1. Christian Love in Practice - Keeping Christian Unity V1 - 6.
14:1 Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions.
Paul begins this chapter by telling us that all who are in the faith should be received by us or accepted just as they are. To receive means to take to one’s heart, just as Christ has received us to the glory of God Rom 15.7.
There will always be weaker Christians among us. Young converts are by nature weaker, like little children. Also, there will always be in the Christian Church those who are weak and vulnerable all their life long. We have nothing to gain by looking down on such Christians, but we have a lot to lose. We can lose the unity and oneness that characterize the Christian church, where God’s intention is for men and women of all backgrounds, ages and abilities to be united by their mutual love for Christ. Loving one another is the distinguishing feature of the Christian faith. John 13.34,35.
14:2 One person believes in eating everything, but the weak person eats only vegetables.
Paul illustrates how this love for one another can work in practice. The Jewish law was that some food was clean to eat, but some food God commanded them not to eat. They would be defiled and failed God if they ate it. Some, even though they had become Christians, were so used to the idea that some food was clean and some not that they still would not touch it for fear of displeasing God. Others, who were stronger in their new found faith, realized that eating meat does not affect our relationship with God at all.
14:3 The one who eats everything must not despise the one who does not, and the one who abstains must not judge the one who eats everything, for God has accepted him.
The one who eats should not look down on the one who does not and vice versa. Neither should the weaker judge the stronger, for God has accepted both through Jesus Christ. Paul says in Gal 5.15, “If you keep biting and devouring one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another.”
If we love one another, then rather than tearing each other down with fault finding and criticism, we will build each other up in love. It is very easy to find fault, for we have so many, but love covers the multitude of faults. 1 Peter 4.8.
14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on another's servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
There is another reason why we should not judge another Christian. He or she does not answer to us. Why should I judge someone else's servant? He is owned by his master and must answer to him alone. All believers are Christ's. He is our Lord and we are His servants. We are all answerable to Him 2 Cor 5.10. At the same time, He and he alone is the one who has power to uphold and sustain us in our Christian lives and to keep us from falling Jude 1: 24.
14:5 One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind.
Another matter over which early Christians might have differed would be the observance of special days. Jews had many holy days. Some Christians would continue to regard these days as special, while others would consider all days holy to the Lord. Paul makes the point that every man should be fully convicted and convinced in his own heart about what Christ wants Him to do.
14:6 The one who observes the day does it for the Lord. The one who eats, eats for the Lord because he gives thanks to God, and the one who abstains from eating abstains for the Lord, and he gives thanks to God.
Whether we eat meat or refuse it, whether we celebrate holy days or choose not to, all that we do should be done as to the Lord as we give him thanks.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
14:7-8 For none of us lives for himself and none dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord; if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
No believer lives for himself, or to please himself, for he does not belong to himself but to the Lord who bought him with his own blood. We are his for time and eternity whether we live or die. So everything we do must be done for his approval. We are to live our lives for the Lord Gal. 2: 20, and in death, we will find it comforting to know that God is there Psalm 116: 15.
14:9 For this reason Christ died and returned to life, so that he may be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
Christ died and rose again that He might be Lord of the dead and living - Our Lord in life and after.
14:10 But you who eat vegetables only — why do you judge your brother or sister? And you who eat everything — why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
So why do the servants of God judge each other? Why do the weak judge the strong, or the strong look down on the weak? We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. This judgment will not be the same as the judgment of unbelievers, for we are not to be judged for our sins but for our works - the way we have lived our lives for Christ. Matt 16: 27.
14:11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God."
The quote from Isaiah 45:23 assures us that every man, woman or child who has ever lived must kneel to acknowledge Christ’s absolute Lordship and confess the truth about their lives to Him.
14:12 Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
As Christians each one of us will give an account of how we have spent our lives in service of the Lord. Every work we will be brought under scrutiny and even every idle word shall be accounted for. Matt. 12: 36
14:13 Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place an obstacle or a trap before a brother or sister.
So rather than finding fault with each other, we would better spend our time trying to help each other live as Christ would have us to. We must especially be careful not to live or act in such a way as might cause other believers to turn back from faith in Christ.
Living for Jesus
14:14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean in itself; still, it is unclean to the one who considers it unclean.
From the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul was convinced that all food was clean, for it would not defile the spirit. Mark 7.15, 18,19. Christians can use every creature that God has created for food.
1 Tim 4.4,5 However, if a man considers his food to be a barrier between him and God then this would create a problem for him in his relationship with God that Paul would rather - by any means - avoid.
14:15-16 For if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy by your food someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you consider good be spoken of as evil.
So if a brother or sister was offended by what Paul ate then he would rather not eat it. For then he would avoid causing a problem for them in their spiritual lives. This is one way that we can show our love for Christian brothers and sisters, by putting their spiritual well-being above our own right to please ourselves. We should not let the liberty we have in Christ cause us to undermine a weaker brother's faith, for Christ died for him as well as for us. Although we have liberty, love is to control our exercise of liberty. We will always be held responsible by God to care for the weak and vulnerable. We must not to allow our liberty in Christ to be spoken of as evil by allowing ourselves to do what those around us consider to be wrong. (NB This does not mean that we let them rule our lives. It means that we do not allow our witness for Christ to be spoiled by doing what is thought of as wrong).
14:17 For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
What does it matter what we eat any way? Giving up certain food so as not to cause offense is nothing. The kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink or any other material thing, for it is a spiritual kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
14:18 For the one who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people.
Since our service to Christ is rooted in righteousness, peace and joy it is acceptable to God and approved by men 1 Pet. 2: 12.
14:19 So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another.
So lets make up our minds to follow after the things that lead to harmony, unity of believers so that we might build up, encourage and strengthen one another.
14:20-21 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. For although all things are clean, it is wrong to cause anyone to stumble by what you eat. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
Paul repeats his warning that we must not, by judging and disagreement, destroy the work of God, whether it is over food or any other such matter. God has declared that what He has cleansed cannot be unclean Acts 10. 15. But it is wrong for any one to offend a brother by doing something that we know would upset him or cause him to stumble in his faith.
14:22 The faith you have, keep to yourself before God. Blessed is the one who does not judge himself by what he approves.
If we have faith towards God and personal convictions about such matters then we should exercise ourselves in this before God. We are blessed when we strive to do only what we consider right in His sight, leaving ourselves no reason to condemn ourselves, or be convicted about what we choose to do 1 John 3. 21.
14:23 But the man who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not do so from faith, and whatever is not from faith is sin.
However anything we do which goes against our own conviction of what is right for our lives in the sight of God is sin, for it is not done in faith Tit. 1: 15.
DRW: “This liberty which a brother/sister has because he is strong in the faith is not to be used as license to do anything he likes, indeed, he is more responsible before God to live a Christian, Godly life than someone who is weaker in the faith.”
For, dear brothers, you have been given freedom: not freedom to do wrong, but freedom to love and serve each other. Gal 5:13 (Living)
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