Question:

Question

Answer:

Paul said in Romans that he would eat no meat if it causes his brother to stumble or be offended. In the same context he mentions wine a few verses later.

I have concluded that he would neither eat meat or drink wine if it caused his brother to stumble or be offended. However, being the good Pharisee he had once been, I have not come to the conclusion that he always abstained from eating meat. Having decided that, I have also decided that he would not always abstain from drinking wine.


"Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way. 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. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:1-23).

We know that the debate over the eating of meat among early Christians was not pertaining to all animal products, but those which came into the market from idolatrous practices. "Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. ... Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble" (I Corinthians 8:1, 4, 7-13). Later Paul returns to the same discussion. "Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience' sake; for "the earth is the LORD'S, and all its fullness." If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience' sake. But if anyone says to you, "This was offered to idols," do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience' sake; for "the earth is the LORD'S, and all its fullness." "Conscience," I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved" (1 Corinthians 10:25-33).

Therefore, if the problem is not the meat itself, but how it was used prior to its coming to market, then we must conclude that Paul's statement in Romans 14:21 is of the same nature. "It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak." It is not the nature of the wine per se that may cause problems, but the source of the wine that caused some people consternation.

As pointed out in the article, "New Testament Beverages," the use of the word "wine" does not automatically tell the reader whether an alcoholic or a non-alcoholic beverage is under discussion. The Greek word oinos is a generic term referring to all products made from grape juice. We must consider the context to conclude whether by necessary inference the wine in Romans 14:21 is alcoholic.

Let us return for a moment to the meat being discussed. Since Paul was willing to give up meat for a brother's sake, does this imply that Paul ate all meat? When a debate arose about the acceptance of Gentiles as Christians, the brethren in Jerusalem wrote a letter and in it said, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well" (Acts 15:28-29). Notice that these necessary things were not the brethren's opinions; these were things good to the Holy Spirit. One of the things forbidden was "things strangled." This was a command to avoid meat where the blood was allowed to stay in the meat. All meat was not allowed for food to a Christian. Paul was among the brethren who delivered this message (Acts 15:30-35).

Therefore, when meat is mentioned in Romans 14:21, we cannot conclude that all meat was necessarily acceptable. For the same reason, when wine is mentioned in Romans 14:21, we cannot conclude that all wine, alcoholic or not, is necessarily under consideration. Instead, we must admit that the immediate context of Romans 14:21 lacks enough evidence one way or the other to conclude whether alcoholic wine was under consideration. This then leaves us with the need to search the broader context of the New Testament to find out what the Christian's view of alcoholic wine must be. For further details, I recommend the articles, "New Testament Beverages" and "The Use of Alcohol."

 

March 15, 2005