Summary: The message explores our responsibility to one another to honour God and to build one another in the Faith.
“Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
“Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
The Christian who will please God must accept responsibility for his or her own actions. This becomes evident by Paul’s use of the word “decide” in VERSE THIRTEEN. The text today explores relationships between believers; we each have a choice of how we will relate to others. Either we reflect the character of our Father, or we reveal our fallen roots. We cannot, as is so often attempted by contemporary Christians, dismiss our actions with a casual statement that we can’t help ourselves.
The passage before us begins with the word “therefore.” An old adage states that anytime you see a “therefore,” you should ask what it is “there for.” The co-ordinating conjunction directs our attention to the preceding verses. In those verses immediately prefacing our text, Paul asks some pointed questions that should make each Christian somewhat uneasy. In response to the questions he raises, he cites the prophecy of Isaiah in order to provide a warning for each Christian.
“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,
“‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” [ROMANS 14:10-12]. Each of us will give an account before God for our own actions and for our own choices. The Apostle pointedly cautions in another missive, written to the Corinthian Christians, “We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:10]. Ultimately, it is God’s judgement of our actions and choices that matters.
At the outset, I am compelled to establish an essential truth that seems to confuse many Christians. Discernment and judgement are distinct concepts that must not be interchanged. The word “judgement” that Paul uses in this instance is a judicial word that speaks of “condemnation.” God alone is capable of rendering just judgement; God alone is able to condemn. No Christian may assume the role of divine judge issuing proclamations of condemnation against another individual. However, the child of God is responsible to be discerning. Actions that bring reproach upon the cause of Christ must be recognised and the one performing all such actions must be held accountable.
One of the premier Greek scholars of all time says this opening verse communicates the following thought; “Let us no longer have the habit of criticising one another.” He contends that what is in view is calling into question the motives for a given action. Thus, what is proscribed is judging motives—an action for which none of us is deemed capable. Though we must not shrink from holding one another accountable to live godly, holy lives, we must not permit ourselves to question motives.
In order to understand fully the importance of this issue, and in order to equip ourselves to treat one another with proper respect, I invite you to join me in examining the teaching of the Word that sets limits on judgement for us as Christians.
GOD CALLS CHRISTIANS TO ACCEPT WILLINGLY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ONE ANOTHER — Paul begins his instruction in righteousness by reminding readers that the church is a community. Western society promotes individualism as an ideal. Consequently, almost all of us come into any relationship or association with “self” as our primary focus. Our own self-centred interests drive our choices and our actions. We convince ourselves that our personal happiness is the most important value of our existence. Whatever makes us happy is good, and whatever causes unhappiness is bad.