In this sermon, Pastor Dave Capoccia begins a two part look at Paul’s teaching in Romans 14:1-15:13, a section about how Christians should respond to one another over Christian liberty issues. In part one of this look, Dave Capoccia considers the situation in the early Roman church and also explains the first of Paul’s four main commands in the section: when it comes to conviction issues, Christians must welcome one another and not judge. Dave Capoccia outlines three reasons why from Romans 14:1-12:
1. God welcomes your brethren
2. Christ, not you, is the judging lord
3. You, too, will be judged by God
Let’s hear more from God’s Word today about how this wonderful gospel works out in our own lives. Pray with me. Heavenly Father, feed us Your Words today. Help us and guide us in the way to live. You are the steadfast Guide. Show us the way to walk and then empower us to do it. I pray by Your Spirit that You would work in the hearts of those who listen so that we might know your blessing and all the things you have ordained. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I’d like to start off the sermon this morning with a little pop quiz. Don’t worry, I won’t grade you. In fact I ask you not to answer out loud. But I want to pose to you ten questions that you can answer in your own minds and then I’ll give you a little bonus question at the end. Here is question one: How should Christians deal with alcohol? Number two: How should Christians educate their children? Number three: What is the right way to pursue a marriage relationship? Number four: What is proper clothing for going to church? Number five: To what kind of music should Christians listen? Number six: Is it right for Christians to eat all foods including blood? Number seven: Should Christians honor Sundays in any particular way? Number eight: How should Christians respond to issues of African-American mistreatment in this country? Number nine: How should Christians deal with the opportunity to vote this November? And number ten: What is the right way for Christians to deal with COVID-19 and government church restrictions?
Now the bonus question is what do you think of Christians who do not answer these questions the same way that you do? Likely at least one of the questions I just asked you is about an issue that you feel strongly and a deep conviction about. In fact you may even feel that if you answer that question in any other way, and behaved accordingly, that you would be sinning against God. It would violate your conscience to do anything different than what you’re doing. Because of this, you probably feel that other Christians should think and do as you do! You may not be able to understand or even accept Christians who do not.
Now it’s not as if the Bible has nothing to do with the questions I mentioned. The Bible says a lot! The Bible however gives relevant commands and principles for these issues, but it does not specifically say how a Christian should respond. Therefore they become what is sometimes called a conviction issue, or an issue of conscience or Christian freedom. Christian freedom or liberty is part of those activities not strictly prohibited that is commanded or prohibited in the Bible. Christians can legitimately take different positions. There is such a thing as Christian liberty but still they can disagree about the proper exercise of those freedoms.
This can become a huge problem in the church because people of different opinions can be suspicious of others and start slandering others. It can even make people avoid or refuse fellowship with one another. The unity of the Spirit is a unique privilege we have in the body of Christ. This is a testimony to the world of our mutual love for one another but it dissolves when we are divided. The members of the body all suffer. Our church here at Calvary is not immune to the dangers that come from deeply held convictions. Even here there are a diversity of positions on the issues that I just raised.
Indeed strong convictions, especially about COVID and other things in recent days have the potential to hinder our fellowship with one another but also to degrade and destroy it. Furthermore, if strongly held opinions are made to have sway over others who do not actually believe them and those persons act against their own convictions and consciences, the Bible says that those person will spiritually ruin themselves. So it’s a potentially dangerous situation.
Is there some way that we can preserve the Spirit of unity in the bond of peace when we have such different and even strongly held convictions over different Christian freedom issues. Is there a way for even us at Calvary? There is and we must submit to that way in order to protect ourselves, one another, and to honor our Lord Christ. Where is that way outlined for us? There are principles throughout the Scriptures but the most straightforward teaching about it comes in Romans 14-15, and that’s where I want to look today.
Open to Romans 14, which is the Scripture passage you heard earlier. The title of the message today is, “When Convictions Collide.” Today will be part one of this message where we will set up the background of this very constructive section of the Bible. We will also cover the first major point of the passage. Part two will be next week where we will cover the passage’s other three major points.
