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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 14

Verses 1-13

  1. Intro:
    1. Questions:
      1. When are you free to enjoy your liberty?
      2. When should you limit it for the sake of others?
      3. What gray areas has the Lord told you to abstain?
      4. How should you respond to those who enjoy more liberties than you do, IF they’re participating in those activities w/discretion?
      5. How should you respond to those who are flaunting their liberties?
      6. How do you respond to those who choose to enjoy fewer liberties than you do, especially when you are in their company?
        1. Over the next 2 weeks we’ll tackle these questions.
    2. Your love may be tested more by Christians who disagree w/you, than by unbelievers who persecute you.
      1. It takes a diamond to cut a diamond. Swindoll
    3. What do you do when your Christian brother/sister disagrees with you, on how God’s people ought to live?
    4. Let’s establish right up front what Paul’s is not talking about.
      1. He is not talking about clearly laid out doctrines of Scripture.
        1. He is talking about biblical Gray areas!
          1. Gray areas? - areas of doubt and opinion.
          2. Neutral issues? - preferences & tradition (“but we’ve always done it this way”)
    5. Sometimes disputable matters turns us blue in the face, which makes our Christian friend see red, but Paul points out here it should be Gray!
    6. Title: Shades of Gray: Gray is not black or white!
    7. Slide#7 Outline: Accept One Another; Accept Non-Essentials; Accept The Lordship of Christ.
  2. ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER! (1-4)
    1. ​​​​​​​No disputes over doubtful things or over disputable matters NIV; or do not quarrel over opinion ESV
    2. Background: A lot of issues in that day on how the food was prepared, if it was sacrificed to a pagan god?
      1. So here it was: the Carnivores vs the Herbivores; the meat-eaters vs the plant-eaters; the Juicers vs the Vegans; In-n-Out vs 5 Guys!
      2. The abstainers had concluded that what was wrong for them was wrong for everyone!
    3. (3) Do you consider yourself a mature believer? – If so, love demands that you defer to the immature believers in the family.
      1. Love protects people & gives them a chance to grow up.
      2. But vs.3 lets us know BOTH weak & strong or mature bel’s & new bel’s, acceptance must be mutual!
    4. God has welcomed both the “weak” & the “strong”.
      1. Weak in the sense that they were uncertain about how faith in Christ affected the status of OT regulations.
        1. Example: When I 1st got saved I had a Crucifix on the wall, at the foot of my bed. When I’d say my prayers at night I was told I should stare at the crucifix when I prayed. It was a habit for 19 years. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to stop?
    5. How much of your religious heritage should you give up when you get saved? How much do you need to give up?
      1. Share about missionary in Perspectives.
      2. “Redeem what you need to redeem, Don’t what you don’t need to.”
      3. We don’t care much about a drunk’s theology if he stumbles in at the last minute before the altar call of a Billy Graham Crusade, & ends up going forward to accept Christ.
        1. Yet when we have a Muslim man come to Christ, he better know how to cross his “T’s” in Trinity & dot his “I’s” in Incarnation!
      4. Peter, after a few years of ministry with Christ, was finally able to say who Jesus was, but as he did, Jesus said it was the Father that tipped him off. He didn’t get it on his own.
    6. Since meat eating isn’t a big issue today, what might be some of these areas Christians are divided over, that aren’t considered sin in Scripture?
      1. 1st I’ll add, before giving this list: Scriptures do give guidelines in relation to each of these.
      2. 2nd I’ll add, Think beyond Southern California. Think of a church in the South vs. a church in the North. An ultra-conservative church vs. A very liberal church. A church in Germany vs. A church in Haiti.
      3. 3rd I’ll add, some of these will sound funny now, others might immediately make you roll up your sleeves: Going to movies, having a TV/cable, cosmetics, tattoos, alcohol, tobacco, card playing, dancing, fashion(does trendiness=worldliness?), which bible translation you use, sports, Music, Material wealth.
        1. Wherever you stand on these issues, you must accept your Christian brother or sister who differs.
        2. If you are an abstainer, you must not judge the participator. If you are an participator, you must not judge the abstainer.
