What does Romans 14:14 mean?
ESV: I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
NIV: I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.
NASB: I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to the one who thinks something is unclean, to that person it is unclean.
CSB: I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.
NLT: I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Verse Commentary:
Paul makes his strongest statement so far about whether it's okay for a Christian to eat certain meats—or drink wine as mentioned in verse 21. This thought applies even if that meat might not be kosher according to the law, or may have been offered to idols. Paul knows and is fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean to eat or drink for Christians (1 Timothy 4:4). From a "ground level" view, there are no unclean or forbidden foods. By extension, this supports Paul's earlier point that those things which the Bible does not explicitly forbid are acceptable for believers.

There is a powerful, and important second side to this idea, however. Paul adds that if a Christian believes anything to be unclean, then it is unclean—for him or her. Paul is talking about a person's conscience. If, because of upbringing or previous experiences, someone cannot bring themselves to believe they can participate in eating or drinking something, that thing is actually wrong for them to consume.

This is a new idea. Paul elevates the role of the human conscience for those who are in Christ. Even if the facts seem to show that it is okay to participate in something, and even if other mature Christians confirm that it's okay for Christians to do, but you just don't feel that it is right, then it is wrong for you.

It's important to realize this principle only applies to disputable issues. These are the topics on which Scripture and the teaching of the apostles doesn't take a position. In other words, murder, adultery, and stealing are always wrong. That's a moral fact, regardless of what our consciences tell us. In the same way, kindness and prayer are always right, no matter what we feel. It's only in questionable areas—such as Paul's examples of food, drink, and holidays—where a Christian's conscience should have the last word about whether he or she will exercise freedom in Christ.
Verse Context:
Romans 14:13–23 instructs strong-faith Christians who understand that all food and drink is clean for those who are in Christ to be willing to set aside indulging their freedom for the sake of weaker-faith Christians. Those who cannot partake in good conscience—even though they are free in Christ to do so—should not do so. To violate their conviction is sin. It is also wrong for strong-faith Christians to tempt weaker-faith brothers and sisters into sin by insisting on exercising their own right to eat and drink those things.
Chapter Summary:
In Romans 14, Paul tackles the question of how Christians with different convictions about disputable matters should treat each other in the church. Strong-faith Christians who feel free to eat and drink what was formerly forbidden under the law of Moses should not flaunt their freedoms in front of weaker-faith Christians who are not convinced it is right to participate in those things. Neither group should judge the other. Those strong in their faith should rather yield than lead those weaker in faith to violate their conscience, which is a sin.
Chapter Context:
Paul turns from the black-and-white instructions about light and darkness in Romans 13 to the issue of disputable matters with the potential to divide the church. Paul instructs those who feel free to participate in activities formally forbidden under the law not to flaunt their freedom in front of those who, by conscience, still believe those actions to be wrong. Those strong-faith Christians should be willing to set aside their freedom to keep from leading their weaker brothers and sisters into sin by violating their convictions. Paul addresses this topic with additional comments in 1 Corinthians chapter 10.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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