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Summary: It's very easy for us to confuse our personal preferences with what the Bible teaches regarding an issue. Thus it's best to allow others the right to decide concerning principles or matters of conscience

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ROMANS 14: 1-9

INEVITABLE DIFFERENCES OF OPINION

[1 Corinthians 8:1-11]

Must Christians agree on everything? Sometimes we, as Christians, are quick to judge others as to their relationship with God or the way they live their life. We know that there is a lot of false teaching and casual Christianity out there, and rightfully we don't want to get taken in by it. At the same time, the basis for our judgment isn't always the best. It's very easy for us to confuse our personal preferences with what the Bible teaches regarding an issue. Thus it's best to allow others the right to decide concerning principles or matters of conscience (CIT).

A shoplifter with a guilty conscience sent a letter to a department store and enclosed $100. The letter explained, "I have just become a Christian, and I can't sleep at night because I feel guilty. Here is the $100 I owe you." He signed the letter and at the bottom added this postscript, "If I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest."

Martin Luther King Jr; once declared, "Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? Consensus asks the question: Is it popular? Conscience asks: Is it right?" The Bible assigns conscience an important role in the Christian life. The Holy Spirit often works through the conscience, either to excuse or to convict. However, this does not mean that the conscience is infallible. Some people have seared their conscience and can no longer distinguish between right and wrong (Rom. 1: ; 1 Tim. 4:2). Others, like those described in today's passage, suffer from a "weak" conscience. They feel guilty over actions that aren't inherently sinful.

In the Christian life, the conviction of our conscience should be taken seriously. Not only do we need to be sensitive to the prodding of our own conscience, it is important that we have regard for the conscience of others. Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of Christian liberty.

This conflict over Christian liberty surfaced in two primary contexts for believers in Rome: in the decision whether or not to eat certain foods and how to observe the Sabbath. The danger was that divisive arguments were erupting over non-essentials. So there are words of warning and encouragement for the weak group and the strong group. Paul's main concern is for the spirit of unity in the church (15:5).

[Chapter 14 deals with functioning in controversy, particularly controversies within the church family. Even in Rome the early church had already engaged in that most favorite of Christian indoor sports: judging other Christians. Thus the principle of acceptance of other Christians is set forth here. Christians are at different levels of spiritual maturity. They also have diverse backgrounds that color their attitudes and practices. We are to stop judging other Christians over nonessential and learn to live harmoniously with them.]

I. ACCEPTED BY GOD, 14:1-4.

II. A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE, 14:5-6.

III. WE ARE THE LORD'S, 14:7-9.

Verse 1 begins with an injunction to the strong. "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

The focus is on him whose faith is weak ( "the one being weak in faith")[, which appears in the emphatic first position in the sentence]. "Faith" here refers to one's convictions about what faith allows him or her to do, rather than to one's general belief. The command is to accept [pros-lambánesthe -pres. mid. imper., "keep on receiving to yourselves"; 15:7] such a person, "without passing judgment on disputable matters." This phase literally says, "not into quarrels about opinions" [thoughts].

We must distinguish between essential Bible doctrines and personal opinions. Of course, this is often part of the problem. Some personal opinions are confused with essential Bible doctrines.

This verse assumes there will be differences of opinion (disputable matters) in the church. We are not to quarrel about issues that are matters of opinion. [Differences should not be feared or avoided, but accepted and handled with love.] Don't expect everyone, even in the best possible church, to agree on every thing. Through sharing ideas we can come to a fuller understanding of what the Bible teaches. Accept, listen to, and respect others. Differences of opinion need not cause division. They can be a source of learning and richness in our relationships.

Those who consider themselves to be strong in the faith are to "accept" those they consider to be weak in the faith. Accept is the opposite of reject. The human tendency is to look down on or treat with disdain those we consider weak. The human tendency for those who are weak is to be judgmental toward the strong.

We are called upon to receive those who are weak in the faith. Embrace and enjoy them without passing judgment on the areas in which you don't see eye to eye.

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