How does the Church love each other? Part III – March 24, 2024

Romans 14:20-15:7

20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. 1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

How does the Church carry out Christ’s command to love one another? the Church should certainly care for one another, pray for one another, fellowship with one another, and be there for another, Christian love requires something so much more. It requires sacrificial love that reorients our lives around each other. In Romans 14:1-15:7, the Apostle Paul addresses the variety of issues that arise from the Church being comprised of people from different backgrounds. How are believers to relate to one another in the body of Christ when we bring different convictions, grow to different levels of spiritual maturity, have different understandings of cultural practices, etc.? The answer is love. In this section of Romans, Paul provides four ways that the Church is to love each other. Thus far, we have examined two of those so far. We love by accepting one another and edifying one another. There are two others found in Romans 14:20-15:7.

Paul calls believers to live in such a way that we have a purifying effect on one another. We should use our Christian freedom and convictions in such a way that we help one another pursue holiness. There are two words of instruction to be found in verses 20-23 in this regard. First, we should never cause our brothers and sisters to sin. By participating in or promoting things that convict the consciences of others, one of two things will occur. Either our weaker brother will see us doing it and be emboldened to participate when their conscience is not clear, thus sinning against their conscience, or they will be offended and led to separate from or judge the offending brother or sister. Neither are good. The second word of instruction is that we should ALWAYS avoid sinning against our conscience. To not act in faith in sin. Faith is the confidence in God’s Word that what I am doing is what God actually wills for me to do. If I cannot do something with a clear conscience, or if I have to be less than honest about it, then I should not do it. Whether it is right or wrong at that point is answered. It has become sin for me.

As the page is turned to the first part of Romans 15 (verses 1-7), we find the last way that believers are to demonstrate their love for one another in the body of Christ. It is by forbearing one another. How do we do that? Paul’s instruction to the church is to accommodate one another. He tells the “strong” that they are to “bear the infirmities of the weak.” Strong Christians are to be patient with the brothers of weak conscience and they are to do this by not pleasing themselves. Instead of pleasing ourselves in the body of Christ, we should seek to live for the benefit of those around us. Here, the broader Scriptural reasoning as to why strong Christians should limit their freedom for their brother’s sake is given. It is because “Christ pleased not Himself.” Instead of pleasing Himself, He subjected Himself to suffer for our sin. Is it such a small thing that a believer surrender a freedom to build up a brother or sister in the faith? The second thing believers are to do in forbearing one another is to submit to the Scriptures. Paul tells us that that Bible has this sanctifying effect in the life of believer to produce “patience and comfort.” Believers learn through the examples and teachings of God’s Word how to relate to one another in the way that God has related to us in Christ. Our consciences and freedoms must always be subjected to and molded by God’s Word so that we can all grow together in the Lord (Ephesians 4:11-16). The last way believers are to live out this forbearing is by doing everything with the motivation of glorifying God. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10 in conclusion to this same type of situation, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:29-31). We glorify God by doing everything that we do in the church for the benefit of others and not ourselves.

How can you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? We have examined four ways over the last few weeks of how the Church is to love each other. We love each other by accepting one another, edifying one another, purifying one another, and forbearing one another. When we love each other in these ways, we demonstrate the sacrificial love that God has called us to and we live out that testimony for the world to see. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). When we obey Christ’s command and demonstrate this love, we glorify God. All of our convictions and all of our freedoms must be surrendered and exercised by that ultimate principle and God will be glorified through our differences. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).