Search Our Site
Liberty in Christ
the Conscience, and Morality
in Christ: Extended Introduction
Liberty in Christ: Introduction
and New Testament Survey
for Liberty in Christ
the Law, and the 10 Commandments
of the Law of Liberty
and Yet Prohibition
Pagan Practices in the Old Testament
is Observing Times?
Bondage, and Righteousness
and Meat Sacrificed to Idols
and 1 Corinthians 8
1 Corinthians 10, and Idolatry
1 Corinthians 10, and Your Neighbor
and Practical Applications
Romans 14, the Conscience, and Morality
regard to the issue of whether or not right and wrong are
a personal matter of conscience, some Christians might point
to Romans 14:1-15:3 in an effort to demonstrate that right
and wrong are a matter of personal conscience.
Here is the key passage in that regard from Romans 14.
Romans 14:20 For meat destroy not the work of God.
All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man
who eateth with offence. 21 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. 22 Hast thou faith?
have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth
not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he
that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of
faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
The first thing to notice is that while Romans 14:1-15:3 may
sound similar to 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, NOT ONCE in Romans
14:1-15:3 does Paul mention eating meat sacrificed to idols.
Therefore, we should not jump to the conclusion that the issue
in Romans 14 deals with meat sacrificed to idols at all. Instead,
the issue in Romans 14 is Jewish dietary laws and Christians
who felt so guilty about breaking Jewish dietary laws regarding
what meats were acceptable and not acceptable, that they were
eating only vegetables.
This is very similar to Daniel 1:8-17, where for fear that
by eating the king's meat he might defile himself, Daniel
asked to instead eat only vegetables. So, we can see that
it was not unheard of for Jews who were concerned about violating
the Mosaic dietary laws to behave in such a way as to eat
only vegetables. Thus, unlike in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, the
"meat-eaters" in Romans 14, were not eating meat sacrificed
to idols, they were simply eating meat. And conversely, those
who were not eating meat in Romans 14, were not simply abstaining
from meat sacrificed to idols, but instead they were following
in the footsteps of Daniel who for the sake of the Jewish
dietary laws, ate only vegetables. Therefore, even though
Romans 14:1-15:3 may sound similar to 1 Corinthians 8 and
10, Romans 14:1-15:3 does not in any way deal with the issue
of eating meat sacrifice to idols.
The second thing to notice is that here in Romans 14:1-15:3,
Paul is giving instructions for how to carefully "build up"
those who are weak. So, in Romans 14-15:3, the idea is not
to leave the weak in their weak and incorrect doctrine, but
to build them up in a way that won't cause them to sin along
the way by violating their own consciences.
The third and most important thing to notice from Romans 14:1-15:3,
is summed up in verse 20, "it is evil for that man who eateth
with offence." The idea presented here is that if a man thinks
something is wrong, then for him it is a sin, even if it is
not in reality a sin. However, this is the only extent to
which right or wrong are determined by our conscience.
Most significantly of all is the fact that in reality, this
only works in the negative. Our conscience can only make something
wrong that is in reality permissible. What Romans 14:1-15:3
does not say is that our conscience can make something permissible
that in reality is wrong. Or, in other words, while thinking
something is wrong can make that activity sinful even if it
is not, the converse is not true. Thinking something is acceptable,
when in reality it is not, does not make that thing acceptable
So, in conclusion, Romans 14:1-15:3 does not make right and
wrong a matter of personal conscience for Christians. Nor
can Romans 14 and 15 be used to support such a notion. Romans
14-15 does not negate that there is an objective absolute
moral standard for Christians. Romans 14-15 merely adds one
slight detail to Christian morality, namely that beyond the
absolute standard of right and wrong, which are true for all
of us, things that are not really wrong according to that
absolute standard can become sinful for us if we do those
things while believing they are wrong.