The Kingdom of God Is Not Meat and Drink
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. – Rom. 14:13–19
The Apostle Paul writes to the Roman believers whom he had not actually visited on his missionary journeys. The whole letter, therefore, is a clear explanation of the foundations of faith in which Paul explains simply how we believe.
Did some congregation members have a dim understanding of believers’ freedom and grace? Many Roman citizens at that time lived an indecent lifestyle. Were believers also affected by this lifestyle?
Apostle Paul was certainly aware of the Roman culture. However, perhaps that was not the only matter in question. Perhaps also the flame of love flickered weakly in some believers. Some of the Jewish believers in Rome thought that the religious laws of the Jews must be followed. Paul had heard about this from other believers and wanted to encourage the congregation in Rome to accept others’ viewpoints without breaking the love.
Are Cultural Differences a Matter of Faith?
Paul reminds Rome’s Jewish believers that the Jewish customs and laws were not required teachings for all believers. For example, circumcision, a custom of the Jews, was not necessarily a matter of faith. Rather, “He is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter...” (Rom. 2:29). Cultural differences such as this could even have led to a rift between believers who were Jewish and those who were Gentiles, extinguishing the flame of faith and suppressing love.
Likewise, we today do not want to add burdens onto believers. Instead, we wish to help other believers in their endeavor. Paul tells the Romans, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20). “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham or his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13). The enemy of the soul would certainly prefer to see love broken over disputes of the law, but our salvation relies on faith, not the law.
Instead of arguing about the law, Paul teaches believers to show love by “distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:13–14). Paul continues, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:16–19). Therefore, Paul advises to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
Let Us Live Peaceably
Today as in Paul’s time, we battle against the enemy of the soul who would wish to break the love between believers. When following the instruction of a governing body is in question, God’s Word says that authority is of God. In this, we want to be obedient and a light to the world.
Thus, we cannot rise up against authority – has not God both ordained and given a sword to authority? (Rom. 13:1,4). There is no authority that does not come from God. If we rise up against dominion, we also rise up against God’s ordinance. Doing so will result in punishment. Do we not want to do the right thing so there is no need to fear the authorities? As ordained of God, authority does not carry the sword in vain, but punishes the wrongdoer.
Again, the believer wants to keep love and live according to God’s Word. God’s people live in freedom and not in bondage. God’s children have freedom – not the freedom to do or live in sin, but the freedom of the believer to live in this world trusting that Jesus will return to take us to the home of His Father, where He has now gone to prepare a dwelling place for the children of God.
Righteousness, Peace and Joy
As Paul explains to the Romans, God’s kingdom does not demand laws and commandments. Instead, God’s kingdom is freedom, righteousness, joy, peace and love. When sins are forgiven, a believing heart does not want to offend others, much less the community of believers. However, when sin besets and roots into the heart, the kingdom of God begins to look old-fashioned; it begins to show all its faults and mistakes. No grace for another can be found.
Then also, when unforgiven sin remains on the conscience, the office of the Holy Spirit will begin to fade with the weight of sin. The bells of grace are not desired to be heard. The spiritual connection is cut and the office of the Spirit shifts to the office of the Word. Oh, how sad when the Spirit departs: joy is gone and peace dims. Love is cold and mercy decreases. Freedom is destroyed. The instruction of the Holy Spirit and of grace is not heard. Ended is the eternal joy and in its place is hatred, sorrow, bitterness, frenzy, malice, breaking and grating. Faith of the heart changes to unbelief.
Instead of turning to unbelief, the fallen should listen to the Holy Spirit’s grace instruction and humble themselves onto repentance. This instruction is the same today as it was in Paul’s time. If love has been broken and a judging, critical attitude weighs on the conscience, the call comes from God’s house that you may believe your sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and precious, atonement blood.