Pauls Footsteps #377

 “So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10).

Footsteps #377. This last section of Romans is a paradox. God calls us to live in certain ways. We become convicted of those ways. Yet, He also calls us to love our fellow believers and, at times, set aside our lifestyle convictions in order to lift them up. Romans is the book from which the Protestant Reformation was born – the book that more than any other should show us why we must continue to rest on the principle of Sola Scriptura, the Bible alone is the standard of faith. Perhaps the whole thing can be summarized by the pagan jailer’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). In Romans, we got the answer to that question. 

In this, the last section, Paul touches on other topics, perhaps not as central to his main theme, yet important enough to be included in the letter. Thus, for us, they are sacred Scripture, as well. The implications of chapter 14 are far-reaching for every thoughtful Christian.  

Who are the ‘weaker believers’ in vs1-12? Romans 14 is important for us to consider because firstly, it is misunderstood in our 21st-century context, and secondly because it is badly interpreted and misapplied as a result of this misunderstanding. In first-century Christianity and here in Romans 14:1-3 in particular, the question concerns the eating of meats that may have been sacrificed to idols. The Jerusalem council (Acts 15) ruled that Gentile converts should refrain from eating such foods. But there was always the question as to whether meats sold in public markets had come from animals sacrificed to idols (see 1 Cor.10:25). Some Christians didn’t care about that at all; others, if there were the slightest doubt, chose to eat vegetables instead. The issue had nothing to do with the question of vegetarianism and healthful living. Nor is Paul implying in this passage that the distinction between clean and unclean meats (which predated Judaism – see Gen 7:2) has been abolished. This is not the subject under consideration. If the words “he may eat all things” (Rom. 14:2) were taken to mean that now any animal, clean or otherwise, could be eaten, they would be misapplied. Comparison with other New and Old Testament passages would rule against such an application. 

Meanwhile, to “receive” one weak in the faith meant to accord him or her full membership and social status. The person was not to be argued with but given the right to his or her opinion. This is the principle that we should take from this 2,000year old passage today. Different believers hold different convictions; and yet none is to judge another. 

It’s important, too, to realize that in Rom.14:3 Paul does not speak negatively of the one “weak in the faith” in Rom.14:1. Nor does he give this person advice as to how to become strong. So far as God is concerned, the overscrupulous Christian (judged overscrupulous, apparently, not by God but by his or her fellow Christians) is accepted. “God has accepted them.” (V3). V4 amplifies that thought. 504

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