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Thursday, November 26 2020

Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai

INTRODUCTION: The Apostle Paul has a knack for bursting people’s bubbles! Just imagine how the first 12 verses of this chapter would have “encouraged” both “sides” to continue with what they had been engaged in because they had been admonished not to judge or look down on one another; and then in today’s study he issues out instructions for the “mature”; and we come to discover that maturity is characterized by letting go of our liberties for the growth and conscience of fellow believers. Today’s study looks at three actions for the mature as spelt out by the Apostle. If you are mature . . . 

  1. Don’t Cause a Fellow Believer to Stumble (Verse 13)

“13 So stop being critical and condemning of other believers, but instead determine to never deliberately cause a brother or sister to stumble and fall because of your actions.

It is very interesting that the Bible never says, "Do not do something," without suggesting a positive action to take its place. It does not merely say, "do not be critical"; it goes ahead to say, instead of pushing liberty so hard, and insisting on your rights in certain matters, and your freedom to indulge in something; make the determination not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block or a source of temptation in another believer’s way.” In other words, consider what the effect of your attitudes and actions have on others and not just your personal satisfaction.

  1. Don’t Grieve Your Brother (Verse 14-15)

“14 I know and am convinced by personal revelation from the Lord Jesus that there is nothing wrong with eating any food. But to the one who considers it to be unclean, it is unacceptable. 15 If your brother or sister is offended because you insist on eating what you want, it is no longer love that rules your conduct. Why would you wound someone for whom the Messiah gave his life, just so you can eat what you want?”

There is nothing wrong if you have the freedom to partake of something that others are not free to indulge in. And, like the apostle, you may have arrived at that by some direct teaching of Scripture, or even as Paul did in the case of the Lord Jesus himself revealing it to you. But we must leave allowance for others if they regard something as unclean, because for them it is unclean. It is a known fact that people's consciences grow at different rates, therefore, we are to adjust to one another's needs along this line.  Apostle Paul also reminds us that we will not be walking in love if we “force” people to move at our pace. To refuse to indulge a freedom that you have for the sake of someone else, to adjust to their pace, is surely one of the clearest and truest exercises of Christian love. Is this hypocrisy? Discuss

  1. Seek Unity (Verses 16-19)

“16 So don’t give people the opportunity to slander what you know to be good. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of rules about food and drink, but is in the realm of the Holy Spirit, filled with righteousness, peace, and joy. 18 Serving the Anointed One by walking in these kingdom realities pleases God and earns the respect of others. 19 So then, make it your top priority to live a life of peace with harmony in your relationships, eagerly seeking to strengthen and encourage one another.”

To have an understanding of the freedom by which Christ set us free is a good thing. But it will very quickly become something spoken of as evil if we create division by arguing so hard for these rights, or freedom, or by flaunting our liberty in the face of those who do not agree with it, you will be setting an obstacle or trap to make them stumble. You will also be portraying your faith in the wrong light in the sight of an unbeliever when all they see are quarrels and squabbles among believers.

The main point of the Christian faith is not eating or drinking or any other item that pulls us apart. The kingdom of God is not about exercising our liberties; but it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. They are gifts of God; they do not come from you; they come from Him. And that is what the world must see in us; not wrangling and disputing and fighting over opinions. Let’s consider these gifts.

Righteousness: The righteousness inputted to us by Christ. It is God's gift of a sense of worth about yourself. It tells us that we are loved by Him; accepted by Him; and that we are valuable people in His sight.

Peace: It is that quiet and calm assurance that God is present in the situation; that He will work it out for His glory, and therefore, we need not get upset or angry, or vindictive.

Joy: Joy is that delight in life that always finds life worthwhile, even though it may be filled with problems. Joy, in a Christian, does not come from circumstances.

Paul offers these guidelines: We can enjoy our liberties, indulge them wherever we desire, but we must make sure we make it our top priority to live a life of peace with harmony in our relationships, while eagerly seeking to strengthen and encourage one another.

