‘Thoughts On: Disputable Matters (Conclusion)

This message can be viewed here.

Geoff Thomas is a preacher at a church in Great Britain. He presented a sermon in 2006 to the congregation at Alfred Place Church. He entitled that sermon “Judging Disputable Matters.” I found the sermon by searching the Internet because I was lost in disputable issues and wanted freedom. In prayer I have sought such freedom. Mr. Thomas’ teaching impressed me and I am using his message as an outline for this essay.

Romans 14:1-2
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters . One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

In previous essays we examined the Christian liberty. There is a problem with food. We’ve been able to determine that the person whose faith is weak is the person seeking to regulate the act of eating meat or taking drink. We’ve addressed the problem. We’ve delved into what Christ says about the problem.

We have even discussed the possibility that we could substitute other regulations into this equation. The opinions or traditions of men could cause divisions. Substitute baptism for meat. Exchange the drinking of wine for taking the Lord’s Supper. Let celebrating Christmas, Easter or Halloween for that matter take the place of feast days.

Whose faith is weak? Is it the advocate for immersion baptism, Holy Spirit baptism, sprinkling, church membership dependent baptism?

Whose faith is weak? What about communion? It is a sacrament in many Christian churches. There are churches that practice communion weekly, some monthly, some quarterly and others take communion when the mood hits. Is it appropriate to advocate that only people who openly confess Christ as Savior take communion? Is it the right of only church members?

Whose faith is weak? Is the advocate for the annual Christmas play or choir performance the final authority? What about demanding an Easter parade or spring rites?

Whose faith is weak when it comes to so many other church or denominational traditions? What is allowed and who makes the regulations? What is the enforcement and who is the enforcer? Shall one Christian say my authority is from the Word of God and another Christian does not concur?

Do you see the conflict? The question remains though; whose faith is weak? The person demanding only vegetables, no wine and revered feast days?

What are the weak in faith to learn? What are we to take from a sermon message such as this?

First, there is nothing unclean in and of itself.

Romans 14:13-14
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.

Vegetables and meat are not evil. What matters is our relationship with God through His Son Christ Jesus. We find cleanness in the Holy Spirit. It is God Who delivers “…righteousness and peace and joy….”

Think this through with me. Pain relief comes to us by the bark of a willow tree. God gives us the willow tree and the bark contains the substance that we know as aspirin. That gives our bodies a physical relief.

Jellyfish sting and can cause seizure like disorders. It is good to avoid jellyfish because of the potential one could be seriously harmed. Jellyfish also have within them a protein that attaches to brain cells. The jellyfish protein replaces what the human body cannot produce any longer because of age. Dementia, even patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, have shown improvement because of the jellyfish protein supplementing what their own bodies can no longer produce.

A person weak in faith would demonize chewing on willow bark until he was in pain. He might not ingest jellyfish protein until his memory started to fail him.

1 Timothy 4:4-5
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

How many men and women do you know who take a baby aspirin each day as part of a regimen to treat heart disease?

I have seen first hand the sorrow caused by dementia and in particular Alzheimer’s disease. My sense is there are few families that have not been affected by these aging disorders.

Let us be careful here and not be foolish. Paul’s letter to the early church in Rome and subsequently to us is in regard to a weakness of faith. Men and women were ostracizing peers. The weak in faith were unable to live in the liberty that comes from a life in Christ.

The weak in faith were demanding rules of diet be kept. Paul is telling them that their theology was wrong. The weak in faith were demanding that Christians refrain from wine. Paul is telling them that their theology was wrong. The weak in faith were demanding the church keep certain days, rites and rituals sacred. Paul is telling them that their theology is wrong.

Paul is NOT telling the weak in faith or any of the faithful that illicit drug use was permissible. He is not advocating drunkenness. He is not advocating gluttony. He is not advocating special holy days. Illicit drugs, drunkenness and holy days are expressly forbidden to Christians.

The church in Corinth does not have an issue with food, drink or holy days. Their issue is taking Christian liberty to the other extreme. They were teaching that licentiousness was forgiven and in some instances required. They would sing, “Everything is permissible to us.” Paul had to set that record straight, too.

1 Corinthians 6:12
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

The Corinthians were driven by sexual immorality. Paul was letting them know that just because they experience Christ and were now Christ’s those people did not have license to engage in behaviors they should not.

