Upholding One Another
Reading Romans 14:7-23
I have often spent time thinking about what my life would have been like had I not believed the gospel. I think of how my life has been so incredibly blessed and how different my life would have been had the Gospel not transformed me completely.
Like many people my life was heading on a trajectory of potential tragedy, not as much in life but certainly the end of life. At the end of my life I would have found myself in hell waiting for that great Judgement for which I would give an account. I was created for a purpose, not my own purpose but the purpose of him in whose image I am made.
But God, through his infinite mercy had a couple of people present the Gospel to me over a period of thirteen years or so, and at 29 years of age I was born anew, a new creature, a new creation with new life and a purpose that I could see and trust in. It was like someone came into my dark room and turned on a light and I could see. That light would now never be turned off, Never!
There were people In the days of Old, and there a those today who think that abstaining from certain foods, not keep certain holidays, or not attending certain religious observances could take that all away. They feel themselves potentially injured if they don’t attend to these things, forgetting they are saved and kept by Christ.
Paul refers to them in this passage as those who are weak in faith.
But Paul also notes that those who are strong in faith, despising those who are weak and cause them to stumble, while those who are weak in faith judge those who have liberty.
Yet between them NOTHING will change respecting their wonderful restoration to God, they are still free from the penalty of sin, Christ having blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Col 2:14)
Paul exhorts against attending to such “Doubtful Disputations”?
The answer he gives to replace these tendencies in this passage, is that we should Uphold One Another, not giving offence to each other’s conscience in such matters as these, but lift each other up and strengthen each other’s faith in love and the bond of peace.
Paul makes three arguments in this passage for why it is that we should Uphold One Another and set aside some of those things that might otherwise offend us.
He speaks both to the weak and the strong in faith, giving at least three strong reasonings on why we are to let go of such things and encourage each other no matter where we are at in our faith.
All Reconciled In Christ
All Accounting To Christ
All Upholding One Another
All Reconciled In Christ
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
9For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. (Rom 14:9)
All things are reconciled in Christ, he is the beginning and the end, he was given to the world that the world through him might be saved. We who have believed the Gospel, are reconciled to the Father through the blood of the Son, in this we are to be upholding one another.
Each one of us do all we do unto the Lord, whether that be in our eating or our observance of days, or if it be NOT in our eating or observance of days etc;
Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding this very thing respecting food, even food offered to Idols, saying;
“But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse” (1 Cor 8:8)
All that we do, we do unto the Lord, he is the one in whom all things are reconciled, and through whom you are received by God (Rom 14:3).
Be sure to understand therefore that we add nothing to it by doing or not doing whatever might be considered a doubtful disputation.
You see, all history of your personal sin, past and future was judged upon the cross in the person of Jesus Christ who came for that very purpose, what then can you add or take away from that work by your observance to foods or days or any other special observances, OR the neglect of them?
The writer of Hebrews makes it plain to us about where our focus needs to be;
Heb 12:2. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The apostle Peter writes of us saying “Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” 1 Pet 1:21
Our salvation is NOT dependent upon anything other than Christ, we are RECONCILED IN CHRIST, and so our efforts today should be to preach the Gospel of Christ and support and uphold one another.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
It is through the death and resurrection and Glory of Christ that he is now Lord of all, both dead and living.
Jesus Christ, with the keys of death and hell, lives and rules over all.
All things are reconciled in him, and in him we live and move and have our being and we see him Lord of all.
With such victory given to us and secured in him, why offend each other about “Doubtful Disputations”? Why risk harming each other’s faith when such glory is to be looked forward to in Christ?
Remember as mentioned last week, in the Sermon titled “Doubtful Disputations” that we ignore the errors of clear doctrine, 26 of the 27 books of the new testament have such warnings and demand we “stand for the faith once delivered to the saints”, but Paul here speaks of those doubtful things such as the abstinence of foods, observing of days etc.
Jesus has reconciled us together in him, we are therefore to uphold each not pull each other down. To be patience, gracious and encouraging one another with that Love Christ extended to us “While we were yet sinners”.
Jesus is Lord both of the dead and living.
To the dead I will not comment here, but to the living I will because only the living Christians have the opportunity to change his ways, only those alive in Christ are to be transformed day by day into his image, to love, to forgive and to uphold others in Christ and not offend.
But far too many of us live as if Christ is not permitted full entrance into our lives to do this work. He is Lord, but only in outward observances and not the inner and deeper dwelling places of our hearts.
You are his purchased possession are you not? But so many will not let him take possession of our lives.
A story I found that speaks to this and should test us all.
Kim, a Korean layman of wealth and prominence, was elected elder in one of the Presbyterian churches in P’yongyang, the chief city of northern Korea. Because of his outstanding character and reputation, he was asked to address the annual meeting of the General Assembly of the church during one of the morning devotional periods. He began modestly, reminding his hearers that he was a simple layman, not trained in a seminary or Bible institute. He was not going to preach or attempt to teach, but he wished to put before them a great problem, and to ask their advice for its solution.