I want to start by giving you the background of this passage. Let’s appreciate the level of conviction that people were feeling in the church in those days. What is the situation Paul is dealing with in Romans 14 and 15? The Apostle Paul writes this letter to the Romans with several purposes in mind. One of them is to specifically address the issue of disunity between Jews and Gentiles in the church at Rome arising over conviction issues. Remember the uniting of both Jew and Gentile as equal Kingdom citizens through the gospel of Christ was an extremely momentous development in redemption history. Before Christ, Jews mostly held Gentiles at a distance if not outright avoiding them and despising them. After all, Gentiles worshipped false gods, were ceremoniously unclean and were of ten the political enemies of Israel. For their part, many Gentiles mocked and were suspicious of and harassed the Jews. Now it’s true that some Gentiles were attracted to Judaism and its God. They became God-fearers ore even full proselytes to Judaism.
But even when they did this they were forced to give up not just their sins and false worship, but really part of the Gentile-ness. They had to become Jews in order to worship God to some extent. Even when they did so, they couldn’t proceed in worship in an equal way with the Jews. Even in the temple Gentiles could only go so far whereas the Jews could go further.
After the Babylonian exile, Jew-Gentile antagonism often centered on three external practices that often epitomized on the difference between Jews and Gentiles. These were circumcision, the eating of clean or unclean foods, which included the food being sacrificed to idols, and the keeping of holy days, like the Sabbath.
By New Testament times, these practices had become so highlighted in the minds of the Jews that they were the litmus test of godliness. The Jews were in their exile and back in their land with Gentiles all around them. So there’s great pressure to give up these practices. The Jews felt a true man or woman of God resisted that Gentile pressure and practiced circumcision food laws and keeping of the Sabbath. Only carnal traitors abandoned any one of these practices.
But then Jesus, the Son of God, comes onto the scene with His perfect life, death, and resurrection. He perfectly fulfilled the Old Testament law, the law of the Jews, for all of those who believe in Him. With that law thus fulfilled, the old law passes away and is superseded by the law of Christ. The greatest indication of this incredible change is the tearing or rending of the veil in the temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple and the rest of the world. It was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross.
This was symbolic that all people have full access to God, even in the Holy of Holies by faith. This was an incredible development, but the implications of it were not seen or pursued right away by Christ’s disciples. You can trace this in the book of Acts; it takes a heavenly vision from God to Peter in Acts 10 before Peter is willing to accept that he can visit Gentiles and eat their food.
Eventually, all of Jesus’ apostles acknowledge and proclaim the message of salvation by faith in Christ to both Jew and Gentile, apart from any ritual adherence to the Old Testament law. It is not required because it has been fulfilled in Christ. But this was such a great shock to the system of the Jews, even for those who loved and believed in Christ. The things they loved and were fighting for so long, they no longer found any important. Some Christian Jews could not accept this change but rather insisted that they could become like Jews in order to be accepted in Christ.
This meant prescribing circumcision, food laws, and the keeping of Sabbaths to the Gentiles. How did the apostles respond? On the one hand they rejected this judaizing tendency as foreign to Christ and the gospel, but they nonetheless instructed Gentiles to be sensitive to the convictions of their Jewish brethren. This is exactly the conclusion of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.
Still though, the question of how Jews and Gentiles were to understand each other and whether Old Testament practices were still required and beneficial to Christians continue to come up again and again in the New Testament church. Just look at the letters of Paul. Galatians deals with it fundamentally, as does Colossians partly because of a false teaching with Jewish influence. Ephesians talks about the unity of Jew and Gentile together equally. 1 Corinthians talks about food being sacrificed to idols.
And then we have the book of Romans. The Christian community in Rome would have been a primarily Gentile congregation with some Jews in it. In this letter, there is an emphasis on the common need of salvation for both Jew and Gentile. You see that in Romans 1 and 2 especially, with the common blessings to both Jews and Gentiles. Paul even takes times to clarify in Romans 11 to the Gentiles that they are not to look down on their Jewish brethren. Nor even to suppose that God has rejected the nation of Israel forever. Instead, they are to be grateful for the Gentile inclusion into the people of God and to look forward to God’s full redemption of Israel.
As we also see in Romans 14 and 15, there is the issue in the Roman church about how to handle Jewish convictions. You may notice that the subject is not introduced in Romans 14 as a Jew-Gentile question but notice how the section ends in Romans 15:7-13, with an explanation of how Jews and Gentiles are to glorify God together. That doesn’t come out of nowhere. Also these issues discussed, eating food, honoring days, etc. are exactly the main issues Jewish Christians would have especially struggled with in a body of Gentiles. We don’t know if circumcision was another issue, apparently it was not as big of an issue in that church.
