Summary: In our sermon today we will examine Part 3 of Paul's method of dealing with debatable matters.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the issue of debatable matters. Let’s continue to learn about this in a message I am calling, “Dealing with Debatable Matters – Part 3.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 6:12:
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
When the apostle Paul said that “All things are lawful for me,” what was “all things” referring to? “All things” refers to such things as adiaphora. The adiaphora refers to those “things or actions that in themselves are neither immoral nor moral, or neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture, and thus may be permitted for Christians.” So, Paul was saying that with regard to the adiaphora a Christian is free to do whatever he or she wants to do. In this regard, “All things are lawful for me.”
This issue of adiaphora comes up several times in the rest of The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. And so before I left for vacation I thought that it would be helpful for us to get a clear understanding of exactly what things are adiaphora and how to deal with debatable matters. I would like to conclude with our third study of “Dealing with Debatable Matters.”
The apostle Paul dealt most clearly with the issue of debatable matters in his letter to the Romans, in Romans 14:1-15:13.
Some “debatable matters” in our day are the following:
• Giving and receiving of wedding rings (which was hotly contested by the Puritans in the 17th century)
• Wearing jewelry
• Use of make-up
• Consumption of alcohol
• Mode of baptism (immersion or sprinkling)
• Some aspects of Old Testament fulfillment of prophecy
• View of eschatology (especially the millennium)
• Attending movies
• Watching television
• Aspects of Sabbath observance (such as work, play, and worship)
• Eating food in the church building
• Letting children participate in Halloween
• School choices (public, private, or home)
• Mixed swimming
• Playing cards
• “Gambling” for recreation
• Buying insurance
• Wearing pants (for women)
• Using a Bible other than the King James Version
• Playing guitars in church
• Men wearing their hair over their ears
Well, with that as an introduction, let’s review Paul’s method in Romans 14:1-15:13 of dealing with debatable matters.
I. The Fundamental Principle (14:1)
Paul lays down the fundamental principle of welcome (especially the welcome of the weak), which undergirds the whole discussion, in verse 1: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”
This fundamental principle is in two parts.
A. It Is Positive
It is positive: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him. . .” (14:1a).
The “weak in faith” are those who are immature, untaught, and (as Paul’s unfolding argument makes clear) actually mistaken. Nevertheless, they are to be welcomed into the fellowship.
B. It Is Qualified
Having reflected on the principle of welcome, we need to note that it is qualified: “. . . but not to quarrel over opinions” (14:1b).
Paul is saying that we must receive the weak person with a warm and genuine welcome, “without debate over his misgivings or scruples,” or “not for the purpose of getting into quarrels about opinions.”
II. Three Negative Deductions (14:2-15:13)
Having laid down the fundamental principle of welcome (especially welcome of the weak in faith), which undergirds the whole discussion, Paul now develops three negative deductions or consequences that follow from the fundamental principle.
A. Do Not Despise or Condemn the Weak Person (14:2-13a)
The first negative deduction is this: Do not despise or condemn the weak person. This is fleshed out in Romans 14:2-13a. There are four reasons why the strong in faith should not despise or condemn the weak in faith.
1. Because God has welcomed him (14:2-3)
First, because God has welcomed him.
2. Because Christ died and rose to be his Lord (14:4-9)
Second, because Christ died and rose to be his Lord.
3. Because he is your brother (14:10a)
Third, because he is your brother.
4. Because we will all stand before God’s judgment seat (14:10b-13a)
And fourth, because we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
B. Do Not Offend or Destroy the Weak Person (14:13b-23)
The second negative deduction is this: Do not offend or destroy the weak person. This is fleshed out in Romans 14:13b-23.
Paul goes on to lay two theological foundations for his exhortation, in addition to the four developed in Romans 14:1-13a.