Romans Chapter 14

Part 1

KLMX June 2010

Bryan Kimsey

1st Baptist Church

Des Moines, NM

Welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX radio. Iím moving toward the end of a chapter by chapter study of Paulís letter to the Romans which has taken almost 2 years to cover in KLMX time. Today, weíll be in Chapter 14 and this is one of my favorite chapters of Romans, although though I think Iíve said that about all the previous ones, too! Every chapter has at least 1, if not 2 or 3 verses, that I use over and over in various messages, and Chapter 14 is no exception. But, weíll cross that verse when we get to it. First, let me ask God to bless this message, give me the words to speak (or type), and give you ears to hear and an open heart. May this glorify Him, through the name of Jesus Christ. Amen!

Chapter 14 of Paulís letter to the church in Rome addresses some very important aspects of what we call Christian liberty. While there are some aspects of Christianity that are set in stone, or some aspects that are absolutely required in order for a person to call themselves a Christian, there are other areas where we can have some flexibility. And, of course, not everyone is at the same level of spiritual maturity. It would be silly to expect baby Christians to behave the same as someone whoís been a believer for 30-40 years. Furthermore, God has a plan for each unique person- weíre not Star Wars clones. With all that said, letís take a look at our first passage:

Romans 14:1-3 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. (2) For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. (3) Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

The first thing I see here is that there are some, indeed, who are "weak in the faith". I said that it would be silly to expect baby Christians to have the same faith as those whoíve been believers for longer. But it really isnít just a matter of age- Iíve seen some young believers with an incredibly strong faith, and some older ones with a faith that has not been tested and tried. So, there are all kinds of cases but the fact is that some are weak in the faith and some are stronger.

When dealing with one of weaker faith, those with the stronger faith, or at least those who think they have a stronger faith, are to be gracious. Paul says that there are not to be "disputes over doubtful things." Too often, though, those who think they have a strong faith will hammer their superiority over the heads of the weaker. This is wrong and not Christ-like. Christ, after all, welcomed little children. Those with a stronger faith should always keep in mind from where their faith comes and not become prideful or arrogant. Paul tells Timothy as much in:

2 Timothy 2:24-26 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, (25) in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, (26) and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

While Paulís instructions are directed specifically toward non-believers, if they are to be treated gently, in humility, how much more should brothers and sisters in Christ be treated? Paul revisits this theme in his letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 6:1-3 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (2) Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (3) For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Humility is a key concept here. And why should it be? According to Romans 8:29, Christians are being conformed to the image of Christ. Each day, little by little and sometimes in great leaps and bounds, sinful men like me, are growing a little more Christ-like. Paul says about Christ:

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:8)

Since Christ himself was the most humble of all men, it follows that humility is an extremely important trait. Therefore, the thrust of our passage today is one of humility. Letís read it again:

Romans 14:1-3 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. (2) For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. (3) Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

Rather than putting them down, we are to receive one is weak in the faith. And we furthermore are not to tear their weak faith down by disputing over doubtful things. If the weak in faith thinks he should only eat vegetables, then the one who believes he can eat all things is not to despise the weaker member. Nor, as we see later, should the stronger cause the weaker to stumble.

This is passage is probably not limited to just eating. Taking the concept of this passage, we can extend it to any number of things. I love movies, but early in my Christian walk, I realized that a lot of the movies I was watching at the time were simply not appropriate for my young faith. Consequently, we threw them all away. Later, as I grew in faith, I let a few movies back in, but I applied much more discrimination. I think itís worth noting that almost none- and I think "none"- of the movies I initially threw away made it back. Likewise, with music. I threw out a bunch of music- everything from Guns Ďn Roses to bluegrass greatest hits- because I found the material objectionable. I listened to only Christian music for a long time and then I gradually allowed some other stuff back in, including very select examples of the stuff Iíd previously thrown away.

The difference is that later, stronger in the faith, Iím able to appreciate excellent arrangements or lyrics which demonstrate (but not glorify) manís depravity and need for salvation. Listening to secular music or watching certain movies can help a believer better understand those whom heís trying to reach. But, there is still most definitely a line. I donít own a single R-rated movie for instance. Not because of the rating per se, but because there is just much objectionable material in them and not enough good. This line may be different for individuals and I canít tell you where your lines are- only God can do that.

So, if a person believes that they can eat only vegetables or watch no TV at all, and we believe differently, then how should we act toward one another? Paul says "let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let him who does not eat judge him who eats". I have seen this work both ways, myself. Iíve seen those who watch TV deride those who do not and Iíve seen those who do not judge those who do. Interestingly, both will often think of the others as weak or immature Christians. Again, there very definitely may be a point at which behavior is wrong, but weíre not to judge that. What we can do, if the situation warrants, is point out Biblical passages demonstrating why. For instance, I mentioned R-rated movies above as ones that I generally canít watch. Those movies- and Iíve seen more than my fair share of them as non-believer- typically either go overboard on the violence, overboard on the gratuitous sex, overboard on blasphemous language, or overboard on all 3. They frequently use those things simply to feed appetites and not to further a story line. Since they are feeding a lusty appetite, many Biblical passages apply, such as:

Matthew 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.' (28) But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In a very few cases, violence or sexual acts or language can be used to further a story line and are useful in showing the natural depravity of man, but those book or movies are very rare. I can think of a few- "Schindlerís List", "Saving Private Ryan", "Gettysburg" come to mind. And even though I can watch them, I couldnít call them "entertainment" nor would I let my children watch them until I think theyíre read to be exposed to such a thing and ready to discuss it afterwards. These things should ultimately be used to further our understanding of the Bible. For instance, the battle scenes of "Saving Private Ryan" can be used to help us understand the battle scenes of the Old Testament.

As I hope you can see, there are many areas of flexibility in the Christian life. Our caution is that we donítÖ wait, let me get the versesÖ

Galatians 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

1 Peter 2:15-16 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (16) as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

And weíre to think of others, too:

1 Corinthians 8:9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

With freedom also comes responsibility. Christians are to use their freedom responsibly so that they build up and not tear down their fellow man. Christians are to use their freedom so as to glorify God thru Jesus Christ and not slander Him. Christians are not to use their freedom as a cloak for vice or as an opportunity for the flesh.

Personally, I think that our inability to do this Biblically is why there are so many legalistic denominations in the world. After all, the Israeliteís desire while wandering in the desert was to return to slavery where at least they knew they had a meal coming. It was and it is hard for man to trust in God. Itís hard for us to live free w/out abusing that freedom. Paulís instructions to the Galatians repeatedly urge them to avoid falling back into the law. For instance:

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

The fact that pretty much the entire letter to the Galatians emphasizes this theme says to me that manís inclination is to return to the land of laws. Man needs boundaries and guidelines to keep him in line. We say that we want to be free, but I donít think we know what true freedom is, especially when that freedom is from and in God. Our freedoms typically mean "I can do what I want" but that kind of so-called freedom is automatically limited by ourselves. Freedom in God Almighty, creator of everything that is, is freedom indeed.

Tomorrow, weíll look at my favorite verse in Romans 14. Join us here on KLMX at 9:45 am.

Romans 14, Part 2