Rom 14:20-23 “For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
In verse nineteen of this chapter, Paul has just admonished us to “follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” One of the reasons we are so often compared to sheep in the scripture is because sheep require a peaceful environment in order to thrive. Our Good Shepherd leads us into such environments by His grace. When we are living together peacefully, we find ways to build each other up.
It would almost appear that Paul is telling us we are stronger than God in verse twenty. We are certainly being told to not destroy the work of God. This is not warning us to not do anything to destroy God’s work of eternal salvation. The scripture plainly tells us that nothing can pluck us out of His hand (John 10:27-30).
In truth, we cannot destroy any of the work of God from the standpoint of obliterating the work itself. Paul is instructing us here to not destroy one another’s joy and confidence in God’s work by uncharitable action. We do not have the ability to destroy the essence of the peace of God. However, we can destroy the impact of that peace when we are unkind to a brother or sister of weaker faith.
We should realize by now that how we behave ourselves with our brethren matters. I may be fully persuaded that there is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine. Yet, if I am in the presence of another who for any reason sees that as an afront to godly living, then I greatly err in insisting on drinking that glass of wine. I will either cause a strain on the fellowship I have with that person, or else I may tempt them to do something they will eventually do to excess. Either way, I will have weakened my brother and given offence.
I am not called on to deny that which I am persuaded is not unclean of itself (see verse 14). However, if it is going to do harm to my brother of weaker faith, then I need to keep that to myself before God. The thing that I allow may not condemn me of itself. Yet, no matter how pure it might be to me, I condemn myself in it if I knowingly destroy my brother’s peace with it.
Furthermore, there is the danger that our brother may partake of something because of our example that he otherwise considers to be unclean. We condemn ourselves by the thing which we allow (partake of), and we cause our brother condemnation because he is partaking against his personal belief that it is wrong. The action, in and of itself, may not be sinful. It is sinful for us to condemn ourselves or encourage others to condemn themselves in taking this action without charity or faith.
May God give us the grace to always consider the effect our actions may have on those whose faith is weaker and edify rather than destroy!