Questions for Littles: Whom are we to receive (v1a)? What are we not to do with him (v1b)? What does the weak person believe (v2)? What should the strong person not do with the weak (v3a)? What should the weak person not do with the strong (v3b)? Who will make a Christian stand (v4)? What other part of the Jewish law was a point of difference for the weak and strong (v5)? Whether it’s days or foods, unto Whom should we be acting upon what we believe from the Bible (v6)? To whom don’t we live (v7)? To whom don’t we die? To whom do we live (v8)? To whom do we die? To what end did Christ die and rise again (v9)? What two wrong ways of treating our brother must we avoid (v10)? What Scripture helps us remember not to raise ourselves up against another (v11)? What will each of us give (v12)? What must we not do to one another anymore (13a)? What must we not put in our brother’s way (v13b)? What is unclean of itself (v14a)? To whom is it unclean (v14b)? If we eat something that grieves our brother, what are we no longer doing (v15)? In that case, even if we are doing good, how will It be spoken of (v16)? What is the kingdom of God not about (17a)? What is it about (17b)? Whom must we serve in the things upon which we cannot agree (18)? What should we pursue (v19)? What should we be careful not to do (v20)? When is it good not to eat or drink (v21)? But, if we understand well enough to eat and drink, how/where should we do so (v22)? What happens when someone whose faith isn’t as strong goes ahead and acts according to the stronger person’s conscience (23)? What happens whenever we act but not out of faith?In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to one of the issues that troubled Gentile Christians, and one of the issues that troubled Jewish Christians. Gentile Christians were reluctant to eat meat after they converted. The vast majority of meat in Roman cities—and particularly in Rome itself—was “cooked” in pagan sacrifices.
When a Gentile departed from paganism, he had an understandable aversion to going back to eating meat. Jews, however, knew that idols were nothing, and were perfectly ok with eating meat. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this, he told them that they are correct in saying that there aren’t actually other gods… but He did imply that demons pose as false Gods (cf. 1Cor 10:19-33).
The same conclusion is reached in both places: whatever you come to understand from Scripture, live by that Scripture. And make it your goal to live publicly in a way that will help your brothers and sisters in Christ serve their Lord Jesus.
On the flip side were the Jews to whom it was very important to keep the various church-calendar days that God had invented. Perhaps it was even more important to them, now that they knew these days pointed to Christ. As we’ve learned about that shadow calendar from Hebrews, it is plain that the “strong” did not observe those days. Ironically, in America today, there are a number of Gentiles who keep the Jewish shadow calendar!
But eating or not eating, and keeping feasts or not keeping feasts, are not the dangers that this chapter is warning against. Rather, the dangers are either to despise the weaker brother because he doesn’t see the connections in the Bible, or to judge the stronger brother because we think there are things still in effect that Scripture teaches have actually stopped.
In either case, the danger is not that we won’t be right about the issue. The danger is that we would not treat our brother rightly about the issue. Let us learn to walk in love and to be very careful not to cause our brother to stumble!
What rules do you follow that others in the church don’t? What rules do others in the church follow that you do not? Are you well-convinced from Scripture, or just pleasing yourself? How might you be in danger of treating others badly over this issue?Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”