Summary: Message 44 in our exposition of Romans. This message discusses unity in spite of differences.
Chico Alliance Church
Pastor David Welch
“Maintaining Unity in Spite of Differences” Romans 14:1-15:12
Transformation in how we live begins with renewal of how we think. From chapter 12 on, Paul specifies several areas where we need to adjust our thinking and change our living.
A. Regarding our dedication to God (12:1-2)
B. Regarding our place in the body of Christ (12:3-10)
C. Regarding our purpose in life (12:11)
D. Regarding difficult times (12:12)
E. Regarding saints in need (12:13)
F. Regarding difficult people (12:14-21)
G. Regarding government (13:1-7)
H. Regarding our neighbor (13:8-10)
I. Regarding our lifestyle in light of Christ’s return (13:10-14)
1. Perceive the times
a) It is already past time to wake up
b) The culmination of our spiritual journey is closer
c) The dawning of the kingdom of light is near
2. Practice the truth
a) Live in light of the truth not the darkness
b) Live honorably not wickedly
(1) Avoid aimless pursuits
(2) Shun shameless sexual pursuits
(3) Stop selfish pursuits
c) Embrace Jesus and evade the flesh
“Love greatly and live godly in light of the Lord’s soon return.”
J. Regarding unity in spite of differences in our service to God 14:1-15:7
There are more divisions and fights in the church over minor matters than significant differences. Many of the bitter differences that arise in the church have little to do with significant matters clearly addressed in the Scriptures. Many of our current denominations developed due to differences of opinion over things like mode of baptism, manner of government, styles of worship, methods and forms.
Believe as I believe, No more, no less;
That I am right, And no one else, confess;
Feel as I feel, Think only as I think;
Eat what I eat, And drink what I drink;
Look as I look, Do always as I do;
Then, and only then, Will I fellowship with you.
Paul addressed such differences in the church at Rome and how we should think and act when they arise. This must have been a significant issue in the church at Rome and perhaps the Corinthian church because Paul devotes significant space compared to the space given to other issues. The specifics of the problem are not really clear from this passage. We do know it had something to do with the particular observance or failure to observe certain rules concerning diet and days. There are actually two tracks of insight to be gained from this passage.
First -- how we should deal with differences regarding the way we worship and serve God.
Second -- The whole issue of our freedom or liberty in Christ.
The primary purpose of this passage is to encourage unity in spite of differences.
As far as I understand the situation in the church at Rome, two factions or groups had developed. The beauty of the Gospel is that it initially united extremely diverse and sometimes hostile groups of people. Rich / poor, nationality / nationality, Jew and Gentile. The Roman church attracted both Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. The Gentiles came to the church with little spiritual heritage other than pagan rituals. The Jews brought a rich heritage of worship and expressive religious ritual and practice. Both groups came to understand that salvation is by grace alone and that no ritual or observance of the Law could save them or cause them to be welcomed by God. No level of trying to keep the Law could merit salvation. Salvation came on the basis of faith in the work of Jesus on their behalf. The one group whom Paul labels “the strong” enjoyed a healthy understanding of their new found freedom in Christ and felt no pressure to observe either diet or days to please God. The Jewish Christians however maintained a sense of duty regarding both diet and days. Paul calls these “the weak” or those without strength because of their sincere but unnecessary compulsion to continue many of the non-essential traditions of their heritage. It is thought that they were so concerned about still observing strict dietary laws that they had actually become vegetarians in order to guarantee avoiding un-kosher market meat. They also still held the Sabbath Day to be of greater importance than other days; perhaps also certain other observances of special Jewish feast days. From what we gather from this passage, a division arose between the two groups that Paul felt obligated to address.
Comparable contemporary issues might include things like style of worship, church attire, various protocol or procedures, celebration of certain days or observances over others, Bible versions, taste in décor, instruments used in the church, SS curriculum, perhaps even issues like time of the rapture or who is the anti-Christ or the kings of the North. It may have to do with how we raise our children or what we do for leisure. These are things that might be considered non-essential or things not specifically addressed or clearly addressed in Scripture one way or the other. These are issues related to form rather than doctrine. These are things dealing with taste or tradition rather than truth. Perhaps they relate to more to policy than Biblical propositions. They have little to do with essential teaching and tenets of the faith.