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Romans 14:1-12 Accept One Another

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

Romans 14:1-12 Accept One Another

Here are some statements:
• Drinking alcohol is perfectly fine according to God, and so Christians who say that it’s wrong make me mad. They’re so immature.
• God doesn’t want us to eat meat. It’s just wrong. And anyone who doesn’t see it that way is unspiritual, and they make me angry. I like to argue with them.
• Parents should educate their children only one specific way. And when they don’t, I just shake my head at them. They are so ignorant.
• The format and style of a church service ought to be a certain way, and when I visit a church that does it differently, I just want to walk out. They don’t do it the right way. The Christian way.

In these statements, I said some true things and some false things.
What is the one common thread through them all?
A critical spirit.
A judgmental heart.
Despising my fellow Christians.

If all of us think hard enough, we will realize we have made some kind of judgments like these against fellow Christians.
Perhaps it was on another issue.
But we see some things that Christians do, and we judge them harshly.
We look down on them.
We criticize them.
We argue with them.

We are continuing to look into the Apostle Paul’s letter written to a church in Rome.
In chapter 14, Paul addresses this very topic: a critical, almost hateful heart toward other Christians…specifically over issues that the Bible is not restrictive about.

A very relevant topic to each one of us.

Romans 14:1-4

Romans 14:1–4 ESV “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 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.
4 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.”

Paul distinguishes two groups of people: Strong and weak.
We will see later in the chapter that Paul lines himself up with “the strong.”

The strong are those who understand fully what the Bible is and is not restrictive about.
For example, here in these four verses, the “strong” person understands that the Bible is not restrictive about what kind of food we eat. The Christian has freedom.
The weak person views that some kinds of food are unspiritual, and he shouldn’t eat those foods.

Even though Paul understands the Bible permits eating anything, he doesn’t really focus on that at all.
This is surprising to me.
I read this and I wonder, “Paul, why don’t you tell us that the strong way is the right way? Why don’t you make a bigger deal about correcting our thinking about the food?”

What is Paul’s emphasis?
Here’s his emphasis….Here is the main point for today:
All of you…strong or weak…stop judging one another. Stop despising one another.
Stop quarreling about these matters.
God is our JUDGE. We are NOT.

Instead of criticizing, WELCOME each other (vs. 1). ACCEPT each other.
Receive them like a brother and a sister.
Be friendly towards them.
Have intimate fellowship with them.

Then he hits us all with this: If God has WELCOMED and ACCEPTED and is FRIENDLY your brother and sister in Christ, who are we to not do the same?
Who do we think we are?
Why are we judging harshly our brother whom Christ has received and welcomed?

Concerning vs. 4, Charles Hodge, 19th century theologian, says it so well:
“If God has not made the question of eating meat a condition for communion with him, we have no right to make it a basis for condemnation.”
Faith in Jesus Christ is the basis for communion with God.
Not what we eat. Not whether we drink alcohol or not.
Not what style of church service or music you have.

So if God still welcomes and accepts you because of Jesus REGARDLESS of your view on food or drink or special holy days, why don’t you??

What does this condemning, despising, critical attitude look like?
It may look like this:
• Anger
• Rolling our eyes
• Shake our head
• Look down upon them.
• Mock
• Feelings of superiority
• Argue with them.

In vs. 4, he brings in an illustration.
Your friend has a servant. And that servant is doing what he is told to do. Why are you criticizing the servant? He’s just doing his job. He is answerable to his own Boss, not to you.

Paul is saying, “Your fellow Christian is a servant of God. God is his Master. His Lord. That Christian is answerable to God, not to you. How could you….why would you….judge your brother or sister in Christ?”
The Lord is able to make that Christian stand.
So back off. Back off. Love.

What is Paul speaking about?

Before we go any further in this chapter, what is Paul speaking about?

He is speaking of things that Scriptures permits or is silent on.
For example, Scripture says we can eat any kind of food, but we might think is forbidden.
Can we eat anything or only vegetables?
Scriptures are actually quite clear: Any food is permissible.
We don’t HAVE to eat all foods, but anything is permissible.

Another example: Drinking alcohol. Scriptures are quite clear that alcohol, such as wine, is permissible.
It is NOT REQUIRED. But it is permitted.
The one restriction: Drunkenness. It is forbidden (e.g., Ephesians 5:18).

And we will see in a minute in vs. 6, another issue is special days.
There are no commands in the NT to celebrate some days as better or holier than others.

There is no command to celebrate Easter. Or Christmas. Or OT Jewish festivals. You might be gasping right now. “Don’t say that. That’s wrong.” No, it’s not wrong. There is no command to celebrate the resurrection on a specific day called Easter. At the same time, there is NO PROHIBITION from celebrating Easter. Or OT Jewish festivals.

On topics like these, Paul is distinguishing between the “strong” and the “weak” in faith.
Some Christians are “strong” while others are “weak” in faith.

