Romans 14:20-23



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Romans 14:20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.  (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: me eneken bromatos katalue (2SPAM) to ergon tou theou. panta men kathara, alla kakon to anthropo to dia proskommatos esthionti (PAPMSD)
: You must not, for the sake of food, undo and break down and destroy the work of God! Everything is indeed [ceremonially] clean and pure, but it is wrong for anyone to hurt the conscience of others or to make them fall by what he eats.
 (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: Don't tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. But it is wrong to eat anything if it makes another person stumble.
 (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips:  Surely we shouldn't wish to undo God's work for the sake of a plate of meat!  I freely admit that all food is, in itself. harmless, but it can be harmful to the man who eats it with a guilty conscience.
 (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: Stop on account of food ruining the work of God. All things indeed are pure. But it is evil to the man who eats so as to be a stumbling block.
Young's Literal: for the sake of victuals cast not down the work of God; all things, indeed, are pure, but evil is to the man who is eating through stumbling.


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God's Holiness
God's Grace
God's Power
God's Sovereignty
Jew and Gentile
Gods Glory
Object of
of Sin
of Grace
Demonstration of Salvation
Power Given Promises Fulfilled Paths Pursued
Restored to Israel
God's Righteousness
God's Righteousness
God's Righteousness
God's Righteousness
God's Righteousness
Slaves to Sin Slaves to God Slaves Serving God
Doctrine Duty
Life by Faith Service by Faith

Modified from Irving L. Jensen's excellent work "Jensen's Survey of the NT"

(set aside) THE WORK OF GOD FOR THE SAKE OF FOOD: me eneken bromatos katalue (2SPAM) to ergon tou theou: (Ep 2:10 1Co 8:9, 10, 11, 12, 13 Ro 14:15 Mt 18:6 1Co 10:31)


Middletown Bible - The Law of Love (Romans 14:1-15:3) - For further help in understanding how to live so as to not cause a brother to stumble, see our paper entitled, "Guidance: 67 Biblical Tests to Use in Deciding Upon a Course of Action."


Do not tear down = present imperative + negative ("me" = not) which can be translated "stop tearing down" -- the point is that Paul is telling the believers to cease this destructive action which is already occurring in the body of Christ at Rome. Stop despising the weaker brother. Give up your liberty where it would cause a brother to stumble or cause others to speak evil of it (if practiced).


A T Robertson


"do not loosen down” (carrying on the metaphor in oikodome = building...The brother for whom Christ died, verse 15. Perhaps with a side-glance at Esau and his mess of pottage."


Tear down (2647)(kataluo from kata = down, prefix intensifying verb luo = loosen, dissolve, demolish, untie, undo) means literally to loosen down (unloose) and then to utterly destroy or to overthrow completely. To throw down (as the stones of the Temple - see below). To abrogate or abolish by authoritative action, treating as non-existent.


Thayer says "metaphorically, to overthrow, i.e. to render vain, to deprive of success, to bring to naught".


Kataluo is used literally of destroying, demolishing or dismantling an edifice (even brick by brick) To take apart. (Mt 24:2, 26:61, 27:40,  Mk 13:2, Acts 6:14)


Kataluo is used as a figure of speech to describe death as pictured by one tearing down ("folding up") an "earthly tent" (where "tent" is a metaphor for our earthly body - see 2Co 5:1 - see slightly different verb analusis with similar idea in 2Ti 4:6-note). Paul uses kataluo to describe the belief that one is saved solely by grace through faith and not law keeping (Gal 2:18).


Kataluo is used to signify the end of the effect of something. To deprive of force, to abrogate ("the Law or the Prophets" in Mt 5:17-note). To come to naught.


Kataluo is used to describe cessation of what one is doing. BDAG has "unharness the pack animals", and so rest, put up for the night or find lodging (Lk 9:12, 19:7, Lxx =- Ge 19:2, 24:23, 25, camped = Ge 26:17, lodging place = Ge 42:27, 43:21 ("inn" = Ge 43:21KJV], Nu 22:8KJV, Nu 25:1 = "remained", a "rest" that cost Israel dearly!; Josh 2:1, 3:1). Vine adds that kataluo "signifies to unloose (kata =down, luo = to loose), unyoke, as of horses, etc., hence intransitively, to take up one’s quarters, to lodge."


Kataluo was used a ruler who was deposed ("the ruler of this age is deposed").