“A year or two ago,” he began, “I received a letter from a friend of mine in Seoul. He was a young dentist and wanted to establish himself in P’yongyang. He asked me to find a place that would be suitable for his home and office combined. Now we all know that there is a great housing shortage, but I did all I could to help him. For three days I searched the town. Finally I found a place and wrote him about it. I told him that the house was in bad condition. The wall surrounding the place was in disrepair, there was a hole in the house wall, the roof leaked very badly. The house was in a very bad neighborhood. Next door there was a house that was inhabited by what were called ‘singing girls.’ Furthermore, the price was exorbitant. In spite of this adverse report, my friend sent me a telegram telling me to buy the house. A day or so later I received a check for several thousand yen for the down payment, so I signed the papers to purchase the house. The down payment was made and the final payments were to be made in three days, at which time the owner agreed to vacate the house. The payments were made but the owner asked for a day or two more in order to find another house. I granted him this period of grace. But after a week he was still there. Two weeks, three weeks, a month, three months, six months have passed. The man who sold the house has bought new clothing for his family, and they are eating polished rice instead of the cheaper grains. He knows that I am a Christian and that in Korea we Christians never go to court against other Christians, and we try not to go to court against unbelievers. He laughs at me when I come.
“Now, Fathers and Brethren,” Elder Kim continued, “my friend is greatly embarrassed because his capital is tied up in this house, and he is in a very difficult position. What am I to do?”
Several of the members of the General Assembly responded. One pointed out that Elder Kim was not acting in his own behalf, but as an agent. Another pointed out that he was evidently dealing with a man who was a thief at heart. All agreed that Kim had the right to go to the authorities and ask for an eviction order. Kim asked for a show of hands, and all voted that he had the right to proceed legally.
Elder Kim concluded: “Thank you, Fathers and Brethren, for the way you have considered my problem. Before I sit down, I wish to draw one conclusion. Nineteen hundred years ago the Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven to purchase for Himself a dwelling place.” Then, striking his hand upon his breast, he continued, “He bought this old shack. It was in a rundown condition. It was in a bad neighborhood. He bought me because He wanted to take possession and dwell in my heart. He gave Himself for me, and He gave me the Holy Spirit as a down-payment on my inheritance, bringing me innumerable blessings with His redemption. But I cling to my tenement and leave Him outside. Now if you say that I have the right to seek the help of the authorities to evict the man who is occupying my friend’s house, what shall you and I say of ourselves when we deny the Lord Jesus the full possession of that for which He gave His own life?”
Does that describe you also? Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
Each man, to his own master he stands or falls. Before you judge or despise another man’s walk, have you given the greater consideration to your own?
Is Christ the occupier of his purchased possession?
All Accounting To Christ
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Rom 14:10-12)
Beloved there will not be a single person on earth who will not give their account to God.
Of all his testing for the purpose of Life, through both his matchless wisdom and matchless opportunity, King Solomon concludes his experimental testimony given in Ecclesiastes with these final two verses;
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Eccl 12:13-14).
This judgment comes at the end of life, Paul wrote in Hebrews And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
The weak in faith are not to judge those who a strong, nor are the strong to despise the weak, we are all accounting of our own selves to Christ for those things, we bear our own responsibility for all that we do and this is clear in the text.
Turn to 2 Cor 5:10
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
This is the same ‘Judgement seat’ written of to the Romans to which we are all to give of our account.
It is that which we understand to be for the award for all the works done in the Body of Christ, it will be both for the gain or the loss of reward. NOT Punishment!
We, as Christians will give our account to the Lord
So too will all others at another judgment!
Though every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess to God, there are two separate judgments in the Bible. One is the Judgment seat of Christ found identified to the Romans and the Corinthians, the other is the Great White Throne Judgmentfound in Revelation 20:11.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Rom 14:11-12)
A couple of weeks ago we ended our consideration of Romans 13 with a desire for a conscious conscience. The passage was Romans 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed
In this day spoken of in Romans 14:11-12, it would seem our conscience then shall be fully awake and perfectly informed, and there is within it several pieces of good news.
The good news is that you will never need to give an account for the sins of another person. Romans 14:4 says Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.
Ezekiel 18:20 makes this perfectly clear;
The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
The other bit of good news is that, in that day, you will be able to give an account for yourself to God.
Now, as to how that accounting will go depends upon how you have reconciled your life to the Lord during your life.
As for an example of account giving to the Lord, there are not many evident examples when men had this opportunity directly in the scriptures. The one example that I do have is one that perhaps, far too many people will be able to relate to.
Turn to Job 38
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? 9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, 10 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, 11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
God goes on for several chapters in a monologue that would Stop every mouth on earth. Especially when we consider that Job was accounted as “perfect and upright” in the mind of God, and, “that there is none like him in all the earth” (Jb 1:8)
Do you expect your appointment with the Lord to go as good as this?
