Romans 14:20-23, Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
Paul sums up this section with, “Don't destroy the work of God for anything so commonplace as food.” A brother or sister in Christ is “the work of God” and, as such, should be treated with respect. We have a responsibility to live our lives close to the Lord and out of that we can love others. It is so easy for Christians to form opinions loosely based on the Bible and somebody's sermon. It is equally easy to let those opinions determine how we treat other people. Paul was seeing firsthand in Corinth, and by report, from Rome that Christians were condemning one another based on a strict adherence to avoiding meat sacrificed to idols and honoring certain days as holy. This was causing division that was unnecessary. Sometimes division cannot be avoided but usually division is based on personal preferences and petty ideas.
All of this really boils down to what we place our faith in and how we work our faith out on a day-to-day basis. The church needs to focus on our relationship to God and out of that should grow our relationship to other people. We need to remember that we are…
Bound by love.
Christ's command. We have the command of Jesus found in John 13:34-35, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
This new commandment Jesus gives is a variation on loving one's neighbor which is part of the Old Testament law. However Jesus goes further than this. It is not just a matter of "loving one another". Jesus gives us not only the concept of love but the quantity and quality of love as well.
We are to love as he loved us meaning we are to die for one another. I have often wondered how easy it would be to give up life as a martyr. That would certainly separate the men from the boys so to speak. However, the kind of death we can do every day is a death to personal ambition or desires. To put the other person first when we really want to do something for ourselves is a kind of death. Jesus loved us enough to leave heaven's glory for earth's gloom! He loved us enough to become a man and live among us. It's amazing to think that the glorious Creator of the universe was born in a human manner and went through infancy and childhood only to be rejected, condemned and crucified. He walked on this earth as a man and limited himself to human experience. He once said that foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. He was so poor that when he died they had to roll dice for his garments.
Jesus places a high opinion upon our needing to imitate his love. In fact, our love for one another is the evidence the world needs that we are his disciples. No wonder the world has so little respect for the church! The lack of love among Christians is a disgrace. The love he had for us needs to be imitated by the church today. That kind of love has a quality that holds us together rather than pushing us apart. In fact love is…
God's glue. Listen while I read, Colossians 3:12-14, Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
"Put on" is an interesting way of saying how we should act. We are to put on compassionate hearts! We are to put on kindness! We are to put on humility! We are to put on meekness and patience! We are to bear with one another and when someone has a complaint — forgive as the Lord has forgiven us. That's quite a list and should cause us to stop and consider, how do we do this? And then the apostle adds, "above all these" put on love it causes everything to be bound together in perfect harmony. What else could we ask for? "Perfect harmony" should be a common goal for every believer. In fact, that was…
Jesus' prayer. Did you know that Jesus prayed for you? If you're a believer, he certainly did. Listen while I read, John 17:20-23, I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
In the presence of his disciples Jesus prayed for those who would believe in him through their word – and folks, that's us! He prayed that we would be one as completely as he and the Father are one. Again he says that his desire is that the world know that he and the Father completely loved us. I rejoice in the love of God. About 100 years ago Frederick Lehman penned these words and wrote this tune:
The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell;
it goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell;
the guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave his son to win;
his erring child he reconciled, and pardoned from his sin.
O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure the saints' and angels' song!
When years of time shall pass away and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray, on rocks and hills and mountains call,
God's love so sure shall still endure, all measureless and strong;
redeeming grace to Adam's race the saints' and the angels' song.
O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure the saints' and angels' song!
