Monday, April 29, 2024

2024.04.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 14:1–9

Read Romans 14:1–9

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the command in Romans 14:1? What does the apostle call the one who is still scrupulous about the ceremonial law? But over which things does he caution against disputing? What does the strong believer eat (Romans 14:2)? What does the weak one eat? What must the strong one watch against doing (Romans 14:3)? What must the weak one watch against doing? Why? What question does Romans 14:4 ask the weak believer? What must he remember that God will do for the strong believer? What other ceremonial observance does the weak believer keep (Romans 14:5)? How do the strong see days? What is important for each? How must the one observing the ceremonial law at the time observe the day (Romans 14:6)? What must be the intention of the one who is not observing it? How does this apply to the eating and not eating? What must both the eating and not-eating one do? What two things do no Christians do (Romans 14:7)? For what (Whom!) do they live (Romans 14:8)? For what (Whom!) do they die? What should always be true about a Christian? What has Christ done to secure this (Romans 14:9)? 

What is the church to do with individual believers with dubious applications of Scripture? Romans 14:1–9 prepares us for the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the church should welcome weak believers, exercising patience with them and treating them with honor. 

The church must welcome a weak believer. The command to welcome (Romans 14:1, “receive” in NKJ) is in the plural. But the one to welcome is in the single. To apply this passage well, it is important to note that the under-informed conscience of the weak believer must not be permitted to lord over the church. There is genuine weakness in the one who was still observing the Old Testament ceremonial law, and genuine strength in the one who keeps the Christian faith in spiritual simplicity. And if the church were to observe anything that Christ hadn’t commanded, it would put itself in the place of Christ, making the church lord of the conscience instead of the Lord Himself.

And, of course, the church is led and taught by strong believers. The weak believer is received, but what he doubts is not permitted to change the operation of the church. There is to be no disputing over those things, although obviously the whole of the New Testament instructs that the strong are to lead the church and to instruct the weak. Still, it is clear that while the church receives the weak and does not change corporate religion for their sake, yet it must welcome and love them, even before the instruction has taken hold.

All believers are in danger of remaining sin. The stronger believers are the first to be warned in Romans 14:3. Their welcome from Romans 14:1 is to be genuine. They must watch their hearts against despising the weaker brother. And the weaker brother doesn’t even know that he is weaker; he thinks he is correct and must watch against the temptation to pronounce judgment upon the stronger brother! 

There are dangers here for all. Differences are opportunity either for the flesh (despising by the stronger brother, or judging by the weaker brother) or the Spirit (teaching/helping with patience by the stronger brother, cf. 2 Timothy 4:2; or esteeming by the weaker brother). Even the stronger brother is only upheld by God’s grace (end of Romans 14:4). 

The key is to live conscientiously, unto the Lord. Again, Romans 14:5 refers to the weak brother and the strong brother. Here, the part of the ceremonial law at question are the consecrated days of the Mosaic covenant that have now been set aside. The only remaining day is the weekly day from creation, now known as the Lord’s Day. But understanding the calendar correctly isn’t as important as being convinced in the conscience so that what you do is done unto the Lord from His Word (end of Romans 14:5). 

This didn’t make room at all for manmade religion/days, and would have been much less plausible after the Lord destroyed the temple. But, within the context of the time, these issues were useful to establish the principle: what is done must be done for the Lord. Observing the Levitical day (or keeping the Levitical code) must not be done out of a desire to establish oneself by being Levitically observant, but as a thankful response to the Lord. And not observing the day (or eating freely) must not be done out of a desire to indulge one’s freedom from ceremony but as a thankful response to the Lord, Who has welcomed us in Christ now, eliminating those shadows (Romans 14:6). All must be done unto the Lord, not for proving of self, and not for indulging of self.

As those who are sure to die, we ought to live in the same manner as we hope to die: unto the Lord (Romans 14:7-8)! Christ died and lived for us, so that we might live and die as His. Since we are going to be His even in death, we ought to be His also now. We do not do things for ourselves but as living sacrifices unto Him (cf. Romans 12:1). And as living sacrifices to Him, the strong must welcome those whom He has joined to Himself without despising them, while the weak are willing to join and submit to the strong without judging them.

What do some believers observe that you don’t? How do you guard against despising them? What do other believers not observe that you do? How do you guard against judging them? How are you instructing your conscience from Scripture, so that you would be strong in faith, rather than weak? Who is Lord of your conscience? What has He done for you? What must you do for Him? What are you in danger of doing as a proving of yourself? What are you in danger of doing as an indulging of yourself?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for dying and rising again for us. Grant that we would live for You and die for You. Help us to be strong in faith, as those whose consciences are instructed by Scripture. And do not let us despise or judge our brother, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP197  “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

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