Romans 14:3-5  When Preferences Differ - Be fully Persuaded in Your Own Mind

Romans 14:3-5 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

Before you can understand this passage, we must first examine the scope of this discussion. Paul is talking about what a person eats and on what particular day they choose to observe a holiday. One person eats meat sold in the market; the other person only eats herbs. One person wants to have church service on Saturday, and the other person wants to hold service on Sunday. I would imagine that in the church at Rome, there were Christians from a multiplicity of backgrounds. Some believers were Romans, Greeks, Jews, and more. Each one came with much religious baggage. The Jew had his fond memories of rituals, festivals, Sabbaths, and observances. The Greek and Roman remembered with deep remorse some of his holidays and sacrifices, much of which were intertwined with sexual immorality. Some of these Christians would eat meat that had been previously used in sacrifice at the pagan temple. This meat was less expensive, and they now realized that the pagan’s god did not exist. Conversely, other Christians choose to only eat vegetables. This preference would circumvent the possibility that they might eat by mistakes some of the meat sacrificed to a pagan god. They wanted all to know they had separated themselves from this former lifestyle.

Paul hears about this squabble. Paul has had to deal with a similar issue in the book of Colossians. Matter of fact, this discrepancy just about split that church. At Corinth,  there was an additional problem; they were eating meals sacrificed to idols and then having communion at the same table. Now the problem at Rome was a little different. Some thought it best to eat only herbs and others liked to eat meat. There is nothing wrong with either preference. The problem was when each person thinks they are sanctioned by God in their particular preference. The brother who thought he could only eat herbs felt he had the mind of God in this matter. He was confident that if everyone just sought God in this matter, God would reveal His purpose to them. The brother who wanted to eat meat was a little more spiritually mature, but he started acting as a child. He began despising his brother the vegetarian and cared little about his spiritual welfare. He positively knew that God does not care what a person eats.

Paul had no special scriptural revelation to share with them on this matter, and could not direct the church to the Old Testament verse for an answer. Paul did not want to push a liberty on a weak brother which might cause this immature person’s conscience to be defiled. Paul knew when a person ignores their conscience, it sometimes leads to depravity. This fellow actually thought God wanted him to eat herbs only, and Paul did not want to crush this person’s faith. Paul decided how to handle it. On subjects which God is silent, let each person follow their own conscience, and when two brothers have differing views, they should adhere to the following:

  • They should not judge or despise the other person.
  • However, they should be fully persuaded in their own mind what they believe to be right and wrong.
  • They should never violate their own conscience.
  • They should not allow the conscience of another to grant them liberty which they believe to be wrong.
  • They should be mindful not to cause their brother to stumble.

Paul wanted to make it simple. He decreed, Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Wouldn't be nice if churches today followed this same advice. Instead of splitting a church over the color of paint to apply to the walls, they could have an opportunity to prefer the other party. What a novel idea!