Summary: Paul says, let freedom prevail, and suppress no aspect of the truth, and let each be persuaded in his own mind. This, of course, means that some will be persuaded one way and others another way, and so there will never be full agreement.
A crystal gazer collected 25 dollars for a reading and told the visitor, "This entitles you to ask me
two questions. Isn't that a lot of money for only two questions?" Asked the startled woman. "Yes
it is," answered the fortune teller. "Now what is your second question?" Many of the questions
people ask are as wasteful as the first one of this unfortunate woman. They are as irrelevant as the
question of the secretary who was to spell Mississippi, and she asked, "The river or the state?"
If all foolish questions were limited to the realm of the trivial, there would be no problem, but
they invade theology also, and waste time and energy that could be put to a useful purpose. For
example, someone asked Anselm, the leading theologian of the 11th century, why the second
Person of the Trinity, rather than the first or third, became incarnate? Rather than dismissing it as
irrelevant and beyond the finite mortal mind, he not only answered it, but he published his answer.
It is very complicated, but one of his reasons is that if the Father or the Holy Spirit would have
been incarnated, there would have been two sons in the Trinity: One before the incarnation and
one after. It makes sense, but it is of no value. It is on the same level as the question on how
many angels can stand on the head of a pin? Even if there was an answer, it would be worthless
A good question is one that leads to an answer that really matters. Paul's question in verse 4 to
Christians in conflict is a good question because it forces Christians to come to conclusions which
are healthy for Christian maturity. He asks, "Who are you to judge someone else's servant?" It
calls for self-examination and evaluation, and this is vital for Christian growth. Christians who
face up to this question will be among the great protectors of Christian freedom. Paul shows in the
context that a proper answer to this question will protect us from a perversion of freedom, and
provide us with a positive freedom. Paul stresses both the need for freedom from, and freedom for.
The negative and the positive are both essential. We need freedom from condemnation, and we
need freedom for conviction. We need freedom from perverted self-exaltation, and freedom for
positive self-examination. In the simplest terms, we need freedom from idolatry, and freedom for
investigation. Let's consider first:
I. FREEDOM FROM IDOLATRY.
How does this question free us from idolatry? If we ask ourselves who we are when we judge
another person we are forced to either produce our credentials, or get off God's throne. Joseph
Parker said, "That is the annihilating question. It brings every man up sharply, when he is asked
to produce his title." Paul's question demands that we come up with a answer that authorizes us to
sit in judgment, or get down with our fellow servants where we belong. This question is a sharp
rebuke to the weak Christians who were playing God and condemning the strong Christians. What
was happening in the Roman church was a common problem all through Christian history, and is
still a problem today. Christians have a tendency to identify their convictions with the convictions
of God, and, therefore, if anyone disagrees with them they interpret this as an attack upon God and
so they feel obligated to express God's wrath and condemnation.
This eagerness to defend God was well known to Paul, for he was convinced that he was
defending God when he persecuted the church. Paul learned in a shocking way that he was
playing God and doing an exceedingly poor job of it. Man never does a decent job at being God.
That is why God insists on handling his own affairs when it comes to judgment. Vengeance is
mine I will repay says the Lord. Christians are notorious, however, for being impatient with God,
and they take judgment into their own hands. Such an attitude is a sign of weak faith and
self-idolatry. It leads one to worship his own ideas and convictions as if they were equivalent to
This was the major problem that developed within the Catholic Church. It was her weakness
that led to her to self-idolatry. She set herself up as judge of all, and suppressed the freedom to
differ. All who did not conform to her pronouncements were killed or excommunicated. This is
idolatry when any man or organization puts itself on the judgment seat of God. Protestants have
done the same thing, and all of us are in danger of it. How do we gain freedom from this idolatry?
We simply ask ourselves this question of Paul-who are you, or more personality, who am I to