Living By Faith #7: Faith and God’s Family
Romans 14, 15 - The Weak Brother principle
Introduction: A pastor was awakened to find a robber standing with a gun in his bedroom. The burglar sticks a gun in the preacher's face.
“Don’t move I'm looking for some money.”
The pastor looks at the gun then at the burglar and says, “Well, If you let me get up and turn on the light, I'll help you look. I never can find any either.”
Now that was a kind and helpful Christian and today we're talking about being a kind, caring child of God and member of the Lord's church family but
without having a gun in our face.
Liberty In The Lord - Romans 14:1-12
1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Don’t Judge This
Paul writes to the Roman church about difference of conviction within the church body. Jewish believers who still practiced the festival and feast days were misunderstood by the Gentile Christians who had given up their pagan holidays. The Gentiles who saw no problem with eating meat with blood in it or eating other ceremonial unclean foods that were abhorrent to the Jews. This could cause real friction and even division within the church.
Paul tells them yes, accept into your church family those which may be weak, immature, in the faith but not for the purpose of getting into debates with them about the these differences of personal conviction. We could call them the gray areas of Christianity living.
Let me note here, that Paul’s admonition applies to those in the faith, those who are saved and in these areas of conviction he is going to talk about. Paul who had been stoned, persecuted, threatened and arrested because of his stand for the truth, would never compromise on the truth, the Gospel, morality, or Biblical doctrine. One those things that God clearly states as right and wrong there is not compromise.
Yet there are areas of differences that the Bible does not expressly state it is as wrong and we had better understand the difference or we will destroy the church which is meant to be the pillar and ground of the truth.
Paul give four reasons why we should accept our brother and sisters in Christ in spite of their differing opinions and convictions in areas that are not clearly defined in Scripture as right or wrong.
God has accepted them (vv. 1-3). Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
God will sustain Them (v. 4). Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand
Jesus is their Lord (vv. 5-9). For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
Jesus is their Judge (vv. 10-12). For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Paul's Examples Of Christian Convictions that are between the believer and his God.
vs. 2 Eating meat or just vegetables, “Let neither despise the other for God has received him. Both give thanks to God for whatever they eat.”
Vs 5 Special days and holy days. “5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
Vs. 6 In both cases, Paul says, they are trying to honor the Lord in their convictions. The Jews who continued to keep the OT Holy Days and the Gentiles who had walked away from the pagan ones, the food the Jews wouldn’t touch and the blessing said over the Gentiles non-Levitical meal all were convinced they were doing it to honor the Lord and Savior.
Critical, Convicted or Caring
Do I dare site some of the recent or even current areas of convictions we must can either be critical, convicted or caring about?
Women wearing pants to church. Head covering on women. Makeup or jewelry on women. Beards on Men. Tattoos on women and men, women speaking in church or voting in business meetings, Eating out on Sundays, Movie attendance, Owing a television, Going to Sporting Events, Christmas, Christmas trees and presents, Easter, Easter eggs and bonnets, Sunday Afternoon church services replacing Sunday night church services, Bible translations, pews or chairs in the auditorium. Songs on the screen, guitar music, organ music, recorded music, too modern music, too ancient music, too loud music, too much music.
Makes you wish you could just go back to differences about food and holidays doesn’t it. There is a minefield of personal convictions out there and if we as a church are not very careful in how we deal with them, we will step up on them and blow up an entire church.
These all are in the category of the weak brother / sister principle.
They are not cardinal doctrines which deal with salvation, the ordinances or other areas that define Christianity.
They are not spelled out as definitely wrong in the Bible. They are differences of conviction among believers in the faith and usually in the same church. They are all things we must leave to our brother and sisters personal beliefs about how to serve and honor God and leave to the Lord’s judgement in the future.
Paul writing to the Corinthians
1 Corinthians 4:5 — Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
2 Corinthians 5:10 — For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Illustration: The Missionary that Left the Work
I once had a few conversations with an independent Baptist missionary who was on deputation while I was in school at Independent Baptist College. He told me of some of the difficulties he had encountered while on the road raised support. One pastor called him down from the pulpit because he had dared to wear cowboy boots on the speakers podium. Another had met him at the door and then led him to his office where he opened a drawer full of eyeglasses and told the missionary to pick a pair to replace the ones he was wearing because they were wire-rimmed glasses, the same kind that John Lenin and all those hippies wore.
You and I would probably find those things a little funny or quaint but years later I learned that the missionary who shared those things with me had finally grown tired of being beat up for being different and he quit trying to raise support, go to the mission field and preach the Gospel.
That is the danger of not understanding the principle of bearing one another’s convictions can do. If we are not caring instead of critical we will drive brothers and sisters who love the lord and want to serve Him in our church, right out that back door to another church or to the world. Most times they will never tell you why they left. Maybe you said something about long hair on one of their kids or kidded about the NIV or ESV translation they proudly carried into services that day. Its not that they were wrong or that you were right, it’s about critical sometimes bitter judging in the areas that Romans 14 says, you have no right to judge here.
Being critical and judgmental about differing conviction is wrong, but Paul never leaves us with just what it wrong, he is going to tell us the right we should be doing. Instead of judging our church family we should be loving them.