        3. This call to acceptance comes to us as a command of God. If we are to obey Him, we have no choice! (Kent Hughes, pg.262)
      4. So Brian, doesn’t that make Christianity pretty wishy-washy? No, we are not talking about Essentials(Sin, Deity of Christ, salvation by faith, lying, stealing, etc.), but Non-essentials.
        1. So, Wing-tips or flip-flops; walk to church or drive a Lamborghini; move your body to the music or stand erect; KJV or the Message Bible...Let’s Accept One Another.
  3. ACCEPT NON-ESSENTIALS! (5,6)
    1. ​​​​​​​2nd issue is in regards to days. Certain days of the week, Sabbath observance, Holy days, maybe Feast Days.
      1. We have no problem if a church wants to meet & have church on Saturday. But they’re wrong if they think everyone needs to do the same.
      2. How do you celebrate Christmas? Is the Stockings allowed but not Santa? A Tree but not too much Tinsel? Halloween/Harvest is coming up. Costumes or no costumes. Biblical costumes only, or is Hello Kitty ok?
    2. Two of the most famous Christians in the Victorian Era in England were Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker, both of them mighty preachers of the Gospel. Early in their ministries they fellowshipped and even exchanged pulpits. Then they had a disagreement, and the reports even got into the newspapers. Spurgeon accused Parker of being unspiritual because he attended the theater. Interestingly enough, Spurgeon smoked cigars, a practice many believers would condemn.
      1. Who was right? Who was wrong? Perhaps neither, perhaps both of them were wrong!
        1. 2 more things about Spurgeon’s cigars: 1st, when asked about his cigars, he said he did not smoke to excess. When asked what he meant by excess, he answered, “No more than 2 at 1 time!” - 2nd, what many do not know about this story is when he gave up his cigars...when a large billboard was erected with a picture of him smoking a cigar on it.
      2. There is a reverse truth implicit here also,which is: If the Lord convicts you that something is wrong in your life, you had better not do it, even if other Christians are doing it! [more on this next week]
  4. ACCEPT THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST! (7-13)
    1. ​​​​​​​(7) All believers live out their lives accountable to God!
      1. Thus no decisions are made in isolation, but in accordance w/the will of God as understood by the individual!
    2. (10) Note the 2 times he uses brother to emphasize unity that weak & strong Christians have.
      1. He’s saying, “stop trying to be God to one another.”
    3. All of us are going to stand before the Bema, the judgement seat of Christ.
      1. There your works as believers will be judged. There God will judge your motives.
      2. Slide#12 2 Cor.5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
      3. 1 Cor.3:13-15 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
      4. Bema is the transliteration of the Greek word Judgment seat.
        1. Paul appeared at Gallio’s bema seat in Corinth (Acts 18:12); at Herod’s bema seat in Caesarea (Acts 23:35); and at Nero’s bema seat in Rome (Acts 25:10).
      5. Personally I will be glad when my life has been exposed and corrected. For the first time I will be 100% right about everything. Ha!
    4. ​​​​​​​Each believer will have enough to do in keeping his own account right without interfering with others accounts!
      1. Reconcile your own bank account!
      2. One thing is for sure, we’ll have to give account for our judgmental attitude towards our fellow Christians.
      3. Know this...the final judgment is up to God. His evaluation will be perfect. Our reward will be exactly what we deserve. As will our brothers & sisters.
    5. (13) Our desire must not to be to get everybody to agree w/us; our desire must be to pursue peace, not cause others to stumble, & help others to mature in Christ.
