This past Monday night we continued our study of Romans by looking at chapter 14 and the first half of chapter 15, where Paul addresses what seems to have been an issue some people in the church had over whether certain Christians could choose to observe some dietary laws and some special religious days. Here are the notes:
Intro: It seems like some Jewish believers in the church at Rome still felt they needed to keep some of the Jewish dietary laws and feast days. It may have been causing some division in the church. Paul addresses four main issues with this brewing division:
- They were forgetting who is the Lord and Judge. (14:1-13)
- They were forgetting what the Kingdom of God is all about. (14:13-23)
- They were forgetting Christ’s example. (15:1-7) Forgetting what we learn about God in Jesus.
- They were forgetting what the scriptures taught. (15:8-13)
Some things are clear commands of the Lord (Staying away from sin. (13:12-14) Teaching healthy doctrine. (1 Tim 1:3)). For these things we challenge each other. We point to the clear commands of scripture and we hold each other to it. This is not “judging”. This is exhorting (Heb 3:13). We are told to do this work. But other things are either not clear or not essential to who and what we are as Christians. Those are the issues Paul is addressing in this passage.
14:1-13 Christ is Lord and Judge. So stop judging and condemning each other.
“Receive” Each other (see Rom 15:7) – “treat them as brothers and sisters in the intimate fellowship typical of the people of God.)
v.3 Don’t despise the weak, don’t judge the strong. God receives him. (see v.1!) So, to receive is to not use these matters of conscience as things that allow us to judge or despise each other. To receive is not to judge or despise. It is to see them as, first and foremost, received by God.
v.4 They don’t serve you. Remember that. Not only do they serve God, but we should think: “God can keep them standing.” We shouldn’t expect or look for other believers to fall.
v.5 Be fully convinced in your own mind (This is fascinating. For some issues, Paul says it almost doesn’t matter what we think. Except that he clearly agrees with the strong. So you can be basically wrong, but it might not matter so much that you should be rebuked or corrected.) Our orientation in life should all be Jesus-ward. Or, our whole life should be lived with reference to the Lord. That is the whole point of Jesus death-life—so he can be Lord of everything, and everything would need to reference him from now on.
v.10 They’re your brother. Remember that. Also, remember that we will all give account to Jesus and him alone. i.e. – We don’t have to bother taking the position of Judge anymore, since we’re not. Freedom from the burden of having to have an opinion (about everything).
14:1-13 Sum up: instead of judging or despising each other, we need to remember who the Lord of our whole lives is, and who the judge we’ll stand before is, and realize that He is the only authority any Christian answers to. If he hasn’t given command on a specific subject, we don’t have the right to take his place and make a decision. And we don’t have the right to bring separation into the church over these issues.
14:13-23 The kingdom of God is about loving people. Don’t destroy that work.
v.13 “krino” – Don’t make a judgment call on other’s lives, but make this judgment call for yourself: never to do something which could trip someone up spiritually.
The point isn’t the thing, it’s the person (your brother). (v.15, 20)
- If they think something that is actually wrong (v.14, 20), but not essential at all, it’s more important that you love them (v.15, 21).
- Sometimes, in some issues, we may feel convicted about certain things. We shouldn’t violate that sense of conviction. But we can’t turn and judge others who do those things. And if we have no issue with the thing, we can’t push others to accept it, or we could mess them up.
The point isn’t flaunting freedom from the rules, but the nature of the kingdom of God. (v.17)
15:1-7 Christ gave us an example. So receive each other as he received us.
15:4-13 The Scriptures show that God’s whole work is to unify many different peoples. Live this out.
14:17, 15:5-6, 15:13 – The point? That we would be able to glorify God as a unified people, enjoying the kingdom of God in all it’s joy, hope, righteousness and peace. That was Jesus whole aim (15:7)
Again, some things are clear commands of the Lord, like staying away from sin (13:12-14) and teaching healthy doctrine (1 Tim 1:3). For these things we challenge each other. We point to the clear commands of scripture and we hold each other to it. This is not “judging”. This is exhorting (Heb 3:13). We are told to do this work.
But many other things are not clearly commanded by the Lord. We do our best. Even where there is some guidance in scripture, some Christians may disagree about what is ok to do or not do. And in these things, the rule is: “Don’t let them ruin your love for each other. Don’t let them divide you. Remember that the Lord is the only judge, and he keeps Christians standing.” The most important thing is that we love each other and make sure we don’t do anything to spiritually weaken each other. This responsibility falls primarily on the stronger believer. It is Christ-like to take on restrictions and inconveniences that you don’t have to in order to help other people. And it will lead to being the kind of person who the kingdom is for. Not simply people who are excited about freedom from rules, but people who have developed such moral beauty that they are strong enough to yield to others’ weakness—so that they can learn to find real strength, happy enough to help everyone find more joy, righteous enough to help everyone live free from guilt, hopeful enough to help everyone avoid feelings of condemnation, and always so aware of what really matters, and who really matters, that it leads everyone in their circle to consistently look up and praise God.
One more point. In Christ we see a mind-blowing truth. God is the kind of God who doesn’t make non-essential things an issue when he decides whether to love people or not. Or whether to sacrifice for us. Or whether to invite us into his friendship. There’s lots to chew on there.