Job finally responded at the end
1 Then Job answered the LORD, and said, 2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. 3 Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. 4 Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. 5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Jb 42:1-6)
The most wonderful news of all is that we have an opportunity to restart our lives to the Lord at any time.
Our judgment of others is usually the greatest single reflection of our own assessment of ourselves, that was certainly true of Jobs friends, and when it comes to “doubtful disputations” it can also be true of ourselves.
- Job repented in “dust and ashes”.
- David is seen with a broken heart and a contrite spirit before the Lord.
- Peter fell before Christ saying, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8)
and each of these men received of God great reward. They humbled themselves before God, and he exalted them before men.
God set them up as an example of the heart of men who are seen as just before God because they agreed God’s ways are holy, just and good, but the wages of Sin is death.
We will all give our accounting to Christ, we will answer for ourselves. There is not group blame nor is your sin diluted by the sins of others.
- Your vote during a meeting is yours to bear.
- Lawmakers who cast their ballot along party lines, will give their own personal account for that which comes after.
- Media personal who deliberately obscure the truth of a matter to keep their jobs, will give an account for their dissimulation.
- Police who act according to their employers demands and against the oath they swore to protect or the law of the Lord, will give their account to God.
During the Nuremburg trials after the second world war it was made evident that “following orders” was not seen as a sufficient excuse to commit the atrocities undertaken by the each of the Nazi Soldiers Individually.
Some gave their account before man, but none will escape their account before God.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God
Personal accountability is seen in this passage
All Upholding One Another
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. (Rom 14:13)
This verse sees our consideration through to the end of the chapter, for there is one consistent theme that, though it can be broken up between subtopics, it is difficult to maintain it without deviating too far from the subject at hand, and that subject, as far as I can see, is the upholding of one another in love in spite of those doubtful things we may disagree on.
Remember first of all that Paul is writing to Christians, to those born again of the Spirit of God, for whom Christ died and rose and renewed, in whom they stand, for God is able to make them stand.
But there are some weak in the faith, of weak conscience, who think to offend the Lord if they eat certain meats, fail to keep certain days.
For us it may be those who give a certain percentage of income or attend to certain rituals, or rid their homes of things they believe offensive or attend a certain event or keep a certain tradition.
But none of these things, in any practical way, commend us to God more than Christ has attended to through the cross. Yet it is so that those who do so are often quick to pass judgment upon those who do not.
So too it seems that those who do not abstain from certain meats, keep certain days, are cheerful givers of conviction not percentage, or see no value in rituals, these also risk to permit pride to enter into their hearts through their liberty.
But in this liberty they offend some, and in offending the weak conscience of a brother or sister in the Lord they cause them to fall and so they sin against Christ.
Turn to 1 Cor 8:4-13
In a synonymous passage to that of Romans 14 we see some clarifying statements given that help expand the thought as Paul deals with eating of food that has been offered to idols.
4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
We have here a picture of Love from those stronger in faith to those who are weak in faith.
The one, not to be the cause of stumbling for a brother, abstains from eating the thing offered to an Idol in the chance that doing so will offend a brother or sister in the Lord.
Beloved, this is VITAL!
We stated before that all men will give their respective account to the Lord for their sin, but do not belittle the effect each one of us have on being the cause of sin in the life of others.
As parents, we bear in every way, the risk of triggering a cause in our Children to sin. They, abiding with us see our natures when we are home. They see our own struggles, they witness our many shortcomings, that a couple of hours attending church cannot witness to congregations.
As such, there is more opportunity to witness the failures, but rarely is there also seen the witness of repentance from those failures.
Like a child that sees parents argue but never sees them make up, children can stumble at our offence of an inconsistent walk, they see hypocrisy rather than the Biblical struggle with the flesh.
But, be that as it may, it does not remove from the Child the responsibility for the decisions they have made. The parent will account for leading a Child astray, but the Child will give their account for going astray.
This is the same with all people.
You may very well be the cause of offence to a brother or sister in Christ, and you will bear the consequence of that sin if you will not repent, but the brother or sister offended will themselves also give their account for an unrepentant turning away.
Turn back to Romans 14:13-19
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
Do you know that there is not a single person in our Churches who has arrived or is already perfect?
The greatest blessing that I see evident in our own small Church is the wonderful loving humility evident in the congregation.
I see a congregation that is not ignorant to its own shortcomings, and is therefore very quick to forgive offences, I have not yet witnessed any holding of grudges and everywhere I see us giving each other room to grow.
When a congregation knows that it has been saved by the Grace of God, forgiven by the Grace of God, and preserved by the Grace of God, then it seems evident that this grace is also that which edifies one another.
The world is today filled with those set to divide against one another, asleep to their own sin, willfully ignorant of their own errors, they fight and devour one another.
Those who are the family of the Lord, reconciled through his blood for the forgiveness of their own sins, love one another, are patient, not easily provoked, not easily offended, forgive one another, and NEVER PUT A STUMBLING BLOCK to offend another, but UPHOLD ONE ANOTHER.
Let’s close on this last verse as it summarizes well this sermon.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching