Romans Lesson 12: 14.1-14 - ACCEPTING
LAST WEEK: In Rom. 13:1-14, we heard Paul discuss two broad topics: First, how Christians saved by God's grace should relate to their governments, national, state, and local. To summarize, Christians are commanded to submit to the human authorities in government because all governments and their leaders have been ordained by God for His own purposes, namely, to deter and punish those who do evil. Christians are likewise obligated to pay their taxes to support the work God is doing and give respect and honor to the authorities that God has placed over them. Second, going all the way back to the standards of Mosaic Law, Paul talked about the honor and respect owed not only to governments but to everyone, specifically loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. He described love as a debt that can never be discharged, because we can never repay the debt of love that we owe to others. It doesn't matter if we disagree with or don't especially like the person to whom love is shown. God has given us the spiritual resources to make this payment wherever it's needed. This is a love of the will rather than emotions, and it is our love of God that motivates it. It's a love that puts others first and gives more than what it owes-you might want to meditate on that one.
THIS WEEK: In Rom. 14:1-12, Paul speaks to the problem of the tensions sometimes created between Christians because of conflicting ideas. Not every issue in our lives is given an explicit boundary in the Bible and this can lead to differences of opinion about how we should use our freedom in Christ. In today's lesson, Paul focuses on the differences in opinion regarding rules about food and days (more about this later). Paul is most concerned about the manner in which Christians deal with differences than the fact that they have differences. Christ does not require us to agree on every issue, but He does call on us to love one another. Today, the issues that divide Christians are different than those of the First Century but the fact remains that we are still divided, yes? The guidance that Paul gives here to the Roman church will serve us today if we can bring ourselves to hear it and apply it. First, Paul calls on us to welcome those with whom we have differences and not to hold one another in contempt or judge each other. Instead, he calls on us (that's you and me, too) to recognize our essential bond as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all connected.
Read Rom. 14:1-4 - ACCEPT ONE WHO IS WEAK IN FAITH
1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
v. 1a: "Now accept the one who is weak in faith" - The word "accept" in this context means to welcome, to be open, and "weak faith" doesn't imply no faith; it's simply a person who lacks a full understanding of faith. At issue here is the use of our Christian "liberty," specifically, that we are freed from the Mosaic dietary laws because Christ declared all food clean (Mk. 7:18-19). In this instance, the weak person is weak in his or her understanding of Christian liberty.
v. 1b: "but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions" - To paraphrase this, Paul is saying that fellowship among Christians should not be based upon everyone having the same opinion. In other words, the stronger believer is not free to flaunt his or her Christian liberty by initiating an argument over opinions concerning what food you can or can't eat.
TRUTH 1: It isn't necessary for everyone in the church to hold the same opinions on everything.
Christians, saved by faith alone in Christ alone, don't have to be identical in all beliefs. What God demands is unity, not uniformity. In short, it isn't necessary for all Christians to think alike.
v. 2: "One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only" - Here, Paul sets up a specific disagreement between believers. A mature believer understands that salvation is based solely on faith in Christ, not what you eat. The immature believer who eats only vegetables is probably a Jewish Christian who apparently can't obtain or afford Kosher meat in Rome.
v. 3: "The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him" - A strong (or mature) believer is not entitled to look down on a weak believer who does not have a solid understanding of his or her liberty in Christ. Likewise, the weaker (immature) believer should not criticize the other believer for his or her views on this issue. Unfortunately, people with legalistic views (not just Jews), tend to condemn those who hold opposing views. We see this in various denominations I won't name. The correct view is that God "has accepted" both mature and immature believers.
v. 4: "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." - This verse is addressed to both the strong and the weak. Here, the "master" is God and the "servant" is any Christian. The point Paul makes is that a Christian should never reject a fellow Christian because he's strong, weak, or anything in between. A Christian who judges another Christian had made himself a self-appointed critic of a child of God. In the last phrase, "the Lord is able to make him stand," Paul is saying that God will uphold both the weak and the strong and makes the point that we are expected to receive all other Christians as God receives them.
TRUTH 2: Strong (or mature) believers who are confident in what they believe must resist the temptation to hold a condescending attitude toward those who are weak in the faith. Out of human nature, the strong have the regrettable tendency to diminish the weak. That's why it's vitally important in the body of Christ for mature Christians to develop a welcoming attitude toward those weak in the faith. Mature Christians should be in the business of making disciples, not enemies.
