Zion Baptist Church
Thursday, June 22, 2017
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The Book of Romans
 
Principles of Conduct Among Christians
Romans 14: 1-23, 15: 1-2
 
Introduction:
     The Bible divides Christian conduct into two areas.  In one area the Bible is very clear on how the Christian is to conduct himself.  It is the duty of the Christian to be submissive to the state and to obey the laws of the land.  The Christian is to pay his taxes and show respect for those in authority.  The believer is to pay his bills; he is not to commit adultery, kill, steal, bear false witness, or covet.  The believer is to be honest, and avoid reveling and drunkenness, strife, and jealousy.  The Bible is very clear on these things.
     However, there are some areas of Christian conduct that the Bible has no clear direction.  Some of the issues that have divided churches and the fellowship of believers are the use of tobacco, mixed bathing, women wearing pants to church, dressing causal, the style of worship, and the type of songs sung in the worship service.  In some churches some of these things many be right and in another church they are wrong.  Some churches have even divided on the place the piano is located.
     In our day there are two extreme viewpoints concerning the matter of Christian conduct in “questionable matters.”  One viewpoint has no wall of separation from the world; the lives of these folks are carbon copies of the unsaved.  They go everywhere the world goes, and they spend their time and energy in activities that have no spiritual profit.  There are other folks who do not indulge in any form of worldly amusement, yet they are as worldly as they can possibly be.  They overeat, they don’t get drunk, and they are great gossips.
     The second viewpoint goes in the extreme opposite direction.  They reduce the Christian life to a series of negatives.  They rejoice in salvation by grace and deliverance from the Mosaic Law, but they make a new set of laws to live by.  They become very self-centered, very critical, and very proud.  They become very separated from the world.
     The text gives us three guidelines concerning conduct for our Christian lives relative to “questionable matters”.  The Christian should have conviction about what he does.  The Christian should have a conscience.  Do I look back at what I have done, wondering if I was right or wrong?  The third guideline is consideration for others.  Are other people adversely affected by what I do?
 
I.         Conviction, Vs. 1-5  
 
  1. Vs. 1-5 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 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. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up:  for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemed one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
  2. In the early church, the differences of opinions concerning certain practices such as eating meat and observation of special days may have been the result of the various backgrounds in which they came from before they were saved.  If they came from paganism they may have viewed as tainted the foods and drinks sold in the market place.  1 Corinthians 8:7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.  If they came from certain cults, they may have even been vegetarians.  Today people who convert from Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism have a history of dietary practices, and observation of special days.  Food and calendar issues may therefore have a special importance to them as matters of conscience.  Theologians have called these issues “matters of indifference” since differences of opinion are allowed, but it is easy to see how some believers feel otherwise.  The church must strive for tolerance and understanding on such matters, emphasizing the unity of the church, the expression of love for others, and the purity of the gospel message.
  3. The believer who is weak in faith is overly conscientious about matters not regulated by the Scriptures, but they do have faith.  Therefore, the mature believers must not pass judgment or enter into dispute with those who are less mature. Also, the weak are not to judge the strong by attempting to place excessive prohibitions on them.
  4. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Refers to letting every man see to it that he is really doing what he does for the Lord’s sake and not merely on the basis of some prejudice or whim.  The exhortation does not mean that it is wrong to have strong convictions about “matters of indifference.” However, the basic principle in dealing with “matters of indifference” is to respect the right of other people to have their own convictions.  A believer should do only things to which he can give himself fully and without reserve.  Whatever you do for God you should do with enthusiasm. 
  5. Questionable things and amusements are wrong for the believer if they are not fully persuaded in their own mind that they are right and that they are being done for the Glory of God.  Frequently individuals will ask if doing this or that is wrong.  A proper response would be, “For you it is wrong but for me it’s all right.”  The point is that if an individual has to ask the question if something is right or wrong, it is wrong for them because they have not been “fully persuaded in his own mind.  If a person can participate in questionable things or amusements and maintain a close relationship with Christ, they are not wrong for that individual. 
  6. Each individual believer has a responsibility to make sure that he makes Christ the Lord of his own life and let Christ worry about what the other fellow is doing.  John 21:15-22, So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
 
