Do Not Cause Another to Stumble (Romans 14:13-23).
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17, 2021
It was 2018. I was ready to start my first and my only Tough Mudder competition. This is a 10 mile competition with super muddy obstacles. It is something in which you work as a team. So, one has to work with others to climb over 10 foot walls and crawl through mud under barbed wire. There are obstacles in which one is literally swimming through mud. I wore old shoes because I knew how muddy it would be. That was a mistake. I was at the starting line. It was crowded. It was sunny and it was hot. I look down and I see that the toe of my shoe was split open. I asked around for duct tape and no one had any, so I tied my shoelaces around it. I go through the first obstacle okay. The second obstacle was one in which we run and jump to climb over a wall. There were things sticking out of the wall to hold onto. I run and as I go to grab hold of the wall my foot slams into the wall. That would have been okay, but the toe was now opened. I got over the wall. But my toe was broken. I kept going and by the 3rd or 4th mile I was swimming through mud and got mud splashed into my eye. To make matters worse I had contact lenses in. My brother was ahead of me trying to pull me out, but I could not see. My eye was burning and my toe was throbbing. I had to reach into my eye and pull the contact lens out, throwing it on the ground. It is probably still there. Maybe they will find it in an archaeological dig in the future. At mile 5 I left the competition.
What I just described was a competition in which I experienced multiple “Stumbling blocks.” These caused me to exit the competition before the finish line. In today’s passage Paul will exhort the Christians not to cause a stumbling block in another Christian’s path.
My theme today is:
Do not cause another to stumble.
- Do not cause another to stumble (Verses 13-15).
- In Romans 14 Paul began to talk about conscious issues.
- Last week we talked about that. Paul was talking about disagreements about whether it was okay to eat certain meats. It seems that the issue was whether or not it was okay to eat food sacrificed to idols. Though some think it could have to do with Jewish dietary laws. Some, who Paul calls “the strong,” thought it was okay to eat food sacrificed to idols and not follow the dietary laws. Others, Paul calls “the weak,” thought it was not okay. Yet, Paul calls everyone to live at peace with one another. Paul continues that idea in these verses.
- Remember, last week I shared that Paul is saying that we are not to judge in matters of conscious.
- Let’s read verses 13-15, Romans 14:13-15: Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15For 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.
- Paul says, “let us” and this is including himself. We are not to pass judgment on one another.
- We are not to put a stumbling block in the way of another.
- Paul gets more specific; we are also not to put a hindrance in the way of another.
- What is a stumbling block? Obviously, that would be something that makes a person stumble.
- I have ran many nights after dark. There have been at least a handful of times that I have stumbled on uneven sidewalks. That is what I think of when I read these verses.
- We do not want to make another stumble.
- We do not want to hinder their faith. We do not want to put an obstacle in another’s faith. “Hindrance” could be translated as “obstacle” or “snare.” I was fishing with Mercedes and she thought she caught a big fish. No, she caught a big rock. That is a snare.
- We do not want conscious issues to be a snare in someone’s faith journey.
- We do not want conscious issues to be a stumbling block in someone’s faith journey.
- Paul said something similar in 1 Cor. 8:13.
- In verse 14, Paul shares truth. He knows, and he is persuaded by the Lord, that nothing is unclean in itself. The food is technically clean. However, if someone thinks it is unclean, then for them it is a conscious issue which they must take seriously.
- In 1 Cor. 8:7 Paul builds on this.
- Later in verse 20 of this same chapter Paul will explain more of why this matters.
- In verse 15 Paul starts the “why” question which we will continue in the next point.
- We do not want to destroy a relationship. We do not want to harm someone’s faith. If we flaunt our freedom then we harm someone’s faith and Christ died for that person.
- Remember love (verses 16-18).
- Let’s read verses 16-18, Romans 14:16-18: So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
- It seems now Paul is exhorting them to move beyond these things.
- So, do not let what is spoken of as good, what would that be? That would be the meat that some are offended by. Don’t let that be spoken of as evil. Why would that be? It would be spoken of as evil because it harms a relationship. Further, the other person’s conscious considers the meat as evil.
- In verse 17 Paul says the Kingdom of God is way more than that.
- Paul shares what the Kingdom of God is NOT and then what the Kingdom of God is.
- What is the Kingdom of God? I like how one person defined the Kingdom of God: God’s people in God’s place under God’s universal ruler, King Jesus, whose unique earthly ministry announces the already inaugurated but not yet consummated Kingdom of God/heaven.
- The Kingdom of God is NOT eating and drinking. Moody: Drinking anticipates drinking wine in v. 21. Wine was used as libations in the temples, and Jewish believers refused to purchase and drink wine just as they did meat.
- Here Paul says the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
- The Kingdom of God is not what they are arguing over.
- The Kingdom of God is about righteousness. This is pursuing living God’s way and recognizing that Jesus has made us righteous.
- The Kingdom of God is about peace.
- Paul has been exhorting them to be at peace with one another.
- The Kingdom of God is about joy, but the joy is in the Holy Spirit.
- Verse 18: whoever serves Christ… this means whether they eat the meat or not, is acceptable to Him and approved.
