The twelveth Sunday of Pentecost – August 20, 2023
Holy Trinity Church – Tom Mount
Reading: Romans 14:1-15:6
- Paul has talked about the importance of our loving one another sincerely (Rom 12:9-21; 13:8-10; 14). In this section, Paul zeroes in on a specific issue that divides Christians and lays out a game plan for successfully dealing with controversial issues. PRAY
Four observations on the text
- Earlier in Romans, Paul established that certain elements of the Christian Faith require universal adherence: namely, first order doctrinal truths and biblical moral imperatives. These are held by all Christians everywhere and at all times, and they unite us and protect the community of faith from heresy and infidelity (e.g., Rom 12:1-3, 9; 13:8, 13-14).
- Other elements of the faith allow for a divergence of opinion. These “disputable matters” (dialogismos) are historically known as adiaphora, “things indifferent,” and we must not let them divide us.
- Paul cites two examples of adiaphora in this text: eating meat (vv. 2-3, 6) and observing special religious days (v. 5). Both of these were likely attributable to Jewish/Gentile differences within the Roman church.
- What about these two issues in America today? The first is a non-issue, since meat is readily available and animal sacrifice is rare. The second can be an issue for “non-liturgical” believers encountering a “liturgically” oriented church which follows the Church Calendar.
- What are examples of adiaphora in the Church of our own day?
- When it comes to these issues, Paul commands each believer to:
- Not be judgmental (vv.3-4). Don’t judge other believers because God has accepted them and retains the sole prerogative to judge. Those people with a less strict view on an issue (the “strong” ones) mustn’t “treat with contempt” (exoutheneo) those with a stricter view. Conversely, those with a stricter view on an issue (the “weak” ones) mustn’t “condemn” those with a less strict view. “Condemn” here is krino, “to pronounce doom” on someone, denying their right to salvation.
- Not be self-centered (14:7). We mustn’t “live to ourselves alone”but, instead, “please [our] neighbor for their good.” Don’t be self-centered but be Christ centered and kingdom centered (15:2-3).
- Not be a “stumbling block” (v.20-21). Don’t cause others to “stumble” by insisting on your freedoms (v.21).
- At the same time, Paul commands each believer to:
- Be “convinced in his own mind” (v.5b). Our behavior must not violate our conscience but be “from faith”; otherwise, it is “sin” (v.23).
- Keep his opinions to himself and God (v. 22). Paul is a great example of this: he was personally convinced that meat was “clean” (v.20a) but he didn’t force that belief on others.
- Accept others whose consciences permit them to do less or more (14:1). Accept is proslambano, “recieve, welcome, accept into one’s circle.” Logic is this: How can we reject one whom God has accepted?
- Let’s remember that God alone is in a position to judge his people justly. He sees our hearts, reads all our thoughts, and knows our every motive (Psalm 139:1-4; Heb 4:12). So let’s leave the judging to him.
- Let’s be mature enough to discuss with respect and courtesy our differences of opinion on “disputable matters.” Let’s practice healthy dialogue and intellectual hospitality, making room for each other’s views.
- Let’s be willing, out of love, to limit the exercise of a certain “freedom” so as not to make another believer stumble.