Liddell Scott adds that kataluo was used


of governments, to dissolve, break up, put dissolve, dismiss, disband a neglect the watch... to end, bring to an break the unloose, unyoke, to take it down from the take up one's quarters, to lodge, (he is my guest)... to go and lodge with him... to take one's rest (may I take my rest in the grave)


As kataluo is used here in Romans 14, it presents a vivid picture of the potential effect of failing to heed Paul's warnings that relate to interactions between strong and weaker brethren in Christ ("of the marring of a person’s spiritual well–being" - W E Vine). One wonders if the modern church truly realizes how serious and how destructive this issue can be in a local body. To help see the "intensity" of the Greek verb "kataluo" see uses in Mt 24:2, Acts 5:38)


W E Vine...


The verb kataluo, “to overthrow,” literally means “to loosen down.” Here (in Ro 14:20) it is used of the marring of spiritual well-being, the pulling down of the work of God in a brother’s life, and is set in contrast to building up (Ro 14:19). The phrase “the work of God” suggests both the individual believer as constituting a part of God’s spiritual building, and the effects in him of the spiritual teaching by which the building proceeds. Cp. 1Co 3:17. (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson or Logos)


I like how John MacArthur pictures it...


We would consider it an appalling crime for someone to deface a Rembrandt painting, to shatter a sculpture by Michelangelo, or to smash a Stradivarius violin. How infinitely worse it is to tear down a work of God, a man “for whom Christ died” (Ro 14:15-note). (MacArthur, J: Romans 9-16. Chicago: Moody Press or Logos or Wordsearch)


Kataluo - 17x in 16 verses. NAS renders kataluo = abolish(2), destroy(5), destroyed(1), find lodging(1), guest(1), overthrow(1), overthrown(1), tear down(1), torn down(4). Compare the related derivative kataluma (Mk 14:14 Lk 2:7 22:11) the picture being that of the traveler "loosening" their belt and sandals as well as unharnessing their animals. The antonym akatalutos describes that which cannot be dissolved, figuratively referring to the character of the life of Christ (Heb 7:16-note). Compare kataluo to apollumi which also means to destroy.


Matthew 5:17-note  "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.


Vine - The Lord Jesus declared that He came “not to destroy [kataluo] the law,” Matthew 5:17, that is to say, not to lower the standard of divine righteousness, not to abrogate the least of God’s requirements, but, on the contrary, in His own life to “magnify the law and make it honorable,” Isaiah 42:21. Here a general principle is stated; “those things” = any things, but the particular application in this case, as the context plainly shows, is to the use of the law as a means of justification. (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson or Logos)


Matthew 24:2 And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down."

Matthew 26:61 and said, "This man stated, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.'"

Matthew 27:40 and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."

Mark 13:2 And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down."


Wuest say that Kataluo -  speaks of a gradual demolition of the Temple, such as took place when the Romans captured Jerusalem AD70, and destroyed the Temple. Our Lord’s prediction was fulfilled in exact detail. Only the foundation stones remain of all that magnificence. A double negative appears twice in our Lord’s answer, making an emphatic negation.


A T Robertson - Jesus fully recognizes their greatness and beauty. The more remarkable will be their complete demolition (kataluthēi), loosened down. Only the foundation stones remain.


Vincent - Thrown down (kataluo). Rather, loosened down. A very graphic word, implying gradual demolition.

Mark 14:58 "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.'"

Mark 15:29 Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, "Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,

Luke 9:12 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, "Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place."

Luke 19:7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner."

Luke 21:6 "As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down."

Acts 5:38 "So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."

Acts 6:14 for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us."

Romans 14:20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.

2 Corinthians 5:1  For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down ("folded up" = New Jerusalem Bible), we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Galatians 2:18 "For if I rebuild (return to "law keeping") what I have once destroyed (the belief that one could be saved by keeping the law), I prove myself to be a transgressor.


Marvin Vincent: Peter, by his Christian profession, had asserted that justification was by faith alone; and by his eating with Gentiles had declared that the Mosaic law was no longer binding upon him. He had thus, figuratively, destroyed or pulled down the Jewish law as a standard of Christian faith and conduct. By his subsequent refusal to eat with Gentiles he had retracted this declaration, had asserted that the Jewish law was still binding upon Christians, and had thus built again what he had pulled down. Building and pulling down are favorite figures with Paul. (Word Studies in the New Testament 4:106)


Kataluo - in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX) - Gen 19:2; 24:23, 25; 26:17; 42:27; 43:21; Num 22:8; 25:1; Josh 2:1; 3:1; Ruth 4:14; 2Sa 17:8; 1 Kgs 19:9; 2 Chr 23:8; Ezra 5:12; Ps 8:2; 89:44; Isa 38:12; Jer 5:7; 7:34; 16:9; 25:24; 37:13; 38:22; 49:16, 31; 51:43; Lam 5:15; Ezek 16:8; 21:30; 23:17; 26:13, 17; Zeph 2:7; Zech 5:4. Most of the Lxx uses of kataluo in the Pentateuch refer to the idea of lodging, but below are a few other representative uses.