Read Rom. 14:5-6 - REGARDS ONE DAY ABOVE ANOTHER (or) REGARDS EVERYDAY ALIKE
5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
v. 5: "One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind." Paul now moves to the issue of "days," probably referring to Jewish feast days or the Sabbath. Just like the dietary restrictions, observance of the Sabbath and holy days was the mark of a faithful Jew. Similar to eating or not eating, the real issue isn't the difference of opinions on the days, but the judgmental attitudes that developed between Christians having different opinions on this issue. When Paul says, "Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind," rather than siding with either group, Paul calls on both to seriously examine what their consciences requires them to do (or not do) but at the same time, to show goodwill and tolerance toward brothers and sisters who don't share their opinion.
v. 6: "He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God." - In a nutshell, Paul is accepting (recall "accept the one" in v. 1) as faithful both those who do and don't observe the food restrictions and the holy days. At the same time, he makes it clear that he's speaking only to Christians whose sole motives are to honor God rather than dispute with each other. Comment: Is Paul being "wishy-washy" here? Not at all. He clarified his own position on these very issues when he declared, "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself"; then he added to it, "But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another." (Gal. 5:14-15).
TRUTH 3: God expects Christians to seriously examine what they believe. Here, Paul asked both sides on the issue of food and days to examine what their consciences required them to do. At the same time, he urged them to show courtesy and tolerance toward those who didn't share their opinion. As NT Christians, we now understand that we aren't subject to the dietary laws of the Torah and neither are we subject to observance of the Jewish Sabbath or other holy days. In fact, any idea of a Christian Sabbath has no support in the NT and is a mistake. Even though we Christians have traditionally set aside Sunday-the day of Jesus' resurrection-as a day of worship, God does not require us to keep a special day. God expects us to worship Him, not once a week, but every day.
Read Rom. 14:7-9 - NOT ONE OF US LIVES FOR HIMSELF
7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
v. 7: "For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself" - We live our lives in relation to other people. We begin our lives completely dependent on our parents, than as we mature, we not only become dependent on others but also have people who become dependent upon us, yes? Because what we say or do affects them, and vice-versa, it is vitally important for us to respect our interdependence. By His grace, we also live in relationship to God. While this is a great privilege, it also obligates (indeed, requires) us to live as God would have us live. And in the context of this lesson, God would have us live in peace and accept Christian brothers and sisters who differ with us, yes?
v. 8: "for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" - In both life and death, we belong to the Lord. Life gives us the opportunity to serve the Lord-by living as He would have us live-and death will bring us home to the Lord.
v. 9: "For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living" - Having already established that it's not proper to "judge the servant of another" (v. 4), Paul now establishes that Jesus Christ is Lord over all, living and dead. So by association, if it's not right to judge another's servants and we acknowledge that Christ is over everybody, then we must conclude that we have absolutely no right to judge one another (even Christians who differ with us), yes?
TRUTH 4: No Christian should ever consider himself or herself to be his or her own master. The fact of the matter is that we aren't at liberty to do whatever we please. Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master in this life and in the next-we are His entirely. As our Lord and Master, He expects us to live in peace and accept Christian brothers and sisters who might differ with us.
Read Rom. 14:10-12 - WHY DO YOU JUDGE YOUR BROTHER (OR SISTER)?
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD." 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
v. 10: "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God." - Here Paul sets up a contrast between the lesser and the greater: the judgments we render on others versus the judgments God renders. Paul does this to underscore the arrogance involved when we judge other Christians. He compares our opinions alongside the judgment seat of God to allow us to see how inconsequential our judgments really are. Notice that he refers to our fellow Christians as brothers (and sisters), which means they aren't just casual acquaintances-here today and gone tomorrow-but the people with whom we will spend eternity. We should honor that relationship rather than criticizing, which is the same as judging.
TRUTH 5: Judging other Christians is a family matter. Sinning against the family of God is a serious matter. Our fellow Christian brothers and sisters aren't just casual acquaintances-here today and gone tomorrow-but the people with whom we will spend eternity. We are commanded to do our very best to honor and preserve this vital family relationship and avoid criticisms, which is a form of judgment. God expects and commands us to live in unity with one another.
v. 11: "For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD." - Paul is quoting Isa. 45:32. The idea here is that as surely as the Lord lives--even those who fail to acknowledge the Lord now-will find themselves on their knees before Him on Judgment Day. Moreover, those who assume the prerogative of God to judge others will themselves be judged for it. (Note: Don't confuse these self-appointed judges with those who serve as God's agents in government which we covered last week in Rom. 13:1-7.)
v. 12: "So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God" - Paul nails down the point that, in view of the fact that God will one day review our case before His judgment seat, we need to judge ourselves rather then sit in judgment of others. No believer, mature or otherwise, will be exempt from the judgment of God.
TRUTH 6: Judging another Christian brother or sister is assuming a prerogative that belongs only to God. Any Christian who assumes the prerogative of God to judge other Christians will one day themselves be judged for it. Because of the fact that God will one day review our case before His judgment seat, we need to judge ourselves rather then sit in judgment of others. No believer, mature or otherwise, will be exempt from the judgment of God. Understand that this judgment seat doesn't decide whether a person goes to heaven or hell, because a Christian's salvation is assured when he or she believes. However, God will evaluate how we used our gifts, resources, and time in terms of our eternal rewards.