I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
The plan of God for each one of us is in the Lord Jesus. This is a statement of total flexibility in the non-essentials. Paul is a mature believer and he takes the position of a mature believer. Under the Mosaic Law certain foods were taboo, therefore to eat them was to be ceremonially unclean. However, in the dispensation of the Church the norms and standards of the royal family from the Law, environment or personal background are to be replaced by doctrinal standards as one matures spiritually. The application of doctrinal standards makes all foods clean. This applies to food, to holy days, to a lot of non-essentials; but in context we have two basic non-essentials: food and holy days. The application of doctrinal standards makes all food clean; any day a holy day. So applying this phrase to the context, the mature believer should have no hang-ups about eating foods or drinking wine, because he knows that there is nothing unclean of itself. This means that the taboos of the Mosaic Law have been superseded and the taboos of abstinence are not valid with regard to food and beverage.
But the weak believer without Bible doctrine in his/her soul thinks certain foods are unclean and should not be eaten by believers. Specifically in this verse, Paul is referring to the Mosaic Law and the meats that were forbidden. Some weak Jewish believers were not advanced to the point of leaving the Law behind and operating under grace.
For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.
The Law of Love and the Law of Liberty should be considered with regard to this verse. It is the responsibility of the maturing believer to use the proper law with regard to a weaker member of the Royal Family of God.
The Law of Love is directed toward weak believers. (I Corinthians 8:7-11) The Law of Love supercedes your liberty at times based on impersonal love for all mankind. (Galatians 5:13-14) Do not abstain from harmless things because of legalism. Abstain from harmless things because of the integrity in your soul if it could cause another believer to stumble.
The Law of Liberty is directed toward self. We know we have liberty in Christ according to I Corinthians 6:12. Under the filling of the Holy Spirit we use our doctrinal discernment to determine if doing certain things will cause another believer to stumble with regard to his/her advance to spiritual maturity. If so, we abstain. This is not legalism. It is a sound doctrinal principle that the maturing believer uses to maintain harmony in the body of Christ.
Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The believer’s good is slandered when he does not use the Law of Love in lieu of the Law of Liberty when the occasion arises. Normally the strong believer functions under the Law of Liberty which is his privacy, his freedom, the normal operation of the mature believer. Under freedom and privacy the mature believer has been liberated from legalistic or religious taboos. Therefore his lifestyle reflects this freedom because the mature believer does not major in the minor. For this reason the mature believer is often misunderstood. He is slandered, maligned and the object of vindictive criticism by weak believers. Therefore the strong believer must set aside his freedoms in certain cases in order to make an issue of doctrine rather than personal freedoms. If the issue is being bullied by the weak believer, then the strong believer must stand fast in his liberty, as per Galatians 5:1.
The kingdom of God could not even accept us until we are as good as God is good, and the only way that we could be as good as God is good is to have God’s perfect righteousness. Therefore at the point of salvation the justice of God imputed to us the righteousness of God. Each one of us as believers possesses divine righteousness. This becomes the target for blessing in time after salvation. Once the justice of God looks down and sees that we possess the righteousness of God then the justice of God pronounces us justified. Justification is the first act of the justice of God in our new relationship with God declaring us to be righteous. Peace and joy are results of the filling of the Holy Spirit operating in the life of the advancing believer. The emphasis should always be placed on doctrine not on things like eating and drinking.
For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
The mature believer not only applies the honor code to the weak believer but in superseding the Law of Liberty with the Law of Love he serves the Lord Jesus Christ. The more you grow the greater becomes your flexibility. The mature believer has the greatest flexibility of all. He serves the Lord Jesus Christ in the essentials and the non-essentials. Pleasing God is the function of the royal priesthood of the believer. This is related to Bible doctrine resident in the soul resulting in a maturing relationship with God. Being respected by men is a function of the royal ambassadorship of the believer. The basic fundamental difference between priesthood and ambassadorship is very simple. In priesthood we represent ourselves to God; in ambassadorship we represent God to the human race. The believer advances spiritually in the sphere of his priesthood but his production is in the sphere of his ambassadorship.
So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
We as believers of the Lord Jesus Christ and members of the Royal Family of God are on the battlefield of this world. God has provided through logistical grace the necessary support to gain momentum, to pursue and to exploit His plan for us. The pursuit of doctrine is the basis for the objective of fulfilling God’s plan, which in turn results in the fulfilment of the honor code and becomes a means of becoming a blessing to each other. Therefore, Bible doctrine must be the most important thing in your life. There is no substitute for the intake and application of Bible doctrine.
Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things are indeed clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
The person who has grown and advanced to maturity in his spiritual life has far greater responsibility than the weak believer who has neither a sense of responsibility nor any concept of reciprocal relationship in the Royal Family of God. The strong believer has the sense of responsibility, the flexibility, is oriented to reality, has common sense, understands thoroughly the function of the Royal Family Honor Code, and he knows when to supersede the Law of Liberty with the Law of Love. He does not tear down the work of God in the life of the weaker believer. The weaker believer has advanced; just not very far. But it’s still God’s work.
The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and whatever is not from faith is sin.
You have to know when to respect the privacy of someone else who is wrong. You may be right; they may be wrong, but you have to know when to keep quiet. So we have emphasis on the privacy of the priesthood and letting everyone live their life as unto the Lord. Let them establish their norms and standards from doctrine they learn, not doctrine you have learned.
You and you alone are responsible for your own spiritual life. And, you cannot live your life as unto the Lord without Bible doctrine resident in your soul. You must live life on the basis of doctrinal standards you possess, not the doctrinal standards someone else possesses. You must use the doctrine you have learned for your relationship with God, not the doctrine someone else has learned. You cannot live your life properly with some other believer/believers always telling you what to do. You have to know what to do if you are to take control of your spiritual life.
Many of the freedoms of the mature believer cannot be done in public without distracting some weak believer from the primary issue, which is Bible doctrine. While your life as a mature believer is not the issue to any other mature believer who has the good sense to be occupied with Christ and not with you, your life style can easily become a distraction to the weak believer, to the one who does not have the same amount of doctrine in his soul as you possess. To give number one priority to Bible doctrine in your life requires flexibility of application in the non-essentials. Many things that you do and know are right may be offensive to weak believers, and therefore in the presence of those weak believers you avoid these things in order that such a believer might not be distracted from doctrine. This flexibility of application demands certain legitimate functions of life which distract the immature positive believer be set aside under the Royal Family Honor Code.