by Mike Ratliff
15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. (Titus 1:15 ESV)
I am constantly amazed at the diversity I witness in the believers who interact with this ministry. This, of course, displays Christ’s power to bring together in unity dissimilar people from every place on this planet and from all walks of life. Part of our sanctification is dealing with our unredeemed flesh. God uses it to humble us as well as teach us to fight the good fight. We will never be totally sinless as long as we have our flesh within us. Our enemy also works within our flesh to create division in an effort to split what God has unified. Much of the attack from him and his minions will be to foment conflict between mature believers and those who are not so mature. Also, he is always working in a effort to create self-confidence and self-righteousness in believers. He knows that when believers fall into that trap they are working from a base of pride rather than humility. When that happens the fruit from it will be marred by spiritual blindness.
1 Τὸν δὲ ἀσθενοῦντα τῇ πίστει προσλαμβάνεσθε, μὴ εἰς διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν. 2 ὃς μὲν πιστεύει φαγεῖν πάντα, ὁ δὲ ἀσθενῶν λάχανα ἐσθίει. 3 ὁ ἐσθίων τὸν μὴ ἐσθίοντα μὴ ἐξουθενείτω, ὁ δὲ μὴ ἐσθίων τὸν ἐσθίοντα μὴ κρινέτω, ὁ θεὸς γὰρ αὐτὸν προσελάβετο. 4 σὺ τίς εἶ ὁ κρίνων ἀλλότριον οἰκέτην; τῷ ἰδίῳ κυρίῳ στήκει ἢ πίπτει· σταθήσεται δέ, δυνατεῖ γὰρ ὁ κύριος στῆσαι αὐτόν. (Romans 14:1-4 NA28)
1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 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. 4 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)
In v1 the word “welcome” translates the Greek verb προσλαμβάνεσθε or proslambanesthe the Present tense, Imperative mood, and Active case of of προσλαμβάνομαι or proslambanomai, which means to “welcome, receive, take, take aside.” This is a command to do something in the future which would require continued or repeated action. In this context it refers to personal and willing acceptance of other believers as lifestyle. Christians are not to be divided into cliques and small groups that discriminate against other Christians who may not be as mature as them. The command in v1 is to receive or welcome the immature believer, and do not participate in or start disputes or quarrels. What would immature and mature believers quarrel about? In this section of his epistle to the Romans, Paul is addressing a possible conflict that could arise about dietary rules within the body of Christ. Many of the first Century Christians were Jews and, for the most part, maintained their Jewishness by keeping the dietary Laws as well as the Jewish Religious feasts and festivals. On the other hand, many of the more mature Jewish Christians saw that much of the Church was made up of Gentiles and that God had declared clean what had been formerly unclean. In vv2-4 we have Paul’s instruction on dealing with this within the body made up of both the mature and immature Gentile and Jewish Christians. What is his instruction? The mature are not to condemn or belittle the immature simply because they still maintained their dietary restrictions. Why? God has welcomed them all. Paul closes this passage by saying that all believers are before their Lord where they either stand or fall according to His judgment, not the people’s. God will enable the weak to stand so we must not pass judgment on them. If they are His then they are in His hands.
5 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. 6 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. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 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. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 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; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 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 14:5-13 ESV)
Again, Paul contrasts the weak Jewish believer with those who are not bound to keep the Jewish festivals and feasts and dietary laws. He is discussing believers here. So, those who are passed all of that should not look down on those who aren’t. In v7 we see the key to this. The focus of our Christian faith should never be on self. All we do should be done in light of and to please our Sovereign Lord. All in Christ are His. He died on the cross to free His people from sin, but also to enslave them to Himself. Yes, that’s right. All in Christ are His servants. He is our Sovereign Lord. He is ruling and reigning right now in Heaven. Those who have preceded us there are under His rule just as we are here. In v10 we have a rhetorical question by Paul that should make us stop and consider what we are doing with our words, even if well-intentioned. Are we passing judgment on our brothers and sisters in Christ who may not be as mature as us?
God gave each of us a conscience. Are we heeding it? All of us will stand before our Lord and give an account. The Lord will judge our decisions that we have made. That includes those we made against what our conscience was telling us. Our Lord’s verdict will be final. Paul’s exhortation here is that we should immediately quit passing judgment on other believers based upon our conception of their immaturity. We must not pile on a level of spiritual maturity on those who are not there yet. That is a stumbling block for them. Those who are more mature got there by fighting battles and suffering and repenting and obeying their Lord. Why not let the less mature find their way to maturity according to God’s plan for them?
This is in no way is talking about dealing with false teachers and preachers and others who proclaim to be Christian, but who are anything but. No, we must confront them speaking the truth from the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. However, we must not overburden the less mature Christians all around us with heavy burdens of spiritual responsibility that they are not prepared to bear. Self-righteousness is an ugly thing. We must forsake it. We must not put heavy burdens on those who are not prepared to bear them. As a teacher I tend to lay things out there on a level that, if I am not careful, may look like only those who attain to that are genuine, etc. God forbid that we do this. We must always point those we disciple to the truth and the right way to go, but never belittle them if they aren’t there yet. Look at our Saviour’s patience with His disciples. He often had to rebuke them, but He always loved them and taught them as much as they could bear. The unity of the brethren will only be enhanced if we are careful in this area.
Soli Deo Gloria!