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.
Verse 14 gives a specific example of how the mature believer might cause an immature Christian to stumble.
14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus
Paul was a Pharisee and that made him a very strict legalist before he became a Christian. Once he became a Christian, he understood the importance of the liberty he had in Christ. Paul stated his own conviction about eating so-called unclean foods with great force here. He unequivocally agreed with the mature believer’s position. He did this by three emphasizes:
By the Lord Jesus
The apostle made it emphatically clear that there is nothing wrong with eating certain foods. There was no doubt in his mind about his liberty in Christ. He obtained this full conviction from the Lord Jesus. In this Paul affirmed the stronger believer’s position on liberty.
that there is nothing unclean [profane, common] of itself;
Paul’s conviction about food was that no regular food has anything intrinsically unclean or wrong with it (Mark 7:14-19). The phrase “nothing unclean of itself” is an assertion of Christian liberty. Writing from Corinth among those who themselves had an issue about meat offered to idols, Paul said this,
1 Co 8:8, But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
Elsewhere Paul affirmed the intrinsic good of food itself,
1 Ti 4:4, For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;
but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
There are immature believers who will persist that certain foods are unclean. It is important to recognize that they have different viewpoints on things than the mature do. The first condition for the mature is to live out liberty with others in view. It is not necessary to reverse one’s belief about grace or liberty in doing this. However, the mature must recognize that others need time to grow in their understanding of freedom in Christ. Some people have great difficulty in abandoning their unbiblical beliefs without due process.
Tit 1:15, To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.
The word “considers” means to calculate. The weak believer made a calculation that his view on foods was right. We are not to conclude that his calculation was accurate. The weak person’s conscience is such that he cannot violate his scruples without feeling guilty about it. He needs to be “convinced in his own mind” (v. 5).
“To him it is unclean” does not mean that the entire issue is one of subjective opinion. No opinion can make right what is contrary to extant statements of God’s Word. The book of Galatians makes it abundantly clear that a believer has freedom in Christ (Ga 5:1). Just because an uninformed believer comes to an unbiblical conclusion does not make it right. Conscience as it stands by itself is not a foolproof guide as to the right or wrong of a thing in itself. However, it is always wrong for a person to go against his conscience, although it is mistaken.
There is an element of flexibility in Christian living.
The mature believer is correct in believing that food laws are not binding on believers in the New Testament. We are to be careful not to assign truth to the misunderstanding of immature believers. We should not put our convictions into a different category due to sensitivity to other Christians. We do not have to be rigid about areas that require some discernment.