For Our Learning (Romans 15:4-13)

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

One of the most unfortunate tragedies in the Body of Christ today is the ubiquitous ignorance of the Word of God. The fact of the matter is that most Christians do not really know much of what the Bible says and very few really even care. While there is a great deal of activity going on in the average church, solid Bible teaching is seldom part of the program. We have our potluck dinners, our men’s and women’s meetings, our song services, and our fundraisers; but where is the teaching of God’s Word? Sure, we typically have a brief message given by our pastors where one or two verses are pulled (sometimes seemingly at random) from Scripture as a sort of “introduction” to something that may or may not have much to do with the topic of the context, but a systematic examination of the Bible is entirely absent from most churches today.

Yet the Bible, God’s Word, is the vehicle through which the Lord communicates patience, comfort, and hope. The God of patience and comfort (as Romans 15:5 is better rendered; consolation in the KJV is translated from the same word in the Greek as comfort in Verse 4) conveys to us patience and comfort through the Scriptures. The Bible should be read, re-read, studied, examined, dissected, and applied to the heart of every child of God. It has been written for our learning. Even portions of the Word which have fallen into obscurity from neglect and desuetude were originally included in the Canon of Scripture for the express purpose of the spiritual education of the believer. Many Christians question what relevance the Old Testament holds for those in Christ, since we are no longer under the Law of Moses, but the truth is that it has much and in many ways. We must remember that the Old Testament was exactly what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he said, whatsoever things were written aforetime. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul tells them concerning the events of the journey out of Egypt recorded in Exodus that:

“…these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)

We can learn much about God and how He cares for us by looking at how He interacted with those who came before us. By studying the lives of people such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Ruth, and David, we can learn about the provision of the Lord during our own trials and triumphs. The writer to the Hebrews lists a “Hall of Fame” of great heroes of the Old Testament in Hebrews 11. Why?

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Ultimately, it is the Lord Jesus Christ Whom we should see behind all of the examples given to us throughout the Bible. And that is precisely what we are being shown in our text here in Romans, as well. What was written aforetime should lead us to glorify God and to be like-minded toward one another as Jesus is toward all of us. He is our Great Example of how we are to treat one another, as Verse 3 of Romans 15 showed us concerning the relationship between “strong” and “weak” believers, and Jew and Gentile. For though the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus was directed primarily to the Jews (verse 8; cf. Matthew 15:24), the ramifications of His sacrificial death and resurrection are efficacious for the Salvation of the Gentile also, as verses 9-12 confirm.

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself…And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:27, 32)

As He did for Cleopas and the other, unnamed disciple travelling with him, the Lord Jesus will open up the Scriptures and teach each of us the things which pertain to Him. God wants us to understand His Word and learn from it the wondrous truths and promises He has for us. But we must spend the necessary time getting His Word before us and letting the Holy Spirit apply it to our lives. The purpose of this website is to study and examine the Word of God by moving methodically through it, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. Because it is all relevant to us and is beneficial for our spiritual growth and learning. I am grateful to all of you who regularly read these studies and I pray that they serve as a thought-provoking resource for your own personal study of the Bible.

May the Lord richly bless you in your study of His Word. To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

Judgment, Liberty, And Love (Romans 14:10-15:3)

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)

A Christian should not judge other Christians when it comes to areas of uncertainty, that is, areas not specifically covered by Scripture, because we all stand or fall by the grace of God (Rom. 14:4). Secondly, we are not to judge other believers because every one of us will stand one day before the Judgment Seat of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will all give an account of our own actions and will be called to answer for our own decisions; not those of another. With regard to personal convictions, we are not to judge other believers or attempt to change them, but rather to keep our own convictions between God and ourselves, ensuring that we are convinced in our own hearts. It is more important for us to be certain that our own walk is in accordance with what God wants us to do in such matters than to worry about trying to get everyone else to see things our way.

