Sermon: A Case Study in Loving Others Within the Church Romans 14:1-13

A Case Study in Loving Others Within the Church

Romans 14:1-13

Truth Taught – We are to love and welcome all other genuine Christians because God loves and welcomes them.

 Introduction

Our past should never be used as an excuse to sin. In the counseling world especially, we see many instances when the counselee’s sinful behavior is tolerated due to some past tragedy in their life. We must realize that our past has, in many ways, shaped us and has affected us, but we cannot allow it to rule us. In our verses for today we are going to see a group whose past has affected them in such a way as to cause them to be uneasy when plugged into the larger Christian Church. How is the Church to respond to these weaker brothers and sisters?

Today, we’ll discover that God has a wonderful approach to this dilemma that the Church in Rome faced and just about any other Church as well faces or will face. How do we live in harmony with those who come from a different background than we do? Or how do we live in harmony with other Christians who aren’t quite where we are in the minor things of doctrine or tradition?

Paul is not referring to race as in black, white, or any other ethnic marker, but rather he’s referring to differences in background and beliefs that have been embraced since childhood.

The story has been told of an Amish man who was saved. He became a Christian and left the works-based beliefs of the Amish. He understood now that his former beliefs of no modern conveniences were to be brought into the house. He purchased a radio and a car but still kept the car in the barn and only drove it at night and only played the radio when he was by himself. He still had old beliefs that were hard to let go of.

In our text today, we have Jewish folks who were coming to Christ. They had been taught many things since childhood that now, as a Christian, are no longer to be believed and practiced. They were struggling with some of these past means of grace that were not needed because all of God’s grace comes to us through Jesus Christ.

The issue here is what do we do when minor differences are evident between us and other Christians. To be clear, I’m not speaking about disagreements over biblical truth. For example, there are many who call themselves Christians but do not believe the basic tenants of the faith. With those folks we must be very cautious. Our fellowship is greatly limited when we are confronted with a false Christian or one in name only. There are many so-called Christian groups around that are not even close to being Christian. This text is not speaking about those situations. Here, both parties in focus are genuine Christians and a part of the Church in Rome.

Prayer

Before I read the text, there are two things we need to define: What does Paul mean by weaker faith and stronger faith. Now, in the context of the Church of Rome that’s made up of Jews and Gentiles, he refers to the Jews as the ones with the weaker faith and the Gentiles as the one’s with the stronger faith. The strong in faith are those who have grasped that we are free from much of the OT Law in Christ. The weaker Christians are those who have not yet fully grasped the application of the Gospel. The sinful tendency is for the stronger Christians to look down on the weaker Christians, and the weaker Christians tend to sit in judgment or despise the stronger Christians. He’s not speaking down to the Jews but he’s comparing the two. The Christian Jews were struggling with giving up all their traditions and beliefs that they had been raised with, and so Paul writes to them and uses the term weaker faith. The Gentiles, on the other hand, really didn’t have much to hang on to from paganism so they came to Christ and saw Him as completely sufficient for salvation.

Romans 14:1–13 (ESV)

14 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 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; 11 for it is written,

       “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 Therefore 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.

  1. Welcome Other Christians Because God has Welcomed Them  

14 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

Here, the Jews were having trouble eating anything as food. Previously there were things they viewed as unclean. They viewed things like certain fish as unclean, pork, certain birds, etc. This was a struggle for many Jewish Christians. It’s completely understandable. Peter had this same struggle.

Acts 10:9–22 (ESV)

The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?”

22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”

This struggle for many Jews had to do with the Gentile Christians eating all kinds of meat while they grew up in a Jewish home only eating certain kinds of meat.

It was probably something like this: The church had small groups of mixed Christians, some Jews and some Gentiles. When they met at the Gentiles house the Jews were served pork chops and when they met at the Jewish home, they were served Jewish food made of vegetables.

