map
map
On Disputable matters
Romans 14

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 helps us!

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
-tattoos
-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
-Dating/arranged marriages
-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 without help

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 LIBERTY/DISPUTABLE MATTERS

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. v.13-15

In the exercise of your Liberty, mind the faith and convictions of others as it regards disputable matters

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, then stop.


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 another."


CLOSING SONG: LOVE the Lord your God