Romans chapter fourteen deals primarily with the practical issues of Christian liberty. It is noted that Christians are at different levels of spiritual maturity. Christians also have various backgrounds and cultures that shape their attitudes and practices.
Paul begins in verses 1-4 with a call to refrain from judging other Christians who differ on non-essential things. The example is given concerning the eating or not eating of meat that had been offered to idols. Paul indicates that eating such meat is not sinful; however, it may cause other believers to stumble. Therefore, it is best to refrain from that which we have liberty to do in order to not cause a fellow believer to struggle. There are many examples that can be given here such as differences in: musical preferences, Bible versions, methods of ministry, etc. We are instructed to not judge those who God has accepted.
Another example is given by Paul in verses 5-8. The principle given here is that everyone should do what they are fully convinced in their own mind. There are certain things that the Bible gives no clear command about. Therefore, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, Bible study and prayer, and our upbringing; we develop a personal standard for living. These personal standards may differ from one Christian to another. However, the point is that if you violate your conscience, then you have sinned. We are also encouraged to not impose our personal standards on others.
Verses 9-12 give us the theological reasons as to why we should not judge others or impose our personal convictions onto other believers. We will all one day stand before God in judgment. We must give an account for our attitudes and the way in which we served Him. We give an account for our motives and for our love toward one another. This judgment should be left up to God. There may be something that we disagree with someone on. We may differ in the methods they use for ministry or in the things they allow or not allow in their lives. Casting judgment is not our responsibility, but God’s. All we see is the outer appearance, only God can see the heart.
In verses 13-23 we learn that there are times when we must forgo our liberty in Christ in order to avoid being a spiritual hindrance to a brother or sister in Christ. We should put others first. We should care for the spiritual well being of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, if we practice something that is offensive to a fellow believer, we should refrain from that practice in their presence and perhaps even all together. One personal example of this is when I go and preach at different churches. There are some who hold to a KJV only view. Therefore, in order to not offend them, I will preach only from a KJV Bible when preaching in their church. Other examples could include the way we dress and the music we listen to. If someone comes to my house or is in my car and they have a personal conviction that prohibits them from listening to Contemporary Christian Music, I will refrain from having it played in my house or in my car. There are hundreds of examples that we can look at, but these are the most common. The lesson we must learn is our need to respect one another and not purposefully hinder a fellow believer’s conviction and walk with God. It is our motives for which we will be judged by God. When we stand before God we will not be judged for how strongly we stood on our personal convictions, rather, we will be judged for how we respond in love and respect toward our fellow believers.
This is why in verses 22-23, Paul tells us that our personal convictions should be kept between us and God. In other words, we should not impose our personal conviction onto others. On the other hand, if we do anything that violates our convictions, to us it is sin. The principle given is that when in doubt, don’t. The admonition given in this chapter is that we should focus on the things that matter most, our love for the brethren, and our personal walk with God. Everything else should be left for God’s judgment.