Summary: An incomprehensive study of the 'one another' verses. Part 1
This sermon is our first installment in a seven-part study on what I’ve referred to as the ‘one another’ verses. These seven sermons do not represent a comprehensive coverage of the verses in the New Testament that address our relationship to one another as believers in Christ; but they will certainly constitute a good cross section of those verses.
We’ll talk about building up one another, admonishing one another, bearing one another’s burdens, being subject to one another, forgiving one another, encouraging one another, and confessing to one another.
Some of it, I promise, will be a little difficult for us to take. Some of these admonitions concerning our relationship to one another in Christ go diametrically opposed to our human nature. But they are the teaching and exhortation of the Holy Spirit nonetheless, and we’ll not cut corners in our study for the sake of personal comfort.
A theme you’ll hear running through all seven of these installments will be the one foundational truth, without which none of it could make sense or serve a purpose; that theme being; love as Christ loved us. You’ll read it again and again; and if you retain nothing else out of this series, I pray that the Holy Spirit will etch those words deeply into your minds and your hearts. LOVE AS CHRIST LOVED US.
He told us with His own lips that this is the fulfilling of the Law; and it is also the only real and lasting fulfillment of these verses we’re about to study.
So keep that phrase in mind if you please, LOVE AS CHRIST LOVED US, and let’s go.
In part one we are studying specifically, verse 19 of Romans 14. It says,
“So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
I want to look most closely at what we mean by ‘pursuing the things which make for peace’, and ‘building up of one another’. But first, as always, we have to be careful to look at what is being said in this chapter, to keep us from straying from the primary focus of the text verse.
Paul spent chapter 13 of this letter exhorting believers to proper behavior toward God and men, emphasizing the need for love to be the foundation of our behavior. It is there that he says, ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’.
In chapter 14 Paul goes deeper into what a ‘love’ relationship with those in the church is. He talks about gentle treatment of weaker vessels (brothers/sisters in Christ), and the fact that we should be accepting of one another, not judging (condemning), for Christ has died for each of us, and we each shall give our own account of ourselves to Him.
Now I’ve moved quickly through, just giving a very brief overview, up to verse 13. I’ll slow down just a little now to bring out his thoughts and the Holy Spirit’s teaching up to verse 19, but I’ll only slow down a little.
If you read verse 13 carefully and take time to think about it before moving on, you’ll see that Paul is slamming his hammer right down on the head of one of the most destructive problems in Christ’s church.
He exhorts not to judge, saying that we should instead determine not to put stumbling blocks in a brother’s way.
I am seeing two things here:
1. The act of judging (condemning) is putting a stumbling block in a brother’s way, and
2. While we are judging, some of the liberties we allow ourselves are indeed a stumbling
block to the brethren...maybe even the one we’re condemning.
Now I ask you; if a Christian man has a habit or a short-coming that is unattractive to the collective body of Christ, and those who are condemning him for it both, fail to love, AND have sins in their own lives that are causing that weaker vessel to stumble; who has the greater sin? You know the answer already.
Paul, the spiritually mature Paul, says in verse 14 that nothing is unclean in itself.
Did you hear that? Can you read that in your own Bible? Some translations say “No food”. But ‘food’ is not even implied there in the Greek. The text says ‘nothing’.
Now a big stumbling block to the early church was food that had been sacrificed to idols. That issue is addressed in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
And food that had been sacrificed to idols was probably on the minds of many Roman Christians as they read this letter.
In our day it wouldn’t be food sacrificed to idols. It might be smoking, or going to the movies, or eating at a public place on Sunday, or accepting a glass of wine when a friend has invited you over for Thanksgiving dinner.