Do you notice that the particular controversy at Rome was different than other New Testament churches? For example, here in Rome this is not an issue where the salvation gospel is at stake, like it is in Galatians. You saw earlier that Paul says it is fine if certain persons want to abide by food laws or keep the Sabbath. In Galatians he talks about not submitting to a law because it will save.
That doesn’t seem to be the issue at Rome. The believers in Rome are not presenting these practices as necessary for salvation. Notice that the issue does not directly involve the danger of idolatry. In what many note as a parallel passage to this section of Scripture, 1 Corinthians 10 deals with food sacrificed to idols. There, Paul acknowledges Christian liberty but his emphasis is to not allow Christian liberty to allow a person to get close to and indulge in demonic idolatry. There’s a danger that he wants to keep the people from. But there isn’t that same emphasis in Romans. Involvement with idols is a great danger in a Roman church so it’s a little different.
What is the issue though in Rome? It’s that certain Christians and Gentile proselytes who have since come to know Christ, are insisting that while not necessary for salvation, practices like abstaining from ceremonially unclean foods and honoring the Sabbaths, nevertheless they represent best practices for Christians. If you really love God and want to follow Him, you’ll do these things. They were clear marks of godliness before and are still clear marks of godliness today.
Meanwhile other believers in the church, mostly Gentiles or theologically astute Jews, were arguing that such observances were unnecessary and even unhelpful. These would have been the majority in the church. Here is the situation in Rome. Different convictions on food and Sabbath coming out of a long tradition of Jewish observance was quite honorable. But these are becoming a continual form of discord among believers and threaten to break open into wider division and animosity in the Church.
Now Paul by the Spirit of God is going to give holy instruction to address this situation. Now these issues are not directly parallel to some of the Christian freedom issues we deal with today but the instruction Paul gives us the relevant principles to deal with the Christian freedom issues that we see. This will be a very relevant passage for us now.
Paul’s specific instructions to the Christians spans Romans 14:1 to Romans 15:13, that’s why I asked Greg to read that whole section earlier. That instruction can be broken down into four main commands. I’ll give these to you now, but we’re not going to explore them all today so don’t get too worried about it. When convictions collide in the church, how should Christians respond to their brethren?
Number one, Paul teaches to welcome one another and do judge each other, found in Romans 14:1-12. Number two, edify one another and do not cause to stumble, as it says in Romans 14:13-23. Number three, please one another and do not simply please yourself which is Romans 15:1-6. And number four, rejoice with one another in the glorious gospel, in Romans 15:7-13.
Now this wonderful teaching in all of these verses that we don’t have time to go through fully today, we’re just going to start by investigating the first part of Paul’s teaching that first command from Paul with I think is actually extremely worth our time in really giving special focus. The first command is about how to respond when convictions arise. We are to love one another and do not judge.
Let me expand upon that just a little bit. In Romans 14:1-12, Paul presents three reasons why when it comes to conviction issues you must welcome and not judge your brethren. I’ll give you those three reasons and we will go through them. Number one, God welcomes your brethren. Number two, Christ, not you, is the judging Lord. And number three, you too will be judged by God. Now these reasons are not only divided thematically in the verse portions before us, but also set off by the repetition of a certain rhetorical questions in the text. This is a very challenging one which is who are you to judge your brother? That’s in verses 4-10 so that’s where I’m making the divisions.
Let’s explore how this teaching unfolds verse by verse and we’ll start with the first reason when it comes to conviction issues why must we welcome and not judge our brethren. Number one, God welcomes your brethren. This is in verses 1-3, let’s read that again in Romans 14:1-3:
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.
Notice the command given in verse 1: “Accept the one who is weak in faith.” Paul says we could translate the word accept as the word welcome or receive. The idea is that this is the kind of welcome you give when you receive someone into your home or group of friends. Paul is addressing this command to the majority of believers at Rome though there’s an application to those that take a freer view. He is telling them to welcome others who have a more conservative view than you. Welcome them as true members of the group.
