Man to Doctor: I have been misbehaving, and my conscience is bothering me.
Doctor – And you want something that will strengthen your willpower?
Man- Well no, I was thinking of something that we would weaken my conscience!
Truth #1 tonight is that personal convictions should not destroy harmony in the church. There was a difference of opinion in the early church between those who were stronger in their faith and those who were weaker. The stronger people understood their freedom in Christ allowed them to eat meats, even if they had been sacrificed to idols. The weaker Christians were still of the opinion that the old ceremonial laws applied. The stronger in the faith understood that freedom in Christ meant they did not necessarily have to follow certain Sabbath regulations out of the old covenant; the weak in faith were stuck in those old laws which had been ended by Christ. In these first 12 verses, Paul neither praises nor condemns either opinion, but he pleads with Christians to welcome each other in the Church, in response to God welcoming us first.
1 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[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 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. 6 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. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 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. 9 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.
Truth #2 is that there is a major difference between fundamental doctrines of the faith and matters of conscience. We Christians may disagree about whether or not we may drink wine or beer, but we may not disagree about the truth that God is the Creator of this universe. We may disagree about whether we should worship God on a Saturday, a Sunday, or a Wednesday, but we may not disagree about Jesus Christ being the one and the only way of salvation. We may disagree about whether children should be home schooled, or educated in a public or a Christian school, but we may not disagree that parents should bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
In matters of moral sin and false doctrine, the New Testament writers are decisive and unbending. In matters of Christian liberty and personal conviction, Paul is gracious and gentle. Every Christian Church is to be a Welcome Center, where there all sinners are invited again and again to throw themselves at the mercy of Almighty God and receive all the good gifts God is so anxious to give.
So who really are the strong and the weak? Two answers each for the weak and the strong, based on Romans 14.
1) The weak are those who have not yet come to the full realization of the freedom and liberty which are a part of the faith.
2) The weak are inclined to condemn the actions of the strong.
3) The strong are those who are more fully aware of the nature of grace and of the teachings of the Word of God.
4) The strong are susceptible to the sin of smugness and arrogance.
Truth #3 is a word of warning and instruction. The warning is to stop passing judgment on other people’s personal convictions, and the word of instruction is to do all you can do to make your Church a warm and inviting fellowship, a welcome center where people will sense the love of Christ as often as they enter the Church.
Truth #4 is to be very careful that we do nothing to cause brothers and sisters in the faith to stumble.
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. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
Here Paul is going from the positive to the negative. In addition to doing all that we can do and saying all that we can say for the purpose of helping others to feel welcome into the Church, he writes what we ought not do. We ought do nothing to put an obstacle in the way of another brother or sister who may be struggling with a matter of Christian freedom. If it’s going to annoy your fellow worshipers if you keep on hollering out “amen, hallelujah brother!” in the midst of the sermon, then don’t do it. If your crazy uncle is trying to quit drinking, don’t be serving alcohol in his presence. If the whole issue of homosexuality is a sensitive issue in your family circle, then be careful not to blurt out opinions which are going to ruin a pleasant time. We are called on by God to speak truth, but to do so in kind and timely fashion.
Is it true that some folks are easily offended and that offense will be taken where none is intended? Absolutely. Is it also true that not everything that occurs to us should be spoken? Absolutely. I ran across this definition of blurters:
• Speaks out automatically-without permission; acts compulsively. Behavior appears over-anxious.
• Answers when others are called upon. Interrupts when others are talking.
• Speaks out before others finishes speaking.
• Makes comments during conversation which are irrelevant to the topic at hand.
• Seeks attention.
• Oblivious to the needs of others.
• Seems to lack a sense of fair play.
• Is quick to promise and seems to have good intentions.
• Different from the talker; while the talker talks all the time, this student simply blurts out his/her thoughts spontaneously for the world to hear.
Blurting can cause all kinds of trouble in our lives, and tonight we bring that sin and all sins to the cross, where we find that our Father in heaven welcomes us, for Jesus sake! Where we find that bad words spoken and good words unspoken are debts that have been forgiven. Faults that have been forgotten. Failure that have been sent away, in Christ alone.
Our closing truth, then is simply to fix our eyes on Christ, as Example and as Servant.
15 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Christ as example
• Spent time with gluttons and drunkards.
• Forgave the woman caught in adultery.
• Healed lepers, paralyzed, unclean seven days a week.
• Seemed most comfortable with the outcast, least comfortable with the religious leaders.
• Years ago – What would Jesus do? Good question.
• Better question yet – What has Jesus done?
8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” 10 And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” 12 And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Christ as Suffering Servant.
• So much more than a nice person and a provocative teacher.
• So much more than pleasant personality and gentle listener.
• One desire was to get to the cross so that His Father could have mercy.
• One desire was for both Jews and Gentiles to be One Church, where the strong and the weak would be one, where the rich and poor alike would be welcomed, where the successful and the not successful would kneel together at the Supper, where the pillars of the community and the homeless would have coffee and cookies together, where the broken hearted and the really broken hearted would embrace, where there would be unity in doctrine and diversity in gifts, unity in purpose and diversity in abilities.
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we might be filled with such an abundance of Christian hopefulness that it can’t help but keep on spilling out into our homes and our work places and our schools and neighborhoods. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters