The Marks of Such as Believe in Christ – Part 6

by Mike Ratliff

1τον δε ασθενουντα τη πιστει προσλαμβανεσθε μη εις διακρισεις διαλογισμων 2ος μεν πιστευει φαγειν παντα ο δε ασθενων λαχανα εσθιει 3ο εσθιων τον μη εσθιοντα μη εξουθενειτω ο δε μη εσθιων τον εσθιοντα μη κρινετω ο θεος γαρ αυτον προσελαβετο 4συ τις ει ο κρινων αλλοτριον οικετην τω ιδιω κυριω στηκει η πιπτει σταθησεται δε δυνατει γαρ ο κυριος στησαι αυτον 5ος μεν γαρ κρινει ημεραν παρ ημεραν ος δε κρινει πασαν ημεραν εκαστος εν τω ιδιω νοι πληροφορεισθω 6ο φρονων την ημεραν κυριω φρονει και ο εσθιων κυριω εσθιει ευχαριστει γαρ τω θεω και ο μη εσθιων κυριω ουκ εσθιει και ευχαριστει τω θεω 7ουδεις γαρ ημων εαυτω ζη και ουδεις εαυτω αποθνησκει 8εαν τε γαρ ζωμεν τω κυριω ζωμεν εαν τε αποθνησκωμεν τω κυριω αποθνησκομεν εαν τε ουν ζωμεν εαν τε αποθνησκωμεν του κυριου εσμεν 9εις τουτο γαρ χριστος απεθανεν και εζησεν ινα και νεκρων και ζωντων κυριευση 10συ δε τι κρινεις τον αδελφον σου η και συ τι εξουθενεις τον αδελφον σου παντες γαρ παραστησομεθα τω βηματι του θεου 11γεγραπται γαρ ζω εγω λεγει κυριος οτι εμοι καμψει παν γονυ και πασα γλωσσα εξομολογησεται τω θεω 12αρα ουν εκαστος ημων περι εαυτου λογον δωσει τω θεω 13μηκετι ουν αλληλους κρινωμεν αλλα τουτο κρινατε μαλλον το μη τιθεναι προσκομμα τω αδελφω η σκανδαλον (Romans 14:1-13)

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:1-13 ESV)

When I encounter a believer who is legalistic, no matter how well versed they are on the Biblical passages they specialize in, I know I am dealing with someone who is spiritually immature. The more mature we become in our sanctification the more Christlike we become and that means we do not pass judgment on those who do not understand the Law of Liberty.

“The diversity of the church displays Christ’s power to bring together dissimilar people in genuine unity. Yet Satan often works on men’s unredeemed flesh to create division and threaten that unity. The threat to unity Paul addresses in this passage arises when mature (strong) believers–both Jews and Gentiles–conflict with immature (weak) believers. The strong Jewish believers understood their freedom in Christ and realized the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic law were no longer binding. The mature Gentiles understood that idols are not gods and, therefore, that they could eat meat that had been offered to them. But in both cases the weaker brothers’ consciences were troubled, and they were even tempted to violate their consciences (a bad thing to train oneself to do), become more legalistic under the feelings of guilt, or even to sin. Knowing that the mature Jews and Gentiles would be able to understand these struggles, Paul addresses most of his comments to them.” – John MacArthur

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1-4 ESV)

The Greek word translated as “welcome” in v1 of this passage refers to personal and willing acceptance of another. Who are the weak the strong are to welcome or receive? This is describing those believers who are unable to let go of the religious ceremonies and rituals of their past. For example, the Jewish believers who were weak in their faith struggled with abandoning the rites and prohibitions of the Old Covenant. Gentiles who were weak in their faith believed that any contact with their old pagan religion, even eating meat sacrificed to idols, was something that would taint them with sin. Quarreling over “opinions” could better be translated as, “for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions or scruples.” Mature believers must not sit in judgment on those who sincerely struggle with their underdeveloped thoughts that drive them in their weak faith.

