Read verses 1-4
Q: What is the context in which these verses are written? (Hint: read the last verse of chapter 13.)
"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts."
— Romans 13:14
A: The context is making “provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” The connection is this: we are not to make any provision for the flesh, which would include satisfying our appetites or judging one another. The word “lusts” carries with it a much broader connotation than just sex, for instance sometimes being translated as “covet”
Q: When Paul writes, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith,” is this a put-down?
A: No. It is a statement of fact regarding how the Christian regards his relationship with God. The implication is that the more one relies on rules to make decisions, the more dependent they are upon the Law. Remember that the argument made by Paul in Romans to this point is that a person’s relationship with God is not based in any way upon law, but upon faith, which is really a relational thing. If a person has just come out of being under the Law, such as a Jewish Christian, they will no doubt struggle with the issue of relying strictly upon faith. That may be a hard thing for them to do.
An analogy would be someone who was in a car accident and experienced physical trauma. For a while, this person is weak; they cannot be expected to do the things a healthy person can do. But because they cannot do them is not a cause for judging. We certainly wouldn’t make fun of that person, judge or put down that person because they were “weak.” So neither do we judge the person because their faith is not at the point that they are totally free from all past beliefs. To judge that person would be making provision for the flesh. (I spent a lot of time on this point because it is SO important.)
Q: What is the example that Paul gives in verse 2?
A: The example pertains to what a person eats. The specific issue is probably eating meat sacrificed to gods.
The historical context is this: Just as you and I go out to eat at restaurants, so Gentiles would go to the temple to have dinner. Temples were often the center of the commercial world, and housed many restaurants. One of the guarantees was that the meat served there had been offered to its god. Now, this situation raises some issues. Should a Christian avoid eating at the temple because they only serve meat that has been offered to other gods, which is idolatry? Or should the Christian avoid the temple altogether because of what it stands for? Or could a Christian go ahead and enjoy a fine dinner at a fine restaurant at the temple, realizing that, because there are no other gods, the whole issue is irrelevant? And again, should a Christian avoid going to the temple to eat because it might tempt someone else to eat there who had doubts about eating there?
Application: What are some issues that we struggle with today that are similar to what these Christians struggled with? Are there any places, activities or relationships that are a part of your life which — while comfortable to you personally — may not be comfortable to other Christians, particularly new Christians that haven’t yet developed great discernment or wisdom?
Q: What is supposed to be the response of Christians toward each other regarding these doubtful things?
A: Do not judge one another and do not look down with contempt upon one another. (v.3-4)
Application: Apply this principle to the following specific issues: watching R-rated movies, drinking alcohol, smoking, one’s dress or attire, dancing, celebrating Christmas, and living a luxurious lifestyle.