Every Knee Shall Bow

“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11)

Paraphrasing Isaiah 45:23, the Apostle Paul cites the judgment of every person as an illustration of the believer’s judgment before the Lord. Every one will stand before God one day to be judged, but not all judgments are the same. When the Lord says that every knee shall bow, He means both the saved and the lost. The unsaved will stand before Jesus Christ in judgment at what is usually referred to as the “Great White Throne” Judgment (see Revelation 20:11-15) to be judged according to their works. The question of where they will spend eternity is not in view here since it is only the unsaved who will be present. The books of their lives will be opened (Rev. 20:12) alongside the Lamb’s Book of Life. The case against them will show that, not only have their own evil works and deeds condemned them, but the fact that their names are absent from the Book of Life will demonstrate that their fate has been duly sealed. Thus every person, regardless of their opinion of the Lord or even whether or not they personally believed in their earthly life that He existed, will “bow their knee” in subjection to Him in the Day of Judgment and answer for the life they lived.

The “Bema” Judgment

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

This parallel verse in 2 Corinthians also attests to the believer’s judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ (The “Bema” seat, from the Greek term meaning a tribunal or judge’s bench). At this judgment, it is the works of the believer done after they were born again which will be evaluated. Our sins have already been judged in Christ and have been atoned for by His sacrificial death and resurrection on our behalf; our eternal destination has already been determined when we came to Him in faith. But the Bema Judgment is to determine what rewards we will be given in light of our service to the Lord. Speaking of this judgment, Paul had previously written to the Corinthians:

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

Since the Foundation is Jesus Christ, we are obviously not speaking of Salvation being determined because it is only through Christ that we can be saved. We are looking at that which is built upon this Foundation; that which is done after Salvation. Additionally, we are specifically told that, even apart from anything built upon the Foundation, the man whose works are burned will still be saved; yet he shall suffer the loss of reward. It is our works done after we came to the Lord for which we will give account before God.

Placing A Stumblingblock

 “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” (Romans 14:13-14)

The tone now turns to how we should interact with believers of differing convictions and that is that, in love, we must not do anything which will disrupt their own peaceful walk with God. Paul places himself among those who are strong of faith (See verse 15:1) and agrees with what Peter testified to in Acts 10:15, that is, that God has declared all foods clean. The Lord permits those in Christ to eat whatever foods they choose, but if an individual believer feels something is wrong for him personally, then that food is, in fact, unclean for him. A believer from a Jewish background might have a difficult time eating pork after he has come to Christ and that’s okay. For him, it is wrong. His conscience might bother him, even though he knows that Christ permits believers to eat whatever they will. That is between him and God.

On the other side of the coin, it is wrong for another believer to not respect the convictions of the one who feels he should still follow Kosher dietary restrictions. If I were to invite the conscientious Jewish convert over for dinner and serve pork roast, I would not be acting in love. Even if I were to eat it in front of him while he ate something else, I would be guilty of putting up a stumblingblock for him to trip over. I am at liberty in Jesus Christ to eat pork roast, but I am to voluntarily lay that liberty aside when in the company of this other believer in the interest of Christian love and in the interest of peace and fellowship.

Finding Common Ground

 “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19)

All of these matters of observing holy days, dietary practices, and, may I say, even the style of music used in worship or what receptacle water used for baptism should come in (a cup or a tank or a river), are peripheral issues. This is not what the Kingdom of God consists of (v. 17). It is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit that is important. So often, we disregard the 99 things we agree with another believer about and focus on that 100th thing where we disagree. If it is a crucial doctrinal issue, then fine. But if it is something that falls into the category of peripheral, debatable matters then we are instructed to follow after the things which make for peace in our churches. And it is we who are of a stronger faith who are compelled to make accommodation for the weaker brothers and sisters who still might be wrestling with issues we never struggled with, or have resolved long ago. Romans 15:3 closes this section by stating:

“For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.” (Romans 15:3)

We must look to the Lord for our Example and choose to endure a little inconvenience for the sake of easing the concerns of other, less experienced Christians. This is right, proper, and pleasing to God. If Jesus could set aside His rightful privileges while on this earth, how can any of us be unwilling to do likewise?

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

Doubtful Disputations (Romans 14:1-10)

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” (Romans 14:1)

Romans 12 and 13 gave us some very specific guidelines for Christian behavior. We were shown how we are to relate to God and to those around us. But what about those things to which the Bible has nothing directly to say, one way or the other? What about issues where there is a difference of opinion, even between sincere and well-meaning believers?

