Romans 14:1-12

We All Have the Same Master

 

Tom Nettles

 

I. Church Fellowship assumes that it will contain a mixture of the mature and the immature. Romans 14:1-4

A. Christians, newly claimed from the world by the new birth, whose only mark of discipleship is a hearty faith in the completed work of Christ and a desire to turn from sin wherever it appears are to be received into the fellowship of the church. Paul is clear that one should not involve them in disputations. This can be taken to mean that they are not qualified as new Christian to make decisions on issues of doctrinal dispute. Another interpretation could be that they are not to be received with a view to judging their maturity and placing doubtful requirements on them as indications of spirituality. That approach to a new believer often results in the development of a moralistic and legalistic style of sanctification that focuses on externals and shuts of substantial spiritual growth. Both might be implied, but in this context it seems that the latter view is more likely.

B. Verses 2, 3: The example that Paul gives concerns scruples about eating. One person that is doctrinally mature knows that God has created all things and that even the animal kingdom as subject to humanity is valid for food. See 1 Timothy 4:4 for Paul’s vindication of this view and see Peter’s experience in Acts 9:9-16. Theologically this is the more knowledgeable view. Another person, because of something in his background may feel uncertain that he should eat anything that has had animal life and thus confines himself to vegetables. Though eating meat is perfectly acceptable, one does not create a theological necessity of eating meat for one’s diet. The carnivore is not, in principle, superior to the herbivore. By the same token, the vegetable-eater must not condemn the one that feels perfectly at ease in conscience eating flesh along with his salad. Unless one enthrones a kind of dualism as a theological necessity governing the diets of people, both of these options are perfectly acceptable for one’s personal practice. Neither should feel that the other is wrong. God has welcomed both on a ground completely distinct from the substance of one’s diet.

C. Verse 4: All Christians must realize that we have a master to whom we answer in all matters. Under God, no Christian is the servant of another so as to answer to him for those issues that are strictly matters of conscience. We have been set free from all human regulations, and therefore, all human judgment on these kinds of matters; our freedom however, is not a freedom for pursuing the flesh and its manifestations, for this indeed is sin; nor is our freedom an occasion for detachment from the well-being of others but we are by love to serve one another. (Galatians 5:13) We must realize that the Lord himself will direct the steps of his people to lead them into holiness through the means of preaching, worship, the ordinances, and heavenly discipline. He will lose none of his people but will bring them finally to gory and their lives will result in praise and glory and honor at His appearing.

 

II. People will reach different convictions concerning personal religious practice on issues unregulated by divine revelation. Romans 14:5, 6

A. Verses 5, 6a: The esteeming of days concerns special observances throughout the year, whether religious or civil, in which a Christian may or may not participate without any negative reflection on the sufficiency of the gospel. Certain special Sabbaths observed by Jews might still be a matter of observance, recalling special events in the life of the nation without any denial of Christ’s having fulfilled all the types and offices of the Old Covenant. A Christian could not go back to the sacrificial system without denying the priesthood of Christ (Hebrews 10:1-14), but days that commemorate historical events or special holidays [Acts 20:16}Some Christians feel that it is a compromise to celebrate special religious days such as Christmas or Easter and that national holidays such as the fourth of July or Thanksgiving. One may forego celebrating these with no loss to his spiritual life. On the other hand, one may celebrate them, sanctify them and observe them in honor of the Lord. Paul is not talking about the day of the week for Christian worship. We are in fact commanded to observe that day along with all that are within the body that we might encourage one another, hear the word together. If this were a simple matter of individual conscience the writer of Hebrews would not have said “Let us consider how to stir up one another to good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25).

B. Verse 6b: The same principle applies to eating. If one abstains, he must not do it to be seen of men or to give an appearance of greater spirituality than others, but must do so out of conviction and honor the Lord, not harass men. Paul was aware of some that made a great show of abstinence as if it were a superior type of spirituality. In Colossian he described those that submitted to such regulations as if it they constituted a superior religion by having an “appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23)

 

III. In these matters, one must not judge but leave a person’s conscience free before the Lord Himself. Romans 14:7-9

A. Verses 7 and 8: The Christian lives with the constant reality, and blessing, that he is under the lordship of Christ and must do all whether eating or drinking to the glory of God. No moment of the day nor any thought of the mind nor any action of the body is ours but all belongs to Christ and he will hold us accountable for our stewardship. When Paul wrote about sexual purity to the Corinthians, he reminded them, “You are not your own, for you have bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20). When he wrote about whether to be married or remain single, he said, “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your individual devotion to the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:35). When he promoted genuine self-giving and humility he wrote, “Let this mind be in you [have this mind among yourselves] which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) When we make decisions about the nature of our actions, therefore, we must remember that we make these decisions with a view to pleasing the Lord, not men; we must not live to impress men but with a consciousness that our Lord is with us, in us, around us, knowing us, loving us, cleansing us yearning for our holiness, and operating in us for our conformity to Him. “We are the Lord’s.”

B. verse 9: Christ died for this very purpose, that he might be the redemptive Lord of sinners. Had he not died, none would be saved and none would be considering how we might live in a way pleasing to our redeemer. That he, Jesus, might be the first born among many brethren is the reason for Christ’s death and resurrection. Death had its hold on us because we were under the curse of the law that demanded death for sin. Christ became a curse for us, shouldered the burden of sin, bore it in his own body, suffered under its power in the grave and emptied it of any of its claims on those for whom he suffered died and rose again. He has bought us, we are his. He is Lord of the dead, that is those that died in the Lord he has redeemed and will bring them into his presence. He is Lord of the living for they now walk in the light as he is in the light and his blood cleanses us from all sin. This position of living unto the Lord is made possible by the redemptive work of Christ and is a mark of great blessing and grace. Did we not live to the Lord we still would be under his wrath and fit only for eternal damnation.

 

IV. We must not assume to judge our fellow Christians in these matters, but realize that we all are coming to the final judgment that will be infallible and perfectly executed. Romans 14: 10-12

A. Verse 10: Paul points out how presumptuous it is for us to think that we can hold out brothers accountable to our standards, on an issue that is being adjudicated by God alone. How can we accurately evaluate that which is a matter of conscience between a Christian and his Lord, when we ourselves have every moment of our lives to live before God and to seek the live in a way that honors him. Seeking to walk in the Spirit, quench the fiery darts of the evil one, put off the deeds of the flesh, and live responsibly before men to the honor of God should be more than enough for us without taking on that task for another servant of the Lord. To his master he will stand or fall, and the Lord will make him stand.

B.  Verse 11 and 12: Paul shows from Isaiah, (a verse he also uses in Philippians 2) that God himself takes charge of issues of worship and declares that every knee will bow and every tongue confess.” We need not worry that another person might slip by without giving an account to God. Nor should we think that our views on their convictions and conduct is at all necessary for God to give an accurate appraisal of their life before him. He does not need an evaluation sheet from us. Out task, and  amazing privilege, is to give attention to the issues that look us in the face each day and use every opportunity to test and prove what the will of God is—that is the good and acceptable and perfect—that we might be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

 

Though we preach truth and set forth an absolute moral standard which all are to follow, many areas of living are not easily brought under the template of those clearly revealed truths. Some issues must be matters of conscience. No other person can decide what is right for another on such issues of day by day conduct. All are responsible, however, to do nothing that harms one’s neighbor or interrupts the principle of love within the church. Any insincere actions or judgmental spirit are known by the Lord of the living and the dead. We must live in the trust that Christ really does live within his church, is its head, is the one who builds it and will make all of his servants responsible to him.