As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 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 will give an account of himself to God.
- We are to welcome those who are weak in the faith.
- We are not to quarrel over opinions
- What you eat is given does not matter.
- You may be a vegetarian or not. It does not matter.
- A vegetarian should not look down on a meat eater.
- A meat eater should not look down on a vegetarian.
- We have no right to pass judgment on another.
- Only the master has a right to pass judgment on his servant.
- The Lord upholds His servants.
- The religious opinions we hold we should have a reason for holding them.
- It does not really matter rather you believe one day is more special than the rest. Or all days are the same.
- Whatever our opinions are they should be held to glorify the Lord.
- We give thanks to God for what we have.
- None of us live for ourselves but for God.
- None of us die for ourselves but for God.
- Christ died and rose again so He would be Lord of both the living and the dead.
- We should not pass judgment on our brother.
- We should not despise our brother.
- We will all stand before God in judgment.
- Every knee will bow to God.
- Everyone will confess to God.
- Everyone will give an account of themselves to God.
The basis of what Paul is saying here is this – the more grace we have received from the Lord the more we are bound to show grace to our neighbor and brother. Understanding this passage is a good exercise in hermeneutics. One of the rules of biblical interpretation is that scripture interrupts scripture. Put another way, scripture does not contradict itself. All scripture must be understood so that is all fits together as a whole. With that principle in mind, how do we understand this passage in light of the rest of what Paul has already written to the Roman, plus Galatians plus 1st and 2nd Corinthians plus James plus the teaching of Jesus in the gospels, plus, plus, plus. In other words, Paul and Jesus condemned others for their false teaching and unbelief. Yet here Paul says, “But not to quarrel over opinions.” What is Paul saying? Add to that the fact, we live in a culture that believes everything is opinion and there are no absolute truths. How are we to understand what Paul is saying?
This can be most easily resolved by examining closely Paul’s words. Paul talks about types of food and drink. He talks about observing religious holidays and how they are observed. Paul is talking about outward expressions of religion. Do we have hip hop music or a smells and bells church service? While I have my preference, this appears to be the type of thing Paul is talking about. Paul is saying how we express our devotion and worship of God is of a secondary nature. These issues are not part of the gospel. In Galatians and Philippians and even earlier in this book, Paul is discussing things that are essential to the gospel. Where the essentials of the gospel are at stake Paul’s response is very different.
Here Paul says eating meat and not eating meat is not important in to the gospel of Christ. This is the same teaching Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The issue is not rather we eat meat, drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes. The issue is – we are to do everything to glorify God. If some think smoking and drinking are sinful we are not to look down on them. As long as their not smoking and not drinking is done to glorify God, we are to close our mouths. By the same token we should not look down on those who smoke and drink as long as their smoking and drinking is to the glory of God. Nor should we compel non-smokers and non-drinkers to smoke and drink, or compel smokers and drinkers to stop, as many have done. God welcomes both into His kingdom. Who are we to despise what God embraces?
We are God’s servants. Other believers are God’s servants we have no right to bring God’s servant under our rules. God is their judge. We are not. If we condemn anything in one of God’s servants because it does not please us, we are presuming on God. We are trying to make God’s servant our servant. We are thus stealing from God.
The Jewish law prohibited the certain meats as unclean. Certain days were set aside in the Jewish law as solemn days. The Jews were commanded to observe these days and set them aside as special days. Jews who had been raised from childhood in the doctrine of the law were unable to simply set them aside. They background inhibited their ability to have a clear knowledge of Christian liberty. By abstaining from what they thought was unlawful and displeasing to God they demonstrated evidence of piety. To have done otherwise would have been presumptuous and contemptuous. The rule Paul applies is that everyone is to be fully assure in their own mind.
Let us be careful in identifying the essentials of the gospel. The essentials are not how we worship. While I am convinced that some ways are better than others, they are not something to divide over. I was once in a church that deeply divided over the music in the church. There were those that insisted on traditional hymns. On the other side were those who thought that the church should sing contemporary Christian songs. In an effort to try and demonstrated ridiculousness of the controversy I said I wanted country music. Then I found out there were churches that sang only country gospel music. I guess there are worship styles of all types.
There is tremendous liberty in Christ. We have a tendency add to the commands of God from our cultural back grounds and our own personal experiences. We must be careful that we do not impose the restrictions we have placed on ourselves on others. But care also must be taken that we do not ignore the commands of God by claiming them as the commands of man. In all things search the scripture. Allow God to change your stance on any position if it does not conform to His word. And the only way to know whether or not your stance is in line with God’s is by a study of the scripture.
Where the scripture speaks there is the obligation to obey. Where the scriptures are silent there is liberty. I have not found anything thing about country music in the scriptures so that must be a point of liberty. 🙂