Ruth 4:14-note Then the women said to Naomi, "Blessed is the LORD who has not left  (Hebrew = shabath = cause to cease, put an end; Lxx = kataluo) you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel.


Ezra 5:12 'But because our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed (Lxx = kataluo) this temple and deported the people to Babylon.


NET Psalm 8:2 From the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise on account of your adversaries, so that you might put an end to (Lxx = kataluo)  the vindictive enemy.


Psalm 89:44 You have made his splendor to cease And cast his throne to the ground.


Jeremiah 7:34 "Then I will make to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land will become a ruin.


Lamentations 5:15 The joy of our hearts has ceased; Our dancing has been turned into mourning.


Ezekiel 26:13 (KJV) And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard.

In context, what is the "work of God"? The work would seem to the man or woman saved by grace through faith -- our fellow believers who have been redeemed by the Father, Son, and Spirit, for Paul explains


For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10-note)


Vincent on work of God...


The Christian brother, whose Christian personality is God’s work. See 2Co 5:17-note; Eph 2:10-note; Jas 1:18-note.


Paul had just discussed peace and the building up of one another. Instead of building up one another they were tearing down one another (Wuest "the Christian character and testimony of a brother Christian") and Paul says to stop destroying the work of God over non-essential issues like your right to eat whatever you'd like to eat. The stronger brother was tearing down the spiritual well-being of the weaker brother rather than building him up (cp Eph 4:29, Acts 20:32).

Ray Stedman writes that...


Peace is the work of God. Nothing can produce lasting peace among people, especially those of different cultural backgrounds, except the work of God. It is the Spirit of God who produces peace. So, if for the sake of some right that you have, some liberty you feel, you destroy that peace, you are destroying what God has brought about. Do not do that. It is not worth it.


ALL THINGS INDEED ARE CLEAN: panta men kathara: (Ro 14:14 Mt 15:11 Acts 10:15 1Ti 4:3, 4, 5 Titus 1:15)


Clean (2513) (katharos) means free from anything that spoils or corrupts.


BUT THEY ARE EVIL FOR THE MAN WHO EATS AND GIVES OFFENSE: alla kakon to anthropo to dia proskommatos esthionti (PAPMSD):


Offense (4348) (proskomma [word study] from prós = to, against + kópto = cut, strike) can describe literal or figurative stumbling. It is something a person trips over. Thus proskomma can be an obstacle in the way which if one strikes his foot against he stumbles or falls or figuratively it can describe that over which a soul stumbles i.e. by which is caused to sin or which causes an occasion of apostasy. It is also used  figuratively, to describe a cause of falling or an occasion of sinning (Ro 14:13, 20; 1Cor. 8:9; Sept.: Ex. 23:33; 34:12).

Barclay writes that...

proskomma, means 'a barrier', 'a hindrance', 'a road-block'. It is the word that would be used for a tree that has been felled and laid across a road to block it. We must never do or allow anything which would be a road-block on the way to goodness. (William Barclay. New Testament Words)


Romans 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.  (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: kalon to me phagein (AAN) krea mede piein (AAN) oinon mede en o o adelphos sou proskoptei (3SPAI)
: The right thing is to eat no meat or drink no wine [at all], or [do anything else] if it makes your brother stumble or hurts his conscience or offends or weakens him.
 (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: Don't eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble.
 (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips:  We should be willing to be both vegetarians and teetotallers if by doing otherwise we should impede a brother's progress in faith.
 (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest:  It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor even anything by which your brother stumbles.
Young's Literal: Right it is not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor to do anything in which thy brother doth stumble, or is made to fall, or is weak.

IT IS GOOD ("beautiful") NOT TO EAT MEAT OR TO DRINK WINE, OR TO DO ANYTHING: kalon to me phagein (AAN) krea mede piein (AAN) oinon mede: (Ro 14:17; 15:1,2; 1Co 8:13)

It is a thousand times better to refrain from meat or wine or anything else than to offend a brother or cause him to decline spiritually. Giving up our legitimate rights is a small price to pay for the care of one who is weak.

