This short chapter is comprised of 4 paragraphs that demonstrate the error in placing importance on temporal things with a reminder of why this important woven throughout and emphasized smack in the middle. Paul is addressing two groups of people, as he has often done; but this time it’s not the people of God against the people of the world. This time, it’s two groups of God’s people – who differ over matters of opinion. Paul also addresses this topic in 1 Cor 8; I encourage you to read that chapter later, to provide more context to our passage here. These matters were part and parcel of the reason the council in Acts 15 was called.
Eating, religious days, eating and drinking, eating and drinking – contrasted with the kingdom of God within the brotherhood of Christ. When teaching on the Lord’s Supper, in 1 Cor 11, Paul begins with a rebuke to those saints over their selfish behavior with food and drink. In that passage, the unity we have in Christ, as exemplified in the Lord’s Supper, is set forth as the supreme reality for Christians and we should NOT get entrapped in disputes over food and drink. About these things, the Lord Jesus taught, So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ’ or ‘What will we drink? ’ or ‘What will we wear? ’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. This is not to say we are not to work for our temporal needs; it is to remind us to put spiritual things, heavenly things first and work at our jobs as unto the Lord, knowing all good things are gifts from the Father of lights.
You may recall that we were told at the end of chapter 13 that one of things we are supposed to avoid is quarreling with each other. Here we are told not to quarrel over matters of opinion. This first paragraph tells us that food must have come between saints in the early church; we see some evidence of this in 1 Cor 11. In some churches in our day, we see this in the realm of what some consider more healthy foods. Paul says neither the one who abstains nor the one who eats should look down on the other – both are children of God and neither has standing to judge the other. God is the Lord of each and He will uphold every one of His sheep; He will make us stand firm.
It’s this end-of-the-age event that Paul drapes over this discussion, as he tells us not to pass judgment on one another; reminding us again that judging another over what he eats or drinks is contrary to walking in love. And what greater witness is there to world than seeing Christian brethren truly loving one another? The night He was betrayed, Jesus declared, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) In our text, Paul says if your brother is grieved or distressed by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not tear down, undermine your brother by what you eat. Such disregard for those Christ bought is evil!