Romans 14 Disagreement between believers.
In Rome believers squabbled over whether or not to eat meat or whether to observe Jewish holy days and customs. If they had kept their convictions to themselves, there would’ve been no problem but they began to criticize and judge one another. The squabbling hasn’t abated even today. We argue over many more things, such as the color of carpet or which flowers to put out on a certain day or week. Some churches argue over even less important things than these, but the point is…we are supposed to be united in Christ! Regardless of our denomination or doctrine, yet the collective church is very divided in many ways.
In this section of the chapter, Paul begins and ends it with an admonition. He addressed those who were strong in their faith and did not waver toward holy days or diets but kept their freedom in Jesus Christ. He also addressed those who were worried about their diet or the Law and told them that they were immature in their faith. Many people think that Christians who follow strict rules in their faith are the more mature, when it is really the other way around. In the Roman church, the weak and immature Christians were judging the more mature Christians and the strong Christians were despising the weak Christians.
Paul told them to welcome one another and gave four reasons why they should. We are only focusing on one today.
The first reason is: God has received us into His family
It is not our individual responsibility to decide the requirements for Christian fellowship in a church, only the Lord can do this. To set up man-made restrictions or rules based on the personal prejudices or convictions is to go beyond the Word of God. Perhaps St. Augustine got it right when he said: “In essentials-unity; in non-essentials-liberty; in all things charity”. We are free in Jesus Christ to do that which brings honor and respect to the church and to the Word which we hold as the Truth.
When God sent Peter to take the gospel to the gentiles, the church criticized Peter because he ate with these new Christians. But God revealed His acceptance of them because He gave them the Holy Spirit just as He had done in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Peter did not stay in this freedom because later he refused to fellowship with the Gentiles at Antioch, where Paul had to rebuke him.
God showed both Peter and Paul that Christian fellowship was not to be based on food or religious calendars, but on their faith in Jesus and the freedom that we are given through Him.
In every church there are some who are more mature in their faith and some who are weak. The weak and the strong, young Christians in the faith and those who have been studying God’s Word for many years, are not to look down on each other because one feels freedom through Jesus and the other sees being a Christian as “following the rules”.
Peter asked the Lord, “Lord, what shall this man do?”; the Lord’s reply was, “What is that to you? Follow thou me!”
In other words, the Lord told him this: “Peter, make sure you have made Me Lord of your life. Let Me worry about John” or any other believer. When other Christians are criticizing other Christians for what they do, we are being judges. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing, follow Jesus and let Him be your Lord!
Paul emphasized this in verse 8 when he said: “Whether we live, therefore, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s”. Our responsibility is to the Lord and following Him in our life, not worrying about other Christians and their lives. If your brother in Christ is still drinking beer, don’t chastise him. If Jesus hasn’t convicted him of this, let him be. The same goes with smoking or any other so-called “vice”, follow Jesus in your life and let Jesus take care of other Christians.
Paul asked those who were young in their faith, the weaker Christians, “Why are you judging your brother?”; then he asked the same question to the stronger more mature Christians in the church. Both of them will stand at the judgment and be judged by the Lord in their walk with Him, so what is that to you or me?
All of our works, good or bad, will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ by the Lord Himself. It is not our place to do so in this life and it has nothing to do with our sins or our salvation since Christ paid the price for all of them and as believers our sins cannot be held against us anymore. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 Paul compares our ministries in Christ with the building of a temple. If we build with cheap materials, the fire will burn them up. If we use precious, lasting materials, then our temple (works) will last. If our works for the Lord pass the test, we receive the reward. If they are burned up, we lose our rewards but we are saved “yet so as by fire”.
Anything that we do in this life for the Lord and through His Strength will last, we should make sure of our faith in Him and our belief in Him. Your life is your witness just as every word and deed which others see you do. If it is done to please Jesus and would be approved by Him, then you are secure in your salvation. Don’t worry about what others say or do in their walk with Him, because Jesus is the final Judge and it is His approval which we should seek!