THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE ROMANS
CARE FOR THE WEAKER CHRISTIAN
Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:
Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)
I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)
Complete Surrender to God (12:1-2)
Proper Exercise of Spiritual Gifts (12:3-8)
Love for the Church (12:9-13)
Love for Persecutors (12:14-21)
Christian Citizenship (13:1-7)
Primacy of Love (13:8-10)
The Nearness of the Day of the Lord Motivates Us to Live Righteously (13:11-14)
Care for the Weaker Christian (14:1-15:13)
In Romans 1-8 Paul developed the concept of God's grace: even though we did not deserve it, God graciously gave us the gift of His Son Jesus Christ so that we might have eternal life. Now that God has graced us, how should we respond to others? By gracing others. If we have truly been graced, then our only appropriate response to others should be to grace them, even those who are different from us, especially those who are different from us (otherwise it wouldn't be grace).
Notice throughout this passage that Paul is not dealing with topics concerning right and wrong, or good and evil in a moral sense. He is dealing with topics which are a matter of personal opinion. Notice also that he spends more time on this area than on any other area in Rom. 12-15óit is that important. The reason that Paul focuses on this topic is that this issue has divided more churches and Christians than any other topic. Why do conservative churches preach so much against homosexuality when it is not an issue in our conservative churches? It may be a hot topic among the Episcopalians; however, it really is not among Baptists, for example. That topic has not destroyed conservative churches. What has harmed conservative churches has been the attitude that if you are not like me, then you are wrong, maybe even unspiritual, and possibly even demonic. When a church I attended went through a church split in 1995, it was not over any moral issue. It was over: "This is the kind of worship I like and you won't let me have it."
According to verses 2, 5, 21 what were the topics that were dividing the Roman Christians? (Circle the ones Paul mentions.)
We come back once more to the cultural divide between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. In this case the strong in faith are those who have correctly processed their faith with regards to foods, days of observation, and drinking wine. The weak in faith are those who have not correctly processed their faith. They are Jewish Christians who believe that certain traditions were hard to give up; in fact, they believed that these traditions impacted greatly their relationship to God. They have even gone so far as to believe that rejecting these cultural elements constituted nothing less than rejecting God.
One of the cultural elements that the weaker Jewish Christians held onto was that of food. The issue of food was extremely significant to Jewish Christians first, because they believed that God had given to His people the dietary laws in the OT and that Christians should observe those laws. Second, God had blessed one of their OT heroes, Daniel, because he had refused to eat non-kosher food. Third, the issue of food was one of the major reasons the Jews went to war against the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV (168-165 BC). Antiochus Epiphanes IV had tried to force the Jews to eat pork. The issue of food was a hot topic for those who had grown up as Jews.
These Jewish Christians though had not processed Jesus' teachings on food. According to Jesus are the dietary laws in the OT a factor in a person being spiritual (Mark 7:17-19)?
Be careful. This topic continues to rear its ugly head among conservative Christians. Some well-meaning Christians are getting close to saying that they are spiritual because they have quit eating pork, etc. They almost have the attitude that if you eat pork, shrimp, catfish, etc., then you will not go to heaven. The exact opposite is true. These may actually get you to heaven faster.
What are some of the traditions you are holding onto or have held onto in the past?
One area of irritation involves people's temperaments. There are 4 basic temperaments in people: aggressive (lion), life of the party (otter), detailed and conscientious (beaver), and steady plodder (golden retriever). I tend to be a mixture of the otter and lion. I tend to drive the beaver and golden retriever crazy. It's good for us all to temper our temperaments; however, to reject them in order to please a beaver or a golden retriever would be to deny the person God has made us. The same applies for you also.
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.
Paul's first command is that we "________________ the one who is weak in faith." Paul is primarily putting the burden to get along on whose shoulders?
What does Paul mean when he says that we shouldn't accept people for the purpose of passing judgment on their opinions?
(2) One man has faith that he may eat all things; he who is weak eats vegetables only. (3) Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat. And let not him who does not eat judge him who eats.
