In Romans 14-15, God gives the solution to virtually all the problems, errors and confusion that have characterized most of historic Christianity over the past 2,000 years. In Rome there was a small group of believers who came out of Judaism, and they were confused about how to handle God's Word correctly. God's Word through Moses, for instance, said there are a lot of unclean foods, don't eat any of them, and if you do it will affect your standing before God (Lev. 11). But God's Word through Paul said there is nothing unclean, everything is pure, eat whatever you want, and it has no effect on your standing before God. Well, which is it? What should you follow? You can't really do both. How do you decide which is the way that pleases God today? The wrong answer and the worst answer is to take the instructions God gave to Israel in the Mosaic Law and mix them up together with the instructions He gave to the Body of Christ in Pauline Grace, creating a big mish-mash of confusion. As one Bible teacher said you can throw all the leftovers into the blender but no matter how you do it what comes out will just be a mess.
And that's what was happening in Rome. Some were confusing God's Prophetic Program for the Nation of Israel with His Mystery Program for the Body of Christ, which allowed the flesh to gain a foothold in their assembly, fulfilling the lusts thereof (Rom. 13:14), dividing it up and causing all kinds of problems. By bringing the Mosaic Law (the food regulations and feast days) into Pauline Grace, the “weak in the faith” (that is, weak in their understanding of God's change in programs and the role of Paul's distinct and unique apostleship) were judging and condemning the “strong in the faith” (that is, strong in their understanding of God's programs and the role of Paul's distinct and unique apostleship—Rom. 9-11) for not following the Law regulations. The implication of which was that that the “strong in the faith,” which was made up mostly of Gentiles, did not have a full and complete right-standing before God. Ultimately, this suggests that Christ's Work on the Cross isn't sufficient. You need the works of the Law as well, calling into question everything that God is doing in the world today.
Now, if we remember that Paul just explained in Rom. 9:30-33 that Israel fell because in focusing on a righteousness that came from the works of the Law, they missed out on the righteousness that comes through faith based on Christ and His Work on the Cross. They stumbled at that stumbling stone and rock of offence (Rom. 9:32-33). Israel tripped over Christ because of the works of the Law.
With this in mind, Paul's statement in Rom. 14:13 takes on much more urgency. Paul instructs the Romans, especially the “strong in the faith,” that they must do nothing that would put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in a brother's way or that would cause offense (Rom. 14:13b, 20). The Romans were in an extremely dangerous situation that must be resolved with the right answer immediately if disaster is to be averted. Like the Nation of Israel, they were at risk of stumbling over Christ again because of the works of the Law for righteousness thereby destroying their assembly.
Beginning in Rom. 14:14, Paul gives them the way that can avert the coming disaster, and it all starts with FOLLOWING PAUL BECAUSE HE IS THE ONE FOLLOWING THE LORD! Remember who, exactly, Paul was. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, who said of himself: My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation (Israel) at Jerusalem, know all the Jews ... that after the most straight sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee (Acts 26:4-5), and touched the righteousness of the Law, blameless (Phil. 3:5-6). From his youth, Paul was the strictest observer of all the works of the Law, including the food regulations and observance of feast days. Before the Risen Lord Jesus persuaded him otherwise, he would have stood proudly (as Peter did in Acts 10) and boasted that he had never eaten anything unclean in his whole life and never would!!
But then Paul had an encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus, who gave him the Dispensation of Grace (Eph. 3:2), through which He would introduce a new program called His Mystery Program, a new group of believers called the Body of Christ, and a new instruction manual called Pauline Grace. Therefore, when Paul makes the point that the Lord Jesus persuaded him—the ex-leader of the apostate Nation of Israel, the Pharisee of the Pharisees--that there is nothing unclean and everything is clean in Rom. 14:14 and 20, his point was that if the Risen Lord Jesus could persuade him of this fact, then He can persuade anyone of it.
If the Romans responded positively in faith to this epistle, the door would be opened to the persuading work of the Lord, and He would persuade them of the same thing He had persuaded Paul and the other “strong in the faith believers” of: The Jewish food regulations and feast days were no longer in effect because through Paul's distinct apostleship God is offering the whole world of enemy sinners, especially the Gentiles, a complete and perfect right-standing before Himself based on faith in the Work of Christ that is apart from Israel, through her fall and WITHOUT the works of the Law (Rom. 15:15-19).