      1. Both strong & weak Christians can cause their brothers & sisters to stumble.
        1. One may flaunt their freedoms in Christ; The other may try to fence the others in w/petty rules & regulations.
      2. We need to be both strong in the faith, & sensitive to other’s needs.
      3. We are all strong in some areas, & weak in others.
    6. So Paul gave us Christian guidelines for Gray areas, to achieve unity amidst diversity!
      1. Receive those who are different than you.
      2. Don’t look down on those w/differing views.
      3. Remember that those who disagree w/us are still accepted by God.
      4. Let God Judge!
      5. Love requires self-limitations!
      6. Become convinced what is right for you personally!
      7. All members of the body of Christ are interrelated, interconnected, & interwoven!
      8. We both are the Lord’s. We are on the same team!
      9. All members will face God’s Bema judgment individually.
      10. There is no right & wrong side…except for you personally.
      11. You will be graded on your attitudes you’ve displayed & how you’ve treated those who disagreed with you.
    7. Lets’ remember it often comes down to a judgment call.
      1. And we’re bound to make mistakes now & then.
      2. If we love one another, love covers a multitude of sin & I’m sure...a multitude of mistakes!
    8. We’ll give Rupertus Meldenius the last word: (a Lutheran theologian and educator. 1582-1651)
      1. “In Essentials, Unity; in non-essentials, Liberty; in all things, Charity!”

Verses 14-23

  1. Intro:
    1. Last week we started the discussion about the Gray Matter’s of life.
      1. Not discussing clearly stated sin areas, but doubtful things vs.1 (disputable matters, opinions)
      2. They say, Judging one another, according to our little lists, is one of the favorite sports of Christians today!
        1. “Look as I look, Do as I do...Then, & only then, I’ll fellowship with you.”
      3. Let’s remember 3 things: [1] Genuine acceptance of one another is the only option available to believers [2] Individual Christians can disagree over customs & social habits & both be perfectly right with God [3] We must submit to the Lordship of Christ & refrain from judging others, because we all will stand before the Bema-seat of Christ & give account of ourselves to Him.
    2. Ever heard of a [fyoo·NAM·bu·list] Funambulist?
      1. Lt. funis rope + ambulare to walk [ambulant = able to walk; ambulance = walking hospital]
        1. Rope Walkers, Tight Rope Walker.
    3. 4 types of Tight Rope Walkers:
      1. Tight wire - is the art of maintaining balance while walking along a tensioned wire between two points.
      2. High wire - is the same as tight wire but at much greater height.
      3. Slacklining - is when the rope is slightly springy and taut so that it can launch funabulists into the air to perform acrobatic tricks.
      4. Slack wire - Where the rope hangs slightly loose. Popular for clowning & juggling.
      5. Skywalk wire - akin to highwire, but generally defined by its length and height, often taking place outdoors at great heights, often between skyscrapers, gorges, mountains or other natural and man-made landscapes.
    4. Just 3 months ago, on June 15, 2012, high wire artist Nik Wallenda, 7th generation member of the famous Flying Wallendas, became the 1st person ever to to cross Horseshoe Falls, 200 feet up and 1550 feet across on a 2” steel wire.
      1. After battling wind swells and dangerously thick mist, Wallenda completed his walk in just 25 minutes during which viewers could hear his repetition of prayers. :)
    5. Back in 1974 Philippe Petit became world famous. For 45 minutes he crossed & re-crossed a cable stretched between the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center, 7 times.
      1. He tried to describe why he took such a risk: “I feel I belong to the sky. It is the moment of purest happiness…I breathe very slowly & enjoy immensely the miracle of balance…I felt fear, & I fought it, & then laughed at it. I lay down on a wire w/my nose almost in the clouds & listened to the noises of the everyday world fall silent until I was surrounded by complete peace. I knew the rapture of the heights.” (Quoted from Reader’s Digest, April 1975, pg.226,7.)
        1. Let’s look at: The Miracle of Balance & The Rapture of the Heights.
  2. THE MIRACLE OF BALANCE! (14-20)
    1. ​​​​​​​(13) Let’s start back in vs.13, which sets up the rest of the chapter.
