“The fellowship is broken. The power of darkness grows. All will be sacrificed. All will be lost unless we unite against evil.” (From the Lord of the Rings – the Two Towers)
The quote from the Lord of The Rings above shows us we are in an epic battle for life and death, and even more – heaven and hell for all eternity. The enemy works very hard to divide and conquer God’s people so our witness to those who remain in his clutches will be ineffective. As the Trinity is Unity in Diversity (One God Three Persons in complete love and unity) God calls us to reflect His very Character to a lost world as we walk in love and unity, and Jesus prays for unity: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their message, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, so that they may be one, just as we are one. I am in them, and you are in me. May they be completely one, so that the world may know that you sent me and that you have loved them as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23) “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Just imagine a huge battlefield where we can see a vast army of demons and evil men coming toward us as believers in Christ (all saved and yet all still not sinless) as we seek to rescue their captives (our loved ones, etc.). We would want all hands on deck to march into war against them and would not seek to eliminate anyone over non-essential doctrines or differences of opinions regarding personal convictions. But if we lose this overarching vision (the Great Commission) we can become petty, and break unity over relatively unimportant differences. Paul writes and works toward answering Jesus’ prayer for love and unity for God’s glory and lost souls here in this passage. Notice these activities or actions are all external actions: eating foods; observing certain holy days; drinking wine (without getting drunk). In contrast, Jesus’s longest sermon the Sermon on the Mount, is mostly about inner attitudes that are more important than outward actions and in fact are primarily responsible for our actions. Pride and self-righteousness based on keeping religious rules (externals) is the attitude that Jesus most strongly rebuked in the Pharisees. “Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!” (Matt. 23:23-24)
The context of Romans 14:1-15:13 is our response to God’s great love and mercy for us as seen in Romans 1-11 (the gospel – the cross) and stated in Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” And then “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8) In this lesson Paul is addressing believers and calling for love and unity versus contempt (the strong believers ridiculing the weak for their scrupulous rules) and judgment (the weak believers judging the strong as sinful for not doing or doing something the weak believers considered sinful). These differences were over things that are not clearly commanded or prohibited in Scripture. This includes personal convictions about food, holy days and drinking wine. Some commentators think the weak in faith are the Jewish Christians who find it difficult to give up OT dietary laws regarding food, and observing the Sabbath and other holy days. The strong (15:1- here Paul includes himself) are those who have liberty to eat meat (even though it may not be kosher, etc.) and to not observe OT holy days and to drink wine (but not get drunk – Ephesians 5:18). Over the history of the church there have been many other differences on personal convictions which divide believers and hurt the cause of Christ. From clothes to make-up for women, dancing, smoking, movies, playing certain board games, cards, etc. the enemy can get us so busy fighting each other that we forget who our real enemy is. “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” Augustine.
Romans 14:1-12 – “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions (doubtful disputations – KJV). (To accept the weak in faith does not mean you invite them to your church and then try to straighten them out on their “wrong” convictions.) 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt (despise – KJV) the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge (to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong) the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another (of Jesus Christ)? To his own master (Jesus) he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day above another (the Sabbath and other holy days in OT law), another regards every day alike (we are to love and obey God every day; See Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16). Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind (personal convictions can be good but they are not to be forced on others). 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God (we observe certain days or not, and eat or don’t eat to please the Lord, not to win man’s approval). 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or 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 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? 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 give praise to God.”
12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself (not our neighbor, but our self) to God.”
Verses 10-12 are speaking of believers only who will appear before the judgment seat of Christ and be judged for rewards not for sin (see chart below). But unbelievers are also accountable to God and will appear at the white throne judgment and give an account to God for their sins; (“books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead (unsaved) were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.”) (Rev. 20:12)
As Paul (inspired by God the Holy Spirit) desired love and unity among God’s people for our blessing and a witness to lost and hell-bound people, he wrote these instructions regarding matters of conscience. In summary of these verses we see these principles/motivations:
1. To “accept” (v.1) the weak in faith does not mean you invite them to your church and then try to straighten them out on their “wrong” convictions; “but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions”.
2. The strong are not to despise or ridicule the weak for their personal convictions and thus encourage them to sin against their conscience. (Romans 14:22-23) We are to let God speak to them and bring any correction if and when needed.
