Devotional - 2002-07-25 - Preferences
Originally Published 1996-07-19
Rom 14:1-3 Now accept the one who is weak in the faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.
Like anything else in life, the Christian life has a maturing process to go through. We all start with the basic precepts and, hopefully become grounded in them and move on to more meaty topics. The keyword here is `opinions'. These opinions are preferences or debatable matters like food, days of worship, or music. If there is a clear mandate from scripture, this discourse does not apply.
This section has a dual application. The first application speaks to the new Christian who is just starting out and getting their first tastes of scriptures, and the more mature believer who is dealing with the `meat' of the Bible. Neither is to hold the other in contempt. The new Christian should not regard the mature brother with contempt for not keeping things simple. And the more mature believer should not look down his nose at the new Christian for his lack of `wisdom of the deeper things of God'.
The second application is literally to dietary laws as an example. Some refuse to eat pork in order to follow the dietary laws. If you feel so convicted, follow that conviction, but do not force it on another. Don't look down on those who do eat things you have decided not to eat, since that is truly between them and God.
4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will for the Lord is able to make him stand.
We are all servants of Christ or servants of the enemy. There are two camps in this world, and the middle ground is as good as a decision for the latter camp. Christians are all the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom we are ultimately accountable. It would be the height of arrogance for a fellow servant to pass judgment in place of the Lord. For Jesus can see the heart and the intentions of the one He reviews. We may see some, but certainly not all and not clearly. We will stand or fall by the review of Jesus, who has done all the work so that we may stand in that day of judgment.
5 One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 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. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 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.
Here is the center of the answer to the question. Some regard Saturday, because it was the Sabbath from the Law, in honor of the day in which God rested from His work of Creation. Others regard Sunday, because the Lord rose from the grave on `the first day of the week'. Still others hold all days as equal in regard to worship of the Lord. There is one scripture reference to a meeting `on the first day of the week' and the purpose of the meeting is unclear. Some say it is evidence that the first century church met on Sunday. Again, it is not clear. The only Sabbath references include going to the Temple or local Synagogue, primarily to preach the Gospel to the Jews. There is nothing absolutely definitive in scripture.
Who is right? Who cares? The point is that we take time to worship, not to nit-pick over which day to do it on, tearing one another down in the process. The Sunday folks should not look down on the Saturday crowd for worshiping on Saturday, because the Law was satisfied by Christ's sacrifice, and we are free from the Law. The Saturday folks should not attack them who do not select one day, but worship `at all times,' for their lack of dedicated worship. The Sunday folks should not be trounced for worshiping on a `pagan day of worship' that was instituted by Constantine to appease the pagans. It is the intent of the heart to worship God that is important, not the day.
If you feel strongly about Saturday, or Tuesday, or whatever … 'Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind'; abide by the Lord's leading of your heart. The confusion that has been introduced and the hearts that have been broken by stern rebuke and the legalistic rules that have been placed on one another, have done enough damage to the Bride of Christ and the witness of Christianity before the world we are suppose to be reaching. Let it end.
9 For this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me. And every tongue shall give praise to God.
The Lord Jesus bought us with His precious blood and took on our sins and paid them to free us from the shackles of sin and death. He has freed us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. He wants nothing less than to open the floodgates of Heaven and bless His children who He loves so much. He is Lord of all, and the one to whom we are all finally accountable. This is not to say that we should not hear our brother or sister in Christ, who may be the tool God is using to correct us. But, we have a responsibility to check what they say against the Word of God, and make sure they are correct. Saying that `so-and-so told me thus-and-such was right' will not cut the mustard. Each of us will be accountable to God for our own actions and decisions. Let's make them wise and educated decisions.
12 So then each one shall give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather to determine this - not to put an obstacle of a stumbling block in a brother's way. 14 I know that I am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything is unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food, him for whom Christ died.
Since we are all responsible ultimately to God for our lives, rather than try to correct everyone else, we need to spend our energy learning to follow Christ ourselves. God can use willing hearts as examples to others, when they are humble and gracious. Putting the needs of others ahead of their own is the mark of the love of Christ in the life of a believer. If there is one who feels free to have a glass of wine with dinner and they do so to the offense, or confusion of someone who declines all alcohol, where is the love in the exercise of the freedom to partake? For the sake of a glass of wine, should we risk the hurt or confusion that could result? `Do not destroy --' what strong language. It underlines the severity of the danger involved. Let us take it to heart.
16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 18 For he who in Christ server this way is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things are indeed clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and give offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
If God has granted you freedom in anything and, in exercising that freedom you allow it to be `spoken of as evil', where is the gain? Verse 18 clearly explains that living so that, in humbly regarding the feelings of others, and thereby protecting the freedoms we have from ridicule, God and man will approve. God is the more important part of that equation. But when men approve your actions, the respect it affords often provides and opportunity to be a witness for the Lord. There is so little to gain in forcing our freedoms in the face of others, and so much to lose, that the choice is obvious.
22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
If God has given you the freedom to eat meat, you are doing so because of His approval - in faith. If you are unsure and eat anyway, you will have to deal with the condemnation and doubt that will come - not in faith. If we rail against each other for worshiping on the 'wrong' day, or eating ham, or wearing makeup, or bowling, etc. we fail to show love and humility in debatable matters. If you are uncertain about something, wait until it becomes clearer.
Lord, Give us the humility to put others first in matters that are not critical. Guard our hearts and minds from becoming judgmental over these preferences. Help us to keep our eyes on You and the things in which You are instructing us. Help us learn to build up rather than tear down. Thank you so much for making the way so that we could have eternal life with You. You have freed us from the Law. Continue to lead us in that freedom as we grow. Amen
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.