By Doug Bell
1 ¶ “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
This passage is written to the “Mature“ Christian. Paul knows how fragile the new Christian’s Faith can be. And he wants the older Christian to understand this, so he won’t do unintentionally harm. Or in his superior knowledge, not to be arrogant and look down on another brother for his lack of knowledge.
First, the Mature Christian is to make the young Christian to feel welcomed! How often do we loose patience with someone who is struggling with the simple, basic doctrines of the Bible. While we may have reason to be frustrated with an older person who has been in the faith for awhile and has never grown in their faith (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). But it is never right to shame a new/young Christian for not knowing what he hasn’t had time to learn.
The illustration the Apostle uses to get his point across is about food. To us today, this might seem a silly thing to argue about. But we must remember that in the Old Testament, God had given the Jews a lot of “dietary Laws!” Imagine having been taught all of your life certain things were wrong and never to be eaten under any circumstance. And then being told that having become a Christian, these things were no longer binding. (Even Peter had trouble with this one! Acts 10:9-33).
This is why Paul says in verse 14:
“I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” We must understand that it is a matter of the conscience! 23 “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Our freedom should not lead a brother into sin!
He picks up this theme in another Book of the Bible and gives us a clearer reason.
1 Corinthians 8:
7¶ “However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
Some may grumble, ‘Why should I give up my freedom just because this person has an immature faith?‘ Here Paul says, because we may cause them to stumble. Or worse, “ 15 ”For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.”
Your Liberty may lead to their being grieved or even damaging their faith! The “Law of Love,” (James 2:8) demands that we ‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves’ (Phillipians 2:3).
The ‘Weaker’ brother then does not need criticism, to be despise, or worse to be judged! What the weaker one does need is encouragement, understanding, love, and mentorship! And if we are truly mature in Christ, we will understand this. And we will do all is in our ability to help others!
17 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”