On Disputable matters
This morning we are going to take a look at Romans 14. In this passage Paul addresses a
debate that was being carried out in the church. The debate raged around food -what you
could eat and couldn't eat and days of worship -which ones to observe. While these might
not be "top shelf" concerns for us, the discussion of Romans 14 does address an issue that is
very relevant for us and that is
What about the subjects that we are wrestling with- particularly those where there is not a
direct Word of the Lord or Bible passage to guide us. What about matters of conscience?
How are we to approach subjects where there appears to be an allowance for a person to do
something according to Christian liberty- something that is morally acceptable for the one
but not morally acceptable for another person
While we have many clear passages regarding how God wants us to live, there are instances
when the matter is not so clear. How can wrestle with this in a mature way? Romans 14
A note of caution: Some things are not as disputable as we think. Sometimes the
liberties we claim are not for us to claim at all
Further: A tender conscience, a heart that hears the Spirit of God and attends to the
Word is what we want
READ the TEXT Romans 14
THE BIBLE IDENTIFIES FOR US A NUMBER OF THINGS THAT ARE NOT DISPUTABLE
MATTERS -where there is a clear right and wrong according to the Word
Galatians 5:19-21 says; "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and
debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish
ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you,
as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Colossians 3:5-10 says; "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of
these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once
lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage,
malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have
taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being
renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says; "Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom
of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor
men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor
swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you
were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and by the Spirit of our God.
THINGS THAT ARE DISPUTABLE/MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE -some areas of liberty
-Should a mom stay home with her children when they are young
-the sending of your child to the local public school
-certain words and language (which is ever changing)
-head coverings for women in church
-Long hair on a guy
-the taking of various medications for what ails us
-streaming of internet tv
-the intake of alcohol
-is it ok to go out dancing
-what are acceptable displays of affection before marriage
-Which Bible version to use
-What worship style God likes best
-What you can/can't do on a Sunday
-Whether you can/can't buy a lottery ticket
-The kinds of art you can hang on your wall
-The playing of video games that involve violence and swearing
-the watching of TV, going to the movies or theatrical shows
-the listening to of secular music
-whether you are buried or cremated
-the use of birth control (and then of course which ones are morally acceptable)
-what's acceptable between a husband and wife in the bedroom
-how a person comes dressed to church
NOTE: While there may not be a direct Word of the LORD on these things, many wise and
godly Scriptures and principles intersect with each of these subjects- so we are not left
We must always be asking: "What Bible texts and principles intersect and relate to the issue
I am wrestling with or have been challenged to consider"
LESSONS AND PRINCIPLES AS IT REGARDS MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE/CHRISTIAN
1. Matters of conscience and Christian liberty intersect with the strength and maturity of
a person's faith. v.1-10
Instruction: Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters
Matters of conscience directly intersect with where people are at with their journey with
Christ- and how far along they are with Him as it relates to where they have come from
spiritually and their old way of life.
Note: legalism is always a temptation
Our call: The call to all us: Don't get sucked into pointless squabbles and arguments as they
regard positions of conscience. Stick to the Word. Serve Christ. Pursue holiness. Keep to
what is clearly revealed in the Scriptures.
2 EXAMPLES FROM PAUL
a. As for whether a person chooses to be a vegetarian or not v.3
Note: Before the Flood people were vegetarians, Jews stayed away from pork and shell fish,
by a vision to Peter no foods on the restricted list anymore-- yet many Jews still abided by
the old way. Amongst Gentiles there was a debate about whether you could eat food offered
to idols (some couldn't bring themselves to do so)
Point: What people ate/didn't eat was a big issue to them
b. On Holy Days
The Sabbath and Jewish festival days
This is another complex point that Christians even struggle with today. i.e Some believe that
we should be worshipping on the Saturday according to the 4th Commandment. 7th Day
Adventists assert that those who worship on Sunday are going to Hell. This is despite what
this text teaches and the fact that the church from the time of the resurrection of Christ has
met for worship in honor of Christ in Sundays.
There are no grounds for airs of superiority in the Christian community. We are all sinners
saved by grace.
Points: Don't judge. Don't condemn. Don't look down upon
2. In working through "disputable matters" we need to remember that it is Christ to
whom we belong and who we serve. v.6-10
His kingdom is a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. v.17. That should
be our pursuit and concern. Such will impact how we relate to each other
3. When it comes to how we treat our brothers and sisters in the LORD We must
remember this: We will all stand before God's judgment seat and will give an account of
ourselves to God v.10-13
While we who are the followers of Christ are no longer under Judgment and wrath of God
(Romans 8:1) and Hell has no fear for us, we are still required to give an account of how we
live as Christians- for reward and commendations sake and for accountabilities sake- for we
are the servants of God.
Gentleness, love, care- even in matters of rebuke and discipline are necessary- and all the
more so in day to day relations
4. Take steps to safeguard the faith and spiritual health of those around you. In
particular, don't do anything to cause your brother or sister to stumble and fall into sin.
In the exercise of your Liberty, mind the faith and convictions of others as it regards
To advise another follower of Christ to do something that they are not sure they should be
doing- because of their conscience - is wrong
To encourage another follower of Christ- by our speech or example- to do something that
might harm their walk with Christ i.e take up drinking is not right (even though whether one
drinks alcohol in a sparing manner is a matter of Christian liberty)
5. Sometimes we are going to have to deny ourselves for the sake of the other persons
conscience and their walk with Christ v.19-21
The strong are to help the weak. Those who are mature in Christ and in the Word are to help
the others out.
Denial of self. Sacrifice. These being done out of love for one another.
As v19 says; "Let us make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification
We are in community. We have the responsibility of helping each other along in our walk
with Christ. We are not to try and stir things up. We are not to purposefully act and speak in
ways to upset our brothers and sisters in the LORD.
6. There are times -particularly as it regards disputable matters/matters of conscience-
when it's best to keep quiet v.22
This is not a call to being secretive or deceitful or to living a double life. Rather, this a
practical call that reminds us that we are not to try and "stir the pot" and "whip things up".
We have been called to holiness, to righteousness, to being peacemakers, to being builders
as it regards the faith that our brothers and sisters in Christ have.
7. Be careful of what you approve of v.22b
"Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves"
As mentioned earlier- sometimes some things we consider to be matters of Christian liberty
and not prohibited by the Scriptures, are. Constant reflection on our lives, our beliefs, our
practice - in light of the Scriptures are necessary. We must examine ourselves.
8. Don't violate your conscience v.23
If it's wrong for you- even if the Bible allows it as a matter of liberty- heed your conscience.
If whatever it is tearing you up inside and it's because of the LORD and your walk with him,
9. We've got to love one another v.15
If we act in a purposeful and intentional way - particularly as it regards disputable things-
that distresses and upsets a brother or sister in the LORD, we are violating God's command
to love each other.
In John 13:34-35 Jesus says; "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another;
as I have loved you. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one
CLOSING SONG: LOVE the Lord your God