Summary: An exhortation to the "stronger" brothers.
Not Pleasing Ourselves
"Take care of number one!" "You deserve a break today" "Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?" "Where do you want to go today?" "If it feels good, do it!" There is a tremendous amount of emphasis on self today and it has been that way for at least forty years. Everything is hawked to us because we want it, we need it, and we deserve it!! I am not sure any of that is true.
Until the ads started bombarding me, I did not know it existed, let alone wanted it. I lived 48 years without it; so I might even make it another 48 without it so do I really need it? I do not have a cell phone and I do not feel particularly needy without it. I am without a palm pilot and not deprived. Both gadgets seem to be a "need" in our day, but I seem to muddle through without them despite the ads and glowing testimonies of others that need them. Deserve it? If I must plunge into debt to obtain all the goodies they say I deserve then the only things I deserve are the eternal bondage of credit card or other debt and the ulcers worrying about it.
Yes, we have every opportunity to indulge and please ourselves in this wonderful age of technology, but should we do so? Do we not have the right to do so? If it is not sin, then why not enjoy? The premise is wrong. It is not what is in it for me, but what is in it for others? Remember all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient or edifying. (I Cor 6:12; 10:23)
Paul spent all of Romans 14 discussing things that were causing problems between the Gentile and Jewish believers. The underlying cause of the dispute was understandable. The Jews had spent a few thousand years under the law and certain things like holy days and dietary restrictions were very important to them and tied to their very being.
The Gentiles had no such cultural rituals and had no problems with having a ham sandwich. The holy days had no meaning to them. The Gentiles readily accepted the freedom of grace while the Jews struggled with some of the concepts. Peter speaking to the dispersed Jews recognized those problems and exhorted them to hear Paul. (2 Peter 3:15,16)
Contrary to popular interpretation, Paul was not speaking about gray areas. Doubtful things in that people were having doubts about them, but Paul resolved the issues themselves. The issues were black and white. He told the meat eaters that they had the right idea. The issue over ham sandwiches was settled. They were OK, in that they were lawful. Now, as we know pork has its problems so it is not completely profitable to eat a ham sandwich or eat fat, but it is now legal.
He said that the various holy days of the Old Testament were no longer required to be observed, but if you wanted to do so you could and not observing them is fine. The Jew would understand them more now that he was saved and saw the foreshadowing of Christ in them. If, as part of his heritage, and as a part of his worship to God, he still wanted to observe those days it was fine as long as he knew that his salvation or spiritual growth was not tied to them. The Gentile would never be able to completely comprehend the richness of those days and if he chose to only observe the Lord’s Day and maybe a day he decided to dedicate to the Lord then that was OK. All such ordinances were nailed to the Cross and now unnecessary but they were not evil. (Rom 7:8) All days should be holy unto the Lord. What each man desired to do beyond that was between him and the Lord.
He clearly taught that Jews were the weaker brothers, but did that give the Gentiles free license to do what had just been shown to be doctrinally correct? No, Paul took them to the higher level of love and responsibility to others. The Gentiles were not to show up at the church’s love feast with pig’s feet, chittlins, and ham hocks knowing their Jewish brothers would be offended and hence hinder their worship or their faith. (Rom 14:15) Were the ham hocks wrong? No. Now, chittlins are wrong for me, but more power to the brother that can chow down and say grace over them. No, eating the meat was not wrong. It was good, but Paul said let not your good be evil spoken of. (16)
He said eat pork at the house. (22) We get upset if someone suggests that we ought not do certain things and start yelling legalism, but Paul told us to be worried about being condemned for the things we allowed not the things we disallowed! (22) If my brother or sister comes into the church house and sees me doing something that he thinks should not be done in church, he will concentrate on that throughout the whole service and not be able to worship or receive teaching. I may be perfectly right in what I am doing, but if I know it offends my brother then I need to consider if what I am doing is really necessary. If I can refrain from doing it then I should refrain for the conscience of my brother so that he can freely worship and receive teachings that he may grow. He may eventually be able to accept that activity as OK and then I can resume it.