Conclusion Verses 20-23

“20 Stop ruining the work of God by insisting on your own opinions about food. You can eat anything you want, but it is wrong to deliberately cause someone to be offended over what you eat. 21 Consider it an act of love to refrain from eating meat or drinking wine or doing anything else that would cause a fellow believer to be offended or tempted to be weakened in his faith. 22 Keep the convictions you have about these matters between yourself and God, and don’t impose them upon others. You’ll be happy when you don’t judge yourself in doing what your conscience approves. 23 But the one who has misgivings feels miserable if he eats meat, because he doubts and doesn’t eat in faith. For anything we do that doesn’t spring from faith is, by definition, sinful.”

The Apostle submits the ultimate conclusion to this chapter. First, he said in Vs 20 that insisting on one’s own opinions destroys the work of God. The one who truly loves will exercise restraint to protect a fellow believer (Vs 21). And in verse 22 Paul goes further to say: "Keep the convictions you have about these matters between yourself and God, and don’t impose them upon others."

Be sure that what you are doing is not because of pride on your part, because you want to show off how free you are -- you are doing this because God has freed you by His Word. If you have really based it on that, then your action will be one in which your conscience is free. You will not feel guilty and troubled as to whether you are acting beyond what the Word of God really says. You will be happy, free, and blessed. But, if you do not, if you really have not settled this on the basis of Scripture, but are acting only because you want to indulge yourself; or if you still feel a bit troubled by it; and still go ahead, then you are going to be condemned by your conscience. And if you are condemned by your conscience, you will feel guilty. It will no longer be acting out of faith, and therefore, you will be sinning. (Vs 23).

On a final note, those who are “mature” should bear the burden of refraining from enjoying their liberties for the sake of the “immature” believer. Are you mature or immature?

Parts of this study was culled from:

https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/romans/the-right-to-yield

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 03:01 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, November 11 2020

Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai

INTRODUCTION

One author refers to this chapter as the favourite indoor sport of Christians, that is, trying to change each other. One of the struggles many of us have as Christians is truly accepting those whose views differ from ours! And if we dig deep within, we will discover that it is because an aspect of love (that must be patient and tolerant of other people's views- 1 Cor. 13:4, Col. 3:13) has not been completely formed in us. This is in relation to areas that are “disputable or debatable” (things which are not clearly spelled out in Scripture). All through the history of the church, the problem arises from the attitude that most of us share today, “I am sure, that God is clearly pleased with the way we live; but there are “those others” around. They drink beer and play cards; they go to movies; their ladies wear trousers; they work on Sundays; they wear lipstick; they cover their hair, they don’t cover their hair, they dance; they play musical instruments; they use zippers instead of buttons.” There is an endless list of things that can be included, debatable matters that the church has never been able to settle because of a misunderstanding of the principles that are set forth here in this very passage. But the call to all of us today is to pause and think about this for a moment and then listen to what Paul says to do about it.

  1. DON’T JUDGE YOUR BRETHREN, FOR GOD HAS ACCEPTED THEM! (VS 1-4)

Verse 1: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters”

In this context, “weak in faith” does not mean not believing in Christ. Instead, Paul is talking about the person whose faith in Christ requires certain additions; like the observance of dietary restrictions or other rules. Such a person could be weak in the faith either because he/she has not yet discovered the meaning of Christian freedom; they see Christianity as a thing of rules and regulations and observation of laws; and are indeed frightened of Christian freedom and Christian liberty. Or he/she has not yet liberated himself/herself from a belief in the efficacy of works. They believe they can gain God's favour by doing certain things and abstaining from doing others.

What Paul is saying is, do not reject them; do not ignore them; do not treat them as second-class citizens. Accept them, but don’t have a hidden agenda. Not for the purpose of arguing with them; accepting them means that regardless of where you may struggle with someone and about what you may struggle, you must realize that they are brothers and sisters in the family of God. You did not make them part of the family; the Lord did.

Verse 2 “One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.”

The backdrop to this was the fact that there were Jewish restrictions against certain forms of meat (Jews did not eat pork, and even beef and lamb had to be kosher that had to be slain in a certain way.) So, because it was quite difficult to find meat prepared in that specific way, they chose rather to eat vegetables. Especially seeing that in Rome and in other pagan Greek and Roman colonies; one could hardly tell which meat had been offered to idols. So there was a real problem in the church.

