Handling Disputable Matters
14 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
The Roman church will have a mixture of people who have come out of paganism and people who have come out of Judaism. They are gonna have different issues. You can find issues throughout the NT.
Acts 15: Circumcision and following the law for Gentiles. As an issue of inclusion in the people of God.
Circumcision of Gentiles: Galatians
Issues of legalism and license related to Greek dualism: I John
Spiritual arrogance/divisiveness: I Cor
Dealing with the issue of slavery: Philemon
People not working because they believe Jesus is coming back almost immediately: I Thes
- We Have Issues
Dancing, television, movies, music, giving, education, friends, sexual behavior, clothing, food, vaccines and on and on.
- Eating meat and Sabbath days
v.2 and verse 5
- Our faith issues are different
I have different issues than you do.
And my issues have changed over time.
At one time I listened to no secular music, I watched no television. I only read the Bible, studied biblical texts and hung out with Christian friends and went to church and school or work.
I threw away my beach boys albums.
I thought that if anyone had a drink of any kind that they would slide into alcoholism.
I always was in church. If the church was doing anything, I would be involved. I went to church on Sundays twice and Wednesday nights. Also some of the time I did church visitation on Tuesday nights. I called people to invite them to come to church.
My issues as I have gotten older are more related to theological positions taken by Christians and the manner that they treat them. If you have never talked to a “militant” Calvinist, then be grateful. Their position is held from a Biblical perspective of truth, but not love. And it’s weird that we should find ourselves in any situations like that. Paul has basically spent two chapters talking about acting in love.
- Be careful about dividing
There are issues to divide over. But Jesus died to unite people.
Most of the issues that people divide over boil down to love. If we were to love and respect others and allow them the space to pursue Christ without having to follow us, I think we could have far fewer churches. As it is, we are like restaurants. There are lots of them with different features. How can we possibly be unified? And I personally think that the church in America is going to have to become much more united in the day and years ahead or else we are gonna be greatly weakened.
- Handling our Disagreements Without Judgment
- Judge the issue not the person
Things that keep me aimed toward humility:
- People who know more that I will ever know still disagree. They are good actors and have clear consciences and God is at work in their lives.
- I have changed my views on things that I was fierce about in the past.
- We can enslave people to standards that they don’t need to be enslaved to.
Romans 14: Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
- The way we are to treat one another is very clear in Scripture. We cannot sacrifice our love for each other to defend our doctrinal position.
I Cor 8: Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.
- Watch out for contempt
Define contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.
“To regard as nothing.” This is what the word literally means in Greek. And this has already been spoken of when I preached about what we owe people who are created in the image of God. This is the beginning of murder and is covered in the commandment to not murder according to Jesus in Matthew chapter 5.
Describe contempt in seminary: Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.
Contempt is not a part of the fruit of the spirit, but it is rooted in worldly wisdom and the desire to influence others to our position.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
- God is good at His job
4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
I have met people who felt it was their job to correct everyone to their own personal view of the truth. And if folks did not agree, then they were disfellowshipped.
Like Old Testament Prophets they felt the need to tell everyone the truth and if they did not then it was their fault that people were in error.
It is perfectly within the realm of possibility for God to be calling different people to different standards of behavior as it relates to non-essential matters. Paul rails at the folks in Galatia concerning the issue of circumcision in the strongest language in the New Testament. Telling them in no uncertain terms that if they get circumcised Christ will be of no benefit to them. And he tells Timothy to get circumcised so as to not be a stumbling block to the Jews he is ministering to!
Acts 16: 1 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
III. Trust God to be God
People who are believers are God’s servants. They are His responsibility. That is what Paul is saying here. And this passage is key to seeing God as committed to the process of sanctification in all of our lives.
- We are all in the process of sanctification
We are all justified by the grace of God given to us in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it! Phil 1:6
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
This does not mean that we do not participate, but that God is participating with us.
Phil 2: 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
- We are to be moving toward Jesus
As the previous passage says, we are to clothe ourselves with Jesus!
14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5: 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
- God is invested in this process in our lives
We can encourage people to move toward Jesus, to love as Jesus loved. And if we all do this, then we don’t have to require others to think like we do in the moment.
This will require personal humility, trust in God to work in others lives and patience to allow others the opportunity to change. People do not need to be like us. They need to be like Jesus
II Tim 2: 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”