How is the stronger Christian treating the weaker Christian? How is the weaker Christian treating the stronger Christian?
(4) Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls, and stand he will for the Lord is able to make him stand.
The problem with judging others is that we are interfering in somebody else's relationships. Beneath this verse lies the principle that the person you are judging is a servantóit's just that he's not YOUR servant. When you judge the performance of a servant, whose area are you ultimately infringing on?
Now apply this to the spiritual realm. We are all servants. Whose servants are we? When we judge the performance of a servant, whose area are we ultimately infringing upon?
When they were younger, the only human relationship our children Nathan and Molly ultimately needed to care about was their relationship with their parents, Nancy and me. If Nancy and I were OK about something, then it really ultimately did not matter what others think, although that never kept them from thinking! Nathan used to get a little bit of good-natured teasing about his hair. As long as it was good-natured, I didnít care. If it got rough though, then I did care because when it was all said and done, it didnít matter what others thought. As long as Nancy and I were OK with it, then Nathan shouldn't have had to worry. As a parent I would be quite justified if somebody else interfered. Well, God is a better parent than I will ever hope to be; therefore, if other people interfering with my children bothered me, how much more does it bother God whenever we interfere with His children!
Now some people could claim that they are treating others this way because they "care" for these people. Yet what promise does Paul make us at the end of v. 4?
(5) One man regards one day above another. Another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.
The second issue dividing the Roman Christians is that of observing holy days. Some people thought you had better set aside certain days as special, while others felt you should treat everyday as being special.
At the end of v. 5 though Paul commands us: "Let each man be fully _____________ in his own mind."
Paul will develop this idea in verses 13-23. Paul is not dealing with matters of right and wrong; he's dealing with matters of the heart. Some people believe that the Bible doesn't condemn drinking in moderation; others fear that if they tasted wine they would go straight to hell. Well, you can argue a person into accepting drinking in moderation; however, if that person's heart doesn't believe it, you will do serious damage to that person spiritually. This is what Paul is ultimately concerned about. So before you hightail it to the liquor store or rush out to see an "R"-rated movie to exercise your freedom in Christ, you better make sure that you not only have permission from the Lord but that you can handle what you feel like the Lord has permitted you to do.
(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 does not eat for the Lord he does not eat and gives thanks to God. (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 the living.
Paul here is stating the general principle which should govern all of life. "He who observes the day observes it _______ _______ __________, and he who eats does so _______ _______ __________ for he gives thanks _________ ________. And he who does not eat _______ _______ __________ he does not eat and gives thanks ______ _________. (7) For not one of us lives for himself and not one dies for himself. (8) For if we live, we live _______ _______ __________, or if we die, we die _______ _______ __________. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are _____________ _____________."
Look at how many times Paul repeats the phrase "for the Lord." Paul's point here is that our relationship with the Lord should govern everything we do. Neither Nancy, my priest, my Church, my parents, etc. should ultimately govern what I do; my relationship with the Lord should govern what I do. Therefore, it is really none of your business what I do, and neither is it really any of my business what you do. (Now there are standards for ALL Christians and for all the leaders in the church; however, that is a separate topic.)
(10) But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (11) For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall give praise to God." (12) So then each one of us shall give an account of himself to God.
There is nothing wrong with judgment. If there were no judgment in the world, then criminals would get off scot-free. What is wrong about some cases of judgment is the person doing the judging. If I execute somebody who has wronged me, then I am in the wrong because God and society have not appointed me to be judge in this situation. In the same token, whenever you judge another person, you are usurping whose right to judge us?
According to Paul, when will that judgment occur?
It is OK to be different. In fact God likes diversity. When everybody enters the gates of heaven, we will not all enter as lily-white blond Nordic athletes. John says that "the nations" will enter those gates. The nations will bring their glories into the New Jerusalem, not nation, but nations (Rev. 21:26). This implies diversity. God is glorified not that just a bunch of white, upper-middle class folks worship Him; rather He is so wonderful that representatives from every nation and class worship Him.