      1. Stumbling block = something carelessly left about, over which someone stumbles.
      2. Cause to fall/or obstacle = something deliberately left to ensnare another.
        1. Don’t be an obstruction wittingly or unwittingly.
    2. Picture yourself walking a tight rope:
      1. The longer you’ve walked as a Christian, the higher the Tight Rope.
        1. Of course, the higher the Tight Rope…the longer the fall.
      2. When a Christian slips he doesn’t loose his salvation, but he may stumble other younger Christians looking on.
        1. Yet beneath awaits a safety net woven with cords of Grace & ropes of Forgiveness.
    3. CONSIDER IT UNCLEAN! (14-16)
    4. (14a) There is nothing unclean of itself - Nothing is intrinsically unclean.
      1. Intrinsic = by or in itself, rather than because of its associations or consequences.
        1. What about Tobacco? Nothing wrong with the plant. Just harmful when you light it on fire & inhale the fumes.
        2. What about Opium? It’s only Poppy seeds which makes wonderful cakes, & makes the important pain-killer Morphine & also Codeine for medicine.
          1. Jesus said, Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. Mt.15:11
          2. Regarding food Paul said, For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;
    5. (14b) An activity may become unclean if it’s done the wrong way or w/the wrong motives.
    6. (15) No longer walking in love – How fundamental.
      1. Love lovingly limits all of its liberation & liberty!”
      2. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Our Concern for our weaker brothers & sisters will reign in the ways we express our freedom.
      3. The balancing pole used in Tight Rope walking may be up to 39’ long and may weigh as much as 31 lbs.
        1. Usually there are even weights in the ends.
        2. Slide#11,12 Picture on the one end Liberty, on the other Love!
        3. On the one hand you have some Christian friends who are Freedom Suppressors; Others, who are Compromise Promoters. Some shouting, “Wear these handcuffs, I wear them!” Others whispering, “Everyone’s doin it!”
      4. ​​​​​​​So, How far should we go in applying this?
        1. If we fully apply what Paul says, will not our conduct be controlled by the narrowest Christians in the church?
          1. It is indeed possible for disordered personalities to dominate the Church.
          2. Like the believer who says we shouldn’t smile or laugh because the Scripture nowhere records Jesus smiling or laughing.
            1. Of course, the absurdity of this argument from silence is seen if you make lists of other things the Scriptures never mention. (i.e. Like Jesus going to the bathroom)
          3. We are obviously not called to an uncritical, indiscriminate limitation of our freedom.
          4. Voluntary limiting of our freedom is not meant to subject us to the prejudices of Christians who are well established in the faith but persistent in sub-Biblical legalism.
            1. Remember in Rome the believers were relatively young in the faith, & their scrupulous consciences had an alleged Biblical base.
    7. (16) Don’t let your good be spoken evil of - Don’t give freedom a bad name! Preserve its good reputation! - And ultimately, Enjoy it!
      1. How can good be spoken evil of? – By flaunting it, Or, using it insensitively.
      2. If we use our God-given freedoms discreetly, no one can speak of it as evil.
    8. CONTEMPLATING THE KINGDOM! (17-19)
    9. (17) Ok Paul, so let me get this straight, It’s all about what I think about social drinking or smoking cigars, listening to secular music, or what kind of dancing is ok. My view on kissing before marriage, or if using minor cuss words is ok…Right?...No, there’s more! Re-read vs17
      1. ​​​​​​​Paul just elevated the entire discussion to a higher level. So we don’t get stuck in the Pharisaical mode of making mountains out of mole hill externals, he flips it on its ear to deal with eternals!
      2. God is not as concerned about our actions as He is about...our motives that drive them; our conscience that allows or disallows them; & our testimony that springs forth from them.
      3. John Whitmer said, “A concerned believer insists on right conduct, harmony, & joy, rather than forcing his own lifestyle on others.”
    10. (18) Fulfilling verse 17 pleases God & approves us before man!
    11. (19) Paul sums it up with 2 godly principles:
      1. Pursue peace & build up one another!
      2. Back in the 70‘s 8 Volunteer Firefighters in Genoa, Texas, were accused of deliberately setting more than 40 destructive fires. When caught, they stated, "We had nothing to do. We just wanted to get the red lights flashing and the bells clanging."
        1. The job of firefighters is to put out fires, not start them. The job of Christians is to help resolve conflict not start more of it.
