Chapter Thirteen

Romans 14, Unity, And Uniformity

In Romans chapter 14 Paul discussed in specific, practical terms the clash between Jewish Christians and gentile Christians in Rome.  Paul’s statement provides some specific insights into the nature of those differences.  His instructions regarding their clash within the Christian community in Rome followed an approach rarely seen among Christians today.  The animosity in Rome’s Christian community was deep, emotional, and real.  The statement in Romans 14 and the first half of Romans l5 made it evident that the groups had little if any respect for each other.  The ‘weak’ group passed judgment on the ‘strong’ group.  The ‘strong’ group held the ‘weak’ group in contempt.

Paul named each group.  They were not named by using words popular in the 21st century Christian community—conservative, progressive, liberal, etc.  Paul’s opinion did not determine the groups’ names.  Each group’s understanding of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ determined its name.  The group that restricted God’s purposes in Christ to procedures and rites were ‘weak’.  The group who grasped that God’s mercy and grace [expressed in the forgiveness extended through Jesus Christ] were bigger than methodology, rites, and religious festival food were ‘strong’. 

That is opposite the thinking of many of today’s Christians.  Many of today’s Christians consider those who honor procedures and rites as strong. They consider those who trust the forgiveness of mercy and grace in Jesus Christ as weak.

The two groups of Christians were strikingly different.  One group was deeply fearful that they would eat meat sacrificed to an idol.  [Remember, typical sacrificial worship in both idolatry and Judaism involved (a) offering a sacrifice and (b) eating part of the sacrifice.  To read about this practice, refer to 1 Samuel 1:1-5 and 1 Samuel 2:12-17.]  Since neither canning nor freezing existed, meat sold at the public meat markets was fresh or recently slaughtered meat [by their standards].  The primary source of meat for the meat markets was the excess meat coming from sacrifices in Rome’s idolatrous temples [this was the priests’ portion of sacrifices].  To eat meat sacrificed to an idol was considered by many as the act of worshipping the idol.  To be certain he/she did not honor an idol, this concerned Christian was a vegetarian.

This group of Christians in previous generations had honored sacred days [for example, Sabbaths, Passovers, Pentecosts, new moons {the beginning of the Jewish month}, etc.].  From their first memories, their family honored God, the Father of Jesus Christ, by structuring their lives around those days and the religious happenings occurring on those days.  As Christians, they continued honoring God by recognizing those sacred days.  To them, honoring God and celebrating holy days were synonymous.

Dionysus [Greek name] or Bacchus [Roman name], the god of vegetation and fertility, had widespread influence as an idolatrous deity and was honored by drinking wine.  Dionysus was so associated with drinking wine and the pursuit of pleasure that this god still is often referred to as the wine god.  Wine was associated with many idolatrous practices, including the libations accompanying sacrifice.  This Christian group did not drink wine.

The other group honored the Creator God, the Father of Jesus Christ, as the Source of everything.  They ate meat from anywhere without asking questions (1 Timothy 4:4; 1 Corinthians 10:25-26).  They considered every day the same.  No day was considered to be a holy day (Romans 14:5).  They drank wine (Romans 14:17, 21; 1 Corinthians 8:8).  By today’s standards, this group radically disagreed with the other group on basic lifestyle issues and basic concepts of honoring God.


Note the principles Paul stressed that both groups were to honor:

  1. Accept the weak in faith (verse 1).

  2. Do not use your opinions to pass judgment on another Christian (verse 1).  [Today most Christians do not consider recognizing holy days or drinking alcohol matters of opinion.]

  3. Do not hold in contempt another Christian who devotes his/her convictions and behavior to God (verse 3).

  4. Do not judge [declare condemned] another Christian who devotes his/her convictions and behavior to God (verse 3).

  5. God can and will make both groups stand—both groups are God’s servants, not the servants of other Christians (verse 4).

  6. Each Christian must be fully convinced about his/her convictions and practices, but must not bind his/her convictions or practices on other Christians who disagree with him/her (verse 5).

  7. Realize each group seeks to honor God in convictions and practices (verse 6).

  8. Live for God’s purposes [which precludes destroying other Christians], not for one’s own purposes (verses 7-9).


Note the Christian goals Paul endorsed:

  1. Make it your Christian goal not to be an obstacle or stumbling block to another Christian who placed life and confidence in Jesus Christ (verse 13).

  2. Make it your Christian goal to honor your own conscience in your conduct (verse 14).

  3. Make it your Christian goal to function on the basis of love (verse 15) [just as God does].

  4. Make it your Christian goal to seek righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (verse 17).

  5. Make it your Christian goal to be an encourager who builds up God’s work (verses 19, 20).

  6. Make it your Christian goal to refuse to allow your convictions to destroy another Christian (verse 22).


Note the responsibilities Paul gave them:

  1. Help weak Christians endure (Romans 15:1).

  2. Extend acceptance to other Christians (Romans 15:7).  [It is evident in verses 9-12 Paul focused these principles, goals, and responsibilities on the Jewish Christian-gentile Christian struggle in Rome.]

  3. Show your faith in God and His son Jesus Christ by demonstrating joy, peace, and hope (Romans 15:13).


Obviously, these groups were not unified because they were uniform.  They were not uniform!  They were unified because each group of Christians was in Christ.  Note they were unified even though they failed miserably to recognize their unity.  They both worshipped God, the Father of Jesus Christ, not an idol!  The eternal, living God was the focus of their lives and faith, not some lifeless pagan deity.

Paul wrote about this same reality in Ephesians 2:11-22.  A highly similar situation existed.  (1) There were two groups—the circumcised Christian and the uncircumcised Christian.  (2) The uncircumcised was considered inferior by the circumcised.  (3) Jesus Christ died to eliminate feelings of inferiority and to establish peace between the two groups of Christians—Jesus Christ removed the barrier separating them!  He abolished the enmity separating the two groups by eliminating ordinances in order to reconcile both groups in one body through the cross.

Though they considered themselves two groups, God unified them in Christ.  Though they previously neither understood nor accepted God’s unification in Christ, they all were  in Christ.  Though they were quite different, God through Christ made them one body.  A body is not composed of parts that are alike (uniform), but of parts that are very much unlike.  The fact that the body parts are unalike does not prove a body part is not in the body, devoted to the function and well being of that body.  Paul commonly made that point in his writings [for examples, see 1 Corinthians 12:19-30 and Romans 12:3-8].

Please note the Christians who received Ephesians did not fully comprehend what God did in Jesus Christ and his cross.  Yet, their lack of understanding did not nullify God’s accomplishment.  Both circumcised and uncircumcised believers in Christ were in one body by an act of God.  They needed to understand they were one body by an act of God.  They needed to treat each other as those who were in the same body. 

Surely, they needed to understand what God did in Jesus’ death.  However, God made them both one body in Christ when they entered Christ, even if they failed to grasp fully what God did in Jesus’ death.  God’s accomplishments in Jesus’ death and resurrection are not nearly as fragile as some Christians suggest!



The objective of life in Christ is not the ‘sameness of uniformity’ but the ‘diversity of a single body’.  Unity is not uniformity.  Unity is allowing God through Christ to make us one body.


Chapter Twelve   Chapter Fourteen