How does the Church love each other? Part I – March 10, 2024

Romans 14:1-12

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

How does the Church live out the love of Christ toward each other? While the New Testament gives us a variety of answers to this question, there is one area of this matter that the Church is largely lacking in today and that is in regards to how people from a variety of backgrounds, upbringings, cultures, and convictions live and cooperate together in the community of faith. All believers are in different places in their growth and sanctification and with that comes a variety of convictions of the conscience. How does the Church live out its faith with these differences? The answer is summarized in the words of the Church father Augustine who said, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.” Romans 14-15 deal with matters of conscience that are not specifically addressed in Scripture. Scripture gives to us our morality and the Lord’s will for us. Those matters are not up for debate. The matters addressed in these chapters in principle are matters of conscience. Romans 14:1-12 gives to us three truths we must consider when dealing with such matters and how we are to accept each other in the body of Christ in spite of them.

First, we must understand that God has received all believers. In the Church of Jesus Christ and in any local church, believers are going to be at different levels of spiritual maturity and growth. Our sanctification is a process of inward change and learning whereby we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). In that process, we will be at different places with certain convictions about things that the Bible does not specifically address. There were strong believers (who had knowledge of their freedom in Christ) and weak believers (who held to convictions from their previous life or experience). Paul first instructs these two groups to receive one another as brothers and sisters in God’s family and not to allow certain dietary convictions separate them or cause them harm. One of the spiritual blessings that all believers have is the blessing of adoption. That adoption is something that God has predestined for all believers. Ephesians 1:5-6 says, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Adopted children are accepted and made a part of the family with full rights. God has accepted all believers and so must accept all believers as a part of the body of Christ who give true biblical evidence of being born again. Why? Because God has.

Second, we must remember that God rules of each of us. Our accountability in all things is ultimately to God. This does not mean we are not accountable to earthly authorities (parents, bosses, pastors, and church families) because God has ordained those authorities. Rather, what it means is that we are not accountable to any one individual other Christian in our lives and their specific set of (non-Scriptural) convictions. Paul speaks to Jews and Gentiles in the church at Rome who held to different convictions about special days, most likely Sabbath days. To them, it was a conviction of treating a certain day a certain way as an act of worship or honoring God. Paul’s response is for each to be “fully persuaded in his own mind.” The Sabbath command was fulfilled in Christ. Believers set aside Sunday to worship and gather because Christ rose on the first day of the week and inaugurated the new creation. However, to set aside a day to honor God is not wrong if it is a matter of honest conviction. With such convictions, we must realize that each of us is individually accountable to God and we do not have the authority to impose convictions on others in the body of Christ that are not found in Scripture. Those convictions are left to us as individuals with the understanding that we are each responsible to follow our Lord as He guides us through certain convictions through His Word.

Lastly, we are to remember that God will judge each believer. Each of us will stand before God one day and give an account of our lives. We will do so, not to determine whether we make it to heaven or not, but for our works done in the body to be judged for what quality they are for reward (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Believers need not fear condemnation because we are in Christ (Romans 8:1). With that understanding that God is the judge and we are not, we must understand that we do not have the responsibility of imposing certain convictions on other believers that are not found in Scripture, nor condemning them for not having them. Things like cultural customs, wearing certain types of attire (albeit it must be morally appropriate), certain diets, and many other things are matters of personal conviction and the Bible does not directly address them. Each believer must be given the freedom to answer to God according to their conscience.

Is there someone you have been hard on because they don’t share your conviction about a particular matter that you can’t go to Scripture and find an answer for with absolute authority? Is there someone you need to show grace to? Is there someone you have ostracized because they don’t do things the way you think they ought to be done?