Romans 14:20
For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eats with offense.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Destroy not.—A different word from that employed in Romans 14:15. It is the correlative and opposite of “edify,” and means to “unbuild” or “pull down.”

The work of God.—The fabric which the grace of God has begun, and which the edification of Christians by each other may help to raise in the soul; the gradual formation of a truly Christian character, both spiritual and moral.

For that man who eateth with offence.—It seems, on the whole, best (though the other view is taken) to refer the “eating” here to the strong in faith, and the “offence” to that which his eating causes to the weaker brethren. The force of the preposition is that his eating is attended with offence.

14:19-23 Many wish for peace, and talk loudly for it, who do not follow the things that make for peace. Meekness, humility, self-denial, and love, make for peace. We cannot edify one another, while quarrelling and contending. Many, for meat and drink, destroy the work of God in themselves; nothing more destroys the soul than pampering and pleasing the flesh, and fulfilling the lusts of it; so others are hurt, by wilful offence given. Lawful things may be done unlawfully, by giving offence to brethren. This takes in all indifferent things, whereby a brother is drawn into sin or trouble; or has his graces, his comforts, or his resolutions weakened. Hast thou faith? It is meant of knowledge and clearness as to our Christian liberty. Enjoy the comfort of it, but do not trouble others by a wrong use of it. Nor may we act against a doubting conscience. How excellent are the blessings of Christ's kingdom, which consists not in outward rites and ceremonies, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost! How preferable is the service of God to all other services! and in serving him we are not called to live and die to ourselves, but unto Christ, whose we are, and whom we ought to serve.For meat - By your obstinate, pertinacious attachment to your own opinions about the distinctions of meat and drinks, do not pursue such a course as to lead a brother into sin, and ruin his soul. Here is a new argument presented why Christians should pursue a course of charity - that the opposite would tend to the ruin of the brother's soul.

Destroy not - The word here is what properly is applied to pulling down an edifice; and the apostle continues the figure which he used in the previous verse. Do not pull down or destroy the "temple" which God is rearing.

The work of God - The work of God is what God does, and here especially refers to his work in rearing "his church." The "Christian" is regarded specially as the work of God, as God renews his heart and makes him what he is. Hence, he is called God's "building" 1 Corinthians 3:9, and his "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" Ephesians 2:10, and is denominated "a new creature;" 2 Corinthians 5:17. The meaning is, "Do not so conduct yourself, in regard to the distinction of meats into clean and unclean, as to cause your brother to sin, and to impair or ruin the work of religion which God is carrying on in his soul." The expression does not refer to "man" as being the work of God, but to the "piety" of the Christian; to what God, by his Spirit, is producing in the heart of the believer.

All things are indeed pure - Compare Romans 14:14. This is a concession to those whom he was exhorting to peace. All things under the Christian dispensation are lawful to be eaten. The distinctions of the Levitical law are not binding on Christians.

But it is evil - Though pure in itself, yet it may become an occasion of sin, if another is grieved by it. It is evil to the man who pursues a course that will give offence to a brother; that will pain him, or tend to drive him off from the church, or lead him any way into sin.

With offence - So as to offend a brother, such as he esteems to be sin, and by which he will be grieved.

20. For—"For the sake of"

meat destroy not the work of God—(See on [2260]Ro 14:15). The apostle sees in whatever tends to violate a brother's conscience the incipient destruction of God's work (for every converted man is such)—on the same principle as "he that hateth his brother is a murderer" (1Jo 3:15).

All things indeed are pure—"clean"; the ritual distinctions being at an end.

but it is evil to that man—there is criminality in the man

who eateth with offence—that is, so as to stumble a weak brother.

For meat destroy not the work of God: here you have a further argument against scandals: q.d. For so inconsiderable a matter as eating a little meat, or for the use of an indifferent thing, do not destroy the work of God. By

the work of God, some understand the soul of a brother; that is styled God’s work by way of eminency: it was one of the chiefest works of the creation, and made, as it were, with the consultation of the whole Trinity; the image of God, after a sort, was engraven therein: and if this be the sense, it is a repetition of the argument in Romans 14:15. But by

the work of God, in this place, other things may be understood; e.g. the unity and peace which God worketh amongst believers of different persuasions in in different things; or else the work of grace, or faith, which God hath wrought by his mighty power in the hearts of men: see John 6:29 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

The work of God, in either of these senses, may be disturbed or hindered by the abuse of Christian liberty; and he that scandalizeth his brother, goes about, as much as in him lieth, to dissolve and demolish that which hath God alone for its author and worker.

