HELPING A WEAKER BROTHER
Don’t judge each other in doubtful things.
(Rom_14:1-2) Receiving the weaker brother.
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.
For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.
We must receive (accept) the one who is weak in the faith; but we are not to receive them for the sake of carrying on a debate with them regarding doubtful things.
These are words to take seriously. Paul warns us to not make spiritual maturity a requirement for fellowship. We should distinguish between someone who is weak and someone who is rebellious.
There are many reasons why a Christian might be weak.
• They may be a babe in Christ (babies are weak)
• They may be sick or diseased (by legalism)
• They may be malnourished (by lack of good teaching)
• They may lack exercise (needing exhortation)
Eats only vegetables:
As an example of a doubtful thing, Paul looks at those who refuse to eat meat for a spiritual reason. Perhaps they refused it because they feared it was meat sacrificed to a pagan god (as in 1 Corinthians 8). Perhaps they refused the meat because it wasn’t kosher, and they stuck to Jewish dietary regulations and traditions.
Because some Christian saw nothing wrong in this meat and others saw much wrong in it, this was a burning issue among believers in Paul’s day. While the issue of not eating meat for spiritual reasons is no longer directly relevant to most Christians today, there are plenty of issues where some believers believe one way and others believe differently.
In Paul’s mind, the weak brother is the stricter one. It wasn’t that they were weaker in their Christian life because of what they ate or didn’t eat, but they were weaker because of their legalistic attitudes and lack of love towards others.
Undoubtedly these weak ones did not see themselves as weaker. It’s likely they thought they were the strong ones, and the meat-eaters were the weak ones. Legalism has a way of making us think that we are strong and those who don’t keep the rules the way we do are weak.
(Rom_14:3-4) Judging our brother is inappropriate because we are not their masters.
Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant?
To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
It would be easy for a Christian who felt free to eat meat to despise those who did not feel free as hopeless legalists. It would also be easy for those who did not eat such meat to judge those who did - but God has received those Christians who eat meat.
Who are you to judge another’s servant? Paul reminds us that it isn’t our place to pass judgment on any fellow Christian. They stand or fall before their own Master, God - and God is able to make those “meat eaters” stand.
There is a lot of useless, harmful division among Christians over silly, bigoted things. Paul isn’t telling these Christians to erase their differences; he tells them to rise above them as Christian brothers and sisters.
(Rom_14:5-6) Judging our brother is inappropriate because these are matters of conscience.
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.
He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike:
By bringing in the aspect of observing certain days, Paul lets us know that he is talking more about principles than specific issues. What he says has application to more than just eating meat.
Let each be fully convinced in his own mind:
In such issues, Paul is willing to leave it up to the conscience of the individual. But whatever we do, we must be able to do it to the Lord, not using “conscience” as an excuse for obviously sinful behavior.
(Rom_14:7-9) We live and die to the Lord.
For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.
Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself:
We must understand that from beginning to end our life is connected to other lives. Paul reminds the Roman Christians that “No man is an island.”
Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s: From beginning to end, our lives are to be dedicated to God. Therefore, whatever we do, we do it to the Lord - because Jesus is our Lord (that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living).
(Rom_14:10-12) Judging our brother is inappropriate because we will all face judgment before Jesus.
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother?
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? Probably, the use of both judge and show contempt is meant to have application to both the “strict” and the “free” individuals. In either case, the attitude is wrong because we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
The strict Christian found it easy to judge his brother, writing him off as an unspiritual meat-eater-compromiser. The free Christian found it easy to show contempt against his brother, regarding him as a uptight-legalistic-goody-good. Essentially, Paul’s answer is “Stop worrying about your brother. You have enough to answer for before Jesus.”
The judgment seat of Christ: “This is the bema seat, equivalent to the judge’s seat in the Olympic Games. After each game, the winners came before the judge’s seat to receive crowns for first, second and third places. Likewise, the Christian’s works will be tested by fire, and he’ll be rewarded for those which remain . . . The judgment seat of Christ is only concerned with a Christian’s rewards and position in the kingdom, not with his salvation.” (Smith)
Every knee shall bow: The quotation from Isa_45:23 emphasizes the fact that all will have to appear before God in humility, and give account of himself before God. If this is the case, we should let God deal with our brother.
See you next week,Lord willing, as we finish up this chapter in the great book of Romans.