What does Romans 14:23 mean?
ESV: But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
NIV: But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
NASB: But the one who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
CSB: But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin.
NLT: But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.
KJV: And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
NKJV: But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.
Verse Commentary:
Paul wraps up his teaching on the disputable matters of opinion that might divide churches with a last word to those who are weaker in their faith. These Christians just can't feel okay, for example, about eating meat that might violate the restrictions of the law. Christians with stronger faith are confident that God's grace has freed from the law and made everything they might eat or drink clean for them (Romans 14:1–2; 14:14; 1 Timothy 4:4).

If someone doubts and eats meat anyway, Paul writes in clear language, that person is condemned. He is not eating "from faith." Put another way, he is eating against his own faith. Paul does not mean that such a person is condemned in the sense that he will no longer be a Christian. He is condemned in the sense that he is guilty of sin, though still in Christ.

Paul's last line is a summary statement: Whatever does not come from faith is sin. It is important to read this statement within the context of this discussion. Paul means specifically that for someone to violate their own convictions by participating in one of these disputed areas is to act against faith instead of from faith. That's a sin.

We should not take this to mean it is a sin to obey clear commands of Scripture, even if we find them unpleasant or personally difficult. It is always right to forgive, to be kind, to tell the truth, no matter how it feels to our sinful, limited human nature. But when the Bible gives no clear direction, we have the liberty to make our own choice. If our conscience is telling us no, we are obligated to refrain, even if that's a sign that we're one of those "weak in faith" regarding that issue.
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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