The STRONG know what is and isn’t commanded. They know the freedom they have to eat any food.
They know the freedom they have to drink alcohol…as long as drunkenness is NOT involved.
They know the freedom they have to celebrate or NOT celebrate certain days.

The WEAK have good hearts, we will see later. They are saved by grace. They are loved by the Lord
But the WEAK say that some of these things SHOULD be acted on. They are MORE RESTRICTIVE than the Scriptures are.
They feel they SHOULD eat some FOODS and not others. .
They should NOT drink alcohol.
They SHOULD celebrate certain days.
It would be WRONG for them to go against it.

Again, Paul’s main point is not to correct the WEAK person and show them the STRONG way.
Rather, his point is essentially about loving one another (which he just covered in Rom 13:8-10).
[Matt taught excellently on that last week. Go to our www.stonebrook.org to check it out.]

Though Paul doesn’t use the word “love” in 14:1-15:13, this is the essence. For he calls us to accept one another, live in peace and mutual edification, and not judge one another.

So that’s what Paul IS speaking about.

What is Paul NOT speaking about?

What is Paul NOT speaking about?
He is not saying, “Whatever you want to believe about anything, that’s OK.”
No, he is not saying that anything and everything is OK.

That is the religious doctrine of the American society right now.
The doctrine of our society right now is tolerance.
There are some good elements to that, such as having respect for everyone. Not hating.
That is very good.

But where our culture goes astray is when we say, “Whatever you want to believe is OK.” Believe in this God or that God, that’s OK. Believe that this is moral or not, that’s OK.

Ironically and hypocritically, the only thing we cannot be tolerant of is to say that someone is wrong. And to say that there are ABSOLUTES.

And by saying that there are no ABSOLUTES, we are speaking ABSOLUTELY.
We are confused and deceived.

But it’s quite different than what Paul is speaking of.

He is not talking about clear commands of righteousness.
For example, sexual immorality. This is clearly wrong.
Or being subject to the government, like in chapter 13. This is clearly commanded.

He is not allowing me to say, “Well, I think immorality is OK, while you think it’s not. We should just get along and accept one another.”
No. Paul is not saying that.

Nor is Paul speaking about the core issue of the gospel.
How we are saved and justified.
For example, if I want to say that good works are necessary for salvation, Paul will take issue with that. He spent the first 4-5 chapters of this letter making this point.
Righteousness before God is a gift he gives us when we believe in the work of his Son. So righteousness is by faith, not by works. There is no other way.
The heart of the Gospel is non-negotiable.
Paul is NOT speaking about the heart of the gospel message.

Paul is not saying that we should never make assessments about one another’s lives.
We can have healthy conversations about all sorts of topics.
About our convictions about food and drink and special days.
About schooling our children.
About how to find a godly spouse.

We can and even should have those conversations.

So Paul is not labeling every conversation or opinion with one another as “judging” or “despising.”

Back in the 4th Century, the well-known Christian, Augustine, summarized all this very well.
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

The essentials are clear moral teachings. And the heart of the gospel: salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ. We must be united on these essential things. They are non-negotiable.

The non-essentials are all other things. Opinions on food and drink and special days. Views on schooling our children: home school, public school, Christian school. The type of car or house we own. How to find a spouse: Should we date or court? What about arranged marriages?

We should have an attitude of liberty. FREEDOM.

And then in all things, essentials and non-essentials, we should have charity. We should LOVE. Not condemn or criticize. We should welcome and accept one another. Smile at one another.
Like Paul said back in Romans 12:10, “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Vs. 5-6

Romans 14:5-6 “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.”

In vs. 1-4, Paul addresses food. Now he addresses certain days. He may have been referring to Jewish festivals. He may have been referring to the Sabbath. He doesn’t actually tell us precisely.

Some Christians will say that some days are more holy than others. Other Christians will say that all days are holy. Paul actually makes no mention here of which view is correct.

But he does say, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Each of us should be persuaded what we think, and then act accordingly.
Whatever our view is, we should do it to honor the Lord.

Today, some of us might say that Easter Sunday is the most holy day of the year.
I respect that. To celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus is a glorious thing.

But others of us might say, “Yes, Easter Sunday is a day to honor the Lord, but so are the other 364 days of the year.” I respect that, too. Every day can and should be a day to honor the Lord.

Which is right? Paul doesn’t even get into that. It’s not really his point.
His point is this: Be convinced for yourself what you believe, and then act on that.
You need to act on what you believe. He is not restricting us on which days are more special than others.

Vs. 7-9

Romans 14:7-8 “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.”

Now he gives a reason why we should stop condemning each other.
And why we need to have our own convictions, and not impose our convictions on others.
His reason is this: I don’t live or die for myself. I am to live for Christ, and to die for Christ. I belong to the Lord.

In fact, this is to be the heart of every Christian.
Paul is saying we are not our own masters.
We are not free to regulate our lives however we choose. We belong to the Lord, our Master, and we live or die to do his will.