BY WHICH YOUR BROTHER STUMBLES: en o o adelphos sou proskoptei (3SPAI): (Ro 14:13; Malachi 2:8; Matthew 16:23; 18:7, 8, 9, 10; Luke 17:1,2; Philippians 1:10; Hebrews 12:13; Revelation 2:14)

Although any given practice is permissible for a Christian (if not precluded by Scripture, in which case he should abstain from it, even though he would not forfeit his salvation by doing it), he should be willing to give it up if it might injure the faith or testimony of a fellow Christian. There are a number of other Biblical guidelines to help us in making informed decisions about doubtful things (see Ro 14:23).

Stumbles  (4350) (proskopto [word study] from prós = to, against + kópto = cut, strike) means literally to strike against and so to dash against something as one's foot against a stone. Proskopto in its literal use pictures a traveler who bumps against an obstacle and is caused to stumble. Most of the NT uses of proskopto describe a figurative stumbling, as here in Romans where Paul describes Israel's stumbling in a spiritual sense.

Proskopto  in context means to we must not encourage our brother to perform actions they can only do in defiance of their conscience, which would figuratively be causing them to stumble.

Proskopto - 8x in 8v - Matt. 4:6; 7:27; Lk. 4:11; Jn. 11:9, 10; Ro 9:32; 14:21; 1 Pet. 2:8. In the NAS proskopto is translated as burst against (1), strike(2), stumble(2), stumbled over(1), stumbles(2).

During the war when vessels had to be convoyed across the Atlantic because of the U-boats, all ships had to proceed at the speed of the slowest. This is something of what Paul has in mind here. The strong brother could stride ahead, but his love will not permit it. The shepherd must pace the flock to accommodate the weakest lamb. The Christian must regulate his freedom to take into account the feeble conscience of a weaker brother or sister. We must actively pursue those things that make for peace and mutual building up of one another. This is never easy, but it is the way of love.


Romans 14:22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.  (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: su pistin (en) echeis (2SPAI) kata seauton eche (2SPAM) enopion tou theou. makarios o me krinon (PAPMSN) heauton en o dokimazei (3SPAI)
: Your personal convictions [on such matters]—exercise [them] as in God’s presence, keeping them to yourself [striving only to know the truth and obey His will]. Blessed (happy, to be envied) is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves [who does not convict himself by what he chooses to do].
 (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: You may have the faith to believe that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by doing something they know is all right.
 (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Your personal convictions are a matter of faith between yourself and God, and you are happy if you have no qualms about what you allow yourself to eat.
 (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest:  As for you, the faith which you have, be having to yourself in the sight of God. Spiritually prosperous is the one who does not judge himself in that which he has tested with a view to approving it should it meet specifications and, having found that it does, has placed his approval upon it.
Young's Literal: Thou hast faith! to thyself have it before God; happy is he who is not judging himself in what he doth approve,

THE FAITH WHICH YOU HAVE, HAVE AS YOUR OWN CONVICTION BEFORE GOD: su pistin (en) echeis (2SPAI) kata seauton eche (2SPAM) enopion tou theou:


NLT paraphrases this passage as...


You may have the faith to believe that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by doing something they know is all right.


Do you feel quite sure upon such matters? Keep it within thine own bosom, but do not worry others with it.

Your own conviction - The NAS paraphrases the Greek which more  literally reads "to thyself" or "to yourself". This emphasizes personal responsibility.


 Your own conviction (to yourself) (4572) (seautou from = thee + autos = self) is a reflexive pronoun. The idea of "reflexive" is that it expresses action directed or turned back on oneself.


Before God - The idea is in His very presence.


Don't try to change your brother who has more rigid scruples. I may have complete liberty to partake of every kind of food, knowing that God gave it to be received with thanksgiving. But I should not needlessly flaunt that liberty before those who are weak. It is better to exercise that liberty in private, when no one could possibly be offended.

Two ideas are included in this phrase. The first is, “Keep it private” — that is, do not parade it or make it a point to show that you are above the weak scruples of your brothers; and the second is that this faith or firm conviction is not to be renounced but retained, for it is founded on the truth.

Ray Stedman writes...


So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. {Ro14:22NIV} Unfortunately, that is not a very good translation. It suggests that you are to keep quiet about your liberties, that you do not say anything to anybody, that you keep it between yourself and God. That really is not what Paul is saying. What he is saying is, "if you have faith, have it between yourself and God." That is, let God and God's Word be the basis for your faith, and nothing else. Be sure that what you are doing is not because of pride on your part, because you want to show off how free you are -- you are doing this because God has freed you by his Word. And, Paul says, if you do that, > blessed.


