The Questionable things of Life
Last time we talked about having a weak conscience. We were able to do that because of the issue that faced the church in Rome. Issues arose that divided the group into two sides; those who had what Paul called a weak conscience and those that had what Paul said was a “strong conscience”(Rom.15.1).
There are some principles here in this chapter that will help us get along with other believers in matters where something isn’t spelled out in black and white
Keep this in mind, what is a stake here isn’t sin. What is at sake are the questionable things of life that we all do and think nothing about. What is sin is still sin, not buts or ifs about it! Don’t try like some Christians and try to justify their sin by saying that, “what’s sin to you, isn’t sin to me”. That doesn’t wash. The issues here are over the nonessential things of life; like what kind of vehicle you drive, where you live, if you like sports or not, What type of food you like or not; just nonessential things that really won’t matter in eternity; but have the potential to blow up and cause real damage.
Paul does not give a list of rules; rather, he lays down six basic principles that can be applied by all Christians of all stages of growth. We can state these principles in the form of questions and test our own lives to see if we are giving others the cold shoulder.
I. Am I Fully Convinced? (14:1–5)
“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
Christians are not to act from mere emotion, but from settled inward convictions that are the result of diligent prayer and study of the Word. There would be no serious disagreements if every Christian acted from conviction. Someone has said that opinions are what we hold, while convictions are what hold us. The stronger Christian is not to despise the weaker one for his or her immaturity; neither is the weaker believer to judge his or her more mature brothers and sisters for their liberty. God has received both in Jesus Christ and we should receive each other. Our lives are to be directed by Him, not by people’s ideas or judgments. Mature Christians know why they behave as they do, and these convictions control their lives.
You will be surprised why Christians do the things they do? My preacher likes it this way. You ought to please your pastor; yet usually when that pastor moves on of passes away; they stop. God didn’t retire or die, only his man. And there are others that just go along with the crowd; not because they are convinced from the bible about certain things.
II. Am I Doing This Unto the Lord? (14:6–9)
“I’m living my own life!” is a statement no Christian ought to make, for we belong to the Lord, whether we live or die. He is the Lord, and we must live to please Him. So often the Christian who has questionable practices in his or her life cannot honestly say that these practices are done as “unto the Lord”; for in reality, they are practiced for selfish pleasure and not to honor the Lord. Christians who observe special days as unto the Lord will be accepted by the Lord, and we should not judge them. It is between them and their Lord.
III. Will It Stand the Test at the Judgment Seat? (14:10–12)
We have no right to judge our brethren, for we will all have our works tested at the judgment seat of Christ—not the White Throne Judgment of Rev. 20:11–15, but the testing of the Christian’s works after the church is called home (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 3:10ff). We do not have to give an account of our brother’s life, so we have no right to condemn him today. Certainly all of us want to live lives that will stand the fiery test before Christ, lives that will win rewards for His glory.
IV. Am I Causing Others to Stumble? (14:13–21)
There is one thing we should judge: we should judge ourselves to see whether we are abusing our Christian liberty and making others stumble. Certainly nothing is unclean of itself, but some practices and habits are considered unclean by others. Therefore, if we deliberately do something that makes our brothers stumble, we’re not living according to the rule of love.
It is a serious thing to cause another person to stumble and fall into sin. Note Christ’s words in Mark 9:33–50, where “offend” means “cause to stumble.” The believer who holds on to his questionable practice and causes another Christian to fall in his walk with God is blind to the price Jesus paid on the cross. Our good should not cause evil talk. After all, the Christian life is not a matter of eating or drinking (or any other practice), but one of righteousness and peace and joy, all of which come from the Spirit. Our aim should be not to please ourselves, but to build up (edify) other Christians in love. 1 Corinthians 10:23 states that all things are lawful for the believer (for we do not live under law), but not everything builds us up or helps to build up others. See also 1 Cor. 8. “Destroy” in Rom. 14:15 and 20 means “tear down.” How selfish for a Christian to tear down another believer’s spiritual life because of his own selfish living. His practices may be lawful, but they do not come under the law of love.
V. Am I Doing This by Faith? (14:22–23)
The Gk. word for “faith” in v. 22 means almost the same as “conviction,” for our convictions are born of faith in God’s Word. These two verses lay down the principle that the Christian life is between the believer and his Lord, and that the believer must always be sure he is right with the Lord. If there are doubts about some of his practices, he cannot have joy and peace. “Damned” in v. 23 has nothing to do with eternal punishment; it means “condemned.” That is, the Christian who engages in practices with a doubtful mind is condemning himself and those practices by his very attitude. Whatever we do that is not of faith is sin, for the Christian lives by faith. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”; Rom 10;17 so anything I do that I cannot back up by the Word of God is sin, because I cannot do it by faith.
“If it’s doubtful, it’s dirty!” is a good policy to follow. No one would drink milk or water that possibly was contaminated; nor would we accept food that might possibly be poisoned. Yet many Christians carelessly engage in practices that even the world questions. They never face the fact that whatever is doubtful is not of faith, and therefore is sin.
VI. Am I Pleasing Myself or Others? (15:1–7)
These verses fit best in chapter 14’s outline. The strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the immature Christians, and while doing this, seek to build them up in the faith. We should follow Christ’s example and seek to please others, not ourselves (Ps. 69:9). Does this OT verse apply to the NT Christian? Of course it does, for the OT was given for our learning, that we might receive patience (endurance), comfort, and hope from the promises of God. We ought to be like-minded, and we will be if all believers seek to help others grow in the Lord. Paul’s final conclusion in v. 7 is: receive one another, for Christ has received you. This will bring glory to God.
Local churches have the right to establish standards, but not beyond what the Word teaches. We must lovingly allow for differences among Christians and not use these differences as opportunities for division.
Who was wrong in the Church at Rome? No one! Who was in sin in the church at Rome? No one!
What was needed was that Love would rule in the questionable things.
There is a good rule of thumb to go by:
In essentials (doctrine) unity;
In non-essentials (amoral) liberty;
But in all things; there should be charity!
Wiersbe, W. W. (1997, c1992). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the New Testament (Page 405). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.