Romans 14 provides for us instructions about how we are to deal with these matters. Since the beginning of the Church, there have been different viewpoints concerning the spiritual gray areas which Scripture does not explicitly address. There are countless examples, such as how a Christian should dress, wear their hair, whether or not Christian women should wear make-up or jewelry, and what types of entertainment and pastimes are appropriate for believers. Some denominations in the past have prohibited their members from attending plays (and, later, movie theaters), public dances, visiting sporting events or bowling alleys. Some have forbade the use of tobacco in their congregations or the wearing of long pants for their female members.

None of these issues are addressed directly in Scripture and are subsequently covered under a church’s “bylaws”, or ordinances of conduct for their membership. Since these matters are not covered in the Bible (many, obviously, because such institutions and practices did not even exist in Bible times), they are really subject to the interpretations and opinions of those in each particular denomination’s leadership. It goes without saying that there has been a great deal of disagreement from one group to another.

The Bible’s Answer

Rather than resolving the controversy over two such areas of debate within the Roman Church, the Apostle Paul (and the Spirit of God speaking through him) took the opportunity to address such disputes over gray areas in general. It seems that the Church at Rome disagreed over what dietary practices were acceptable for a believer and what days should be treated as “holy days” (if any). Since such a lengthy passage of the Epistle focuses on these two areas, we get the idea that there were likely some very heated debates going on concerning them. The very first instruction given is that those who were weak in the Faith (that is, those who felt, for the sake of their conscience, that they must restrict their diet and abstain from eating meat which had possibly been dedicated to false gods and idols) should be received and welcomed into the congregation, and not for the purpose of arguing, debating, or ridiculing them for their convictions. No, those who believed it was acceptable to eat anything were not even supposed to try and change their “weaker” brothers and sisters.

First and foremost, we see that we are to accept other believers regardless of their own personal convictions over debatable issues. Those of us who feel it is all right to wear our hair anyway we choose or go to movie theaters should not shun other believers who may have reservations about such practices. On the other hand, those who have reservations should not judge or condemn those who do not share their convictions. God has accepted both groups:

“For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.” (Romans 14:2-3)

Since we are all servants of the Lord, it is the Lord to Whom we must answer. We are not at liberty to pass judgment on our Christian brothers and sisters because they have different convictions than we do. God is the Judge of us all and we are accountable to Him alone for our actions in these areas. Now, we must also understand that the focus is on debatable matters here, not genuine moral issues. The Church at Corinth was reprimanded by Paul for not shunning a sexual deviant in their congregation (1 Corinthians 5). If a fellow believer is committing open sin, it is the Church’s duty to address it. But as to the debatable matters, we are to accept those whom the Lord accepts.

The Keeping Of Days

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14:5-6)

How a particular believer chooses to express his worship is an entirely personal and individual matter between him and God. We are in no way permitted to dictate to other Christians how they should worship or even what day they should observe as holy. To the Colossians, Paul wrote:

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” (Colossians 2:16)

In other words, it is no one else’s business how we conduct ourselves with regard to our dietary practices or our observance of holy days. That is between each believer and God. The important thing is that each Christian is doing what he feels is right for him in his own heart. Let every man be fully persuaded, we are told. If a Christian wishes to observe Sunday, Saturday, or any other day, as long as he feels at peace with God about it, it is perfectly acceptable. He must not, however, judge others who feel differently.

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)

Even so, there are many who want to judge other Christians over these very issues. It has always puzzled me how certain extreme “Sabbath-Keeping” denominations are so militant about trying to convert every Christian to the observance of Saturday church services. It is most peculiar that Romans 14 and Colossians 2:16 specifically forbid the judging of other believers with regard to diet and holy day observance; and what are the primary two areas which groups such as the Seventh-Day Adventists condemn other believers? The eating of meat and the observance of Sunday services. Thankfully, it is not to other people that we will ultimately give an account of our walk with the Lord but to the Lord Himself.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[For more about the keeping of the Sabbath, please click here for my article titled “Should Christians Keep The Sabbath?”]