This is the right answer. This is the answer that everyone in Rome must agree upon if disaster is to be averted. To turn away from the sole sufficiency of the Work of Christ for righteousness before God and go back to the works of the Law for righteousness was putting them at risk of stumbling over Christ all over again. But now the problem becomes what is the right way to lead someone who is embracing the wrong answer to embrace the right answer? Well, the wrong way to do this is the way the “strong in the faith” believers were responding in Rome. They were trying to enforce the right answer on the “weak in the faith” through flesh responses, by being unwelcoming, despising and neglecting and ridiculing the “weak.” But this way is not only unacceptable to God, it brings condemnation onto the “strong” and destruction onto the “weak” (Rom. 14:15, 20, 23). It works contrary to God and Christ (Rom. 14:15, 20). Forcing someone to do something they genuinely think will displease God is not the right way to resolve the matter. Making someone choose between pleasing you or pleasing God is a horrible thing to do, a stumbling stone indeed. Certainly, if the “strong” are really “strong in the faith,” they won't continue in such things any longer.
Instead, they are to follow the pattern of Paul, who was not only “strong in the faith” but also had a stronger Jewish background than anyone in Rome. He was the perfect mediator between the two groups. To follow Paul, they must do:
- Everything in (Agape) LOVE, the Love of God at the Cross of Christ, where He died for weak, ungodly, sinners on enemy status before Him as revealed in Pauline Grace Mystery Truth (Rom. 5:6-10). Being involved in God's Good plan without Love puts it in a bad light (Rom. 14:16). In short, if they are truly “strong in the faith,” they would know that Christ gave up everything and went to the Cross to die for His enemies. When this love is applied by the Spirit in heart, it empowers them to not think twice about giving up everything for a fellow believer (Rom. 14:15-16).
- Everything based on what is important to GOD AND HIS KINGDOM today as revealed in Pauline Grace Mystery Truth. If the “strong” are really “strong in the faith” they will recognize that as ones who belong to the Lord under the Headship of Christ, what God values most highly today is Righteousness (as revealed in Rom. 1-4), Peace/Reconciliation (as revealed in Rom. 5-6) and Joy/Victory in the Holy Spirit (as revealed in Rom. 7-8). Everything done in accord with these things is acceptable to God and beneficial to others because it selflessly edifies rather than selfishly destroys (Rom. 14:17-21).
- Everything by FAITH HELD BEFORE GOD in constant prayerful communion with Him based on Pauline Grace Mystery Truth in Love. If the “strong” are really “strong in the faith,” they will appreciate that the greatest blessing comes to those who operate in the presence of and communion with God, which will not bring condemnation onto themselves nor cause others to operate outside FAITH, which is sin (Rom. 14:22-23).
Now that Paul has gotten the “strong in the faith” straightened out so that they stop making responses with the flesh--like being unwelcoming, despising, and treating the “weak” as nothing--and they have begun to follow Paul in the Spirit in accord with Pauline Grace Mystery Truth and the FAITH and LOVE it dispenses ... only after all that does Paul finally give them something to “do” with regard to the “weak in the faith.”
- They are to endure the weaknesses of the “weak,” even their reproaches that called into question the “strong in the faith's” right-standing before God. The “strong” are not to please themselves but to please the other unto edification (Agape Love) because that is God's GOOD plan and the way their Lord Jesus Christ responded when He fell under the reproaches of others (Rom. 15:1-3).
- Once the “strong” had brought the “weak” close by, welcoming and receiving them the way Christ welcomed and received them, they were to show the “weak in the faith” how to handle the whole Word of God correctly so that it would be a source of patience, comfort, hope, joy and unity. The “strong in the faith” would accomplish this by teaching the “weak in the faith” how to rightly-divide the Scriptures so that they could become “strong in the faith” as well, being persuaded by the Lord of the same things Paul and the “strong in the faith” believers were persuaded of. This was the only way that would bring the whole assembly together, so that they could praise God with one mind and one mouth unto His Glory, thanking Him for making them the beneficiaries of all that He is doing today in the world through the Person and Work of His Son on the Cross as proclaimed through Paul's distinct apostleship and revealed in Paul's Letters, which comprise Pauline Grace Mystery Truth (Rom. 15:4-19).