Paul does not require the strong to abandon their convictions about thing not condemned by the law. Instead he encourages them to have faith about such issues. Although mature believers may refrain from eating meat in front of weaker believers, they can still believe that Christ gives them the freedom to eat all types of food (Ro 14:2) privately before Him (see Ro 14:5).

Before God: that is, in the sight of God. Since God sees and recognizes it, this conviction need not be displayed in front of men. It is to be cherished in our hearts and used in a way that is acceptable to God. Being right in itself, it is to be piously and not ostentatiously paraded and employed.


HAPPY IS HE WHO DOES NOT CONDEMN HIMSELF IN WHAT HE APPROVES; makarios o me krinon (PAPMSN) heauton en o dokimazei (3SPAI):

Happy (3107) (makarios [word study]) (cf Paul's 2 other uses in Romans: Ro 4:7, Ro 4:8, cf Jas 1:25, 1Pe 3:14, 1Pe 4:14) which is usually translated "blessed". 

Blessed describes the state of being fully satisfied no matter the circumstances.

Happy is probably not the best English word to use to translate makarios because as common vernacular use of 'happy conveys the picture of the person with good 'luck' as the English word is derived from the root "hap" which means luck as a favorable circumstance. God is sovereign over all events at all times in all places and thus from a divine practical perspective there is no such thing as "chance" or "luck" that the world speaks of. 

Makarios is the one who is in the world yet independent of the world because his or her satisfaction comes from God and is not dependent on favorable circumstances. Thus one can be "makarios" and yet be in miserable circumstances as Jesus clearly illustrates -

Blessed (makarios) are you when they insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven (Mt 5:11,12).

So "blessed are you" does not mean "untroubled are you" or "healthy are you" or "admired are you" or "prosperous are you."

It means "between you and God all is well." You are deeply secure, profoundly content, happy in God even if you are weeping over the pain of a struck body, a perplexed mind, or a heartbreaking relationship.

Condemn (2919) (krino) primarily signifies to distinguish, separate or discriminate and then, to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, without necessarily passing an adverse sentence, though this is usually involved. Krino means to sift out and analyze evidence. Passing judgment, by implication, means condemning.

What he approves -  This chapter this man examines something and determines it is permissible and his conscience does not judge him as "off base" or out of line. He is blessed because he has a clear conscience (2Ti 1:3, Acts 24:1) regarding whatever it was he tested and then approved of. A person is blessed if he can do what he thinks is right without feeling guilty.

Approves (1381) (dokimazo  from dokimos = tested, proved or approved, tried as metals by fire and thus purified from dechomai = to accept, receive) means to assay, to test, to prove, to put to the test, to make a trial of, to verify, to discern to approve. Dokimazo involves not only testing but determining the genuineness or value of an event or object. That which has been tested is demonstrated to be genuine and trustworthy.

Here are the 22 uses of dokimazo in the NT - Lk. 12:56; 14:19; Rom. 1:28; 2:18; 12:2; 14:22; 1 Co. 3:13; 11:28; 16:3; 2 Co. 8:8, 22; 13:5; Gal. 6:4; Eph. 5:10; Phil. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4; 5:21; 1 Tim. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:7; 1 Jn. 4:1 Study some the other uses in context to help understand this great Greek word. In the NAS, dokimazo is translated as - analyze(2), approve(3), approved(1), approves(1), examine(4), examines(1), prove(1),proving(1), see fit(1), test(2), tested(3), try(1), trying to learn(1).

Dokimazo was used in classic Greek to describe the assaying of precious metals (especially gold or silver coins), usually by fire, to prove the whether they were authentic and whether they measured up to the stated worth. That which endures the test was called dokimos and that which fails is called adokimos

Dokimazo means to put to the test for the purpose of approving, and finding that the person tested meets the specifications prescribed, to put one’s approval upon him. For example Paul writes that unregenerate mankind

did not approve (dokimazo) of having God in knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mind, to do the things not seemly. (Young's literal translation see note Romans 1:28)

In this incredible verse in Romans 1, fallen men presumptuously put God to the test for the purpose of approving Him to see He if He would meet the specifications which they laid down for a God Who would be to their liking! But sinful man did not stop there, for finding that He did not meet their specifications, they refused to approve (dokimazo) Him as the God to be worshipped or to be kept in its knowledge! They tested the infinitely precious God as they would a mere coin, and chose to turn aside from Him!

