The Acceptance and Judgment of God

Notes for Oct. 22, 2017
Romans 14

Biblical Background

  • Jewish vs. Gentile Christians: The church in Rome had Christians from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. This created cultural divides and differences that threatened the unity of the church. One of the biggest areas of difference was in diet as the Jewish people followed Kosher Laws from the Hebrew Scriptures which forbade the eating of “unclean” animals. Gentiles would eat nearly anything.

  • Special Days Observed/Holidays: The Jewish Christians celebrated the Sabbath as a day to rest and worship God. Many Gentiles ridiculed Jewish people saying that they just were lazy and wanted a day off from work. The Jewish Sabbath created a divide between Jews and Gentiles. Of course, the Gentiles had their own holidays which the Jews did not observe.

  • “Judgment seats”: The idea of a judgment seat in which a Roman official would make judgments on the law was a common image. The Jews likewise thought of God on the judgment seat or throne making His judgments. The image even of Jesus in heaven is “sitting at the right hand of God the Father,” the idea of sitting in a seat of authority.

  • “Stumbling block”: this was a common Greek metaphor found in ancient texts.

  • “Brother”: Paul reinforces the idea that one’s identity is as a family member of the body of Christ first so that “in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile.”

  • Roman butcher shops: The pagan temples were the place where meat was butchered, sacrificed, and sold. The pagan temple priests received food and income from the animals sacrificed to appease or gain favor from the gods. Thus, much of the meat eaten in Rome had come from animals offered up to pagan gods. This disturbed the conscience of some Christians who didn’t want to promote the pagan cults.

  • Meat – good or evil: Paul is stating that the meat itself is neither good nor evil. The problem has to do with one’s conscience and the exercise of one’s freewill to eat meat in a way that may offend a brother or sister who is offended by meat that had been part of a ritual sacrifice to pagan idols.

  • People over food: Paul is saying that we may be free to practice certain customs or eat whatever we want, however, if that particular action offends the conscience of another Christian or causes that person to abuse something and sin, we must consider the possibility of avoiding that action when we are with that particular brother or sister. An example would be a dinner in which you were eating with a friend whom you know struggles with alcoholism. Even though you may like a glass of wine, the kind and loving thing may be to drink water instead so that you don’t tempt your friend and perhaps even tempt him/her unintentionally to stumble and drink.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does it mean to not “quarrel over opinions”?

  2. When was the last time that you quarreled with another believer over “an opinion”? Give an example.

  3. Are “quarrels over opinions” good for our relationships? Why or why not?

  4. What is causing division in Paul’s day in the church in Rome?

  5. In Paul’s day there was division over eating meat that had come from pagan sacrificial rituals in pagan temples. What kinds of things divide us as Christians that may not be of primary or fundamental importance doctrinally?

  6. What attitudes or approaches to disagreement over non-essential matters does Paul recommend in this passage?

  7. Share examples of ways that you have seen Christians handle disagreements respectfully.

  8. Share examples of ways that Christians have handled disagreements over non-essentials in a way that led to division.

  9. What are the principles laid out here by Paul for handling quarrels over issues that do not violate a moral law?

  10. What does it mean to cause another brother or sister to stumble? To be a stumbling block?

  11. Give examples of ways that you have seen Christians be a stumbling block for one another and caused heartache and grief.

  12. What is the essential motive for putting others’ first in our actions?

  13. What should the church look like when we are made up of people from diverse cultural, family, and historical backgrounds? How are we to behave? Give examples of the ideal.

  14. When have you been the “weaker” brother or sister? The “stronger” brother or sister?

  15. Ask God to show you if you need to change your behavior so as not to offend or be a stumbling block to another believer.