In the 2nd half of the Book of Romans, we have been studying our response to the gospel. In Romans 10 we confess and believe; in Romans 11 we trust in the sovereign calling of election; in Romans 12 we begin to worship by serving God especially in church, being living examples of renewal, while trusting in the justice of God. In Romans 13 we focused on submitting to the authority of God, loving our neighbors and recognizing the urgent need to put off immorality and put on Christ walking in His righteousness. This week we will look at the danger of becoming lawmakers; people who project their own convictions onto other believers, and judge those who disagree.
1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.
[It's easy to see that as the churches grew they increased in a diversity of backgrounds and opinions. In Romans 12 we saw that an essential attitude, that God uses to incorporate such a diversity of gifts and callings into one unified body of Christ, is humility. Some new believers especially those trained in the Law, found the Spirit lead liberty of Christian living a little hard to swallow. Paul calls these people "weak in the faith", as they are still making the transition in their own minds from the Law to Grace. Here we are told to receive the weak into our fellowship, but not to get caught up in disputes that are now more about personal conviction than real commandments.]
2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.
[If you lived as a Jew in an idolatrous city like Rome it would be a constant struggle to observe the dietary laws of the Old Testament while shopping in local markets targeted to serve the ethnic and religious majority, rather than the Jewish minority. Some of these Jews, who had become Christ followers, were still practicing very restrictive diets to compensate for their "unclean" surroundings.
The "strong" would agree with Romans 6 that "you are not under law but under grace". This is an important doctrinal point, because if the Law could save you then the death of Christ would have been unnecessary. (Galatians 2:21). So the "weak" are still learning this, but the "strong" are told that in all humility they should not despise the "weak". Likewise the "weak" are not to judge the "strong" because "God has received him", meaning they are righteous in Christ without the works of the Law.]
4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
[Here again humility is helpful. Are fellow believers here to serve me or to serve God? God is our Master and Judge, whether our personal convictions were helpful or not will be judged by God. So if I have a strong conviction against something like easting fast-food, I am not to judge others by my personal standards, because it is highly unlikely to be the same standard that God will use to judge all people.]
5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.
[Another topic of conviction is the day of worship. This one should be easy to grasp for we still have denominations in this age who dispute over the day of worship. To Jewish converts of Paul's day it would be a very natural thing to continue to worship on the Sabbath; but to Gentile believers Saturday was just another day. Verse 6 points out that it is not the day that is important but that your day of rest and worship is dedicated to and focused upon the Lord.
Some of the larger churches in the country offer many service times just to accommodate their huge numbers, and those services usually start Saturday evening with one or two services, and continue through Sunday with several more service times. In that example even the same congregation could have different days of worship, and probably individuals who prefer one day over the other.
Now if you are thinking "Wait, Sunday is the Lord's day; that is when Jesus arose from the grave and that is when we should worship". But really in scripture there is no set day on which we are commanded to worship. The Corinthian church was apparently meeting on Sunday (1 Corinthians 16:2), but other mostly Jewish communities probably kept Saturday as their day of worship. The important thing is that we assemble together for weekly worship, and that you personally make time for rest and worship with your church family.
So whatever we eat we give thanks to God for it, and whenever we worship we worship together in all sincerity and reverence.]
7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
[What were we without the grace of God? We were condemned by our own works. All of our preferences, choices and decisions had landed us on the path to destruction.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
We have the liberty not to be rebound to a law of man's invention; but what will we do with that liberty? If I exercise liberty only to satisfy my own desires then how is that different from the self-serving works for which I stood condemned, before grace was extended to me? The proper exercise of Christian liberty is to follow after Christ, seeking good works for God's glory.]
9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written:
"As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God." (Isaiah 45:23)
[How many people willingly claim Christ as their savior, and ignore Him as their Lord? Being a servant, seeking to please our Master is not something often promoted in the high-self-esteem culture, but this paradigm of Christian service is what was described in Romans 12:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Here again we see how pride and arrogance lead to divisions in the church as people judge each other (by our standards not God's), and show contempt for each other. But if we exercise Christian liberty in humility and love, seeking the will of God, our fellowship will be to the glory of God.]
12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
[We have the liberty to follow our convictions so that we can worship in good conscience. But each of us will give an account of himself to God, as to how we use this liberty. As an example to us, Paul tells how He used this liberty.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24
23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being.
Paul judged his own exercise of liberty holding each activity to these standards:
- Is it helpful?
- Does it edify?
- Does it promote the well being of others?
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
So if Paul wanted to witness to vegetarian Jews who worship on Saturday, He would follow their customs so that his own preferences would not even be an issue or a potential hindrance to some hearing the gospel. Likewise if Paul was preaching for meat eating Gentiles and the local church met on Sunday, then he would observe those customs as well. He cared more for the souls of men, than his favorite foods, or mode of worship. More than anything he loved reconciling men to God through sacrifice of Christ.
- In what way are those bound to their own traditions considered "weak" in faith?
- How does humility help the "weak" and "strong" worship in unity?
- What traditions do you hold that you would find hard to surrender for the gospel?
- What are some things that are "lawful", but might not be beneficial?