“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” Romans 14:23
IN the fourteenth chapter of Romans Paul considers the relationships of believers to their brethren who are weaker in the faith, and the liberty that each has in Christ to partake of or abstain from certain things, for example, the eating of meats. In so doing he contrasts those things which are earthly and temporal with those things which respect the kingdom of God, being heavenly and eternal. Constantly and repeatedly throughout the whole epistle, and here in a most practical part of it, the attention is set upon Christ and His Gospel.
Paul’s emphasis throughout this chapter is that many of the things which men so easily make rules out of, by which they judge one another, are in themselves of little consequence (14:14). What is important is the motive behind what we do, that all things should be done as unto the Lord, as springing forth from faith: “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” Romans 14:23. All must regard Christ for He is all, and in all.
So much of what men stress in religion, so much of the practices which they press upon others, so much of what they set up as a standard by which they judge and condemn others, is that which springs forth from the flesh, is that which is earthly, not heavenly. It might seem ‘right and proper’ but it merely respects man approaching unto God in the will of his flesh. Such things owe nothing to the leading of the Spirit, and nothing to the walk of faith. The flesh so easily creeps into the things of God, and in to our judgment concerning such things. But we are called to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. To walk by faith, not by sight. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Whatsoever. Whatever we may do, however good it may seem before men outwardly, if it is not of faith, it is sin.
Yes, faith is the rule by which the believer walks. “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). This principle applies to all aspects of his life. He lives by faith. Hence Paul exhorts believers to be fully persuaded in their own minds (14:5) regarding their daily conduct, to live as “unto the Lord” (14:8) knowing that we are the Lord’s and to have a clear conscience before God regarding our conduct knowing that “every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). Paul reminds his brethren of the death and resurrection of Christ for them, that He might be Lord over them (14:9), and hence it is to Christ and Him alone that they are answerable for their conduct… so why do they, why do we, judge one another?
Nevertheless Paul reminds the stronger brethren to be mindful of those who are weaker and not to do such things as might make their weaker brethren stumble. It is better to abstain from something, even if there is nothing wrong in the thing itself, than to offend him which is weak in the faith (14:21). Likewise Paul stresses the need to avoid “doubtful disputations” (14:1) over such earthly, inconsequential things. Those who are young in the faith can often become very strong minded, and very vocal, about many things they think should or shouldn’t be done by Christians. The wisdom of those stronger in the faith, however, is to avoid such disputes over earthly things, avoid giving their weaker brethren offence through their own conduct, and to constantly be mindful of and exhort their brethren regarding the life of faith which is founded upon heavenly things. To point to Christ!
Paul therefore concludes this chapter by lifting the gaze of his hearers up from the earthly realm, from the inconsequential things of food and drink, and the keeping of days, to the hope of their faith, and that in which the kingdom of God stands:
“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.” Romans 14:17-19.
May God give His people grace to continually walk by faith having their affections set not on earthly things, but heavenly, not judging one another, but following after the things which make for peace, those things which edify one another. For the just shall live by faith, and what is not of faith is sin.
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