We Must all Become Vegetarians!?

Posted on 12/15/2006

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I simply cannot understand why Baptists are fighting over alcohol.  I fully understand the history of our alignment with the prohibition movement in America.  I fully understand the desire the desire and the heart behind those that have such a strong conviction concerning this matter.  What there are those that act as if the Bible does not apply to Southern Baptists in regards to this issue.

 I was recently asked by an individual this question and so the following is my response. After reading this post, please answer this question: Are Baptists really “People of the Book?”

Tim,
How do you think this passage fits into the use or not, (in) the issue of the use of alcohol? It is scriptural if you accept the writings of Paul as inspired. Rom 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.(KJV)

Here is my response (I added headings for the sake of the post).

The passage in question also has many other things to say on this matter of which I would like to point out, since you brought it up. After reading this, please tell me why Romans 14 does not apply to the SBC.

First, we must recognize that it is a clear violation of Scripture to allow this issue to divide or to cause disunity.

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. Romans 14:1-2

FIGHTING OVER FOOD, WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

Romans 14
Here we have Christians disputing over what a Christian should eat and drink.
Christians that find themselves in this situation are bound by God’s Word to follow these same instructions.

14.1 – Do not dispute over doubtful things
Those things that are not clearly taught in Scripture, are open for personal interpretation. We are forbidden to dispute over these matters. Clearly it is wrong to dispute over what things are wrong or right to eat or drink.

14.2 – For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak only vegetables.
There are various convictions about various issues, some were vegetarians, and some ate meat. Nowhere is it commanded in the Old or New Testament that people become vegetarians. Clearly this is a lifestyle that is not demanded anywhere in Scripture.

14.3 – Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats;
There is a tendency for those who restrict their liberties to sit in judgment of those who choose not to do so. There is a tendency for those who see liberty, to look down upon those who are weak in faith. Both are commanded to desist.

14.4 – Who are you to judge…
Clearly the Christian is forbidden to sit in judgment of others on disputable issues.

14.5-9
The text teaches that each person stands before God and not before each other in the matter of their choices concerning disputable issues.

14.10 –12 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother?This is a clear admonition to allow for differences without condemning each other’s convictions on disputable matters. Now why does this not apply to some Southern Baptists?

14.13 – Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
The stumbling block here is often seen as applying towards those who exercise liberty in food, drink, or the observance of special days, but look at the context. The use of the word rather connects stumbling blocks with those who were being judgmental!
Earlier in the text, the ones who partake were commanded in vs. 3 to not despise those who abstained, BUT it was the ones who abstained that were commanded to not judge. With this in mind, the ones causing the stumbling block are the ones who are passing judgment on those who are eating meat. In this verse they are told that they must not cause blocks in the life of the church by their judgmental attitudes

14.14 – I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
This is a clear reference to what our Lord taught us as recorded in Mark:
“There is nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. Mark 7.15

14.15-20
Clearly we are commanded to pursue peace. The Kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. What we eat or drink should not be a cause of disunity in the Church. Anytime we argue over diet, we are greatly falling short of God’s will and purpose for the church.

14.21-22 – THE SCRIPTURAL ANSWER: It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
NOTE: wine here cannot be grape juice; it makes no sense, why would anybody be offended by one drinking grape juice.

Honey, Thaw the Pork Steaks!
Or Final Applications…

1. Abstention is not demanded.
This passage does not require total abstention from “meat or wine, 14.21” but in reference to its use it says: “have it to yourself before God, 14.22.” This is to be a personal matter. One is not to attempt to persuade those who are weak to do something that for them is seen to be sinful. We are told to exercise our liberty, but to not compel others to do the same. Furthermore, it is obvious from the wording, that when one knows that they are in the presence of those who have an issue with a disputable practice of theirs, that they must refrain from it.

BIG QUESTION: How can we tell people that they cannot do something that the Bible here allows them to do?
The Bible clearly gives permission to exercise this liberty between them and the Lord. So how can we step in between them and the Lord, and say, “no, we forbid you to do this.” We then would literally be opposing what the Lord has said. Unless one is willing to say that this verse is not inspired by the Holy Spirit, one cannot require Christians to totally abstain from eating meat or drinking wine.

2. We Must Be Consistent.
The initial example/issue in this text dealt with the tension between those who eat meat and those who are vegetarians, 14.2. In 14.21, this issue is expanded to “drink.” To be consistent in our interpretation and application of God’s Word, if the principle of “having your faith between you and God,” in 14.22 required a total abstention (both in public and private), then nobody could even eat meat in private. Furthermore we would all have to become vegetarians if there were vegetarians in our Church, Association, State Convention, or in the greater SBC. According to the way some interpret this passage, all the Gentiles would have had to adopt Jewish dietary laws, but we know that they did not! Therefore it is obvious that this is not what the Scriptures require of us. What it is saying is that we should not cause a vegetarian to stumble, by attempting to get them to go against their own conscience and eat meat. Yet we should still feel free to grill a pork steak without guilt. Because of the context of this passage, the issue of “drinking wine” 14.21, follows the same principles as those who “eats only vegetables, 14.2.”

3. Stop the Nonsense. 
One of the arguments for calling for the total abstention from drinking alcohol is that somebody might see you and become offended. This argument does not hold up to Biblical or practical scrutiny. So many people want to focus on the reference to wine in this passage but the text clearly talks about a couple of other things; “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything…

What if a vegetarian saw me eating a steak out in public? Should I never eat meat in public? I have had vegetarians that were members of my church.  Should women never wear make-up because some do not believe in this? Should women never wear pants or jeans because some are offended at this? We still have some older women in our church that think that women should not wear “men’s clothing.”  Should we never buy anything on Sunday so that some are not offended? What about playing cards or dominoes or using dice? This notion that we must abstain publicly from anything that gives offense infringes on the liberty that we have in Christ. I remind you that our Lord often offended the Pharisees by publicly breaking their extra-Biblical demands.

The passage is telling us to not eat or drink with “contempt” or in other words, to throw it in the face of another or pressure another to do something that they cannot in faith do. To cause one to stumble would be to cause them to fall, not merely have their feelings hurt. If I pressure another to do something that they feel is wrong for them, then I cause them to stumble, or to fall. Those who want to make this passage teach that one should totally abstain from any and all alcohol, are not willing to apply this same standard to the other issues raised in this text or for that matter the many other disputable issues in our churches and culture. 

4. Where Is the Love?

It is clear that we are commanded to not pass judgment on others because they do not recognize standards that we may personally have, that are not clearly demanded of us in Scripture.  It is also clear that those who exercise liberty in these disputable practices, must never look down upon others with contempt, and furthermore must not flaunt their liberty with disregard to their brother’s conscience.  These issues fall into the category of “doubtful things” 14.1. Abstaining from one’s freedom to honor another’s conscience is something a Christian does out of love. It is not something that can be demanded by those who hold a differing position pertaining to matters that are doubtful.

TC

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