As in every area of this type, there were two viewpoints. The liberal, broad viewpoint that said there was no problem eating meat bought from the market, and a stricter, narrower viewpoint that said it was wrong to do this. It really does not make any difference what you are arguing about if it is in this area that is debatable (things which are not clearly spelled out in Scripture) you always get this two-fold division. Let us be very clear that there are areas that Scripture speaks about that are not debatable at all. For instance, it is always wrong to be drunk (Galatians 5:21, Eph.5:18, Rom.13:13). It is always wrong to commit adultery or fornication (Exo.20:14, Matt 15:19–20), etc. These things are clearly wrong. In both the Old and New Testaments, God has spoken, and He has judged, in these areas. Christians are exhorted to rebuke and exhort and reprove one another, and, if necessary, even discipline one another according to patterns set out in the Scriptures. (I Cor. 5, 1Thess 5:14, Rom.16:17). This is not judging each other in those areas. The Word of God has judged; it has already pronounced what is wrong.

Verse 3: “The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.”

The phrase “look down” here really means "push out." Those who have accepted their liberty and believe that to the pure everything is pure (Titus 1:15) should not push the others out; they must not exclude them. Here is the other side of it. Those who have decided to hold back must not look down on those who have freedom in these areas. They must not judge or condemn them. The word condemn means "to sit in judgment" on them and it involves criticizing or censoring them. We are not to go up to them and tell them, "I do not see how you can be a Christian and do things like that." They could very well turn around and say the exact same to you!  

Verse 4 “Who 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.” 

Paul continues in this verse surmising these first four verses by telling us why we must not look down on, or judge or condemn another. Firstly, it is because it is not your responsibility to change your brother or sister in this area of differences in opinions and preferences. We have no responsibility to change each other and no authority to do so. Paul says “He or she is not your servant.” The Lord chose them without asking for your permission. The Lord, then, is the one responsible to change them. Paul says the person will stand; this means that they will be straightened out if they are wrong in this area. God will straighten them out Himself and it is not up to you to do it. The TPT version says: “His own master is the one to evaluate whether he succeeds or fails. “And God’s servants will succeed, for God’s power supports them and enables them to stand.” 

  1. DON’T JUDGE YOUR BRETHREN, FOR GOD IS PRAISED BY THEM! (VS 5-8)

Verses 5-6: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He 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.” 

Paul reminds us that God can read hearts and we cannot. These distinctions and differences of viewpoint arise out of honest conviction which God sees, even though you cannot. They are acting on the basis of what they feel is right, so give them the benefit of the doubt on that. Believe that they intend on being real before God and true to Him as you are. Remember that they really feel that God would be displeased if they did certain things or did not do certain things; it is an honest conviction. The apostle makes clear here that every man should have that kind of a conviction. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own heart,"

Do not just act from tradition, because you were brought up that way or because you just feel it is right. Find some reason in the Scripture for it. Seek justification out of the Word of God. You may change your mind as your understanding of truth develops, but at least let it be on the ground of a conviction of the heart and of the mind.

The next thing Paul says is that God sees both of these categories of people and both of these viewpoints as honouring Him. The one who thinks Sunday is a special day that ought to be kept different from all other days is doing so as unto the Lord, therefore honour that, respect that viewpoint. The one who says, "No. When we are in Christ, days do not mean anything. They are not set aside for any special purpose. Therefore, I feel every day is alike, and I want to honour the Lord on every day." Okay, do not feel upset at that. He is doing so out of a deep conviction of his heart.

It is a question of what the heart is doing in the eyes of God and not ours.

This is the same criteria which Paul uses to settle a slightly different issue in Corinth which also centred on appropriate food and drink. There Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

VERSES 7-8 “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If 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.” 

The last thing Paul says in this area is that our relationship with one another is more important than our life style. We live our lives in relationship to other people; what we say or do affects them, and what they say or do affects us. It is therefore vitally important for us to respect our interdependence and not look down on or judge each other. In verse 8 Paul says whether we live or whether we die, that is not the important thing. The important thing is that we belong to the Lord. Paul expressed a similar sentiment in his letter to the Philippians: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). In both life and death, we belong to the Lord. Life gives us opportunity to serve the Lord, and death will bring us home to the Lord. We therefore must remember this in our relationships with one another. We belong to the Lord. We are brothers and sisters. We are not servants of each other. We are servants of the Lord and He has the right to change us. 