Love Of The Lord – Romans 14:13-23
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
Do Judge This 13-23
Paul gives a quick summary of the previous point and paragraph. Romans 14:13 13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
Judge this, Paul says, don’t be or place stumbling blocks that would cause others to fall in their relationship with the Lord and with you.
Instead of judging our sibling in the Savior, we need to be judging the stumbling blocks in ourselves. A stumbling block is something that causes a fall or an offence.
It means that a church member acts in such a way, speaks in such a way or “Dear Lord forgive us” gossips in a manner that brings a fellow believer to a place where they are hurt or offended and their fellowship with me and their walk with the Lord God is hindered. Just like stretching a tripwire in the aisle when someone was coming forward at the invitation.
Paul gives the church at Rome instructions in understanding how to deal with differing convictions.
First, Understand the truth of freedom and the reality of convictions.
Romans 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
This is a strong statement by the apostle, I know and am persuaded, fully convinced that in these areas of personal convictions, it is not an issue of right or wrong, but the reality of strong personal convictions. If you don’t understand then you will be a stumbling block, an offence to the work of God. What they were so adamant about making others do or don’t do becomes the real sin.
Second, Paul points out we should understand our priorities vs. 15-20
Romans 14:15-20 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. (in the love of the Lord) Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
What is more important, Paul is asking the believers at Rome, the kind of food you will or won’t eat or your fellowship with the family of God? Don't let your good, your liberty and freedom in Christ, be made evil. The kingdom of God is not food and drink, but spiritual. Worshiping and serving God in all that is done or not done is acceptable to God and men. Your priority as a child of God, a part of the family of God and the body of Christ in the church must be for peace and edifying your brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Paul sums up the weak brother principle vs. 21-23
Romans 14:21-23 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
For meat (the gray area of convictions) don't destroy the work of God. All things (these areas of liberty) are pure, but not if you practice them and wind up offend and hurting those you should be loving in Christ.
The best practice is to put aside our liberty for the sake of our weak brother's conscience. Do you have faith in your freedom, then have it before God, Rejoice in your liberty. But remember if there is doubt (no faith) of the practice then there is judgment (of self), because whatever is not of faith is sin.
Ready, Set, Stop (Being Critical)
I can’t emphasize enough how important the weak brother principle is to the life of a church. I think that only gossip is more deadly to a local church than a wrong understanding of convictions and tolerance. Let me just emphasize a couple of things as we move on.
First when it comes to the weak brother principle, you are always the strong brother or sister. The Holy Spirit is talking to you as the strong sibling not to you someone else who is carrying the wrong translation or wearing the wrong apparel to church. Lord help you if you are upset with someone who wears boots to church in Texas or anywhere in the southwest for that matter.
What this means is you, as the stronger in faith and wisdom in this equation can’t walk up to someone and say, “Your beard offends me and so according to Romans 14 you need to shave it off.” Or any other form of that address which is exactly the opposite of what Paul was saying. You are the strong brother not the weak, you can’t use Romans 14 to force your convictions on someone else or make them give up their convictions. Stronger here means your strength is in understanding and then tolerating the difference which we all have in our convictions. “Do you have faith in your convictions? Have it to yourself before God. You’ll be happy” The key phrase is “have it to yourself before God.”
Don’t brag about your Christmas Tree when you know your brother or Sister in Christ doesn’t believe they should be put up. Don’t make snide remarks about how your wife or daughters honor the Lord by wearing dresses to church when a fellow sister in the church wears their nicest pant suit. (Do women even wear pantsuits anymore? I have no idea. In this day and age, I’m just glad they’re wearing something.)
Don’t let your good things in the Lord, your freedom, the liberty of your convictions, be turned into evil things because you couldn’t figure out how to handle the differences of those convictions.
The Easter Sunday short shorts. LeeOra and I once ran a bus route for our Sunday School at Faith Temple Baptist in Farmers Branch. We picked up between 10 and 20 kids on Sundays. Most of the kids were just being babysat, their parents were hungover, still asleep and really just wanting a couple of hours to stay in bed. So we got kids who were not at all traditional church kids, from traditional church families. One Easter Sunday I remember picking up some children and because it was Easter most of them were more dressed up as usual. House after house we would pull up, one of us would run up and knock on the door and if everyone was awake, the kids would come out ready for church. On this Sunday one little girl came out dressed in a brand new outfit for Easter Sunday. She was only about 8 or so and her Mom had bought her a jumper I guess you’d call it that it had straps that went over a blouse but oh my goodness! They were shorts. I mean they were shorts. Shorts in church on Easter Sunday! Did I tell you they were shorts? Cause they were definitely shorts.
What do I do as the bus Capitan? Do you turn her back and tell her, you’ can’t wear shorts to church! Especially, on Easter Sunday morning! That was my first thought. Then I saw the look of pride on her sweet 8-year-old face. Her mom had bought her this brand new outfit for Easter Sunday!
You know what I said, “Wow, you look wonderful all dressed up for Easter. Is that a outfit? I’m so glad you wore it to Sunday School.” Think of the consequences if I had turned her away. Now think of those who you may not see in church anymore and ask yourself did I love them in the Lord or did I condemn them by my convictions?