II.      Conscience, Vs. 6-12 Do I look back at what I have done, wondering if I was right or wrong?
  1. V 6, 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.  Very individual believer must determine for himself whether it is right or wrong to engage in “matters of indifference.”  If in “matters of indifference,” the individual is content only to justify a course of action he personally wants to take, or if he wants to make a display of his conscious liberty, his focus is only on himself and he has no consideration for the conscious liberty of others. John 7:16-18, Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
  2. The example of the text is that the individual who eats and the individual who does not eat both gave thanks to the Lord from their heart.  So who is right?  In this case, there is no right or wrong; it is not what is on the table, but what is in the heart of the individual is important to God. The principle is that, each believer must live and die from the conviction that he belongs to the Lord. Let every individual see to it that he is really doing what he does for the Lord’s sake, and not merely on the basis of some prejudice or whim.
  3. V 7-9, For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.None of us” refers to believers and not people in general. The emphasis of the verse is the believer’s union with Christ and not our relationship with other believers.  Christ’s death and resurrection are given as grounds for why Christ can exercise lordship over both the dead and living. The fact is that the Christian cannot live his lives apart from Christ.  Whether we live or die we live and die in Christ.  The fact is that our conduct as Christians is not gauged by the foods we eat, but by the fact our lives are committed to Christ.
  4. V 10-12, 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. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.    Paul asked the weak Christian, “Why are you judging your brother?”  Then he asked the strong Christian, “Why do you ridicule your brother?”  Then he concludes that both must stand at he judgment seat of Christ and be judged by the Lord.
  5. The judgment seat of Christ has nothing to do with our sins, since Christ has paid for them and they can no longer be held against us. Romans 8:1,There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. At the judgment seat of Christ, every believer must give an account of himself to God.  1 Corinthians 9:24, Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So  run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
  6. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 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.  Paul compares our ministries with the building of a temple. If we build with cheap materials, the fire will burn them up.  If we use precious, lasting materials, our works will last.  If our works pass the test at the judgment seat of Christ, we will receive a reward.  If they are burned up, we lose the reward, but we are still saved “yet so as by fire.”
  7. How does the Christian prepare for the judgment seat of Christ?  By making Jesus the Lord of his life and faithfully obeying Christ.  Instead of judging other Christians, we had better judge our own lives and make sure we are ready to meet Christ at the judgment seat.  1 John 2:28, And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
  8. The fact that our sins will never be brought up against us should not encourage the believer to disobey God.  Sin in our lives keeps us from serving Christ, as we should, and this means loss of rewards.  Lot is a good example of this truth (Genesis 18-19).  Lot was not walking with the Lord as was his uncle Abraham, and as a result, he lost his testimony even with his own family.  When God’s judgment finally came, Lot was spared the fire and brimstone, but everything he lived for was burned up.  He was saved “yet so as by fire.”
  9. When it comes to “questionable matters’ in the Christian life, cannot dedicated believers disagree without being disagreeable?  God does bless people we disagree with.  Can we learn the truth that our first responsibility is to let Jesus Christ be the Lord of our own lives, and permit Christ to deal with His own servants as He wishes? The text stresses the principle of lordship-make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, and let Him be the Lord in the lives of other Christians as well.
 
