Summary: Immature and legalistic believers can be very nitpicky, so how far does God expect us to bend when we encounter these situations?
A. Where do we draw the line in being sensitive to other’s interpretations of the Bible or to their traditions when they conflict with our own? How do we handle those things the Bible is silent on?
B. Do we have to change our lifestyle or beliefs on some matter just because someone else believes differently?
C. I’m sure we all have encountered people who we thought had some strange beliefs and we wondered where they came from.
D. In my experience, I have found they often are passed down through the family until someone breaks the chain by saying, “I don’t see it that way.”
E. They can also come from a misinterpretation of Scripture. I think one of the more common things I’ve encountered in my years of ministry is the matter of selling things in church, whether it is members doing it or perhaps singing groups. I pastored one church where a gentleman actually left the church over us allowing a singing group to sell their music.
F. I would venture to say if we took a poll here we would find the same difference of opinion. Normally the instance of Jesus casting the moneychangers from the Temple is the background for this interpretation. But others have examined the historical setting of this and concluded it doesn’t apply to what it is normally applied to. So this is just one example of how our beliefs can negatively influence others and even cause conflict if not handled correctly and with sensitivity.
G. Handling things such as this is the subject of chapter 14. Some were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols and was now being sold in the markets. Some Christians had no issue with this since idols were not real, but their doing so offended other believers. Should they abstain?
H. Immature and legalistic believers can be very nitpicky, so how far does God expect us to bend when we encounter these situations?
I. It takes a great deal of God given wisdom to make that call but we do know God wants unity among his people and this requires sensitivity.
J. Little if any good is ever served when God’s people divide over issues that aren’t doctrinal.
I. Remembering We Will Stand Before God Fosters Sensitivity (vv. 11-16)
A. In the middle of his discussion of eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul gives a quote and makes a statement concerning our bowing before God and our personal responsibility to him.
1. It may seem out of place, but I think there is a reason.
2. Bearing in mind our personal responsibility and accountability to God helps us see things in a different light.
3. What is most important? For me to force my opinion about some matter on other believers that is only my opinion or for me to work together in unity with them to fulfill Christ’s Kingdom work?
4. We’ve already mentioned some things believers have differed over in the previous study, so I’ll not rehash all those. There is, however, more that evangelical Protestants agree on than differ over, and what we differ over is not pertinent to our salvation or eternity.
5. I’m not proposing we do away with denominations, though I think that will happen in heaven since they are man created (Baptists have not descended from John the Baptist), but we should work together as much as possible.
B. Thus we should not condemn others or put obstacles in their path since we know we are not perfect either.
1. While believers are no longer under condemnation and will not face God’s judgment as it relates to salvation, our works will be judged.
2. Jesus reminds us of a similar thing when he tells us to quit worrying about the speck in our brother’s eye when we have a beam in our own. We must take personal responsibility for our failures before we start pointing out the same to others.
3. It is not only the mature believer who can cause the immature believer to stumble as they live out their freedom in Christ.
4. Mature believers, if not careful, can become insensitive to issues immature believers are dealing with and thereby offend them. It is much better to give God time to deal with these matters than to be insensitive.
5. On the other hand, the immature or scrupulous believer can try to hem the mature believer in by petty rules and regulations.
6. Both of the above scenarios can cause division and dissension in the church.
7. This is not to say the more mature believe has to sacrifice their liberty just to pacify the immature believer. It is to say our focus should be on following Christ as closely as we can, letting others do so in the way they understand as well. Our fight is against the forces of evil not each other.