Summary: Christian love
February 20, 2011
We come to chapter 14 in our study of Romans. Everything in the first 11 chapters showed us how and why we’ve received salvation, and everything from chapter 12 on has shown us how we’re to respond to it.
We offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, love our enemies, obey our government, love our neighbors, and now we see that we love our Christian brothers.
Specifically, we show our love for each other in the way we accept each other without passing judgment.
Now before we get into the text tonight I want to make a couple observations. First of all, you’ll notice that the examples Paul uses to explain the “doubtful disputations” or “differences of opinion” are matters of eating and drinking and preferential worship.
Some people have taken these verses to show that basically anything goes in Christianity, and I’m ok and you’re ok, and we all have the right to believe and live however we want. You know…”Judge not lest ye be judged.”
But in 16:17 he writes, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to sound doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
To Timothy he commands close attention be given to doctrine (I Tim. 4:13, 16) and he writes about men who reject sound doctrine saying, “From such withdraw thyself” (I Tim. 6:5).
To Titus he writes, “Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (2:1) and “in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerety (2:7).
When we say that we’re not supposed to judge each other we certainly don’t mean that every doctrine is ok. When someone embraces a doctrine that denies Christ we mark him and have nothing to do with him until he repents.
It’s also worth pointing out that he’s not talking about embracing relative morality. Just as with false doctrine, we’re to avoid any professing believer who walks blatantly in sin (I Cor. 5:11); anyone who claims to have fellowship with God and yet walks in darkness is a liar and the truth is not in him (I Jn. 1:6).
So what is he talking about in this chapter?
Let’s start with this as a premise: the only doctrine we really understand is what God has revealed to us.
Also, I know much more now than I knew 10 years ago and it’s very likely I know way less now than I’ll know in 10 years. There’ll be many things I think are true now that I’ll think are false later, and some things that I still think are true, but I won’t think are quite as important.
What I’m getting at is that there are some doctrines and understandings of Scripture that we can agree to disagree on without having to break fellowship, and we’ve got to be patient and generous with each other on those matters because (1) we only know what God has shown us and (2) we don’t know it all and we change.
We don’t fellowship in a spiritual sense with people or denominations who teach heretical doctrines or who undermine the work of Christ, but we don’t become smug towards everyone who doesn’t understand the Bible the way we understand it either.
And that’s the question we see answered here in chapter 14: how do we relate to each other in these disputable matters?
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
The Greek word for “weak” is the same word used when it says that Jesus healed the sick (Mt. 10:8). There are some people who’ve been walking with the Lord a long time, and they’ve got a pretty good foundation. There are others who maybe they’re new Christians or for whatever reason they haven’t matured a lot over the years—their faith is weak, and they’re not really all that powerful.
Maybe they’ve got some hair-brained ideas or they’re maybe a little legalistic; Paul says to receive them without arguing with them or passing judgment.
2For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Notice that the one who he calls weak is the one who won’t eat the meat. For whatever reason there was apparently a dispute in the Roman church about meat, and the weaker brethren thought it was better to abstain.
Paul seems to be with the more mature believers, but he warns against making it an issue:
3Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth:
This seems to be the way things go doesn’t it? When we’ve got something right we think very highly of ourselves and we despise those who don’t share in our understandings.
Or, on the contrary, we see people doing things we think are wrong and in our hearts or with our mouths we pass judgment on them and shake our heads at their lack of understanding.