Dokimazo means to make a critical examination of something to determine its genuineness. Dokimazo was used in a manuscript of 140AD which contains a plea for the exemption of physicians, and especially of those who have passed the examination (dokimazo). Dokimazo was thus used as a technical expression referring to the action of an examining board putting its approval upon those who had successfully passed the examinations for the degree of Doctor of Medicine.  Dokimazo was also used to describe the passing of a candidate as fit for election to public office.

Charles Spurgeon, at the height of his fame, was one day walking down the street and saw a sign which read,

“We sell the cigar that Charles Spurgeon smokes”

Upon seeing this sign Spurgeon gave up the habit. He came to see that what was for him a freedom might cause others to stumble.

Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.

Ray Stedman writes that...

If you have really based it on that, then your action will be one in which your conscience is free. You will not feel guilty and troubled as to whether you are acting beyond what the Word of God really says. You will be happy, free, blessed. But, if you do not, if you really have not settled this on the basis of Scripture, but are acting only because you want to indulge yourself; if you like this thing but you still feel a bit troubled by it; if you act then, you are going to be condemned by your conscience. And if you are condemned by your conscience, you will feel guilty. And if you act because you feel guilty, you are not acting out of faith, and, therefore, you are sinning. This is Paul's argument.  (The Right to Yield)

Hodge comments...

That is, blessed is the man who has a good conscience, who does not allow himself to do what he secretly condemns. Therefore the faith about which the apostle has spoken is a great blessing. It is a source of great happiness to be sure that what we do is right, and therefore the firm conviction which some Christians had attained was not to be undervalued or renounced. (Hodge, Charles: Commentary on Romans - Online)

R Kent Hughes writes that...

Paul is saying, What you believe about neutral things is between you and God. Keep it that way. Moreover, you are a happy (blessed) person if in exercising your liberty you do not condemn yourself by harming another. You are blessed if your exercise of freedom is free from doubt. You are blessed if no one is being scandalized and led toward sin by you. You are blessed because you feel God’s pleasure. (Hughes, R. K. Romans: Righteousness from heaven. Preaching the Word. Crossway Books or Logos)


Romans 14:23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: o de diakrinomenos (PMPMSN) ean phage (3SAAS) katakekritai (3SRPI), hoti ouk ek pisteos: pan de o ouk ek pisteos hamartia estin (3SPAI)
: But the man who has doubts (misgivings, an uneasy conscience) about eating, and then eats [perhaps because of you], stands condemned [before God], because he is not true to his convictions and he does not act from faith. For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin [whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful].
 (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT:  But if people have doubts about whether they should eat something, they shouldn't eat it. They would be condemned for not acting in faith before God. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.
 (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Yet if a man eats meat with an uneasy conscience about it, you may be sure he is wrong to do so. For his action does not spring from his faith, and when we act apart from our faith we sin.
 (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest:  But the one who doubts, if he eats, stands condemned because not by faith did he eat. Moreover, everything which is not of faith is sin.
Young's Literal: and he who is making a difference, if he may eat, hath been condemned, because it is not of faith; and all that is not of faith is sin.

BUT HE WHO DOUBTS IS CONDEMNED IF HE EATS: o de diakrinomenos (PMPMSN) ean phage (3SAAS) katakekritai (3SRPI): (1Corinthians 8:7) (Ro 13:2; 1 Corinthians 11:29, 30, 31)

Doubts (1252) (diakrino [word study] from diá = separation + krino = judge, decide) means literally to separate one from another. Metaphorically, diakrino means to distinguish, discern, judge, decide, and came to mean to be divided in one’s mind, to hesitate and to doubt. In the present verse diakrino means to to think that something may not be true or certain and thus to waver, doubt or be divided in one's own mind. In a number of languages `doubt' is expressed by means of idioms, for example, `to have two thoughts' or `to think only perhaps' or `to believe only a little' or `to question one's heart about.'


Do nothing about which you have need to ask a question. Be quite sure about it, or leave it alone. Whatsoever you cannot do with the confidence that you are doing right is sin to you. Though the deed may be right to other people, if you have any doubt about it yourself, it is evil to you.

Is condemned - In context condemned by his own conscience. If a Christian eats food or does anything when he has doubts in his own mind as to whether it is right or wrong before God (one who is “weak” in faith, Ro 14:1,2), his action does not spring from (ek, “out of”) his faith or trust in God and is therefore wrong. As Paul generalized, Everything that does not come from (ek, “out of”) faith is sin.

The principle is, “When in doubt, don’t.” As far as the weak brother is concerned, it is wrong for him to eat anything about which he has conscientious scruples. His eating is not an act of faith; that is, he has a bad conscience about it. And it is a sin to violate one’s conscience.

