Romans 14:14-23 Purity, Love, A Clear Conscience, And Having Faith.
Paul was able to say that he was raised and lived his life, before Christ, as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5). “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Phil. 3:4-6). It was Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ alone that convinced this Pharisee that “there is nothing unclean of itself.” (v. 14a) His position was one of faith based on the word of the Lord (v. 23).
“Of itself,” is the point. To use the yoga example again, there is not a particular body position or exercise that is “of itself” unclean. “But to him who considers anything unclean, to him it is unclean.” (v. 14b) This is the point. Some attach religious or spiritual significance to things which binds their consciences thereby, and for some they simply can’t separate the two. Meat in and of itself is not unclean (Cf. Acts 10:15). In fact, if someone offered it to an idol but then wanted to eat it, it was probably a prime grade ‘A’ cut. However, there is another point Paul is making, we need to walk in love. People, in particular, the family of God, are more important than food (v. 15, 20 Cf. I Cor. 8:9-13).
It is this possible impact on others that can cause what is good “of itself,” to be “spoken of as evil.” (v. 16 Cf. 12:17) The kingdom of God is what matters, and the kingdom is about people, and “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (v. 17 Cf. I Cor. 8:8) If one “serves Christ in these things,” everything else will take care of itself (v. 18 Cf. II Cor. 8:21). Seeking those things which edify is an expression of love for the body, including those things which make for peace (v. 19 Cf. 12:18; I Cor. 14:12). The goal of the strong should be that the weak not become weaker, but rather that the weak are made strong (v. 21). The strong should be happy before God with what He has given and spoken of as good (v. 22).
Paul’s position changed because the Lord spoke to Him and he had faith (Cf. 10:17; Gal. 3:2). Therefore if one is convinced in their conscience that something is contrary to the word, then for them it is sin, for “sin is lawlessness.” (I Jn. 3:4) Therefore, “whatever is not from faith is sin.” (v. 23) This goes to a person’s core-the heart (I Jn. 3:18-23). To go contrary to what one believes in their core and conscience is a clear teaching of scripture is a sin, and it is thus an act of self-condemnation. For the unbelieving their entire nature is bound in this condition (Titus 1:15), and why so many strive to sear their consciences to silence the noise (Cf. I Tim. 4:2).