- So, Paul is telling them both sides are okay in this matter.
- Paul is telling them to let this go.
- Pursue peace (verses 19-23).
- Let’s read verses 19-23, Romans 14:19-23: So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
- Verse 19 encapsulates this whole argument.
- Paul makes an inference, “so then…”
- “pursue peace…” Now, that is a way to live, isn’t it?
- How many of us pursue peace?
- Paul then gives more detail about how to pursue peace. He gets more practical. Pursue what makes for mutual upbuilding.
- How are we doing with this?
- Are we critical of others?
- Are we trying to build one another up?
- In verse 20 Paul gives the truth again. Everything is clean, remember verse 14? In verse 14, he said something similar to what he shares now.
- IVP: The issue here is not eating meat or drinking wine per se, but that Gentile meat (suspected of having been offered to idols or not having the blood properly drained) and Gentile drink (some of it possibly used for libations to gods) were suspect to Jews. But like a good rhetorician, Paul calls his readers to concede his point even in the most extreme case, requiring abstinence from all meat or wine (and if it applies to the extreme, “how much more”—following a standard style of argument—to all lesser cases). (Although some Jewish groups abstained from wine for periods of time—Num 6:3; cf. Jer 35:5–6—diluted wine was a normal part of meals; thus the language here is probably hyperbolic.)
- Do not… this is a command.
- “For the sake of food…” In other words, there are more important matters to champion. But look at the rest. For the sake of food, do not destroy the work of God. Wow! God is at work and when we argue and separate over conscious issues, we are hurting what God is doing.
- Even though it is clean it is wrong to make someone stumble.
- Now, I want to spend a few minutes on this verse.
- It is wrong to knowingly make someone stumble.
- I don’t think Paul expected them to go to the marketplace looking around and self conscious that they would make someone stumble.
- A contemporary example might be if you know someone is offended by alcohol don’t drink alcohol in front of them. Or, if you know someone is an alcoholic don’t drink alcohol in front of them. Don’t do anything that would trigger their alcohol addiction.
- However, I have heard people take this too far. One person might think they are free to drink alcohol and said person only has 1 glass of wine. However, others would say they better not even buy alcohol because suppose the cashier is offended by it.
- That is not the point of this passage. We ought not to knowingly be a stumbling block.
- Verse 21 goes into more detail. If meat is a stumbling block, or wine, or anything, don’t partake.
- We willingly alter our pace of walking while leading a small child by the hand so he or she will not stumble. How much more should we be willing to alter our Christian walk for the benefit of a weaker brother or sister in Christ whom we are leading.
- Verse 22: This is interesting. The faith you have keep between you and God. In other words, if you feel that you have the freedom, keep it between you and God.
- Blessed… that is nice. Blessed is the man who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves. In other words, blessed is the one walking blamelessly, not causing strife.
- Verse 23: whatever does not come from faith is sin. In other words, if someone’s conscious says it is wrong, they must abstain.
- Cicero (De Officiis 1.30) says: “It is an excellent rule that they give who urge us not to do a thing, when there is doubt whether it is right or wrong; for righteousness shines with a brilliance of its own, but doubt is a sign that we are thinking of a possible wrong.”
- “Faith” here as in verses 1 and 22 does not refer to the teachings of Christianity but to what a person believes to be the will of God for him. If a person does what he believes to be wrong, even though it is not wrong in itself, it becomes sin for him. He has violated what he believes to be God’s will. His action has become an act of rebellion against God for him.
- We must not cause harm over conscious issues.
- We must not be judgmental of another believer over things that the Bible does not clearly condemn.
- If someone does not feel free to eat or drink certain substances we must respect them.
- At the same time, we must understand that we are not bound by a law, and all things are clean (Romans 14:14, 20; 1 Timothy 4:4).
- We must be walking in love and be less critical (verse 15).
- We must not allow the freedom to be spoken of as evil because of our lack of love (verse 16).
- We must seek God’s Kingdom, knowing that God’s Kingdom is about right living, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (verse 17).
- We must be seeking peace (verse 17).
- We must be seeking peace more than discord (verse 17).
- We must be walking by the Spirit (verse 17 and Galatians 5:22-23).
- Verses 19-23 seem to be a restatement for emphasis and that reminds us of how important these matters are.
- We must not destroy the work of God, in other words because trivial matters harm what God is doing in a believer’s life.
- We must obey our conscious so long as it accords with Scripture (verse 23). Further, we must not cause another person to go against his or her conscious.
I began this message talking about the Tough Mudder. The Tough Mudder is a competition that tries to put stumbling blocks in the path of each person. There is one in which you slide down into ice water. There is another one in which you get electrocuted. My brother is crazy, he has finished three of them! I, on the other hand, have competed in normal races. I have ran 10k’s and 5k’s and three marathons. In those races we run with no unnatural obstacles. The Christian life is a marathon and the goal, in the Christian life, is that we try not to put stumbling blocks in each other’s spiritual lives.
 Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 339.
 Dr. White, Cedarville University Chapel message on 09.17.2021
 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ro 14:20–21.
 Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 341.