Notice the description that Paul gives of the second, more conservative group. He calls them the weak of faith, which is not a flattering description. But there is some truth to it. It’s not that this group lacks saving faith or are immature, necessarily. But when it comes to freedom issues, these people cannot accept that they have the freedom do live less strictly than they do. They either do not understand or cannot believe the full freedom that Christ has really granted them, so it is a spiritual weakness.
Now Paul does not say so explicitly in these first 12 verses, but later on he will indicate that Christians should gradually, eventually come to a place where they are strong in faith and do understand and accept their full Christian freedom. But that’s not Paul’s primary concern, and neither should it be ours.
Notice now in verse 1 where Paul describes that we should not be welcome those who have a weak view of Christian freedom. Don’t welcome them just to pass on judgment on their opinions or quarrel with them over disputed issues! Don’t say that you are glad they are here and then tell them all the ways they need to change. Paul says that this is not how to welcome those weak in faith!
Paul illustrates what he means by highlighting one of the contested issues in verses 2 and 3. He says that some Christians rightly believe they can eat all things and nothing is unclean to them, that is Biblically true. But there are also some Christians who unnecessarily restrict that freedom and don’t currently have the faith to eat all things so they eat only vegetables. If you come from a Jewish background and live in a mostly Gentile area, you have certain kosher rules that you want to keep and you’re not sure that the meat available to you is following all the rules. So better to just avoid it all to be safe. So they would eat only vegetables.
Now how should the two sides be responding to one another over these different food convictions? Notice what Paul says in verse 3. On the one hand, the one who does eat freely should not regard with contempt those who restrict their eating. On the other hand, those who restrict their eating are not to judge with condemnation those who have no qualms about eating anything. Aren’t these specific obstructions exactly addressing the temptations that two groups would have like this in any conviction situation?
The word for “regard with contempt” could be translated as despise or disdain. The idea is that you are looking down on another person, treating them with little or no worth. This is the temptation of those who have a less restrictive conviction, they look at the others and say they are so high and mighty. They say he is too holy for the group and is judging everyone now with his eyes. That’s the temptation of those who have the less strict view.
But on the other hand, the word for “judge” in verse 3 has the sense of making a condemning conclusion. This is passing an unfavorable judgment and finding fault. This is the great temptation of those who take the more restrictive view. They look at the others and say how they can recklessly and thoughtlessly. They don’t have any reverence for God or fear of sin! They think they are using their liberty to excuse fleshly indulgence.
Have you ever found yourself thinking in one of these ways about your brethren who have different convictions than you? Either you’re looking down on them because they are less restrictive, or judging them because they are more restrictive. What does Paul say we are to do when we face that temptation? Don’t go down that path and stop if you are! You are neither to disdain those or condemn those who take a different conviction issue than you. At the end of Romans 14:3 it says:
For God has accepted him.
This statement primarily confronts the weak who are prone to judge but it applies to both the strong and the weak. You think that God cannot possibly approve of someone who takes a different conviction than you? Paul says no, God is actually just fine with how that person is acting. These external matters that you’re so caught up in are no issue to God. He accepts both. Actually speaking of “accept,” did you notice how the word accept as it’s used in the NASB? In verse 3 it’s the sam word that’s used in verse 1. Paul’s telling us, “Brethren, accept and welcome into your fellowship those that God has already accepted and welcomed into His.”
Will we not welcome and approve those that God already has? Are we holier than God? Will God approve when we judge more strictly than He does? Now my brethren, think about what this means for some of the hot button Christian freedom issues I brought up to you. I’ll just use one as an example. You may feel, for example, that no one who comes to church in shorts and flip-flops could possibly reveal the Lord and be accepted by Him. Conversely, you may feel that a person who is decked out in a suit and tie is a hoity-toity legalist who is far from God’s grace. But the Bible does not prescribe or prohibit either set of clothes. With the right heart, both are acceptable to God. With the wrong heart, neither clothing choice is acceptable to God.
So what’s our job as believers? What are we to do when we face those with different convictions? It is not to judge based on those externals but instead to welcome them both who feel they need to dress up for church and those who rightly understand that there is freedom when it comes to clothing. Yes, I know the Bible does give certain principles about church attire and you are not to flaunt your wealth or become a distraction or stumbling block to others. But beyond these, we should welcome one another because God welcome them. God welcomes us no matter our conviction in this area. That’s just one example on the same principle that is applied to other Christian freedom issues.
