Summary: 1) God receives Each believer(Romans 14:2–3), because 2) The Lord sustains each believer (Romans 14:4), because 3) The Lord is sovereign to each believer (Romans 14:5–9), and because 4) The Lord alone will judge each believer (Romans 14:10–12).
We’ve just past one of the most contentious events of the year. I’m not referring to Reformation Sunday, but what that date is know by the majority of the population as: Halloween. This morning I’m not here to present an argument if Christians should be engaged in this event or not, but just to mention how discussion of it has become so contentious by many well meaning genuine believers on both sides. The discussion of it has caused division and quarrel.
The particular danger to unity that Paul addresses in Romans 14:1–15:13 is the conflict that easily arises between those to whom he refers as strong and weak believers, those who are mature in the faith and those who are immature, those who understand and enjoy freedom in Christ and those who still feel either shackled or threatened by certain religious and cultural taboos and practices that were deeply ingrained parts of their lives before coming to Christ. Those who were still strongly influenced, favorably or unfavorably, by their former religious beliefs and practices were weak in the faith because they did not understand their freedom in Christ. On the other hand, those who are strong are often faced with the temptation to push their freedom in Christ to the limits, to live on the outer edge of moral propriety, to see how far they can go without actually committing a sin. Those who are weak are tempted in the opposite way. They are so afraid of committing some religious offense that they surround themselves with self-imposed restrictions. The liberated believer is tempted to look upon his legalistic believer as being too rigid and restricted to be of any use to the Lord. The legalist, on the other hand, is tempted to think of his liberated believer as being too freewheeling and undisciplined to serve Christ effectively. This is the root of the disunity.
Although they are not sins in themselves, certain attitudes and behavior can destroy fellowship and fruitfulness and have crippled the work, the witness, and the unity of countless congregations throughout church history. These problems are caused by differences between Christians over matters that are neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture. The church does not exist as a judiciary body to make pronouncements on issues that in the long run will prove to be of no real consequence. Those things are adiaphora (from the Greek word meaning “indifferent” or “inconsequential.”), things that do not really matter (Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 251). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).
They are matters of personal preference and historic tradition, which, when imposed on others, inevitably cause confusion, strife, ill will, abused consciences, and disharmony. Every single one of us is required to examine ourselves, not only in considering our own positions on contentious issues, but in how we express them and regard other believers who hold differing positions. If we cannot live in biblical harmony by loving other genuine believers who hold to differing views on matters not directly addressed in Scripture, then we dishonor Christ, and spoil our witness before a watching world. In Romans 14-15, God, through the Apostle Paul instructs us how we are to live with others who love the Lord but who do not see what we are doing as the ideal way of living out the Christian faith. (Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 477). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.)
In Romans 14:1–12, the apostle speaks to both types of believers and both attitudes, but his first counsel is directed to strong believers, for the very reason that they are stronger in the faith. Of the two groups, they are the better equipped both to understand and to be understanding. He therefore says in verse 1 as for the one who is weak in faith, welcome/accept him Proslambano (welcome/accept) is a compound verb, the prefix pros being a preposition that intensifies the basic verb, making it a command. In other words, Paul was not simply suggesting, but commanding, that strong believers welcome/accept weak believers. In the New Testament, proslambano is always used in the Greek middle voice, which gives it the connotation of personal and willing acceptance of another person. The verb means “receive or accept into one’s society, home, circle of acquaintance” (BAGD), and implies that the Roman Christians were not only to “tolerate” the “weak” but that they were to treat them as brothers and sisters in the intimate fellowship typical of the people of God (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 835). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
That this one is described as “one who is is weak” translates a Greek present participle, suggesting a temporary condition. The Greek text also has the definite article (the) before faith, indicating that Paul was not speaking of spiritual trust or faithfulness but of understanding the full truth of the gospel message. Paul was not speaking of doctrinal or moral compromise. He was speaking of believers, Jew or Gentile, who are weak in their understanding of and living out their true faith in Jesus Christ. These are Christians who are not able42 to accept for themselves the truth that their faith in Christ implies liberation from certain OT/Jewish ritual requirements (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 836). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).