Believers strong in their faith, mature believers, had the freedom in Christ to eat meat sacrificed to idols. They knew that an idol was nothing and the meat, being less expensive than regular meat sold at the market, was a bargain. On the other hand, believers weak in their faith would eat only vegetables to avoid eating the meat sacrificed to idols. Notice that Paul does not chide either group. He does not condemn those with freedom nor does he tell the weak to overcome their fears. Instead, he tells the strong to not despise the weak for abstaining and for the weak not to pass judgment on the strong for exercising their freedom. What is important is that it is Christ who evaluates each believer. His judgment does not take into account religious traditions or personal preferences.

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Romans 14:5-9 ESV)

The weak or immature Jewish believers felt compelled to observe the Sabbath and other feast days associated with Judaism while the mature Jewish believers knew that that was all fulfilled in Christ. Contrarily, the Gentile immature believers wanted to be separate or set apart from their former idolatry because of the immorality associated with it. The Conscience was given to Man by God. It is the mechanism that warns while responding to the highest standards of moral law in the mind. If we “let our conscience be our guide” we are wise. It is not sensible to train ourselves to ignore its warnings. We should always respond to it wisely. As we mature in our sanctification through mind renewal by being in God’s Word as much as possible, our consciences will be renovated as well. This process will eventually cause the conscience to not alert the mind about non essential things.

The strong believer eats as he pleases and thanks God for the food and the nourishment. On the other hand, the weak believer thanks the Lord in the abstinence. The motive for thanks is the same, therefore, the Lord is blessed. Our walks must become more and more aligned with that which pleases the Lord. Our walks must not be about self. To be self-focused is of the flesh. Believers are called to deny their flesh while living for God in pursuit of His will for our lives. Our Lord died not only to free us from sin, but to enslave us to Himself, to establish Himself as Sovereign over all the saints from the distant past (those with Him now) and those still alive on Earth. (Romans 6:22; Philippians 2:11; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16)

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:10-13 ESV)

We must not fall into sin by judging hypocritically. The Judgment seat of God awaits all believers. Every one of us will give an account of himself or herself. The Lord will judge our decisions including how well, or not, we made decisions of conscience. His verdict is all that matters. Instead of judging other believers in matters of conscience we should use our best judgments to help other believers to find the light of God’s truth so they can walk it unashamed. On the other hand, if we do pass judgments as described in this passage we are actually being stumbling blocks that cause others to fall into sin. Since the Judgment Seat awaits, that would not be wise.

Is there a correlation for us in the 21st Century from this passage? Do we have believers who are weak in their faith and other more mature believers? Absolutely! I can think of many examples of believers clinging to “Religion” or “Ritual” or even a certain Bible translation or a denomination while believing that those who are not part of those groups who serve God like they do as being of the Devil. I have also seen mature believers step out of those things and simply pursue God in their freedom while looking down their noses at those still “mired” in their religiosity. Neither group is following Paul’s teaching from this passage. To those who cling to their “religious” things, I say that you must thank God and obey Him in all you do. To those who see these “religious” things as unimportant while walking as living sacrifices, being spirit-filled and obedient in every part of their lives, I say that you too must thank God in your freedom and use your spiritual gifts and wisdom to help others to mature into God’s light as well.

SDG

14 thoughts on “The Marks of Such as Believe in Christ – Part 6

  1. Thank God for the law of liberty in Christ. The law acts as a mirror, only to reveal sin. The cross is like soap. No one looks in the mirror and then takes it off of the wall to wash his face with it. The mirror can only show the sin. The person with a dirty face will leave the mirror on the wall and use soap. Soap functions as a liberator.