All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence: here you have a concession and an exception: he granteth, that all things are pure and clean; i.e. in themselves, or in their own nature; see Romans 14:14 1 Corinthians 6:12 Titus 1:15: but then he addeth, that it is evil for, or to, that man who eateth with offence, or that offends another with his eating: it is not evil simply in itself, but accidentally, by reason of scandal. For meat destroy not the work of God,.... The Syriac reads it, "the works of God"; referring either to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, of which the kingdom of God consists; or to the weak brother, who both as a creature, and as a new creature, is the workmanship of God; and to the good work of grace, the work of faith upon his soul, which is the work of God; or rather to his peace, and the peace of the church of Christ, which is both the will and work of God; peace is what he calls his people to, and what he himself is the author of; and may be destroyed, and sometimes is, by trifling things; whereas a true believer, though ever so weak, cannot be destroyed, nor the good work of God upon his soul be lost, nor any part of it; not the work of faith, which Christ prays for that it fail not, and is both the author and finisher of; but the work of peace and edification in particular persons, and in a church, may be destroyed, but it is pity it should, by so small a matter, so trivial a thing as meat, or the use of anything that is indifferent:

all things indeed are pure. The Ethiopic version adds, "to the pure"; to them that have pure consciences, sprinkled by the blood of Christ, and have no doubt or scruple about eating things indifferent; but this addition seems to be taken out of Titus 1:15; though it may serve to explain the sense, which is, that all sorts of food, without any distinction, may be eaten; there is nothing common or unclean, every creature in itself is good, and every Christian may lawfully eat thereof, with moderation and thankfulness. This is a concession which stands thus corrected and restrained,

but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. The Arabic version adds, "of his neighbour"; which is a good interpretation of the passage; for the apostle means not with offence to a man's own conscience, though so to eat is an evil too, but with offence to a fellow Christian; it is not an evil in itself to eat, but when this circumstance of offending another thereby attends it; it is evil, though not in itself, yet in its consequences; it offends a weak brother, displeases Christ, who would not have one of his little ones offended, and brings a woe upon the person by whom the offence comes. The Ethiopic version reads, "who eats inordinately"; which to be sure is sinful, but is not the meaning here.

For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 14:20. Prohibition of the opposite of τὰ τῆς οἰκοδομῆς τῆς εἰς ἀλλήλ.

κατάλυε] pull down. Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:1; Galatians 2:18; Matthew 26:61.

τὸ ἔργον τοῦ Θεοῦ] here, according to the context, the building of God, by which, however, is represented not what is mentioned in Romans 14:17 (the δικαιοσύνη κ.τ.λ., so Fritzsche, Baumgarten-Crusius); nor yet the faith of one’s fellow-Christian (Theodoret, Reiche), or his eternal salvation (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact); nor all blessings vouchsafed through Christ (Köllner, comp. Borger); but, according to Romans 14:15, the Christian as such, in so far as his Christian life, his Christian personality, is God’s work (Romans 8:29-30; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10). Aptly Estius says: “fratrem, quem Deus fecit fidelem.” Accordingly, what was expressed in Romans 14:15 by μὴ ἐκεῖνον ἀπόλλυε, ὑπὲρ οὗ Χ. ἀπέθανε, is here expressed by μὴ κατάλυε τὸ ἔργον τ. Θεοῦ; but it is differently conceived and presented, in such a way that the brother is thought of there in his relation of redemption to Christ, here in his relation of spiritual origin to God. The importance of the latter conception is rightly pointed out by Calovius: “non levis est culpa, sed horribilis θεομαχία, opus Dei destruere.”

