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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
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