    There are 613 commandments in the law. There are commandments which are procedures for offering animals, proper wardrobes, and ceremonies. What many legalists do not understand, is that Jesus fulfilled many of these because he is the worthy substitute. Fufill means to satisfy and not to copy. I don’t see Jesus walking around with twelve stones on his chest salting animals or eating the them. Jesus took their place. The Holy Spirit is the garment which is white as snow. That is why we are not to keep the ordinances in regard to priestly wardrobes either. Since Jesus is our daily unleavened bread, then he is our daily substitute for the feast of unleavened bread as well. Also, those who cease from their labors by not trying to earn their salvation have entered into his rest.

    Fulfill means to satisfy and not to copy. Anyone who tries to keep all 613 commandment of the OT is still basing his/her salvation on his/her own righteousness or works. Through the cross, we are made aware that our efforts are filthy rags, a waste of time, and will always fall short. Dying to sin and self comes when we are dead to the world through Christ. Regeneration does not come by trying to copy the OT law.

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  2. “Christ is the end of the law to everyone who believes.”

    We still, by the power of the Spirit, obey God’s commands but they are no longer offered in stone. They now are presented within the New Testament and God’s Spirit. Many commandments are gleaned through the ministry of the Spirit by understanding principles. For instance the New Testament doesn’t say “A man shouldn’t wear women’s makeup”. But by examining the principles outlined in the Old Testament and also revealed in the New Testament the Holy Spirit guides us into truth.

    Man desires religion not freedom because it gives him a sense of pride when he fulfills them. We have freedom in Christ but if that freedom is based upon Christ we desire to use that freedom to please Him. It does not please God to either return to the law or make up another law. If God has our hearts, and if our desire is to Christ and His Word, we will walk pleasing before our Lord not because we obey the law but because we obey and please Him.

    Seems like semantics but it is not.

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  3. Mike,

    Any thoughts on why Jesus rebuked the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira for tolerating those who taught that it was OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols?

    Grace to you!
    David

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  4. Yes David, If you read those two passages carefully from Revelation 2 you will see that Jesus’ rebuke had to do with idol worship which included sexual immorality and the eating of the food sacrificed to idols. This was not simply the eating of the meat, but in participation in idol worship. Paul’s exhortation from Romans 14 refers simply to the eating of the meat by those NOT worshipping the idols. I pray that that makes sense to you.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  5. If I also may humbly add – In Rev.2:14 we see that an aspect of the teaching was to make a stumblingblock which is exactly what Paul says we should not do. And in Rev.2:20 we see that seduction (deception) was also involved. It seems that in both these cases the teaching was that everyone SHOULD eat things sacrificed to idols not in their freedom in Christ, but to make others stumble and the teaching was a deception to those who did it.

    Perhaps the teachers were validating the idols to which the food was sacrificed. Freedom in Christ was surely not the teaching there. Good question though!

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  6. Thanks Mike and Rick for your comments.

    In a broader application, I wonder if the teaching of Balaam and Jezebel represent the spirit of the age, which always threatens the church from the inside. Today, many are following those who teach licentiousness in the name of Christian freedom. It did not begin as outright sexual immorality but is fast moving in that direction as the deception takes root. Just a thought…

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  7. Without a doubt David! Yes, these are teachings or leadings of temptation. Believers enslaved to their flesh are susceptible to this. This is why we teach that all genuine believers must become living sacrifices thereby getting into the race of those becoming spirit-filled and spiritually mature.

    The lack of spiritual discernment in the new evangelism is tragic. The church has been on the downgrade path a long time. Now we are reaping the which was sown. We must be of that Remnant that has not bowed the knee to Baal.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  8. I totally agree Mike. Good post.

    However I am also finding that in the denominaton we fled, this particular verse is used as a trump card to allow just about anything into the church, under the banner of ‘liberty in Christ.’

    There is no end to the ways they can twist Scripture to avoid hearing its truth. 😦

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  9. Yes it is very sad Paula. We can only pray for them and exhort them. We can, however, and must seek God and His will in all we do becoming living sacrifices who deny self for the benefit of those whose faith is weaker. Instead of seeking how much we can do and get away with it, we need to know God’s will and do it.

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