Condemned (
2632) (
katakrino [word study] from from katá = against, and krino = to judge) means to pronounce sentence against, condemn, adjudge guilty and always denotes to pass an adverse sentence. Here the weak brother condemns himself if he goes against his conscience.

Katakrino is used 3 other times in Romans Ro 2:1, 8:3, 8:34 (cf uses in Mt 20:18, 27:3, John 8:10, 8:11, 1Co 11:32)


C. E. B. Cranfield writes:

Paul has advice for the man who is weak in the faith, the man with the scrupulous conscience. It may be that this may disobey or silence his scruples. He may sometimes do something because everyone else is doing it. He may do it because he does not wish to stand in a minority of one. He may do it because he does not wish to be different. He may do it because he does not wish to court ridicule or unpopularity. Paul’s answer is that if, for any of these reasons, a man defies his conscience he is guilty of sin. If a man in his heart of hearts believes a thing to be wrong, if he cannot rid himself of the ineradicable feeling that it is forbidden, then, if he does it, for him it is sin. A neutral thing only becomes a right thing when it is done out of faith, out of the real, reasoned conviction that it is the right thing to do. The only motive for doing anything is that a man believes it to be right. When a thing is done out of social convention, out of fear of unpopularity, to please men, then it is wrong.

Although conscience is not mentioned in this verse specifically, clearly the verse does bring the conscience into focus, for our conscience serves as our "balancing scale" to aid us in determining what is right and what is wrong.

Conscience (4893) (suneidesis from sun = with + eido = know) literally means a "knowing with", a co-knowledge with oneself or a being of one's own witness in the sense that one's own conscience "takes the stand" as the chief witness, testifying either to one's innocence or guilt. It describes the witness borne to one's conduct by that faculty by which we apprehend the will of God.

Conscience is not an infallible guide, but it is wrong to go against one’s own conscience. We ought to never sin against our conscience, no matter who pressures us to do so.

Webster defines "conscience" as the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one’s own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good.

Ray Stedman sums up this section writing that Paul is saying...

Do not deliberately stumble or shock your brother or sister. Do not deliberately do things that will offend them, or even make them feel uncomfortable. Think about them, not yourself. SECOND: Give up your right when it threatens the peace or hinders the growth of another individual. Be alert to judge in that area. And THIRD: Never act from doubt. Act only from conviction, by the Word, and by the Spirit of God. If these problems are all settled on that basis, a congregation will be moving gradually toward the great liberty that we have as children of God....These are wise words. Properly followed, they will gradually work out the differences of viewpoints we may have. But if they are ignored, the church is bound to go along with one side or the other, and division, anger, and upset will follow, and the whole cause of Christ will be injured by that. In our next study, we are going to see how Christ is our great example in this, and what will happen to us when we really begin to live on these terms. Prayer: Thank you, our Father, for words that help us to understand these problems, and the way of working them out peacefully and cheerfully and joyfully, "preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Teach us Lord, to walk softly before you in this, with a concern for our brother and sister; to be patient and to learn to enjoy our liberties only as they do not injure or hurt another. We ask in Jesus' name, Amen (The Right to Yield)

AND WHATEVER IS NOT FROM FAITH IS SIN: pan de o ouk ek pisteos hamartia estin (3SPAI): (Titus 1:15; Hebrews 11:6)


A W Pink

If a man does not believe it is right to do some act, and yet ventures to do it, he sins. (Pink, A. W. The Holy Spirit)


If you are not sure that a thing is right, let it alone, for it will be sin to you.

People who can't come to a settled conviction about what God wants them to do are for ever subject to a guilty conscience and are in constant danger of acting against their conscience and thus sinning. So pray and study until you arrive at a settled conviction about your course of action.
The context of Ro 14 has to so with issues that are not absolute "do" or "don't" So if you do something that you don't have the freedom in your conscience to do it is sin. We know that whatever contradicts the known will of God is sin but this verse reveals another dimension of sin, that JESUS CAME TO SAVE US FROM and not to leave us in. To reiterate, any action that violates my Christian conscience (my renewed mind) is a sin. Therefore, a person who has scruples about matters not wrong in and of themselves should not act contrary to his conscience, because to violate the conscience is not acting in faith but is sin. The principle is...


Here are 12 excellent tests to apply...