    12. Slide#14 CRUSHING THE KINGDOM! (20)
    13. Unfortunately instead of building up we’re often tearing down/destroying (also vs.15).
      1. Which is more important to you…the spiritual health of a fellow Christian, or in enjoying your freedoms in front of one who may be stumbling?
        1. You may have the liberty to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but you don’t need to on church trips!
        2. A person who grew up in a culture where a glass was common with the evening meal…Is different than…A person that felt they had to show their liberty in front of you. Or, a person that have non-alcoholic wine in wine glasses so you can appear as drinkers. Not sure what that is?
  3. THE RAPTURE OF THE HEIGHTS! (21-23)
    1. ​​​​​​​Slide#16 BE CONSIDERATE OF YOUR CONVICTIONS! (21)
    2. Try this, replace good for its root meaning “beautiful”. “It is beautiful not to eat…”
      1. ​​​​​​​It’s beautiful because it shows there is love among the brethren; It’s beautiful because arrogance is gone; It’s beautiful because it is unselfish;It’s beautiful because it means one has a finely tuned sense of spiritual proportion; It’s beautiful because it puts others first. (Kent Hughes, Romans, pg.272.)
    3. Adopt an attitude of concern for others & a sensitivity to their needs.
      1. Here is the basic concept of Theological Thoughtfulness 101!
      2. Being considerate isn’t just having nice manners!
        1. It’s learning the sensitivities of your friends around you. It’s observing what makes them uncomfortable. And, It’s avoiding those things in their presence.
    4. Look at the Tail Spin of being Inconsiderate to these things: Grieving(15); Stumbling(21a); Offending(21b); Weakening(21c); & possibly even Destroying(15,20).
      1. Is destroying another just to have your own way, worth it? (www)
    5. During WWII the Allied Convoys would cross the Atlantic at the speed of the slowest ship.
      1. Maybe thats what Paul had in mind here.
        1. The shepherd must pace the flock to accommodate the weakest lamb.
        2. The Christian must regulate his freedom to take into account the feeble conscience of a weaker brother or sister.
    6. BE CONFIDENTIAL WITH YOUR CONVICTIONS! (22a)
    7. Keep your convictions between you & God.
      1. These convictions are those things agreed on between you & God.
      2. As I grow as a pastor I am learning more & more to reverse the question of Gray Matters back to the individual asking, rather than automatically giving my personal conviction! (Oh I’ll give mine if that is what’s asked)
    8. BE CONDEMNATION-FREE OF YOUR CONVICTIONS! (22b)
    9. Wow, how freeing, how happy we can be, when we are convinced by God of our convictions.
      1. Note though: it is very clear here that everyone must have a standard for his own conduct in the Gray areas.
    10. BE CONVINCED OF YOUR CONVICTIONS! (23)
    11. When in doubt, don’t!
    12. Have confidence in your convictions.
      1. The weak saint might sometimes do something because everyone else is doing it.
      2. He might do it because he does not wish to stand in the minority of one.
      3. He might do it because he does not wish to be different.
      4. He might do it because he does not wish to get ridiculer or suffer unpopularity.
    13. We need to have confidence in our Christian Tight Rope Walk!
      1. Be sure about it…or leave it alone!
      2. Don’t do anything to which you need to ask questions about it.
      3. If you don’t have the confidence you’re doing the right thing… you’re not!
      4. The deed might be right for others, but if you doubt yourself, it is evil to you.
      5. Any doubt about the rightness of an action removes it from the category of what is acceptable.
    14. Don’t risk your spiritual life like Maria Spelterini who wore wooden buckets on her feet while crossing the Niagara River Gorge on a rope in 1876.
      1. Use the proper sticky shoes to keep you to the rope & balanced.
      2. Christians, as you walk life’s tight rope grip your balancing pole and maintain your balance with the 2 weights of: Loving others & Enjoy your Liberty’s
    15. Prayer: The Miracle of Balance & The Rapture of the Heights.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Romans 14". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/romans-14.html. 2017.