Vs. 7-8 provide an excellent summary of God’s purpose for our lives: to live for Christ, and for Christ alone. It’s not about “us”, whether we live or die; it’s about Christ. We live for him and we die for him. He is our life.

Look back at Romans 12:1
This is the essence of the thought.
Romans 12:1 ESV “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
In view of the grace and love and mercy of God to send his Son to save your hide, give your life back to him in worship. You belong to him now.

And look at Galatians:

Galatians 2:20 ESV “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

We were dead apart from Christ because of our sin and God’s judgment.
We were DOOMED.
But God sent his Son into the world to die in our place and then to rise from the dead.
And when we believe that, we are made alive forever.

And so we owe him our lives.

We belong to Christ. He is our Master.
It is not our place nor our right to determine what we will do or don’t do. We look to our Master. We say, “What would you have me do, Lord?”

Then we also apply this to our Christian friends.
My friend belongs to Christ. Not to me. I am not his master. Christ is his Master.
It is not my place or your place to put laws over our friends that God himself does not place there.
Our Master…our Lord….in heaven does that.
So we need to back off from demanding people follow our rules and our preferences.

Vs. 10-12

Romans 14:9-12 “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 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.”

Paul says, Jesus is Lord over your brother. So why do you pass judgment of him? Why do you despise your Christian friend? What right do you have? How dare we criticize our brother and sister in Christ!

Paul hits this very hard. He says, “Every one of us will stand before God on his judgment seat. You will. I will. The other Christians in this room will.” Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. He is Master. He is Ruler and Authority.

NOT YOU! NOT ME!

In a fascinating and powerful passage, Paul speaks of this in his letter to the church in a city called Corinth.

1 Corinthians 4:3–5 ESV “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”

This is so powerful. Paul says, “It doesn’t matter much if you judge me, because I don’t even judge myself.” He says, “It’s the LORD who judges me. You won’t judge me in the end. And I won’t even judge myself in the end.” So stop judging, he says.
You will stand before the Lord in eternity, and he will be the Great Just Judge. He will know all the secret deeds. He will know the motives of your heart. He will commend the Christian as he chooses and as he sees fit in justice.

This has so many implications.
One is, we should stop fearing man. In the end, your opinion of me really won’t matter.
The other is, we should….we MUST…stop despising and judging our fellow Christians. That is NOT our JOB!!
Don’t miss this point.

Action Points

Let me finish with four points.

Remember who our Judge is

You are not your own master. Your fellow Christian is not your master.
Nor are you his/her master.
You have a Master, and he is in heaven. Live to please him.
We are all on equal footing. We all stand before God on our own.
It’s his business to sort out our hearts. Our motives. Our actions.

Stop condemning one another

This is the clear point in this passage.
We ought never to condemn or despise one another.
We must not be harsh. Nor critical. Nor condemning.
Not rolling our eyes.
Not mocking.
Not feeling superior.
Not looking down
Not ever.
Jesus said you should LOVE even your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. If this is how you should treat those who HATE God, ought we not treat our brother and sister in Christ this way??
For example: If I have a certain way I am training my children, even my schooling choices, because you love me and care about my family, you can come to me. We can talk about why we do what we do.
I should be open to listen to you. You should listen to me.

Maybe there is a better or wiser way for me to lead my family.

Speak graciously to one another

Paul said, “Accept one another. Welcome each other. Show brotherly love. Be glad for them.”
God has been this way with you, hasn’t he?
Don’t we believe in the gospel of GRACE? The gospel where God is gracious to us?
So shouldn’t you do the same?

I will say that we still have the freedom and even the responsibility to have conversations with one another about areas that are not clearly spelled out in Scriptures.
• Food
• Alcohol
• Dating, finding a spouse—how to do that
• How we spend our money
• Style of Christian music
I encourage such conversations. But always with graciousness. Your friend belongs to Jesus, not to you. They work for Jesus. So be kind to them.

Last,
Strive to be strong, not weak.

I have actually hesitated to say this today, because the passage doesn’t really address it. But I think the point has some merit.
Strive to be a well-informed Christian who understands, believes, and abides by what the Bible says.
And what it DOESN’T say.
We should strive to be well-informed Christians, and act accordingly. In this passage, Paul is not condemning the “weak” person….the one who says, “This is wrong,” even when the Bible is silent on it. So we are not sinning if we hold such a view. But the fact Paul uses the words “strong” and “weak” IN FAITH indicates there is a better position. It’s wise for us to strive to be lined up with what the Bible clearly teaches, and what it is SILENT on. What fascinates me, though, is that Paul does not explicitly try to correct the weak believer. He simply doesn’t do it.
Yet he still understands there is a strong way. The best way is to understand the Scriptures in all its fullness. To understand the grace given to us in the Cross, that Christ’s work has paid for our sins. We stand NOT condemned. At peace with God. To know what is truly right and wrong. To know what is permissible and not make it a law for yourself.
And then to walk in that.