Now you may say, “But I know what’s going on in their heart and I know why he dresses that way! I know why he takes that stance, he is only making his Christian freedom choice out of a sinful motivation. He is indulging in some irreverent license or he is nurturing his self-righteous legalism.” Well if that’s what we’re thinking, Paul has response to that in the next set of verses.
We’ve seen first of all that we are to welcome and not judge others over conviction issues because God welcomes us along with our brethren. But there’s a second reason in Romans 14:4-9 and that reason is Christ, not you, is the judging Lord. Let’s start with Romans 14:4:
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Paul’s rhetorical question at the beginning of the verse is startling and challenging. Who do you think you are to judge someone else’s servant? What kind of hubris do you have? The word for servant here refers to a household, domestic slave. Paul thus pictures us when we judge others over their convictions acting like a guest at someone else’s house in New Testament times, judging the worth of a particular slave. The slave is going about his work and we’re looking and say, “Why does the slave do it that way and not a different way? He must be a bad slave. I’m sure his master disapproves.”
Paul is pointing out that such a judgment is absurd. Why? Because first of al, you don’t have al the information to properly judge that slave. You don’t what kind of arrangement he and his master have made with each other. Maybe he’s doing exactly what his master wants. Secondly, you don’t own that slave. That slave doesn’t have to meet your standards or expectations, but his own master’s. Who is the master who has both the ability and the right to judge each one of us? The Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice at the end of verse 4 where Paul explains that this fellow slave of Christ that we condemn for not taking the same stance and having the same conviction as we do will in fact stand approved by his master. Only the real Master who has the full information and ownership of the slave has the right to pass judgment on him will do so in the proper place in time. But why will he stand approved? Because his Master is enabling him to stand. Even without your same conviction.
This is kind of key right? We think our convictions are so essential and if you don’t adopt the same view, it’s going to be spiritual ruin for you. But Paul says actually Christ can make him stand without that because what is really essential is not that Christian freedom conviction, but the Lord Himself and the heart of faith that genuinely seeks the Lord. Paul elaborates on this assertion with the conviction of holy days in verses 5 and 6, which say:
One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
Notice how Paul outlines the two main views in the congregation. There is one day that regards a specific day as special, and these are the Sabbaths. Then there’s another group that doesn’t regard any days as important in and of themselves. Notice what Paul says should be done about these divergent opinions. Should we browbeat one group into taking the side of the other? No, Paul says rather that each person is to be fully convinced in his own mind. In other words, let them be! Don’t try to force someone see to adopt your conviction.
Now it is true that Sabbath observance is not required for Christians. Not on Sunday or on the original seventh day of the week. Colossians 2:16-17 backs up what we’re hearing here. Nevertheless, God is pleased both by those who feel the need to honor a particular day of the week and those who don’t observe the Sabbath but celebrate every day alike. Why? Because they both do it for God’s sake!
It’s the same with food. Both the one who eats traditionally unclean foods and the one who abstains from traditionally unclean foods while doing it with thankfulness and unto the glory of God is right. That’s all that matters. God approves of both of them even though they have opposite convictions because these external matters are indifferent to God. What really matters are whether they are obeying their consciences and with a heart that genuinely seeks the Lord.
Is that surprising? Paul continues this explanation in Romans 14:7-8 while reminding us of something fundamental to Christianity. Look at what it says:
For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
Paul is stating what it means to be a Christian in the most basic sense. It means that everything is the Lord’s to be done unto the Lord and He is free to do with it what He wishes. And if we do live and die in this way, what do we demonstrate and testify? It says in Romans 14:8:
We are the Lord’s.
Everything is to be done for the Lord. Now do you notice that with this explanation here in verse 7-8, Paul states something more direct than what has been implying all along and that is not every stance on a Christian liberty issue is acceptable. There are indeed some who try to excuse selfish indulgence under the guise of Christian liberty. You can’t judge them because they are practicing their freedom in Christ when really they are pursuing sin and selfish indulgence. They’re not looking to please Christ but themselves so when the Master comes to assess them, they will not be approved but condemned.