Now in the next chapter Paul concludes this principle.
Lifting With The Lord - Romans 15:1-6
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Doing Just Like Jesus vs. 1-3
Here is how Paul wraps this up We the strong are to lift up, edify and bear the weaknesses of our fellow family members in the Lord.
This is what Jesus did and we should be following his example. Vs. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. Paul quotes Psalms 69:9, one of the most important Messianic Psalms. He wants us to realize that we wouldn’t be saved if Christ hadn’t taken on our weaknesses, our reproaches. who took on our sins and bore our weakness.
This word reproach, that I have always just read and not really thought about comes from the Greek word onedismoss and it comes close to the meaning of “dis” as used today. It means to upbraid, revile, cast in one's teeth, or we would say throw it in my face. Jesus bore the accusations, revilement and humiliation that comes from being reproached. He is our example and we can at least bear the minor differences that come from other people’s convictions of how they are trying to serve and honor God.
He tells them in vs 4 that we have two sources, two means to be able to accomplish this, by the patience and comfort that comes from scripture learning. Amazing, that’s what we are trying to do today. Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Then Paul gives a blessing and a prayer for the church in Rome because he knows this is not an easy undertaking. People feel strongly about out convictions, as they should but not in a way that hurts others and may destroy the church they all love.
Romans 15:5-6 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The ultimate purpose, that we with one mind and one mouth will glorify God.
Stop, Drop and Roll
(Stop your critical judging, Drop your hurtful debating and Roll into glorifying our great God.) After hearing that you now can see the difference between the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as seen in what Paul writes and all the rest of us. Yes, I find inspiration in a fire safety warning.
Let me conclude with a story about Charles Spurgeon, everyone loves a good Spurgeon story, especially preachers.
Illustration: The Orphanage Conflict
Charles Spurgeon had a friend, Joseph Parker. Park was not a Baptist but a Congregational preacher. The two of them were considered the most influential and popular preacher in London during the Victorian era.
Though they were friends a misunderstanding arose between them. Charles Spurgeon had a fiery temper and personality to match, while Joseph Parker was quiet; tending to be meek and mild-mannered. One day, Pastor Parker made a comment about the terribly poor condition of the children being admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. Spurgeon’s church, Metropolitan Tabernacle, had just taken up operations for an orphanage for abandoned boys. And Spurgeon’s great love was for “his” orphanages. Spurgeon gave away most of the money that he ever made to these orphanages, in todays money it would amount to tens of millions. On the day the conflict began, Parker said to some members of his church, “We ought to help Spurgeon with his orphanage, for there are times when the boys don’t have proper clothes, and I am sure they could use some food.”
However, one of the men standing there, twisting the truth, and reported to Spurgeon, that Parker had in fact, criticized the orphanage itself; telling Spurgeon that “Joseph Parker says the boys in your orphanage don’t have enough clothes to wear or sufficient food to eat.”
To Spurgeon this was like a knife in the back by someone he trusted as a friend. The next Sunday Spurgeon got in the pulpit and blasted Parker not only for what he thought had been said but for other things like the fact that Parker attended plays.
Because Spurgeon was so well known and so popular all his sermons were reprinted in the London newspapers and now his attack against his friend Parker was know to all of England. Then a newspaper reporter raced over to Parker’s home and asked him whether he would reply to Spurgeon attack on the following Sunday. Parker thought for a moment and replied. “Yes, I will respond to him next Sunday.”
This great minister’s battle become the talk of London. Bets were wagered at betting houses and among the lost. People, religious and not, talked and speculated back and forth about it all that week.
Understandably, huge throngs of people as well as a herd of newspaper reporters flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear the rebuttal. Hundreds were there when the doors opened. You could feel the high tension at the church service. The singing was strained. Everyone waited with bated breath And when it came time for Dr. Parker to speak, a hush fell upon the crowd. The good pastor, slowly got up and went to the pulpit, quietly cleared his throat and said, “Brother Spurgeon is sick today and cannot preach. This is the day when he takes up an offering for his orphans. May I suggest that we take up that offering for him in our church, for he’s doing a great work, and I know all of us would like to have a part in it.”
Pastor Parker’s compassion stirred such a response that the deacons had to empty the offering plates three times. They bagged the money and took it over to Spurgeon after the service, commenting, “This is a gift from Joseph Parker. He really promoted your program in church today.”
On Tuesday morning there was a knock at Parker’s study. It was Spurgeon. Throwing his arms around his nearly lost friend he said, “You have more of the spirit of Jesus Christ than any man I know. You know, Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed.”
Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? Isn’t that the least we can do for those who He died for, who is their Lord and who they will stand before one day just like us to be judged for the way they served and honored him. And you know what I think when it comes to that judgment of reward and lack of reward? I doubt seriously anyone will lose anything from their crown for wearing the wrong kind of clothes one Sunday or not celebrating Christmas but I know we will lose a part of our crown of life for driving brothers and sister from the house of God, because we couldn’t be the strong one, love them and lift them even in their weaknesses, just as Christ love and lifted us.