3. The weak are not to judge (to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong) the strong and try to force their personal convictions on them. If you do ___________ or don’t do ____________ you are sinning. Personal convictions can be helpful but they are only between you and God. Daniel resolved to pray three times every day and was willing to die for his conviction, but it is not commanded in Scripture. (See Daniel 6.)
4. We observe certain days or not, eat or don’t eat, to please and honor the Lord, not to win man’s approval. This leads to the final point and motivation to not despise or judge those we disagree with on personal convictions:
5. “But you, why do you judge (to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong) your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt (or despise him –v. 3)? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. So then each one of us will give an account of himself (not our neighbor, but our self) to God” (at the judgment seat (the Bema) of Christ). Sinful judgment and contempt will cost us at the Bema.
The following chart (after the questions below) shows the difference between salvation (by grace through faith not by works) and rewards (or loss of rewards) for spiritual work that is determined at the judgment seat (the Bema) of Christ. We are not saved by good works but we are saved (and rewarded) for good works.8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10)
Questions for Discussion and Application
“The fellowship is broken. The power of darkness grows. All will be sacrificed. All will be lost unless we unite against evil.” (From the Lord of the Rings – the Two Towers) Where have you seen “Christian fellowship” broken and how can this passage inspire us to restore love and unity in our churches, homes, and extended families?
Chapter 14 Our Christian Brother and Opinions (or matters of conscience/personal convictions) http://bibleviews.com/romans.html
V. 1 What disputes should be avoided? With whom?
What type of person is this weak one? See verse 6.
V. 2 What issue does Paul give as an example?
Is there a Bible principle involved here?
V. 3-4 What is each side to do?
Must a person become a vegetarian to please the vegetarian?
See I Timothy 4:3-4.
V. 5 What issue does Paul give as a second example?
What days is Paul referring to? See Colossians 2:16; Galatians 4:10.
V. 6-9 What is really important?
V. 10-12 Should we pass judgment on issues not involving Biblical principles?
What about issues involving Biblical principles? See I Cor. 5:12-13.
What will each of us do someday?
Chart from Middletown Bible Church – http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/romans/romans14.htm
|1) Salvation is a free gift and can’t be earned.“But not as the offence, so also is the FREE GIFT. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the GIFT by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is THE GIFT: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the FREE GIFT is of many offences unto justification” (Rom. 5:15-16; and see also Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 6:23; John 4:10).||1) Rewards can be earned by faithful service.“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord YE SHALL RECEIVE THE REWARD of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:22-24, and note that the emphasis of this passage is upon SERVICE).|
|2) Salvation is not something we deserve.If God were to give us exactly what we deserve for the way we have lived and for the sins which we have committed, what would He give us?“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130:3) “The wages of sin is DEATH” (Rom. 6:23).See also Psalm 103:10.||2) Reward is something that the believer deserves.“Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:16-17). This man was deserving of reward because his pound gained ten pounds and because he was faithful in a very little. [Caution: The believer who labors faithfully for Christ must never forget what Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:10, “by the grace of God I am what I am…I labored…yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” So even in the earning of rewards the principle of grace is operative.]|
|3) Salvation is not given on the basis of works.“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, NOT ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS, but according to His own purpose and grace” (2 Tim. 1:9). “NOT BY WORKS of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Tit. 3:5). “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness WITHOUT WORKS” (Rom. 4:6).||3) Rewards are given on the basis of works.“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS” (Matt. 16:27). “And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man ACCORDING AS HIS WORK SHALL BE” (Rev. 22:12).|
|4) Salvation is a present possession (it is something that the believer has now).“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE” (John 5:24). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me HATH EVERLASTING LIFE” (John 6:47). “He that hath the Son HATH LIFE” (1 John 5:12).||4) Rewards are a future attainment (they are something the believer will receive later)“And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou SHALT BE [future tense] RECOMPENSED AT THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST” (Luke 14:14). Believers will receive rewards at the first resurrection, and for church age believers this will take place at the rapture.|
|5) Salvation is something that can never be lost.“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH [Greek–they shall never ever perish, no not ever], neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).||5) Rewards can be lost.“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11). “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2 John 8). “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in My Name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41).|
|This distinction is clearly seen in 1 Corinthians 3:14-15, “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss [there will be loss of reward]: but he himself shall be saved [there will not be loss of salvation]; yet so as by fire.”|
|6) The focus of salvation is upon SIN
(we have a SIN PROBLEM)“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for He shall save his people FROM THEIR SINS” (Matt. 1:21).