All things are lawful to us. But not all lawful things are beneficial. Gluttony, drunkenness, sexual immorality, perversions and more are caused by something that has been given power over us. I surrender my body to too much food. I surrender my body to too much wine. I surrender my body to illicit or inappropriate sexual relationships.

All things are lawful to us. But not all lawful things are beneficial.

If I surrender my body to follow a path that satisfies my flesh I have surrendered self-control. There is no law against self control. There is a law against self harm, however.

Let’s distinguish between creation and culture. All things made are made by God. All things have a purpose. A good purpose that can be abused.

Mr. Thomas provides these God made and man made analogies.

God makes sand. Man makes computers.
God creates sexual relationships. Man makes pornography.
Celluloid comes from creation, but films are made by people.
Cocaine comes from creation, but people make ‘crack’ from it.
God created mankind with physical movements. Men created close dancing and sensual enticements to the movement of the body.

Not everything in the world should be received with thanksgiving. There is a proliferation of Internet pornography. People, men and women, in every corner of the world are enslaved to what is not good.

Eating meat is not for everyone. Some good people choose to eat only the fruit of the ground.

Keeping the seventh day of the week holy is not possible for everyone. For some it is just another day in the week.

A Jew who has converted to Christian living may choose to refrain from meat. She may keep every Saturday holy. It would not be unimaginable that such a person would keep her practice quietly. Her Jewish culture affects her Christian life.

It would be a fool’s errand to try to change that person’s behavior. It would be more gracious to love her and to accommodate her lifetime habits.

Romans 14:23
But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

If our dear Jewish friend weeps at the idea of eating an unclean meat, then it behooves us to love her in her decision, even to support her in it. If she eats something that goes against her good conscience, then she is eating that thing and going against her faith. “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

We cannot be indifferent to those in our fellowship.

Romans 14:7-8
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.

Is that not the truest principle of Christian life? “We are the Lord’s.” Are we not to live every moment of every day in such a way to please the Lord.

Go to the Lord everyday. Praise Him for what He has given you to eat. Seek forgiveness for not eating all that He has provided. But do not put yourself in a situation where you need to seek His forgiveness for excluding the one whose faith is weak.

Those who are in the faith are zealous. They know God’s Word. They are sincere, thoughtful people. When they see a brother or sister in Christ fail their beliefs are bolstered. Those weak in faith are still wrong. They still doubt. They still question.

They see failing Christians and their own morality is made stronger. They are not, though. They are still wrong.

God does condemn censorious Christians. The person weak in faith. The person whose faith is strong can be equally wrong.

Romans 14:3-4
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.

I imagine there might be some who will review this essay and determine the message is too liberal. There might be recriminations and I may be judged unfairly. The “judge” won’t think so. If I say to the faithfully strong that he is to love and to respect the faithfully weak is that un-Christian? If I say to the faithfully weak that he is to respect the liberty of the other, have I been untruthful? “The Lord is able to make him stand.”

A critical person might complain that I am advocating indulgence and vice. That would be untrue.

It is not my place nor the place of any other Christian to judge or to condemn! Shall we decry families who have television sets without parental controls? Shall we implore all believers to cancel their subscriptions to Internet services? Shall we cut off the mail and other advertising? It’s all worldly and each of those can be dangerous.

Perhaps we should advocate for one Christian denomination over another? Think that through. We do! WE condemn each other because of our beliefs. One denomination is strong in faith and lords their strength over the weak. The weak denomination is strong in their conviction that the strong is the weaker. Divisions are the consequence.

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.

Teach the Gospel.

2 Timothy 2:22-26
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Let God do His work. Live the admonition given to Timothy. Make it your own. God will make the changes.

We have been given great liberty in Christ Jesus. We are not bound to the Law. We should not surrender to another what God has given us in Christ Jesus.

There are decisions that we have to make every day. Our freedom in Christ should dictate the choices we make.

Acknowledge Christ as King. Respect Him and obey His command.

James 2:8-13
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Praise Him for His mercies are fresh every day.

About Jim Barnes

A man seeking to please the Lord. A man striving to abide in Christ Jesus. A man whose hope is to see just one more come into the fold.
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