Summary: A sermon on Romans 14:1-4 (Outline taken from Keith Krell at: https://bible.org/seriespage/mind-your-own-business-romans-141-12, end of first point)
I had trouble appreciating rap music. Until I met some rappers who are using their gift for the Lord.
Differences between people give opportunities for judging and legalism. We are tempted to judge others because they are looser on some issues and stricter on others. We become prideful and divided against one another because of extra biblical standards and rules. Whole groups of Christians become suspicious and cynical of other groups, basically because we are different from one another. One of the reasons to get involved in missions. Open our eyes.
Many divisions should never happen, because the Lord has given us much information in the Scriptures about how to relate to others who have different perspectives and practices.
Two entire chapters of the NT are devoted to this issue- Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. Romans 14 itself is a wonderful chapter that should help us with conflicts on non biblical issues that will help us to avoid division.
The apostle Paul was writing to people who had struggles similar to the ones we face (different details but much the same problems), and his words help in this present time.
Main issue at this time was the eating of meat from animals that had been offered to idols in pagan temples. Not a big issue in areas where there was a large Jewish population. Just go to local kosher butcher and it wasn’t an issue. This is a big issue in Corinth and in Rome among the Christians. Evidently a lack of kosher butchers in these areas. The church at Rome was mostly Gentile because of this: “There (Corinth) he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.” Acts 18:2, NIV. This order was no longer in effect and some Jews were going back to Rome but must have still been a lack of kosher butchers. What a Gentile butcher would do was to slaughter the animal and then put a portion of the meat in front of his idol to please the gods, then after a short amount of time, he would put this meat back into the meat market. Never knew if the meat buying was set before an idol or not.
Two basic groups on eating meat. Paul and many others were among a group who believed that it was alright to eat anything that they thanked God for. “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience,” “If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:25, 30, 31, NIV.
The other group whom Paul calls the weak believe that it is bad to eat meat that might have been sacrificed to an idol. They believe this for many reasons. One is that these Christians just coming out of paganism would associate meat from the meat market as coming from an idol. This would tempt them to go back to paganism. “Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.” 1 Corinthians 8:7, NIV. Because of this some Gentile Christians would not even eat meat, they became vegetarians. Another reason (some speculation but Paul’s comments in Romans and Corinthians indicate this) is that some new Christians believed that if they ate meat that had been sacrificed to an idol, a demon would enter into them or they would be defiled in some way. Paul clears this up in “As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself.” Romans 14:14. This goes back to Mark 7. ““Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean”.)” Mark 7:18, 19. A demon does not enter a person through food. However, Paul does warn the Corinthian Christians not to worship at a pagan temple in 1 Corinthians 10. Worshipping at a pagan temple is different than eating meat that might have come from a pagan temple.
Paul clearly takes sides and eats anything that is set before him without having a spiritual problem. God had never said it was wrong to eat meat offered to idols, so as far as Paul was concerned, it was an acceptable thing to do.