|6) The focus of rewards is upon SERVICE (we have a responsibility to faithfully serve the God who saved us)“With good will DOING SERVICE, AS TO THE LORD, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free” (Eph. 6:7-8).|
|7) Salvation involves possessing CHRIST.“He that HATH THE SON hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).||7) Rewards involve possessing CROWNS.“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth THE PRIZE? So run, THAT YE MAY OBTAIN. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible CROWN; but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor. 9:24-25).|
|8) The sinner coming to Christ for salvation hears these words: “IT IS DONE!”“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, IT IS FINISHED” (John 19:30).||8) The faithful believer about to be rewarded hears these words: “WELL DONE!”“His lord said unto him, WELL DONE, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:23).|
|9) Salvation was accomplished at Christ’s first coming.“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world [at His first coming] to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).||9) Rewards will be bestowed upon believers at Christ’s second coming.“Henceforth there is laid up for me A CROWN of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that LOVE HIS APPEARING” (2 Tim. 4:8). “And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me” (Rev. 22:12).|
|10) Salvation is freely received in a point of time.In a point of time a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and passes from death to life (John 5:24).||10) Rewards are earned throughout a whole believing lifetime.“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body [from the point of salvation to the point when the believer goes to be with the Lord], according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).|
|11) Salvation is based upon what Christ has done.“Being justified freely by His grace THROUGH THE REDEMPTION that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).||11) Rewards are based upon what we have done (as believers).“…that every one may receive the things done in his body, ACCORDING TO THAT HE HATH DONE, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).|
|12) When it comes to salvation, what is man’s part? The answer: FAITH“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).God does the saving; we do the believing.||12) When it comes to rewards, what is man’s part? The answer: FAITHFULNESS.“He that is FAITHFUL in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12).|
|13) The question of salvation: DID YOU BELIEVE ON CHRIST?“It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to SAVE them that BELIEVE” (1 Cor. 1:21).||13) The question of rewards: HAVE YOU BEEN ABIDING IN CHRIST?“And now, little children, ABIDE IN HIM; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28).|
|14) When it comes to salvation there are certain things that God does not remember.“And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).||14) When it comes to rewards, there are certain things that God does remember.“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:10).|
|15) Salvation always involves God’s full approval in Christ.“To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us ACCEPTED [highly favored] in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6).||15) Rewards may involve God’s disapproval.“But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Col. 3:25). See also 1 John 2:28 which implies the possibility of SHAME because of God’s disapproval and see Phil. 3:8 where Paul sacrificed all so that he might gain or win Christ and His approval.|
|16) All believers share the same salvation.The “salvation package” of one believer contains everything that is found in the “salvation package” of another believer. We share the same “so-great salvation (Heb. 2:3). We are RICH in Christ and possess every spiritual blessing in Him (Eph. 1:3).||16) All believers do not share the same rewards.“And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto Him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on Thy right hand, and the other on the left, in Thy kingdom….And He saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father (Matthew 20:21,23). Not all believers will sit at Christ’s right and at His left. This place and position will be reserved for two believers, as determined by God the righteous Judge.|
|17) When it comes to salvation, when will my judgment take place? Answer: It has already taken place at the cross!“…the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).Because of this fact, the Lord assures the true believer that he will not come into condemnation or judgment (see John 5:24; Romans 8:1).||17) When it comes to rewards, when will my judgment take place? Answer: At the judgment seat of Christ!“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” (2 Cor. 5:10). “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” (Romans 14:10).|
|18) Salvation costs nothing.“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk WITHOUT MONEY and WITHOUT PRICE” (Isa. 55:1).||18) Rewards cost a life of service.Serving Christ faithfully in a Christ-hating world can be costly: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: FOR GREAT IS YOUR REWARD in heaven” (Matt. 5:10,12).|
|19) Salvation is received at the time of JUSTIFICATION.Salvation is something we get at the beginning.||19) Rewards are received at the time of GLORIFICATION.Rewards are something we get at the end.|
|20) We show our gratitude for salvation by faithful service.“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).||20) We show our gratitude for rewards by casting our crowns before our Saviour.“The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and CAST THEIR CROWNS BEFORE THE THRONE, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:10-11).|
|Paul recognized that any good thing which he did was attributed to the grace of God: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). Even when it comes to faithful service for Christ, we are debtors to the grace of God!|
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