For the one who fundamentally acts as a Christian and follows his conscience for the Lord’s sake, even if it ultimately means exercising less than his whole Christian liberty, Paul says that person will be approved by Christ wholeheartedly. Mere external matters like food, drinking, and days, God is not looking at. What ultimately matters to God regarding these things is the heart and that’s significant because you might want to ask how you will know the difference between those who are pursuing their conviction out of a pure motivation or a bad one. All you can see is that they are doing something that is scripturally acceptable on the outside, but you don’t know if their heart is right.
You know the answer to that! You don’t, you can’t! Only God sees into the heart and this is what He says in the Scriptures. We know that famous verse in Jeremiah 17:9 which talks about man’s heart being utterly deceitful, desperately sick, and ultimately unknowable both by human outsiders and by the One who has that heart. The next part in Jeremiah 17:10 says:
I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.
God says that He is the only one who can look at the heart and because of that, He is able to judge. So mark this my friends, if external objects like food are indifferent to God and the heart is what matters, then only the Lord can rightly judge over these issues and look into the heart. We must simply welcome those with different convictions and leave the heart judgment to God.
Besides, the right of judgment is something that Jesus obtained for Himself at great cost and it is a right that we dare not infringe upon. Now look at Romans 14:9 and how Paul ends this second section:
For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
This end that Paul refers to in this verse is what he just talked about in verse 8, namely that Christ has total ownership over His people in life and death and everything in between. To obtain this ownership, Paul says Christ died and lived again. That is He died in the place of and on behalf of His own at the cross, He paid their sin debt, and then He rose again in victory. In doing this, Jesus obtained in a special way His rightful position as Lord and Master.
Though the Son has always been Lord and God from eternity, something the Scriptures make clear, the Son’s incarnation and ministry work nevertheless suited Him to be the Lord of all the universe and especially Lord of His redeemed people. The Scriptures talk about Jesus being exalted upon His returning to Heaven with titles and crowns, etc. As the Lord and Master, what does Jesus have exclusive right to do? He has the right to rule and to judge what is His own. That’s what verse 4 says.
What’s the connection? Do you see how inappropriate it is for us ever to judge someone else with contempt or condemnation over a conviction issue? We are not the other person’s master or able to look into the heart and we did not live, suffer, die, rise again, and ascend to Heaven in order to obtain that position of Lord and Judge. That is not our position. So when we start judging one another, brethren do you realize what we do? We are insulting the Lordship of Christ. We are attempting to move Jesus off of His throne, set ourselves there and say bring in the fellow brethren and slaves so we can adjudicate them. This is highly inappropriate. We must not dare then to go beyond what is written as 1 Corinthians 4:1-6 says:
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.
So have you found yourself judging others over today’s conviction issues? Have different views on COVID especially caused you to disdain or condemn a brother because you think you know what’s going on in their hearts? It’s very easy to fall into that I know, but we must turn from that and there are additional reasons why we must welcome and not judge our brethren over conviction issues. God welcomes us along with our brethren and Christ is the judging Lord. Number three, Paul concludes by saying that you too will be judged by God. Look now at Romans 14:10-12:
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
Notice that we see the rhetorical question again challenging us on our judging others over Christian freedom issues. To the more restrictive, why do you judge your brother? To the less restrictive, why do you regard your brother with contempt when they are not doing anything wrong? The Lord is being emphatic with us that such judgment is heinous and uncalled for.
But now notice the end of verse 10, where Paul reminds us that one day we will all face the Lord’s judgment. This is a reference to the judgment seat, the beama. This refers to a raised platform on which rulers sometimes stood or sat to pronounce judgment. Paul says that before you sit in judgment of your brethren, you should think about your own judgment that is coming.
Now the true believer has judgment that awaits us that won’t decide eternal life or death. Nor will there be some calculation about how much time in purgatory we need. Paul has already written in Romans 8:1:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
There is nothing left to pay because it was all paid in advance. All has been satisfied by Christ’s substitutionary payment on behalf of you on the cross. Nevertheless there will be an accounting of all people, believers included. A final assessment from the master of His beloved salves, the judgment will be, as other Scriptures indicate, to determinate reward or lack of reward. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 clarifies this as well as 2 Corinthians 5:10.
S think about for yourself that if you are in Christ, you will face judgment for reward. Did you take the opportunities and rightly respond to the commands given by Christ? How do you think that judgment will go for you? Notice in Romans 14:11, Paul quotes a section of the Old Testament to support the idea of everyone coming to stand before God in judgment. He is mostly quoting Isaiah 45:23, and what is significant is that this part is about God asserting Himself as the only true God and thus the asserting Himself as the only Lord and Judge. Isn’t that what Paul has just been saying here in Romans?