Do you see the issue? The Jewish Christians were not saying that abstaining from pork saved them. They were already saved by grace through faith the same way the Gentiles were. The issue was that their faith was weaker in the sense of struggling with former traditions and laws. They knew these things in their head but still down deep had some struggles.

One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

The Gentile shows love to his Jewish Christian friends by not serving pork at the Bible study and does not speak down to them but cares for them and loves them. The Gentile Christian does not despise the Jewish Christian and the Jewish Christian does not condemn the Gentile Christian for eating pork. Rather they live in harmony as brothers and sisters in Christ because God has welcomed them both into His family.

  1. Welcome Other Christians Because We Serve the Same Lord

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Here, the Apostle continues writing about different foods and eating them or not eating them and also brings up another example of things that were bringing the Jewish Christians some difficulty in a non-Jewish setting and that’s the doing away with the Jewish calendar of special days. The Jewish Christian no longer needed to celebrate the various feast days, because they had been fulfilled in Christ.

An example is that the Jewish Christian doesn’t need to celebrate the Passover meal any longer because Jesus is our Passover and has fulfilled it entirely. The Jewish Passover meal has been moved forward and fulfilled by the Lord’s Supper Celebration. Do this in remembrance of Me, Jesus told His Jewish followers.

  1. Welcome Other Christians Because We All Must Give an Account to God

10 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; 11 for it is written,

       “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 Therefore 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.

Group 1- Why do you pass judgment on your brothers?

Group 2- Why do you despise your brothers?

The point he makes is that we are all sinners saved by grace in different places in our Christian maturity. On the last day we will all be judged by Christ so there is no need to be judging each other now. When we judge other Christians, we are not judging with the grace that God will use at His judgment seat. All the Christians that were judging each other had already been accepted and welcomed by God. So, when God judges them, He will welcome them home through His Son Jesus.

We should welcome all true Christians because God welcomes them.

Rather than judge weaker or stronger Christians, we must realize that in their heart of hearts they are doing what they believe honors their Savior Jesus Christ. The weaker are abstaining from certain things while the stronger are enjoying their freedom in Christ but neither is free from the responsibility to care for the other and to not place a stumbling block in their way. The free Gentile cannot hold their bacon and egg sandwich in the face of their Jewish Christian friend boasting about their freedom and the Jewish weaker believer must not pass judgment on their Gentile Christian friend for eating, drinking, not observing special days etc.

Matthew 18:5–6 (ESV)

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Application

What we must realize is that the first important point is that we are speaking about genuine Christians from different backgrounds.

We’re not talking about people who think they are Christians but are not, and we are not talking about how to treat the lost world around us.

So, to be a genuine believer, we have most doctrinal/theological/truths in common especially concerning sin, salvation, the Lord Jesus.

Where we might have differences is in areas of practice/traditions/minor points of faith. In these areas we must show care and love to others.

When I’m poor, and you give me some food and money, I don’t care if you’re pre-millennial or post-millennial.

When I’m in the hospital, and you send me a get-well basket, I don’t care what type of worship music you prefer.

When you’re kind enough to shovel my grandmother’s driveway, I don’t care what translation of the Bible you read.

When you protect my kids from getting hit by a car when they’re running across the street, I don’t care who your favorite theologian is. Whether you like Piper better than MacArthur.

When you grieve alongside me during the death of a family member, I don’t care if you’ve embraced all five points of Calvinism.

When you do these things in Christian love, I do care if you love Jesus, seek to obey Him, and love those He loves. The issue we must be careful with is that we don’t love theology for theology sake more than we love Christ and His people.

The Jewish Christians could have loved their former traditions more than they loved their Gentile brothers and sisters. The Gentile believers could have loved their Christian freedom more than they loved their Jewish brothers and sisters. God tells us to love one another and seek to care for each other because we love the same Savior and He loves us.

Are there true Christians that you need to love more here at Grace Community Church? That would be your first application point.

Pray

 

* Resources Used:

Romans Commentaries by Christopher Ash, John MacArthur, Douglas Moo, John Stott, and Romans Outline by Steel and Thomas

 

 

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