Acceptable to God and Approved of Men

What You Need to Know

Pastor Don Carpenter

When In Doubt / Romans 14:14–18

Ken Walker writes in Christian Reader that in the 1995 college football season 6 foot 2 inch, 280-pound Clay Shiver, who played center for the Florida State Seminoles, was regarded as one of the best in the nation. In fact, one magazine wanted to name him to their preseason All-America football team. But that was a problem, because the magazine was Playboy, and Clay Shiver is a dedicated Christian. 

Shiver and the team chaplain suspected that Playboy would select him, and so he had time to prepare his response. Shiver knew well what a boon this could be for his career. Being chosen for this All-America team meant that sportswriters regarded him as the best in the nation at his position. Such publicity never hurts athletes who aspire to the pros and to multimillion-dollar contracts. 

But Shiver had higher values and priorities. When informed that Playboy had made him their selection, Clay Shiver simply said, “No thanks.” That’s right, he flatly turned down the honor. “Clay didn’t want to embarrass his mother and grandmother by appearing in the magazine or give old high school friends an excuse to buy that issue,” writes Walker. Shiver further explained by quoting Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given, of him much is required.” 

“I don’t want to let anyone down,” said Shiver, “and number one on that list is God.”1 

1 Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers & Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 89–90. 

The Bible has black and white moral absolutes, however there are some more nuanced things to consider. Tonight’s passage gives us some clear principles we must know in order to be both acceptable to God and approved of men.

There is Nothing Unclean of Itself

Romans 14:14 KJV

I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

 • I know and am persuaded 

“Know” is oida (????), “absolute, positive knowledge.” “Am persuaded” is peith? (?????) in the perfect tense. Paul’s reasoning had gone on through a process to a point where it was complete, with the result that he had come to a finished persuasion that was permanent. He stands persuaded. He could not be budged from his conviction, so sure was he of the truth of the matter. 1 

1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 236. 

Unclean (??????). Lit., common. In the Levitical sense, as opposed to holy or pure. Compare Mark 7:2, “With defiled (??????? common), that is to say, with unwashen hands.” See Acts 10:14.1 

1 Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 3 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 169. 

The context has to do with religious scruples regarding animal flesh and a vegetarian diet, with the keeping of one day as against another in a special observance. Paul’s declaration is “in the Lord.” That is, it finds its source in the Lord, not merely in his reason. Denney comments; “In principle, the apostle sides with the strong. He has no scruples about meats or drinks or days.” Commenting on the phrase “in the Lord,” he says; “It is as a Christian, not as a libertine, that Paul has this conviction; in Christ Jesus he is sure that there is nothing in the world essentially unclean; all things can be consecrated and Christianized by Christian use.” Speaking of the word koinon (??????) (common) he says; “It is the opposite of hagion (?????) (holy), and signifies that which is not and cannot be brought into relation to God.… Though there is nothing which in itself has this character, some things may have it subjectively, i.e., in the judgment of a particular person who cannot help (from some imperfection of conscience) regarding them so, to him (ekeinos (???????) that one, emphatic) they are what his conscience makes them; and his conscience (unenlightened as it is) is entitled to respect.”1 

1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 237. 

If someone esteems something unclean 

What Paul wants the “strong” to realize is that people differ in their ability to internalize truth. The fact that Christ’s coming brought an end to the absolute validity of the Mosaic law (cf. 6:14, 15; 7:4), and thus explicitly to the ritual provisions of that law, was standard early Christian teaching. And, at the intellectual level, the “weak” Christians may themselves have understood this truth. But Paul wants the “strong” in faith to recognize that people cannot always “existentially” grasp such truth—particularly when it runs so counter to a long and strongly held tradition basic to their own identity as God’s people1 

1 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 853. 

It is unclean to him… so uncleanness is relative. 

Your Liberty Could Cause Someone to Stumble

Romans 14:15 KJV

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

If you grieve your brother with your liberty you are not walking in love. 

Precisely because foods do not matter, one should be willing to forgo eating them for the sake of what does matter: preserving the unity of the body of Christ. Paul is not telling Gentiles to keep kosher; but he is telling them not to try to talk Jewish Christians out of doing so.1 

1 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ro 14:15–16. 

