the one younger in the faith.
In the same vein, It appears some of the Romans were passing judgment on each other because of the different journeys they were each on. It is not our place to pass judgment on each other as Christians, however it is our job when we see people young in their faith to make sure we are pointing them toward faith and not just rules. But in the end:
“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)
Recapping along with Paul in verses 13 – 16 Paul is telling them there is nothing unclean for them unless it is causing their brother to stumble. While Paul is talking about food here there are any number of things that we could put in the place of food. Let’s not forget that. Paul is stating here if what you are doing brings doubts and questions to your brother in Christ then yes, it does become sin for you.
“So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:16-17).
Paul is saying stop arguing about the food. Just consider your brother in Christ! The goal here is to serve Christ. We should regard our fellow man in all that we do, whether it be eating or drinking or what we may watch or whatever else. If someone young in the faith has a struggle with something, mature Christians are supposed to consider their struggles more than their own desires. This is the way we serve Christ.
“For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
Paul ends with this blanket statement. If there is doubt, if you are troubled by something and questioning it in your heart then likely it isn’t faith, and likely it is sin. And the struggle taking place is, by the way, the Holy Spirit guiding.
Oh Lord help us to hear you when you are letting us know if something is sin. Quicken our hearts and minds to hear your voice.