perennial source of difficulty in the church is highlighted in this chapter.
Over and again we see someone adding to what the Scripture teaches – for our
own good, of course. Often this person is seen as one who is a superior,
mature Christian – when in fact just the opposite is true.
is the weaker brother?
Romans 14:1-5 NIV
him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. (2) One man's faith allows him to eat everything,
but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. (3) The man who eats everything must not look down
on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn
the man who does, for God has accepted him. (4)
Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or
falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (5) One man considers one day more sacred than another;
another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in
his own mind.
a common concept of Christianity: surely it must be better to have a neat,
complete set of rules instead of relying solely on the Holy Spirit and the
Scriptures. We make decisions about “what a Christian should do” – and it is
so easy to turn our decisions into “thus saith the Lord.” Rules take much less
effort than responsibility. For example:
of us of an older generation will recall that wearing a suit and tie to
church was an absolute requirement. You were to dress with
reverence! Indeed, some of us dressed not only in reverence but in
boastfulness – tastefully done, of course.
many of us “know” that Christ didn’t use real wine at the Last Supper, but
grape juice? This chapter is now used to justify that practice. We shall
see if this holds up.
people were (and are) considered strong in the faith. Paul’s point is just the
opposite: they are the weak in the faith. The issue is one of faith, not of
rules. If you need rules to supplement the faith, then you are the weaker
brother, at least in some sense.
is, and who is not
be clear about who the weaker brother really is. This is not:
legalist – the one who adds rules to the faith as being necessary to
salvation. When you substitute rules for Christ, you are a legalist –
and a heretic.
man with a problem. The man whose personal (applies to me, not to
others) law is never to touch alcohol is likely an alcoholic, and a wise
man. When he extends that law to me, then we must ask, “Did Christ really
are we talking about the man who accepts such a rule for the sake of
the harmony of the church. We use grape juice for communion; I think
it should be wine. But is the argument really about something essential?
Does it benefit the church, or tear it apart?
who is this weaker brother?
someone who prescribes a rule of practice in addition to the clear
teaching of the Scripture.
rules added are usually a result of “extended inference.” That chicken
you’re eating might have been used previously in a Santorini animal
sacrifice ritual – you’d better stick with hamburger. Better yet, stay
with kangaroo meat.
course, once you see all this, the temptation is to rush to your weaker brother
and straighten him out. Stop! If the matter is one of individual requirements
for him, so it is for you. Please remember:
has accepted this Christian as his servant. To condemn him is to tell God
that he made a mistake with this one. The bustling ignorance that makes
us try to convince everyone that we are right in every detail is indeed an
opportunity for longsuffering.
we have no authority to condemn this person. Their conscience is at
stake, and we want to attack that conscience for the purpose of making a
such action is a lack of faith on our part. It says that God cannot
redeem such a one, cannot turn them into a successful Christian without
time for a little motivation here.
Romans 14:6-12 NIV He who
regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the
Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and
gives thanks to God. (7) For none of us lives
to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. (8) If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the
Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (9) For this very reason, Christ died and returned
to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. (10) You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or
why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's
judgment seat. (11) It is written:
" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.' "
(12) So then, each of us will give an account
of himself to God.
for Death and Judgment
I make three obvious points?
are going to die, should the Lord delay.
any event, you are going to face the Judgment.
judgment is based in part on what you did – or didn’t – do for your
brothers in Christ.
don’t you think you ought to get ready for this?
and die to the Lord
what should we do?
Paul tells us in verse 5, each of us should be “fully convinced” in our
own minds. As Davy Crockett once said, “Be sure you’re right, then go
ahead.” This implies that you’ve taken the time to search the Scriptures
and reason upon them. If you make a mistake, then God will deal with that
– but lightly, as he knows your heart.
you’re not alone in this. At the very least you are with Christ, so
whatever you decide will be done at least in companionship. More than
that, you are with the church. It may be that you see no problem except
that of the harmony of the church. Is your liberty so valuable that this
would be destroyed for it?
please remember that anything may be done for the glory of God.
Just because it seems mundane and worldly, don’t forget that he made the
mundane and worldly. Use it for his glory.
central issue is simply this: the Lordship of Christ. If “it’s all about me,”
then I am the standard of judgment on all things – and the harmony of the
church suffers for it. Often enough I do too.
if “it’s all about Jesus Christ,” then I must ask what pleases him. The
harmony of the church, my care for my brother in the faith – these are things
that please him.
Romans 14:13-23 NIV
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your
mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. (14) As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully
convinced that no food is unclean
in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is
unclean. (15) If your brother is distressed
because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your
eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. (16)
Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. (17) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of
eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, (18) because anyone who serves Christ in this way is
pleasing to God and approved by men. (19) Let
us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual
edification. (20) Do not destroy the work of
God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat
anything that causes someone else to stumble. (21)
It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will
cause your brother to fall. (22) So whatever
you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the
man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. (23)
But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not
from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
block (verses 13-15)
are not to be stumbling blocks. Isn’t this just simply a form of “love your
surprises many of us is that we can be stumbling blocks just by “enlightening”
our fellow Christians. Even if what we believe is right, if we insist on it
and thus destroy the conscience of another Christian, we sin.
does this work? We have been taught by modern psychology that the “conscience”
in the old, Biblical sense doesn’t really exist. What you have instead is
“guilt.” Guilt is no longer a factual matter, but one of feelings. Since it’s
“just feelings” the psychologist works to get rid of those feelings. In other
words, he works to get rid of your conscience.
teaches the opposite. The conscience is to be preserved and kept working.
That mechanism is important – even if the rule at hand is trivial. We should
not destroy one of the great things God has given us to keep us from sin just
because we believe our brother mistaken about some unimportant detail.
is not license. Liberty includes responsibility. We are our brothers’
not allow” (verses 16-18)
the same time we are not to allow every little rule given by every weak brother
to creep into the faith. We have to be reasonable about this. The steps are
relatively simple, as regard to eating and drinking:
that God created was created good. There is nothing he created that is
intrinsically evil; nor can Satan create – he can only twist. Therefore
the “do not touch” rules are not automatically right.
should not allow “lowest common denominator” Christianity. Take it to its
logical extreme: if I think driving a car is evil (God didn’t create
cars, after all), then shouldn’t all the rest of you stop driving?
do we settle this? May I suggest a life of study of the Scriptures,
loving God with all your mind – and then discussion in love rather than
verbal combat? We can agree to disagree; I can agree to place no barrier
to your rules.
in the church
is one very good reason for this: peace in the church. It would be just
wonderful if we all agreed on every little detail. I see no possibility of
that any time soon. But that does not mean we must squabble about those
details. We can choose to have peace in the church. If it’s not essential,
either we have mutual edification (you may, after all, have a point) or it’s
time to keep our opinions to ourselves. Sometimes it’s best to argue rationally
and in a scholarly way; other times, it’s best to just shut up.