20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.
20 Do not destroy [ruin] the work of God
The “work of God” here is the building of the edifice of the congregation at Rome. Paul’s plea here was to the mature. Exercise of liberty should not tear down the immature.
“Destroy” means to tear down as one tears down a building. The opposite idea is to “edify” (v. 19) which means to build up. The mature believer is not to tear down the weak believer but to build him toward maturity. There is no need to run the risk of causing the spiritual ruin of a weaker Christian by insisting that he immediately must understand his liberty in Christ. The mature can easily lead the weak into something that might cause him to do something to violate his personal integrity.
for the sake of food.
The idea here is that we must not tear down the work of God over an issue of eating certain kinds of food.
All things indeed are pure [ceremonial or non-moral issues],
This phrase is a reiteration of the principle that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with eating any kind of food. Paul conceded that the mature person was correct in his understanding of Christian liberty.
However, just because the principle is right does not mean that the mature should use his liberty carelessly. For the believer under grace, anything non-moral is good to eat. But the mature should govern himself by a different principle that takes into consideration the immature, who does not have a clear understanding of the grace principle. The strong Christian does not exercise harsh criticism over the principle of grace that would cause the immature to stumble. The mature recognizes that one man’s meat is another man’s poison.
but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.
Eating certain types of food is not wrong; however, for the immature who have a conscience against unholy food, it will violate their consciences.
Mature believers have the onus to take immature believers into consideration.
No church can exist without its people holding different interpretations on Scripture. We should not expect these differences to disappear in the church we attend. That would be unrealistic. Unity of the church and the glory of Christ should take precedence over differences of interpretation on minor issues. Mature Christians need to distinguish between what is important and non-important when they relate to immature believers. Mature believers should major on majors.
However, there are issues that transcend individual perspectives on Scripture. This is especially true over areas where immature Christians have not grown. A church cannot survive if some people flaunt their beliefs over others.
To care solely about our own issues is a selfish attitude. It puts major emphasis on minor issues. God wants us to keep the proper perspective on major issues, matters of the kingdom of God. Why divide a church over minor matters? Many people in the church are willing to split the church over lesser things. They couldn’t care less about the mission of the church, missionaries, or anything of major importance.
This is not to imply that the grace principle is a lesser issue but that its application toward the immature is the lesser issue. Mature Christians are not to inject themselves into the lives of weaker believers by imposing their greater understanding of Scripture. There is a place for patience with the progression of people with lesser understanding of the concept of liberty. The most important thing for the immature believer is for him to continue to build an edification construct in his own soul. There is a biblical procedure for doing this, but an established believer flaunting his freedom over the less mature is not the way to do it.
All Christians are to look back on their decisions with a sense that they live their lives with integrity. They should be free from qualms in their conscience about biblical matters when they become mature in Christ.