Building Each Other Up - Romans 14:13-23

As we enter the final chapters of Paul's epistle to the church at Rome, Paul continues to remind believers of their responsibility to encourage and strengthen each other. 

Paul has clearly established that Christians are free from the restrictions of the law and that we have liberty in our faith. However, we should never exercise that liberty or freedom in a way that trips up a weaker believer. 

Paul encourages us to make a conscious decision never to stumble or hinder a weaker believer. These words suggest actions that could cause someone to trip and fall into sin or add weighty burdens of legalism and confusion that prevent young believers from growing in their faith. 

We are not to be selfish in in exercising the liberty of our faith to satisfy our own desires. In his maturity, Paul explicitly states that he is fully convinced that none of these "questionable things" are unclean in themselves, (v.14) but it is a matter of conscience for each person. 

Jesus said that it's not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of him that makes him unclean (Mark 7:15). It's the actions and motivations of the heart that reveal the true character of a person. Similarly, if someone believes an action is in rebellion to God and they choose to do it, then for them it is sin. Therefore, we should not encourage our brothers and sisters to do anything they are not fully persuaded is right.

If our actions cause someone to stumble, then we are called to set aside our rights for the sake of our weaker brothers and sisters. Not because our actions are wrong, but because our chief goal should be to glorify Christ and to build up our fellow believers. 

Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10:23 that all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful or beneficial. Not all things build up. We are not to seek our own good, but instead, we are to seek what is good for our neighbor. 

That spirit is consistent with the Work of Jesus Christ who (according to Phil. 2:5-11) set aside his own rights being equal with God and became a man so that he could save us. This call to put the needs of others above our own rights follows Romans chapter 12 where Paul exhorts us to be living sacrifices for The Lord as our reasonable service for all he has already done for us. One key way we serve God is by strengthening and building up the body of believers. 

We must decide not to destroy, but to build each other up. As individual believers grow strong, so does the larger body of Christ. We should not remain content to live peaceably among those who are weak in their faith, but it should be our goal to grow, strengthen and equip them in their faith so that they can fully understand the completeness of their salvation in the finished work of Jesus Christ.