We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself. Romans 15:1–3 NKJV

Scruples of Conscience (1)—Foods

Beginning in Romans 14, the apostle Paul takes up difficulties arising from the cultural and spiritual backgrounds of the believers at Rome. Many new believers there were Jewish. The Law God had given His earthly people had told them which foods were clean and could be eaten and which were unclean and thus were not to be eaten. Gentile believers had never been under the Law, and so enjoyed eating many things a Jew would regard as repulsive. The Jewish believers were no longer under the Law, but many no doubt still would feel defiled if they ate things God had called unclean.

Such believers probably regarded themselves as more spiritual than Gentile believers who felt free to eat any kind of meat and so would thank God for it and then eat it with pleasure. “How can they thank God for that unclean meat and enjoy eating it?” they might think. They would feel they were strong Christians.

But God refers to them as weak. The strong believer enjoys the liberty we have in Christ. He knows that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4–5). But he is told to bear with the scruples of the weak brother for his good, for “to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Rom. 14:14). The weak brother is never told to force his convictions on others—by calling their will “my conscience” and wanting to make others respect it. But if we are strong in the grace which was in our Lord Jesus, let us bear with the scruples we know our brethren have, and not insist on our liberty in a way hurtful to them.

Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.