πάντα μὲν καθαρὰ κ.τ.λ.] the same thought as in Romans 14:14, repeated in order to enter further into the μὴ ἕνεκεν βρώματος. “All (all food) indeed is clean (not immoral to enjoy in and by itself), but it is sinful for the man who eats amidst offence,” who nevertheless uses a food, although he experiences moral offence in the using it—so that he thus against his conscience imitates the freer Christian. Comp. 1 Corinthians 8:9-10. This reference of the ethical dative τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τῷ διὰ προσκ. ἐσθ. to the weak in faith (Chrysostom, Luther, Beza, Carpzov, Semler, and others, including Rückert, Köllner, Philippi, Tholuck, Hofmann) is confirmed by the parallel in Romans 14:13-14, and admirably suits the connection, inasmuch as ἀλλὰ κ.τ.λ. unfolds the way and manner in which ἕνεκεν βρώματος destruction may befall the work of God. Hence we must reject the explanation (Pelagius, Grotius, Bengel, and others, including Reiche, de Wette, Nielsen, Baumgarten-Crusius, Fritzsche, Reithmayr, Krehl, Umbreit, van Hengel) of the strong in faith, who acts wrongly in eating under offence given, i.e. although to the offence of the weak. For in that case we should have here no reference at all relevant to the κατάλυσις of the ἔργον τ. Θεοῦ, but only the vague remark that it is wrong to eat to the offence of others.

ἀλλὰ] after μέν; see Vigerus, ed. Herm. p. 536; Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 403 f.; Baeumlein, p. 170.

κακόν] not hurtful (Rückert), nor yet bad in the sense of what is not good for him (Hofmann), but sinful, the ethical contrast of καθαρά. The subject (it) is to be understood of itself from what precedes, namely τὸ καθαρόν, the pure in itself. Others supply πᾶν (Reiche), τὸ βρῶμα (Grotius), τὸ ἐσθίειν (Rückert), τὸ πάντα φαγεῖν (Fritzsche, Philippi). Hofmann also renders incorrectly, as though it ran, κακὸν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τὸ διὰ προσκόμματος ἐσθίειν.

διά] as in Romans 2:27.Romans 14:20. Paul repeats the rule of Romans 14:15. μὴ κατάλυε: the opposite of οἰκοδομεῖν. See Matthew 26:61, Galatians 2:18. τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ (1 Corinthians 3:9) what God has wrought, i.e., the Christian Church (which is destroyed by such wanton conduct) or the Christian character and standing of an individual (which may be ruined in the same way). πάντα μὲν καθαρὰ: this is the principle of the strong, which Paul concedes (μὲν); the difficulty is to get the enlightened to understand that an abstract principle can never be the rule of Christian conduct. The Christian, of course, admits the principle, but he must act from love. To know that all things are clean does not (as is often assumed) settle what the Christian has to do in any given case. It does not define his duty, but only makes clear his responsibility. Acknowledging that principle, and looking with love at other Christians, and the effect of any given line of conduct on them, he has to define his duty for himself. All meat is clean, but not all eating. On the contrary (ἀλλὰ), κακὸν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τῷ διὰ προσκόμματος ἐσθίοντι; sin is involved in the case of the man who eats with offence. Some take this as a warning to the weak; but the whole tone of the passage, which is rather a warning to the strong, and the verse immediately following, which surely continues the meaning and is also addressed to the strong, decide against this. The man who eats with offence is therefore the man by whose eating another is made to stumble. For διὰ προσκόμματος see Romans 2:27, Winer, p. 475.20. destroy not] Lit. loosen, dissolve, pull down. The word is used in contrast to the idea of building up in the previous words.—Same word as e.g. Matthew 26:61; Matthew 27:40; Acts 6:14; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Galatians 2:18.

the work of God] i.e. His building, the Church of His redeemed.

All things indeed are pure] As regards eating or abstinence.

with offence] Lit. by means of a stumbling-block; i.e. induced to do so by force of mere example, while his conscience is adverse or undecided.Romans 14:20. Μὴ κατάλυε, do not destroy) The effects of even one sin may be distressing and important moreover, Romans 14:15.—ἓνεκεν βρώματος, on account of meat) a very small matter.—τὸ ἔργον τοῦ Θεοῦ, the work of God) a very great matter: the work, which God accomplishes within in the soul, by edification, and in the church by harmony [Faith is principally intended, John 6:29.—V. g.]—κακὸν, evil) the word to eat [is evil], is to be supplied from what follows: He does not say κακὰ, evils.—διὰ προσκόμματος, with offence) so that another may be offended by his eating.Destroy (κατάλυε)

A different word from that In Romans 14:15. It means to loosen down, and is used of the destruction of buildings. Hence according with edification in Romans 14:19. See on Mark 13:2; see on Acts 5:38.

Work of God

The christian brother, whose christian personality is God's work. See 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; James 1:18.

With offense (διὰ προσκόμματος)

Against his own conscientious scruple. Lit., through or amidst offense.

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