Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Romans 14 Bible Study Preview

We will study Romans 14 on Tuesday. It's a great passage in which Paul deals with life application issues that to this day come up between Christians. Not to take anything away from chapters 12 and 13, but this chapter in Paul's lifestyle-application portion of his letter to the Romans addresses the moral and ethical dilemmas that we face daily. Here is the text - in the order we will study it - along with some things to consider.

1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.... 10You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11It is written: ‘‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.’’ [Isaiah 45:23] 12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

We'll look at verses 1-4 and 10-13 together. It's a big chunk, and there's lots here worthy of discussion. Paul begins by telling the Roman Christians to accept those with weak faith. What does that mean? Next question: What are the disputable matters that Paul mentions here? Verses 2-3 give us an illustration of foods. The Jewish Christians of Paul's day were probably abstaining from meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols. The Gentile Christians didn't care where the meat had been. They were hungry - and thankful to have it! Paul says that the Jewish Christians should not condemn the Gentiles in this matter. And the Gentiles shouldn't look down on the Jewish Christians for not enjoying their Christian liberty more fully. Mutual respect is the principle. Verse 4 ties in to verses 10-13 very well. Paul gives the illustration of a household servant. The one judging this servant is not the head of the household, so he or she needs to avoid judging. It's not his or her place. But that's not to say there isn't a place for correction and guidance in the truth. How do we keep the balance in this regard? Paul transitions from attitude towards one another to behavior towards one another. And finally, Paul tells us to keep in mind the bigger picture. Eating and drinking is a little thing. We will all face judgment and give an account of our lives to God. That's a big thing!

5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

Verses 5-9 offer another illustration - that of observing feast days. This is not the Lord's Day / Sabbath. Paul here is talking again about the typical practice of Jewish Christians to continue their traditional feast day observances compared to the Gentile Christians lack of feast day observances. Notice Paul's phrase in verse 5: "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." That's a very important statement, as some Christians use it as license to sin - since they are "convinced that what they are doing is not wrong. We'll talk about this more on Tuesday. But that's not the only important statement in this passage. Paul adds, "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord." Being fully convinced in our own minds is not enough, because our minds struggle with sin. Our decisions must also be to the Lord or for the Lord. We are free to serve Christ and His Body - the Church. Here is a summary of how to make choices on "disputable matters:" (1) Be fully convinced that it is right, (2) be fully convinced that it is glorifying to God, and (3) be fully convinced that it is benficial to the Body of Christ.

14As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food [or nothing] is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.... 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. 22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

We'll look at v14-15 together with v20-23. What makes something unclean? Motive and conscience! Yet how does this keep truth objective? If motive and conscience is what matters, what is to keep truth from becoming subjective? Read 1 Corinthians 8 as a parallel to this chapter, and notice the importance that God places on the edification (sanctification) of the Body of Christ. Everything we do AFFECTS the Body, so everything we do MUST be for the edification of the Body. That's easy to understand, but it's sure hard to put into practice. Verses 20-23 again call us to consider our consciences. We must not ignore them, but at the same time, we must realize that our consciences require constant training and correction. Our consciences are hardly infallible. Only by being transformed by the renewal of our minds will we be able to discern the will of God in every circumstance (Romans 12:1-2).

16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.

V16 gets its own treatment. When it comes to life's "disputable matters," be as lenient as possible; but when it comes to doctrine and the clear teaching of Scripture, don't give an inch. If we are displaying the fruits of the Spirit and somehow offending our brothers by so doing, we must not cease to display the fruits of the Spirit. Let our brothers be offended - living the truth on essentials is essential.

17For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. 19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

V17-19 will aptly wrap up our study of the chapter. Paul has labored to address the little things. But he says these things are not the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is this: We are free in Christ not merely to eat or not eat, but to live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24), share God's peace (John 14:27), and experience the fullness of God's joy (John 15:11). And we do these things not because God needs us to, but because the Body of Christ needs us to. We exist for one another to experience mutual edification and sanctification. Verrse 19 concludes: "Let us therefore make every effort to do whatever leads to peace and to mutual edification."

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