Romans 14:1–12comment (0)
November 10, 2011
By Robert Olsen
Related Scripture: Romans 14:1–12
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Do You Show Respect to Others?
Doesn’t God Respect Them? (1–4)
One of the difficulties in Christianity is getting along with other believers who think differently than we do. This is an issue in the church today, with differences in things such as music preference, worship styles and political views, and it was an issue in the early church as well, especially with eating certain types of food and celebrating (or lack thereof) certain days. Since Christians are to demonstrate unity, how do we handle issues such as these?
At the church in Rome, there were believers with many different backgrounds. Some were rich, some poor, some slaves, some free, etc. Also, as with any church, Christians were at different levels of spiritual maturity. Paul encouraged believers to accept others who have weak faith. What Paul meant here is that some believers are able to interact with sinners and not take on their sinful behavior. Paul also said not to argue about doubtful issues. He meant gray areas — areas where there is no scriptural position. For example, the Bible never states what type of music ought to be played in church. Some may say no music should be in church at all. Since there is no clear precedent in the Bible, Christians need to not pass judgment on each other regarding this issue. Certainly it is OK to have a preference, but Christians need to realize that where the Bible is silent, it is OK to have a difference of opinion. Too often in churches, people think that their opinion is doctrine and must be obeyed by all other Christians. There are areas where the Bible is clear; for example, the belief that Jesus is the only way to experience forgiveness of sin is clearly represented in the Bible. There can be no divergence of opinion on this matter. In Paul’s day, some believers thought that a true Christian could not eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. If one had been a pagan who had sacrificed to idols in the past, then he or she might not want to eat this meat because he or she would be supporting this practice of idol worship. Others, knowing that there are no other gods, that they are just worthless idols, had no problem eating the meat. The key point here is to recognize that we need to respect one another because God has accepted us. Unless it is a clear issue in Scripture like stealing, murder or adultery, Christians need to accept one another and differences of opinion.
Didn’t Christ Die for Them? (5–9)
Paul turned from the issue of food to the issue of special days. A Jew who became a Christian might still want to keep the Sabbath, which is Saturday. Other converted Jews might want to exercise their freedom to worship on Sunday, which most in the early church did. Paul said this was an issue that should not divide believers. However, Paul asserted that their concern should be to honor God. So whatever we choose to do, it should not be done for personal gratification but to honor God.
Aren’t They Family? (10a)
In the first part of this transition verse, Paul dealt with the weak in faith who criticize those with whom they disagree. In the next part, Paul addressed the strong in faith who look down on the weaker brother. For example, the weak might criticize the strong for preferring a rock band in worship, while the strong might look down on the one who only wants to have hymns in church. However, Christ died for both the strong and the weak.
Aren’t We Accountable to God? (10b–12)
We will all have to give an account for our actions before God. Instead of criticizing other believers or tearing them down, we ought to work toward building one another up in the faith and encouraging one another. The world already hates Christians — Scripture even says the world will (see John 15:18–19); it is a travesty when Christians hate other Christians as well. Since we are ambassadors for Christ, we need to live in a way that is pleasing to God, which shows the world the love of Christ. When believers hold grudges or criticize one another, the world does not think that the Church has anything to offer it.