Summary: Most Christians understand how we are supposed to live in the world. We are lights in a dark world. We are Christ’s ambassadors, His personal representatives in a foreign land. Yet, sometimes we struggle to live peaceable with fellow believers. The princi
Give Mutual Acceptance to the Body of Christ
Romans 14 and 15
As I bring the last message in this Series of messages from Romans, the Apostle Paul continues his teaching on how Christians ought to behave. In Romans 12, we are invited to present ourselves to God as living sacrifices. How do we do that? We give our body to God; give our mind to God; give our ministry gift to God's Body; and give our love to all. Paul says, “Let love be without dissimulation.” Do not allow your love to be hypocritical. As the Body of Christ, we are the only one equipped to love the world in a pure way. We should love to all. Then in chapter 13, we are to Give Obedience to God's Delegated Authority. Paul carefully explained, we should give obedience to God’s delegated authority for wrath's sake; for conscience's sake; for love's sake and for Jesus' sake. Romans chapters 14 and 15 offer some valuable lessons on how Christians ought to live with each other. Most Christians understand how we are supposed to live in the world. We are lights in a dark world. We are Christ’s ambassadors, His personal representatives in a foreign land. Yet, sometimes we struggle to live peaceable with fellow believers. The principle Paul teaches here is the principle of tolerance or acceptance. Tolerance and acceptance is more than just putting up with each other. It's really walking in a loving, accepting, and appreciating attitude that has the power to maintain unity in the body of Christ. If Satan, our chief adversary, cannot prevent us from being saved, he then seeks to prevent the believers from walking in unity. In order to preserve the unity and influence of the church, believers must offer mutual acceptance in non essentials of the Christian faith. They should also resist the temptation to judge one another or condemn one another for what we believe about non essentials tenets of the faith. Paul first addresses the benefit of practicing mutual acceptance. Practicing mutual acceptance ensures that the believer’s personal liberty in Christ does not become a stumbling block for other believers in Christ. Then Paul moves to assure the believer that mutual acceptance enables one to be completely forgiving and accepting others in the body because Christ has forgiven and accepted them in His family.
The body of Christ has many basic tenets that we all accept and embrace. Those things are the core truths that are clearly defined in the Scripture about which there can be no debate. For an example: the origin of man; the identity of Jesus Christ; the authority of Scripture; and many others. Then there are some personal convictions that believers hold which are supported by Scripture, but not clearly defined. Most denominations are formed around these convictions. For an example: some believe that women should not preach; women should not wear pants, make up, jewelry, etc.; some Christians believe in snake handling as a testimony of their faith, and many others. There literally thousands of convictions, hundreds of denominations and sects who agree on the core values and beliefs but differ on the convictions. Finally, there is another area called preferences which are things not addressed in the Scripture but are embraced for many different reasons. For an example: the style of Christian music; the color of Church carpet; the style of the Church building; the kind of robes to be worn by the clergy and this list is endless. In other words, there will always be difference in the Church concerning the non essentials of the faith. Since we accept and believe the core basic tenets of the faith, we should give mutual acceptance to others when it comes to the non essentials. The apostle Paul was not talking about the basic moral issues, and core values in this text. He is clearly addressing the subject of non-essentials.
In a Christian church make up of Jews and Gentiles, there will certainly be disagreements over whether to eat certain meats or live as vegetarians; whether or not to keep certain feasts and ceremonies; whether or not they should observe certain special days or not and the like. So, Paul uses Romans 14 and 15 to address the subject of mutual acceptance and Christian tolerance. The believers at Rome were together on the way of salvation, justification by faith, sufficiency of the Gospel of grace and the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. Among Christians there must be unity on the core values of the faith. Paul urges the believers to protect the unity of the church by give mutual acceptance over non-essential things. Satan knows that a divided kingdom cannot stand. If Satan can deceive us into judging one another or being critical of one another in the non essentials, we cannot glorify God as we ought. Paul gives this advice in order to preserve Christian love and Christian witness in the world. In an earlier chapter, Paul expressed the idea that love is the fulfilling of the law. There is nothing more threatening, nor more destructive to Christian church, than the contentions and divisions that dwells among the members. When infighting breaks out, we leave one another battered and wounded on the road of life and many saints never recover. In this chapter, Paul provides the healing balm of Gilead for hurt in the church. In Romans 14:17, Paul sums up his conclusion by saying, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” As we continue our discussion, consider the statement that we should give mutual acceptance by receiving one another.