Do I look back at what I have done, wondering if I was right or wrong?
III.         Consideration for Others, Vs., 13-23
  1. The emphasis of this section is not on the master-servant relationship but our relationship among other believers.  Paul shared several ways in which believers can love each other and built up each other in the faith, even when we have disagreement concerning “matters of indifferences.” 
  2. Vs. 13-15, 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. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. The action of Christians concerning “matters of indifferences” can affect other believers.  We can cause others to stumble, grieve others, or even destroy others.  I Corinthians 8:1, Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. Paul was dealing with the question, “Should Christians eat meat that has been offered to idols?”  The principle to be learned, possessing knowledge that something is right must be balanced by love.  The strong Christian has spiritual knowledge, but if he does not practice love, his knowledge will hurt the weak Christian.  The strong Christian cannot force his knowledge upon the weaker Christian.  But the stronger Christian, with love, can reassure and comfort the weaker brother that it is ok to let go of their fears.  The goal of knowledge plus love is to help the weaker person grow strong in his faith.
  3. There is nothing unclean of itself,” No foods, no special days, and no people are unclean.  In “matters of indifference” what something does to a person determines its quality.  One person may be able to do something and not be bothered by his conscience.   However, a weaker Christian doing the same thing might be tempted to sin.  The issue is not “How does my actions affect me?” so much as “If I do this, how will it affect my brother?”  Will it make him stumble?  Will it grieve him or even destroy him by encouraging him to sin?  It is really worth it to harm a brother just so I can enjoy some food? No!
  4. Vs. 16-18, Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.  In “matters of indifferences” Christians must learn to develop priorities.  It is not food or drink that brings us near to God but our yielding to the leadership of the Holy Spirit to develop our lives on eternal things of righteousness, peace, and joy.  Spiritual priorities are essential to harmony in the local church.
  5. Vs. 19-21, Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Christians must help each other grow.  Both the strong believer and the weak believer need to grow.  The strong believer needs to grow in love and the weak believer needs to grow in knowledge.  As long as a brother is weak in the faith, the stronger believer must lovingly deal with him in his immaturity.  However, if we really love the weaker brother, we will help him grow.  It is wrong for a Christian to remain immature, having a weak conscience.  It is natural for a child to stumble when he is learning to walk.  But if an adult constantly stumbles, that is a sign that something is wrong.
  6. Young Christians need the kind of fellowship that will protect them and encourage them to grow.  But they cannot be treated like babies all their lives!  The older Christian must exercise love and patience and be careful no to cause the younger believer to stumble.  But the younger believer must grow in the faith. II Peter 3:18, But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. As younger Christians mature in the faith, they can help others believers to grow.  To gear the ministry of the local church to baby Christians only is to hinder the weaker Christians growth and it will hinder the stronger Christian from growing in love.  The weak must learn from the strong, and the strong must love the weak.  The result will be peace and maturity to the glory of God.
  7. Vs. 22-23, Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Christians must not force their opinion on others. There are certain truths that all believers must accept because they are the foundation of the faith.  But disagreements concerning “matters of indifferences” must not be made a test of fellowship.  If you have a sincere conviction from God about a matter, keep it to yourself and do not force everybody to accept your conviction.  No Christian can borrow another Christians convictions and be honest with himself.  Unless a person can hold and practice his convictions by faith, he is sinning.  Even if a person’s convictions are immature, he must never violate his conscience.  This would do great damage to his spiritual life.  For example, the mature Christian knows that an idol is nothing. But a young Christian, just converted out of pagan idolatry, would still have fears about idols.  If the stronger Christian forced the new believer to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, the younger Christian would experience problems with his conscience that would only further weaken it. 
  8. Conscience is strengthened by knowledge.  But knowledge must be balanced by love; otherwise it tears down instead of building up.  The principle is that all foods are clean but in themselves they will not make a Christian grow in the faith. When this principle is taught in an atmosphere of love, then the younger Christian can grow and develop a strong conscience.  Believers may hold different convictions about “matter of indifferences” but they must hold them in love.
 
Conclusion:
      “Concerning matter of indifferences,” a believer should come to his decision of action only after he has considered his own obligations, his Christian brother’s good, and God’s glory.  Then our thinking will sound something like this: “This thing seems perfectly right to me.  I can do it with a clear conscience so far as I myself am concerned, but when others are led into sin by my self-indulgence it grieves God and hinders His work.  I love my God and I do not want to grieve Him or hinder His work.  On the contrary I want to glorify Him before men.  I want to live a Christlike life.  Therefore for the glory of God I will refrain from doing this thing.”
     The text gives us three guidelines concerning conduct for our Christian lives relative to “questionable matters”.  The Christian should have conviction about what he does.  The Christian should have a conscience.  Do I look back at what I have done, wondering if I was right or wrong?  The third guideline is consideration for others.  Are other people adversely affected by what I do?
 
 
 
 
Created and Researched by Pastor Dennis Baker
Zion Baptist Church
3485 New Baumgartner Rd. - St. Louis, MO 63129 - Phone: 314-846-1867