Romans (3)

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

This week we continue our worship series on Romans: ‘Not Ashamed of the Gospel.’ Each week we will remind you of the theme of Romans which helps to centre our reflections on a particular text.
Theme: Romans is THE great story of God’s plan for the reconciliation of all people and all creation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nested inside that big story are other stories that include this week’s text: a story of how eating together should reflect our confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.

READ - Romans 14.1-15.13

Note that this section follows Paul’s injunctions in ch. 13.8, 14 ...

8Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. [MESSAGE]

‘You are what you eat’ or don’t eat! PAUL devotes more space to this ethical matter than to any other in the letter, so we should pay attention.


In Rome, bread was a meaty food for Romans, with more well-to-do people eating wheat bread and poorer people eating barley bread. 2

Most people in the city of Rome lived in apartment buildings (insulae) that lacked kitchens, though shared cooking facilities might be available in ground-level commons areas.

Prepared food was sold at pubs and bars, inns, and food stalls. Take-out and restaurant dining were for the lower classes.

The government's attempts to place restrictions on taverns exposed the political and social divide between Roman rulers and the common people. The Roman elite viewed these establishments as breeding grounds for political rebellion. Because taverns signaled a threat to their power by bringing the masses together, several Roman emperors passed legislation that forbade the selling of meat and other delicacies.

Since restaurants catered to the lower classes, fine dining could be sought only at private dinner parties in well-to-do houses, or at banquets hosted by social clubs. The private home of an elite family would have had a kitchen and a trained staff with a chef and kitchen assistants.

In upper-class households, the evening meal had important social functions. Guests were entertained in a finely decorated dining room, often with a view of the garden. Diners lounged on couches, leaning on the left elbow. The ideal number of guests for a dinner party was nine. [Wikipedia]


15.1 is a controversial verse in translation. Consider the following:

NRSV – ‘We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.’

REV – ‘Those of us who are strong must accept as our own burden the tender scruples of the weak.’

CEB – ‘We who are powerful need to be patient with the weakness of those who don’t have power.’ 3

  1. Which translation do you think is closest to Paul’s intent?
  2. What is the value of tolerance as a virtue? What are the limits of tolerance as a virtue for disciples?
  3. What kind of boundary markers are you familiar with? For example, when I was a child no sports were allowed on Sundays. How have your ‘boundaries’ changed – in the last 10 years? 20 years? 30 years?
  4. Which word occurs some ten times in 14.1-12? Why does Paul think it is so important to his argument?
  5. Paul names three principles for behaviour in 14.13-23. Name them.

Paul concludes with this doxology:

Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! (15.13 - MESSAGE)