Saturday, 28 December 2013
…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
Paul has probably used as much ink on the continuing subject as any other in all of his epistles. Since verse 1, he has remained on the same overall concept of externals in life and how they should not be a distraction in our Christian conduct. In other words, if it is not a specific mandate (either in the positive – “do this,” or in the negative – “don’t do this”) then don’t argue over it. This is the source of legalism which poisons so many teachers, pastors, and congregations and it is just as harmful as ignoring mandates through liberalism. Both are to be rejected. Taking from Scripture or adding to it are both violations of what belongs to God alone.
Remembering now the first half of the thought which continues in verse 17, in the previous verse it said, “Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil…” What we do with our diet can certainly affect our Christian testimony, but it shouldn’t because “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking.”
This is the first time in this conversation that “drinking” has been added into the overall concept of “food.” The word used here is posis and simply refers to anything that can be consumed. However, is must be implying one of two things to even have been introduced.
The first would be something mandated under the law like not drinking blood or not consuming something at a particular time and for a particular reason, such as when one took a Nazirite vow (see Numbers 6). The second option would be something fermented or distilled – from beer to strong drink. The second is certainly what he is referring to here. Blood is forbidden even in the New Testament context (see Acts 15:20) and the Nazirite vow only pertained to Israel under the law. Therefore, other than blood, there are no drinking restrictions mentioned in the New Testament.
Understanding this, the consumption of drinking alcohol then falls under the “disputable matters” category just like types of foods and days of observance. Hence, to forbid it would be legalism; adding to God’s word. However, to promote it to the point where it leads to drunkenness would be going in the opposite direction. Either way, there would be an abuse of what is considered acceptable. Rather than getting into a bad situation over this issue, just like the eating of meat or the observance of a particular day of worship, we are to not let our “good be spoken of as evil.”
And the reason why is given as the final portion of verse 17. Rather than focusing on things which are temporary and passing away, we should be promoting “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Legalism is swept out of the house by proper doctrine when righteousness is pursued. However, the crowd who shout “do” and “don’t” over disputable matters do not promote righteousness. Where there is bondage, it is certainly missing.
The same is true with “peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We cannot live under these precepts if we are attempting to please men. Instead, there is only a violation of the conscience, feelings of guilt, and a lack of being filled with God’s perfect presence. And the reason goes back to what being “filled with the Spirit” entails. It is a passive action. A believer is sealed with the Spirit the moment they believe. They can never get more of the Holy Spirit from that moment. But the Spirit can get more of them. Through peace, contentment, and joy, the Spirit will radiate out of them. And this can only occur through obedience to God’s word and His precepts, not the precepts of man.
Life application: We have been given the chance for heavenly joy, even in this life. Why would we waste that wondrous opportunity by being brought into captivity and bondage? And why would we ruin it for another by having them violate their own conscience? Let us endeavor to put disputable matters away from our interactions with others.
Lord Jesus, You have offered joy, peace, and contentment in my life if I will but live in the Spirit and walk according to Your precepts. I can do this from the dirtiest prison cell or in a hospital bed. So then why should I not do it when I am living out my normal life! It is available to me now and so I accept the offer and receive the blessing. I will be obedient to Your word and I will be filled with Your Spirit. Hallelujah and Amen.