“1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.
“7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 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 shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
Salvation is an immediate action that transforms us from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light. Once you and I put our complete faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as the only means of salvation and means of forgiveness for our sins, we were immediately and eternally saved.
In our journey through Romans a few weeks ago, we spoke about the transformation that we have in Jesus as we surrender our bodies to Him. This transformation, this metamorphosis, liken to the caterpillar and the butterfly, takes time. Yes, you and I are immediately saved, and we will begin to exhibit the symptoms of salvation, but there is still a lot to go. A baby will exhibit the symptoms of being human, he or she will eat, communicate, seek comfort, affection and attention, need sleep and need to be held, and desire face-to-face contact. But there is still a long way to go. This beautiful baby needs to learn how to walk, talk, sit and do the normal things that one does. They will need to learn to wash themselves and feed themselves; these endeavors take a lot of patience as they grow. This means spilt food, spilt milk, too much soap in a bath, shampoo left in the hair, and lots of puddles on the bathroom floor.
One of the most important things that a child will need to learn is to consider others. Children are intrinsically selfish. The world, your world, the universe revolves around them, or so they would like to think. Introducing a sibling into the mix often helps, and growing up in a neighborhood of kids to play with and attending a school helps them to learn that they are not the only ones on the planet. They learn to share, to wait their turn, and they learn the likes and dislikes of their friends and classmates. As they grow older, they will learn, hopefully, to be their own person. They learn right and wrong and to take responsibility for their actions, both good and bad. They learn why they are here, and they understand that they will answer to the Lord for their actions.
In much the same way, Paul is going to talk about the process of maturity as we grow and our responsibility for the younger Christians around us. I grew up in an era, the late 60s and on, where any adults that were the friends of my parents could tell me what to do and took responsibility for my well-being. This is how the family of God in the local church should work. The mature adults need to take responsibility for the younger Christians. Over the next few minutes, we will explore how to do this from Romans 14.
- Be careful with the Weak ones, verse 1- 3
Newborn or maybe even stunted Christians are weak. They need us to be careful with and around them. There are some movies that I will watch with my wife, maybe scary ones or intense ones, that I could not watch with my children. My younger one especially is not ready for the intense emotions that come with certain movies. So, we just don’t watch them when she is awake or home. We are mindful of her inability to separate fact and fiction. One day she will grow out of that, and she will be the one shielding her kids. This is how we should be with the weak Christians around us. Be careful with them; they are fragile. Too many Christians have been hurt by uncaring ‘mature’ Christians who live to themselves and not for the protection of the weak one.
There are some things that weak Christians will not understand. When broaching these subjects, be careful, use small words and entertain questions, even the seemingly foolish ones. I recall when I began writing these Bible lessons 10+ years ago, I had a dear brother, a mentor, tell me that my writing was too high for most to understand. He said that I should write to a grade level, and then everyone would get it. It took a long time to learn, but over the years I have learned to keep it simple. There are discussions that I will have with fellow preachers and pastors that I would not broach with a new or weak Christian. They are not spiritually ready for the ‘meat,’ as Paul would say.
You and I were the weak ones a time ago. And may the Lord grant that we always have weak and new Christians in our midst. We need them. You cannot force someone to grow up, but you can throw them to the wolves to be destroyed. You and I must live in such a way that they see the benefits of growing up in Jesus. This means we need to be honest about failure and failing to the weak ones. Cheer them on and help them up when they fail; it is a part of growing. In fact, there is no growth in the human life without failure. The same can be said of the Christian walk.
- We answer to God, verses 4-5, 11
We are responsible to live and act in obedience to God. We are not responsible for what others do with that. You cannot force a child to grow up as far as maturation is concerned. They grow in size and strength physically, but there are some who never grow up mentally; they never learn from their mistakes, and never accept responsibility for their actions, and mess up. It is always someone else’s fault. All of the Lord’s children will answer to Him, and we will answer for our own actions and inactions.
Sometimes, God calls people to do some weird stuff. Just look at Samson, look at the victory in Jericho, look at the selection of Gideon’s army, and on we can go. Just because they do it differently does not mean it is wrong. If they are not breaking Biblical precepts, then let them be. The Lord is their judge as He is yours. Time will tell.
In the early 1980’s, I began to follow a Christian rock band named Stryper; they were edgy, loud, had a great lead singer, and had long hair. I was attending a very conservative Baptist seminary that did not allow us long hair nor beards. We wore suits to class each day, and most of our services had pianos only. You know, 35+ years later, Stryper is still preaching about Jesus in bars and pubs. They sing about Jesus: just about every song they sing will talk about salvation; they are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.
Back then, many conservatives would have written them off as simply not one of us, but they are messengers with the message of Jesus and His salvation from the very beginning, and they continue to be just as adamant decades later. They could have traded the Gospel for more money and fame, but they chose Jesus. Some of the ones who berated them are no longer serving the Lord. We will each give an account to the Lord; never forget that.
- Principles over preferences; know the difference, verses 6-10
Over the years I have learned that in most cases, not all, churches split over preferences, not the principles of the scriptures. There is a time to make a stand and a time to stand down. If there is a dispute over clearly stated doctrine, then stand up; state chapter and verse to prove your opposition to the statement or direction that is being discussed. But if it is a preference, then be careful what you say and how you say it.
I will give an example. There are those that worship on the Sabbath, Saturday, as a matter of convenience. There is a group of persons in the local church who, for whatever reason, cannot make the Sunday services. So, the church provides a Saturday service as a matter of help and care for their members and attendees who need such accommodations. A local church has every right and duty to serve the persons that the Lord has put in her care.
On the other hand, there are some churches that think that the only day one can worship God is on Saturday as they are following the Fourth Commandment and believe that any deviation from this is testimony that you are not saved. This second one needs to be confronted in love and with chapter and verse. Jesus has fulfilled the law for us; He is the absolute fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5: 17-20). The New Testament Church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2). In John 20:19, Jesus met with His disciples after the resurrection on the first day of the week. But as we read through the book of Acts, we will see that Paul and the apostles went to the synagogues to reach the Jews scattered all over Europe, Asia and Africa.
As we were discussing, one is a preference and the other a principle or a doctrine of scripture. One needs to be dealt with lovingly with chapter and verse; the other needs to be encouraged so that we can serve the persons that the local church is responsible to God for and may end up being an outreach ministry to others that cannot make it on Sunday. Sadly, there may have been a time when so-called mature Christians left that church for doing her job.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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