Topic: Consideration for the Weak
Text: Romans 14:1-15:7
Romans 14:1-15:7 deals with the problem of questionable things in the believer’s life and what to do when believers disagree about personal practices. Paul recognized that in each local church there were mature believers as well as immature believers. By mature believers, Paul means “We who are strong” – 15:1 and by immature believers, Paul refers to those “whose faith is weak” – 14:1. These two groups of people may disagree on how the believer is to live. Some Jewish believers wanted to cling to special holy days and Old Testament dietary laws, while some Gentile believers turned their freedom as believers into license and offended their Jewish brothers and sisters. Many believers have the false idea that extreme legalism (observing days, diets, etc.) shows a strong faith. To Paul, however, just the opposite is true. The mature believer is to recognize the truths found in Colossians 2:16 – 23 [please read this passage].
In the church, often we have differences on things such as worldly amusements, clothing and law. Paul tells us how to face and solve these differences. He does not give us a list of rules. Rather, he lays down six basic principles that can be applied by all believers in all stages of growth. We can state these principles in the form of six questions and test our own lives. Let’s test ourselves.
Question # 1 – Am I fully Convinced? (14:1 – 5)
Believers are not to act from emotion, but from inward convictions that are the result of diligent prayer and study of the Word. There would be no serious disagreements if every brother or sister acted from conviction. The stronger believer is not to despise the weaker one for his or her immaturity and neither is the weaker believer to judge his or her more mature brothers and sisters for their freedom. God has received both in Jesus and we should receive each other. Our lives are to be directed by Him, not by people’s ideas or judgments. Mature brothers know why they act as they do, and these convictions control their lives. Verse 5 states: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”
Question # 2 – Am I doing this unto the Lord? (14:6 – 9)
“I will live my own life.” This is a statement no believer ought to make, because we belong to the Lord. He is the Lord and we must live to please Him. Often when we have questionable habits in our lives, we cannot honestly say that these practices are done as “unto the Lord.” In reality, we do them for selfish pleasure and not to honor the Lord. The Lord accepts the brother who eats meat and He accepts the brother who does not eat meat. We are not to judge other brothers. The matter is between them and their Lord. Verse 8 states: “Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
Question # 3 – Will it Stand the test at the Judgment? (14:10 – 12)
We have no right to judge our brothers. We will all have our works tested at the judgment seat of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:10) — not the White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15. The testing of the believer’s works occurs after the church is called home (1 Corinthians 3:10 – 15). We do not have to give an account of our brother’s life, so we have no right to condemn him today. Certainly all of us want to live our lives in ways that will stand the fiery test before the Messiah. We want to live lives that will win rewards for His glory. Verse 10 states: “We will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”
Question # 4 – Am I causing others to stumble? (14:13 – 21)
There is, however, one thing we should judge. We should judge ourselves to see if we are abusing our freedom as believers and making others stumble. Certainly nothing is unclean of itself. But, some brothers and sisters consider certain practices and habits wrong and unclean. Therefore, if we deliberately do something that makes our brothers and sisters stumble, then we are not living according to the law of love.
It is a very serious thing to cause another person to stumble and fall into sin. Note Jesus’ words in Mark 9:42-50. The believer who keeps on with his questionable practice and causes another believer to fall is blind to the price Jesus paid on the cross. Our good should not cause evil talk. After all, the believing life is not a matter of eating or drinking (or any other practice), but one of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Our goal should be not to please ourselves, but to build up others in love.
1 Corinthians 10:23 states that “everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial.” We do not live under the law, but not everything builds us up or helps to build up others. See also 1 Corinthians 8:1 – 13. The word “destroy” in verses 15 and 20 means “tear down.” It is selfish for a brother to tear down another believer’s spiritual life because of his own selfish living. His practices may be lawful, but they do not come under the law of love. Verse 21 states: “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.”
Question # 5 – Am I doing this by Faith? (14:22 – 23)
The Greek word for “faith” in verse 22 means almost the same as “conviction,” for our convictions come from faith in God’s Word. These two verses state the principle that the believer’s life is between him and his Lord, and that the believer must always be sure he is right with the Lord. If he has doubts about some of his practices, he cannot have joy and peace. In verse 23, we see that the brother who engages in certain practices with a doubting mind condemns himself and those practices by his very attitude. The believer lives by faith and “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” – Romans 10:17. So if anything I do cannot be backed up by the Word of the Lord, then it is sin, because I cannot do it by faith.
No one would drink milk or water that possibly was contaminated. Nor would we accept food that might be poisoned. Yet some believers carelessly engage in practices that even the world questions. They never realize that, as verse 23 states: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
Question # 6 – Am I pleasing myself or pleasing others? (15:1 – 7)
The strong and mature believer ought to bear the weaknesses of the immature believer. While doing this, he should seek to build him up in the faith. We ought to follow Jesus’ example and try to please others, not ourselves (verses 1 and 2). In the church, we need a true “spirit of unity” (verse 5). This will happen if all believers seek to help each other grow in the Lord. This does not mean that we always think alike or act the same or will agree about all things. But we love each other from the heart. Paul’s final conclusion in verse 7 is simply this: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
Local churches have the right to establish standards. But these standards cannot go beyond what the Word teaches. We must lovingly allow for differences among the brothers and sisters. We must not let these differences become divisions.
This lesson has sought to deal with one of the most important ethical and thus practical Christian questions. When confronted with practical Christian decisions in the life of the local Church and especially with respect to our relationships with others who we consider to be weak or strong, it is worth turning to the above guiding questions.
1. What sometimes make us to act out of emotions rather than by conviction?
2. From Paul’s perspective, what is the difference between a matured and immature Christian?
3. In our attempt to have a very good relationship with other believers, explain the law of love.
4. State and explain three principles that can be applied by all believers in every stage of growth.