for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.Romans 14:17(NASB)
Paul's full and thorough presentation of the gospel in Romans, places the Christian pilgrim on a firm foundation. It brings us, step by step, into spiritual maturity and holy living. It develops in us a steadfast faith with a Christlike attitude towards others. Slowly it helps to conform us into the image and likeness of the lovely Lord Jesus, as we develop in godly discernment and wisdom from above.
This epistle lays a solid foundation on which to build. It warns of pitfalls to avoid and behaviours to cultivate. Earlier in Chapter 14, Paul directs his Christian brethren on how to respond to brothers and sisters that are weak in the faith. He continues by giving advice to more established believers on how to grow in grace and exercise themselves circumspectly, in the liberty we enjoy in Christ.
We are not to judge the spiritual temperature of other believers, nor cause a weaker brother to stumble in their faith because we have found a greater freedom in Christ. We are not to flaunt the liberty we have discovered in a way that offends another believer. We are to be sympathetic to the sensitivities of others who lack the religious emancipation that is ours in Christ.
In a time when food was regularly offered to Roman gods and sacrifices made to pagan idols, Paul knew that believers, who had engaged in these ungodly practices before their salvation, were often repulsed by the thought of eating food that had been sacrificed to these false gods, while other Christians understood that it was not eating the food that defiles a man, but his attitude of heart.
Paul clearly discouraged believers from flaunting their freedoms in Christ. "Do not destroy with your food, him for whom Christ died", was his clear instruction, "Do not let what is a good thing for you be spoken of as evil", he continued, "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Paul did not want the liberty some Christians enjoyed to offend a weaker brother or cause them to stumble in their Christian journey. Indeed, Paul warned that to do so would indicate that they were no longer walking in love.
While food and drink is not offered in pagan temples today, as in the days of Paul, there are many practices, religious observances, martial arts or various trends and customs that are not sinful, but could cause the one who has abandoned these traditions from their pre-salvation days, to be offended or distressed if a fellow-believer engages in them.
While one believer's conscience may free them to engage in certain practices and customs, they should be sensitive to the feelings and needs of their weaker brethren, so as not to cause them to stumble, "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking." It is not about exercising or singing. It is not about the sport we play, the hobbies we enjoy, the programmes we watch or the restaurants we frequent. "The kingdom of heaven is about righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Our conscience and concern for others should dictate what we do.
Salvation, or entrance into the kingdom of God, is by grace through faith in Christ and has nothing to do with eating, drinking, or any other rites, rituals or observances. Salvation is a condition of the heart - a heart that has trusted Christ for the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. True worship can only flow from a heart of faith and does not consist of the actions we undertake, the outward behaviours we exhibit, or strict adherence to certain prescribed laws or imposed practices.
True worship emanates from a soul that is right with God. True worship is an attitude that is conceived in the inner heart, which reflects Christ's beauty and grace. It is manifested in the fruit of the Spirit being produced, and the character of Christ being reflected in a life. Righteousness, peace and the joy of the Lord is an inner loveliness shining through the one who is loving the Lord Jesus, and seeking His kingdom first.
Righteousness, peace and inner joy is the gracious fruit of the Spirit that is formed in someone who is submitted to His leading and guidance. The kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness, peace, and joy, which proceeds from the one that is walking in spirit and truth. It is a matter of dying to the self-life and living for Christ.
There are many legalists who would seek to entice those who have been set free from the law of sin and death, back under bondage to the Law, by imposing dietary demands, sabbath laws, and other religious restrictions onto them. This modern-day legalism causes Christians to fall from grace, and bind themselves back under the Law - which Paul warned against in his letter to the Galatians.
While there may be nothing inherently wrong or sinful in eating or drinking certain foods, adhering to some cultural practices or the keeping of certain feast days, Christians are neither required to participate, nor prohibited from doing so. Those who choose to take part of their own free-will, have every right to do so, while those who choose not to do so are equally free to choose. Our great salvation does not depend on what we eat, drink or do. Our salvation depends on faith in what Christ has done for us.
Righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit comes through faith in HIM. We are not under Law but under grace, so let us make sure that the motives that govern our thoughts and the actions that are carried out in lives that honour HIM. May we do everything as unto the Lord, so that we give glory to our Father in heaven.
Loving Father, I want to please You, not only in what I do but by who I am in Christ Jesus - my Lord and King. Thank You, that my salvation does not depend on keeping rites and rituals, but comes through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Thank You, that righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit, comes through faith in Him. May my life be a reflection of His beauty so that in thought, word, deed, and motive I will proclaim His kingdom through my life, to the glory of Your name. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.