The words of the song certainly speak to the love that God has for us. Jesus' love for us caused him to come to earth and die for the sins of those who would come to him in faith. His love is shared by the Godhead in every way. Father, Son and Spirit share a mutual love that flows out to those who put their faith in God through Jesus Christ. That love is the glue that holds us together and gives us compassion like Jesus had when he walked on earth. That compassion will encourage us to…
Avoid hurting others. We need to be careful how we use the freedom we have. Because…
Our freedom can harm others. Listen while I read what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, 1 Corinthians 8:7-13, However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
It is easy to take the position that Christ makes all things pure and we are free to participate in matters that are questionable. Now there is not a modern problem of eating food that has been sacrificed to an Idol. At least not most places I know of! Such a problem might exist in some primitive cultures. We can have a problem in the matter of consuming alcohol. I do not believe the Bible teaches total abstinence but some people do. If Paul would forgo eating meat so as to avoid making his brother stumble I believe we can an equally avoid consuming alcohol for the same reason. Our freedom should not be allowed to hurt a weaker brother or sister in the Lord. I don't speak this as a command but as sound counsel from the word of God. We are to avoid hurting others and part of that process is to…
Avoid controversy. Listen to what Paul wrote to Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:22-26, So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Timothy was Paul's son in the faith. Paul had been his mentor, pastor and friend. Timothy was serving as a minister under Paul's appointment. Paul is giving wise counsel to Timothy. He could see that youthful passions could lead to all kind of controversy. So he encouraged Timothy to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. He encouraged Timothy to associate with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. We need to take these encouragements seriously in today's church. It's so easy to get caught up in foolish, ignorant controversies. The Lord's servant needs to be gentle and patient. He is to be able to teach and that's a gift from God! He is to patiently endure evil and be gentle when he corrects. You see, we are not to just win the argument we are to win our opponent to a correct understanding of Scripture and to a correct faith in Christ. I discovered many years ago that I could win arguments but lose friends and I decided that friends are more important than arguments. So I just determined to let others be wrong if they insist on doing so and turned them over to the Lord in prayer. After all, he is their master not me. We are to…
Be gentle. Even when someone is caught in the wrong we need to be gentle with them. Listen while I read, Galatians 6:1, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Anytime we set out to correct another person there are traps and snares along the way that are easy to fall into. Spiritual pride is a tremendous danger for those who set out to correct others. Satan loves to see Christians decide that they are more righteous than others and have been appointed "keeper of the rules" for those who just haven't "got it" yet. We need to be careful not to correct others in such a way that we damage their relationship to the Lord.
Everything we do should be based on faith. Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Everything that we do should be done to the glory of God. We must…
Act from faith.
Faith is evidence. The book of Hebrews has a whole chapter dedicated to faith and those who practiced it. Listen while I read, Hebrews 11:1-3, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
& Verse 6, And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Words like "assurance" and "conviction" place faith at a higher level than most people do today. Generally speaking, faith is considered a position we hold that we cannot prove. And that may be true among many religions. I believe that interpretation of faith could be applied to the Mormons. By faith they believe that North America was once populated by many cities filled with descendents of escaped Israelites. Nothing could be further from the truth! But this is not the place to go into detail on that subject.
Christian faith assures us of what we hope for and grows out of a conviction of the reality of the unseen world. Again and again archaeology has proven the Bible is true. The things we study are evidenced again and again in written material as well as the ruins of ancient cities. Our faith is based on real physical evidence. Faith, like love, is not a feeling. Christian faith has survived the test of time and is…
Not a leap in the dark. Listen while I read from, 2 Peter 1:16-21, For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Here we have the eyewitness testimony of a person who was present at the time. There are enough items in the New Testament, as well as the old, that are verifiable by looking at contemporary documents to prove that what is recorded there is accurate.
The Bible is not just the opinion of some men in the past it is an accurate record of God's movement in history and can be relied on in every way concerning anything it speaks of. The Bible doesn't tell us everything that can be known but it does tell us everything we need to know about our faith relationship to God.
Faith is personal commitment. Listen while I read, John 6:37, All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. & Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The strongest evidence, in my opinion, for the accuracy of the Bible, and its reliability in building our faith, is the record throughout history of changed lives in those who have come into contact with the Bible and the God of the Bible. From the thief on the cross to the last person who ever lives by faith they all were changed by their encounter with Jesus Christ. They were not made perfect but, instead, are being perfected day by day by the challenges they face.
Without faith it is impossible to please God. With faith we can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength.
When a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ he or she may not know much. In fact, the new believer is often like the man who was born blind recorded in John's Gospel. When he was challenged by the religious authorities he said, "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." Later he learned more about who this Jesus was and put his faith completely in him. We are intended to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord. We are to add to our faith day by day through study of the word of God and prayer. We're all born separated from God and must come to him through faith. I pray that you have done so. If not, do so now! If you desire to come to him he will not turn you away.
All scripture quotes from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.