1. THE WORLD TEST. Is it worldly? Will it make me worldly to do it (John 15:19, 1 John 2:15, 16, 17)?

2. THE QUALITY TEST. Is it good for me physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Ro 12:9b)?

3. THE TEMPLE TEST. Can I do it when I remember my body is God’s temple and must not be marred or misused (1Co 6:19)?

4. THE GLORY TEST. Will it glorify my Lord, or will it on the other hand possibly bring shame to His name (1Co 6:20, 10:32)?

5. THE BLESSING TEST. Can I honestly ask God’s blessing on it and be sure I’ll not regret doing it (Pr. 10:22, Ro 15:29)?

6. THE REPUTATION TEST. Is it apt to damage my testimony for the Lord (Phil 2:15)?

7. THE CONSIDERATION TEST. Am I being considerate of others and the effect this might have on them (Ro 14:7, 21)?

8. THE APPEARANCE TEST. Will it look bad? Does it have the appearance of what is wrong or suspicious (1Th 5:22)?

9. THE WEIGHT TEST. Could this slacken or sidetrack me in running the Christian race (Heb 12:1, 1Co 9:24)?

10. THE COMING OF CHRIST TEST. Would I be ashamed to be found doing this when He comes again (1Jn 2:28)?

11. THE COMPANION TEST. Can I invite Christ to go with me and participate with me in this (Mt 28:20b, Col. 3:17)?

12. THE PEACE TEST. After having prayed about it, do I have perfect peace about doing it (Col 3:15, Php 4:6,7)?

(from From Basic Bible Beliefs, Bible Baptist Church, Auburn, Wn., 1975, unpublished. From Training Manual for Local Church Visitation, Eugene A. Wood, DTS, ThM Thesis, 1980)

Harry Ironside (in Illustrations of Bible Truth) gives the following illustration...

Sandy was a thrifty Scot who objected to needless laundry expense, so when he wore a dress shirt to a banquet, he put it away carefully for future use. On one occasion when dressing for such an event, he took a used shirt out of the drawer and examined it with care, hoping to be able to wear it that evening. Not being quite sure of its strict cleanliness, he took it to a window, where he was looking it over under a better light than the room afforded. His wife, Jean, noticed him shaking his head as though fearful that it would not pass careful scrutiny.

“Remember, Sandy,” she called to him, “if it’s doubtful, it’s dirty.”

That settled it. The shirt went into the discard and another—a fresh one—took its place. Jeans’ words may well speak to every believer concerning things about which conscience raises any question whatsoever.

Spurgeon writes that...

Do nothing about which you have need to ask a question. Be quite sure about it, or leave it alone. Whatsoever you cannot do with the confidence that you are doing right is sin to you. Though the deed may be right to other people, if you have any doubt about it yourself, it is evil to you.

Morris writes that...

Although all things are, indeed, legal for a true Christian, he will try to do only those things which please his Lord. When he encounters questions not specifically mentioned in Scripture (smoking, movies), he should consider the various Scriptural principles that are given as guideposts to help him make such decisions. One of those is given in this verse, namely, he should be able to do it in full confidence that it is pleasing to Christ. Some of the principles, with typical supporting Scriptures, may be noted as follows:

(1) The act has positive value and is, without question, pleasing to the Lord (Ro 14:23 1Co 10:23; Col 4:5);

(2) The act is consistent with our new life in Christ (Col 3:1, 2, 3, 4; 2T i2:4; 2Co 5:14,15);

(3) We can sense the positive leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1Co 6:19,20 Ga 5:16, 17, 18);

(4) The act will not diminish our Christian influence (Ro 14:13,21 1Co 8:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13; 1Th 5:22)

(5) The act does not pose a danger of our becoming addicted to it (1Co 6:12; Ep 5:18; James 1:14,15)

(6) It can be done consistently with the example set by Jesus (1Pe 2:21 1Jn 2:6 Php 2:5)

(7) It can be done in confidence that it brings glory to God (1Co 10:31 Col 3:23).

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of relevant principles or appropriate Scriptures, but is at least indicative of what to look for. (Morris, Henry: Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing)


(1) There will always be diversity in the church, even diversity of conviction about what the will of the Lord is for some areas of behavior.

(2) Many of these differences we should not distinguish as good and evil. Sin is what does not come from faith. But our varying perspectives and varying degrees of faith, give rise to differing choice which may both honor Christ as acceptable choices.

(3) Therefore, we must not despise or condemn our brothers and sisters, but trust their Master and ours to deal with his servants wisely.

(4) We should all seek to be fully persuaded in the convictions we follow so that we are not immobilized by indecision or plagued with a guilty conscience.

(5) We should do all we do for the honor of Christ and with a heart full of thanksgiving to him.


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