Romans 14 at TRC

Romans 14

The church has a grand opportunity to be a city on a hill right now. 

How we do Romans 14 could be a testimony to the power of the gospel if we actually hear and obey this passage. 

We won’t see great movements because we offer better worship experiences, have cool “preachers”, can entertain, have better youth and children ministries, or even have in person large group gatherings. 

The church growth movement (a mirage of kingdom growth) has proven to be not much more than consumer marketing of ”Christian” spiritual wares and is lacking in wholesale cultural transformation. 

But the gospel of the kingdom, the true and powerful story of everything that exists, that message produces transforming actions like Romans 14 rather than consumable spiritual wares that attract cultural Christians. 

“Great worship services don’t change the world. Empowered and impassioned disciples do.” – Bob Roberts Jr.

That gospel can wreck the dark kingdom and we must submit to it and make all applications as robust as we can. 

If we don’t do Romans 14 we will be in danger of becoming a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 

Romans 14 is one of the intensely practical out-workings of the call to offer ourselves as living sacrifices in Romans 12:1-2, and it is the very tangible practice of owing nothing to anyone except to love (Romans 13:8-10).

2 textual questions to handle before we hit the applicable content of chapter 14:

  1. What is the reason Paul includes this content?
  2. What is the basis for the practices of the “weak” and “strong”?

REASON?: First, this is not a general appeal to general issues among all the churches.

  • This is a real challenge to unity among the multinational house churches who made up the church at Rome. 
    • Made up of Jews become Christians, Gentiles who had converted to Judaism who had become Christians. 
  • FYI: When we practice unity among diversity, these are the kinds of thorny issues we must tackle through the lens of the gospel worked out in us as living sacrifices who love each other the way God loves.

BASIS?: Second, the basis of the practices of the weak and the strong is likely this multi-ethnic/religious background group who believed that they are still bound by certain ritual requirements of the Law of Moses and other cultural “laws” of their religious background. 

  • Chances are they have even gathered in homes based on their preferences rather than mix up and be unified while diverse. 
    • No evidence of this in the text, but they are humans, and we do that naturally in our flesh. 
      • We can gather based on personal or cultural affinity and not gospel unity. 

How does Paul address this situation?

Verse 13 is the centerpiece of the passage that captures the entire message:

“Therefore, let us not pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

  • Paul leans on a key word used twice in this passage: “krino” and it is translated “pass judgment” and “decide”. 
  • The difference is in the “mood” of the verb.
    • Pass judgment is present “subjunctive” = in our present circumstance, let’s not pass sentence on each other’s spirituality…”hypothetically” we should not be passing judgment on each other’s spiritual level. 
      • Not passing judgement contrasts with the call in chapter 13 to love.
        • Love fulfills the law. So, love each other well. God is love. Love each other like God loves us. 
  • Decide is an aorist “imperative” = based on the fact of the finished gospel work of Jesus, decide to never cause stumbling or hindrance to one another. 

Now the question is: How do these Roman house churches who are on the same team not pass judgment and not cause stumbling and hindrance?

I’ve got 11 ways to not pass judgment and not cause stumbling and hindrance: Let’s go like Jehu through the house of Ahab. 

  1. Don’t quarrel over opinions. v. 1-4

NOTE: that there is instruction to welcome someone BUT not so that you can spar with them over different opinions. 

  1. We have to have the ability to know what is opinion and what is something that needs defending. 
    1. Theological triage: 
      1. Tier 1 = Deity of Jesus – if we don’t agree, we are on different teams.
      2. Tier 2 = Infant baptism – we can disagree and still be on team Jesus just not worshiping together in covenant fellowship. 
      3. Tier 3 = Rona is real / Rona is no big deal. We can have some differences and still be in covenant fellowship on mission together. 
        1. If it’s tier three leave it be!!!!
  2. Whatever good tier three thing you do or think, be fully convinced in your own mind it’s acceptable with a clean conscience. v. 5-6
    1. When we are convinced with a clean conscience, we are then to do what we do as worship to the Lord Jesus.
  3. Believe that our opinions are not the apex of what matters. None of us is our own. We are the Lord’s own possession and that is what matters. v. 7-9
    1. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
      1. You PLURAL!
      2. WE ARE THE LORD’S
  4. Know, each one of us will have to stand before the Lord and give account of ourselves to God. v. 10-12
    1. Believing I will give an account makes me curb my opinions just a bit and check up on my doctrine. 
  5. Let each one have their own biblically informed conscience and fight for unity in diversity. v. 14
    1. It is completely possible for two people to be on mission together and differ on tier 3 issues. 
  6. Love each other by not grieving the other by what you approve. v. 15
    1. Joshua Bryant, “If my behavior towards something not mandated is creating problems for another Christian my conduct is not loving. The welfare of that person should take precedence over my freedom to do that thing.”
  7. Know that through bypassing our right and good, we guard what is good from being spoken of as evil because we used it to bludgeon a brother or sister. v. 16
    1. I used to read this passage like this: “I’m not letting you talk about bacon like that!”
      1. That’s not it.
    2. By giving up my right for the other, I guard bacon from being the focus of what is good versus evil. 
      1. There is a place for bacon or whatever is good and we’ll talk about it at # 10. There is a place for our tier 3 belief. We’ll get there. 
  8. Go after peace and mutual upbuilding because that is what the work of Jesus purchased for his church. v. 17-19
    1. Romans 12:17-18 (ESV) Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
      1. This is going to require you to just accept others doing you wrong either actively or passively, assuming the best, and trusting the Lord to work justice. 
      2. Obeying v. 17-19 will require us to actively push back against anything that tears down each other. 
  9. Believe it is better to abstain publicly than to destroy the work of God in a brother or sister. v. 20-21
  10. Know it is ok to keep some good things private. It is not hypocritical. v. 22
  11.  Operate in faith because if it’s done in anything other than a peaceful trust in the pleasure of God in us through Christ, it’s coming from sin. v. 23

One final thought:

I can hear uncle Screwtape telling Wormwood to make Christians think they are on different sides of a political, social, cultural and medical arguments and get their attention off each other being more important than themselves and then get them to stew over and blab on about foolish arguments that only ruin the those who hear so that many watching and listening stumble from THE Way. 

  1. Keep the main thing the main thing. 
    1. Don’t stray from contending for the gospel of the kingdom to become evangelists for opinions based on theories and arguments destined to fall under the coming King of the universe. 
    2. 2 Timothy 2:14 (ESV) Remind them of these things (gospel truths), and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

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