  1. DON’T JUDGE YOUR BRETHREN, FOR GOD WILL JUDGE THEM (AND YOU)! (VS 9-12)

VERSES 9-12 “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, 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. It is written: "'As I live,' says the Lord, 'Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Here, Paul says, "Stop trying to be Christ to the rest of the church or playing God to each other. You, the weak, why do you judge your brother? And you, the strong, why do you look down on your brother? It is wrong. You are trying to take Christ's place when you do that. But remember that all of us, men and women alike, all brothers and sisters together, must individually stand before God's judgment seat." 1 Corinthians 4:5 says, "The Lord returns and brings to light all the hidden things of the heart," All the things that we thought nobody ever saw will be brought out to the light. We must then give an account to the Lord.

CONCLUSION

In today’s study, we see the apostle Paul laying down three important reasons not to judge each other in “disputable matters”. We should not judge others because God has accepted them, God is praised by them and God will judge them and you! What Paul teaches here is that these differences in lifestyle, opinions, preferences and perceptions were the attitudes that were dividing the church. Paul's commands toward both groups make it pretty clear that the "strong" were despising the "weak," while the "weak" were judging or condemning the "strong." All of which was centred around behaviours not explicitly prohibited or commanded by scripture. They lie in a moral zone where each person must exercise conscience to decide how to proceed. Differences in how we follow our consciences always have the potential to threaten our fellowship as believers in Christ. So we must be careful; because in the bid of trying to change each other, we end up despising and judging one another. The footnote in the TPT version of verse 4a says: “We are all “household servants” in the body of Christ, for we each belong to him. When believers begin to judge other believers over our opinions or preferences, we are taking the role that belongs only to Jesus.”

As believers we mostly have agreement on basic principles, where we have disagreements is in the application of those principles. Let us therefore channel our energies to the things that unite us instead of the things that tear us apart!

Parts of this study was culled from:

https://pastorhistorian.com/2006/03/27/do-not-judge-your-brother-exposition-of-romans-141-12/
https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/romans/on-trying-to-change-others

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 02:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, November 04 2020

Contributor: Clem Roberts

Introduction:

In Summary of last week study we learnt that the scripture admonishes us to obey the rule of law that is constituted in the land.  We also, established the fact that God allowed them to be in position does mean that he created them the way they may eventually turn out. We learnt that being subject to the government because it is for our good, and it is the right thing to do.  It was reiterated that vengeance is of God and not ours, even in situations where we the wicked is in authority.  It was stressed that it is much better to love than hate or curse.

In today’s study, Apostle Paul is making a serious appeal to believers.  The world we live in this present times always want to emphasize how knowledgeable and enlightened they are and at the same time neglecting and relegating the instructions and the Word of God.  We can see from the entire book of Romans based on our study so far that it is Paul’s desire to the Romans, believers and all humans to live according to the dictates of the Almighty God.

Verses 11-14

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” NIV 

  1.  Understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber (Don’t doze off or go into a deep sleep) because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  
  1. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness
    • Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
  2. Put on the armour of light.
  • Galatians 3:27 tells us "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
  • A quick look and study of Ephesians 6:10 – 18 gives more understanding of Paul’s appeal in this verse of scripture. 
  1. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, where your live is ruled, characterised and governed by lively and noisy festivities, especially involving drinking and dancing.
  2. Avoid sexual immorality and debauchery,
    • Do not get involved in extreme indulgence in bodily pleasures and especially sexual pleasures: or behaviour involving sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. that is often considered immoral.
  1. Avoid dissension and jealousy.
  • disagreement that leads to discord.
  • feeling or showing an envious resentment of someone or their achievements, possessions, or perceived advantages.
  1.  Let’s clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
    • do not give pleasure or satisfaction to the cravings of the flesh

In summary - How can we achieve this?

  1. Taking every thought captive - 2 Corinthians 10:5
  2. Be transformed - Romans 12:2
  3. Be renewed – Romans 12: 2

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 02:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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