Don’t put a stumbling block in the way of a brother (v. 13b), … “for” this is just what you are doing—by insisting on exercising your freedom to eat food, you bring pain to your fellow believer and thereby violate the cardinal Christian virtue of love. The “pain” that the “strong” believer causes the “weak” believer is more than the annoyance or irritation that the “weak” believer might feel toward those who act in ways they do not approve. Its relationship to the warnings about spiritual downfall in vv. 13b and 15b show that it must denote the pain caused the “weak” believer by the violation of his or her conscience. The eating of the “strong,” coupled with their attitude of superiority and scorn toward those who think differently, can pressure the “weak” into eating even when they do not yet have the faith to believe that it is right for them to do so. And by doing what does not come “out of faith,” the “weak” sin (v. 23) and suffer the pain of that knowledge. In behaving as they are, then, the “strong” are ignoring what Paul has set forth in 12:9–21; 13:8–10 as basic to Christian conduct: love for “the neighbor.”1 

1 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 853–854. 

Paul’s advice is clear. It is a Christian duty to think of everything, not as it affects ourselves only, but also as it affects others. Note that Paul is not saying that we must always allow our conduct to be dictated by the views of others; there are matters which are essentially matters of principle, and in them individuals must take their own way. But a great many things are neutral and indifferent; a great many things are in themselves neither good nor bad; a great many things are not essential parts of life and conduct but belong to what we might call the extras of life. It is Paul’s conviction that we have no right to give offence to those who are more scrupulous about such things by doing them ourselves, or by persuading them to do them.1 

1 William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, 3rd ed. fully rev. & updated., The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 223–224. 

Do not destroy your brother with your meat 

Do not destroy Paul warns the strong that, in some circumstances, their freedom might cause distress for the weak. Christ did not die for only those strong in their faith, but for all who call on Him as Lord (see Rom 14:9 and note).1 

1 John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Ro 14:15. 

Life must be guided by the principle of love; and, when it is, we will think not so much of our right to do as we like as of our responsibilities to others. We have no right to distress another person’s conscience in the things which do not really matter. Christian freedom must never be used as an excuse for riding roughshod over the genuine feelings of others. No pleasure is so important that it can justify bringing offence and grief, and even ruin, to others. As St Augustine used to say, the whole Christian ethic can be summed up in a saying: ‘Love God, and do what you like.’ In a sense, it is true; but Christianity consists not only in loving God but also in loving our neighbour as ourselves.1 

1 William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, 3rd ed. fully rev. & updated., The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 224. 

Do not let your good be evil spoken of. 

Romans 14:16 KJV

Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

he “good” here refers to “Christian liberty, the freedom of conscience which has been won by Christ, but which will inevitably get a bad name if it is exercised in an inconsiderate, loveless fashion.” “Evil spoken of” is blasph?me? (?????????), “to speak reproachfully of, rail at, revile.” 1 

1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 238. 

You Must Know What the Kingdom Is and Is Not

Romans 14:17–18 KJV

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 

For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

It is Not Extra-biblical opinions and standards

It is Righteousness

There is righteousness, and this consists in giving to others and to God what is their due. Now, the very ?rst thing that is due to other people in the Christian life is sympathy and consideration; the moment we become Christians, the feelings of others become more important than our own. Christianity means putting others ?rst and self last. We cannot give to others what is due to them and do what we like. 

It Is Peace

There is peace. In the New Testament, peace does not mean simply absence of trouble; it is not a negative thing, but is intensely positive; it means everything that makes for our highest good. The Jews themselves often thought of peace as a state of right relationships between individuals. If we insist that Christian freedom means doing what we like, that is precisely the state we can never attain. Christianity consists entirely in personal relationships to other people and to God. The unrestrained freedom of Christian liberty is conditioned by the Christian obligation to live in a right relationship, in peace, with one another. 

It is Joy

There is joy. Christian joy can never be a sel?sh thing. It does not consist in making ourselves happy; it consists in making others happy. A so-called happiness which made someone else distressed would not be Christian. If anyone, in the search for happiness, brings a hurt heart and a wounded conscience to someone else, the ultimate end of that person’s search will be not joy but sorrow. Christian joy is not individualistic; it is interdependent. Joy comes to Christians only when they bring joy to others, even if it costs them personal limitation. 

When we follow this principle, we become the slaves of Christ. Here is the essence of the matter. Christian freedom means that we are free to do not what we like but what Christ likes. Without Christ, we are all slaves to our habits, our pleasures and our indulgences. We are not really doing what we like. We are doing what the things that have us in their grip make us do. Once the power of Christ enters into us, we take control of ourselves—and then, and only then, real freedom enters our lives. Then we are free not to treat others and not to live life as our own sel?sh human nature would have us do; we are free to show to everyone the same attitude of love as Jesus showed.

1 William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, 3rd ed. fully rev. & updated., The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 225–226. 

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 7:39 PM February 19, 2021.

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