Only God has the right to judge the heart because He is God. Everyone will come to Him but not you because you don’t take that place. Paul concludes again in Romans 14:12 that everyone will give account to God. Not only how we handled Christian freedom issues for ourselves personally but also how we responded to our brothers and sisters who have different convictions.
You will give an account to God about that and He will ask why did you what you did. Why did you respond to them that way? All of us, whether believer of unbeliever, restricted or less restricted in the way we live our lives, need to remember that one day we will give an account to God. Wouldn’t you want that to be a happy experience? Yes God, will wipe away every tear from the eyes of those who belong to Him. I don’t know about you but I would love to be like those faithful slaves in the Parable of the Talent in Matthew 25. When they were assessed by their Master, they said that they were faithful with what they were entrusted with.
They heard from Christ and from the Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Now enter into the joy of your Master forever.” I want to hear that and I think you do too. If we really do then we need to heed the instruction of this passage. No longer judging one another for what are conviction issues where there legitimately is more than one opinion, but welcoming one another just as God has welcomed each one of us.
Let me say again, when it comes to today’s hot button controversial conviction issues, brothers and sisters we must need to be willing to recognize that there is more than one right answer. Not every answer is right but we must actually make sure we’re within the bounds of Scripture. When we are within those bounds, we must charitably allow other Christians to do differently than us.
God is pleased even when others take different convictions. God accepts them and we are also to do so. Christ is the Judge of the heart and we have our own assessment coming before God. There’s more to the issue of how Christians should navigate other than just welcoming and not judging. But we need to also learn what to do and not do. And I want to talk to you more about that next week.
First we start with what we’re thinking and if we have a welcoming attitude in our hearts. Before I close today, let me just say something to those of you who may not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of what I’ve been saying has been focused on believers, but there is an application to you because as God says, a judgment is coming for every single person, in Christ and out of Christ. For those in Christ, that judgment is about reward.
If you are unlike the people Paul described in the passage, and are actually living for yourself and pursuing your convictions for yourself, then judgment is coming on you too but there is judgment that determines punishment, and not reward. It is a punishment that will determine your level of your eternal torment based on what you knew, did, and how you responded to people. God is concerned about Christians improperly judging one another. What do you think He thinks about non-Christians, those who do not know the Lord? They also improperly judge and try to take the seat of only the Lord Christ. They look into the heart, perhaps you too.
God says that an accounting is coming for you also. But it does not need to be that way. If you repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, than you can be freed from that expectation. If you repent of living for yourself and following after sin and being Lord of your own life. If you repent of making yourself acceptable to God by your own works, by rituals, and various rules that you have added and that God didn’t acquire, and instead embrace Christ in faith, you will be saved. He is the rightful Lord of your life and the entire universe and your whole life is for Him. Turn and believe, God says He will cause you to stand when the assessment comes and pronounce you approved. Not because of what you did but because of what Christ did on your behalf.
That’s a wonderful joy which means you are not only freed from eternal wrath but you will now experience eternal life with the Lord who loves His own. If you have not done that I urge you to do so. Brothers and sisters, the world stereotypically complains about Christians being too judgmental. And we know that most of the time that accusation is false. It is a way to excuse sin and ignore the gospel message. We have to admit that sometimes the accusation is true and we do improperly judge one another. What should we do? We must repent of taking the Lord’s place when there is no right to do so, and instead let us be known as a welcoming people. Jesus said that we are known as His disciples by our loves for one another.
Let’s close in prayer. Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word. It is challenging for us today but I think all of us can admit there have been times where we have judged improperly. We acted as though we could see the heart but really we didn’t have any business and couldn’t rightly come to that conclusion. Lord, forgive us for that but we are also grateful that You do forgive the heart that is repentant. Lord, we instead want to embrace Your blessed way of welcoming one another even in these times. It is a way that we can highlight this wonderful reality even more than ever as convictions intensify and different opinions are multiplying. We welcome those who are really indeed looking to follow the Lord, even if their convictions are different but they are within the bounds of Scripture.
We love Your Word, and we love You. Help us to love one another in Jesus Christ, Amen.