14 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
The previous couple of chapters have been a call to purity. And I love how MacArthur puts it... because sin is not the proper response to justification by grace through faith, righteousness is...
The church must be pure. We have to deal with that. That's why we have church discipline. That's why we call for confession of sin. That's why we read the Word of God that we may be exposed. That's why we pray that the Spirit of God may reveal to us anything in our life that isn't right. That's why we go to one another to give rebuke or a reproof or instruction or guidance or wisdom, to assist in the spiritual growth and purity of the church.
But another major thing the church needs to deal with, something that can also cripple a church just like the infestation of sin can, is the unity between strong and weak believers. And Paul now devotes 1 1/2 chapters to that very issue.
The fact is that we are all so very different from each other - in our backgrounds, cultures and religious experiences. The Church body (and likely your own home church as well) is filled with people that have come to Christ from incredibly diverse situations - out of legalism, out of Orthodox, out of cults, out of conversatism, out of liberalism, and everything in between. Some have been believers for 50 years and some for 50 hrs. And so you have people who have very differing opinions on things ranging anywhere from what type of hair people "should have" to whether to drink alcohol to whether to go to movies to what type of music is used in church and again, everything in between.
And believers are called to love each other. That's how the world will see that we are believers. How can we love without unity? We cannot. Amidst all that diversity we need unity, we need love.
Obviously Paul is not talking about sin issues here. The believer is free yes, but not free to sin. So, these are not moral or sin issues.
Now remember, these are not Judaizers, these are not people who are making Mosaic ritual and ceremony a matter of salvation, these are people who know salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. But they're just hanging on to some old patterns that are external. And that's why he doesn't condemn them here as he does in Galatians and Colossians where they make the Mosaic ceremony the means of salvation. They're not doing that here, they're just holding on to some old tradition.
He's also not talking about some people having weak saving faith. They have faith, that's not the issue. The weak part of their faith is being able to believe that they are no longer bound by externals or rules or ceremonies. It doesn't mean they will always be in this state either. But right now, they have not been able to accept their freedom from these things yet. The strong believer knows he's not bound by these things, but the weak believe doesn't have that "figured out" yet.
So, who's responsibility is it to make the "first move" in unity?
The strong need to be wiling to sacrifice their liberty for the sake of loving their weaker brother. We shouldn't offend the weak, we should be sensitive to them, embrace them and love them. We shouldn't force them to "catch up" to our superior knowledge as pushing them too hard will only injure them. Rather, we should encourage them on their journey.
Paul uses the example of food here.
The strong believer knows that he is free to eat anything. Is he right? Yes, he is. We are not bound by the Mosaic law or any other dietary restrictions. Believers are free to eat any type of food. But just because we are right doesn't give us the right to force anyone else to see things our way, or to condemn or criticize or belittle them for not agreeing with us. The strong believer should not despise the weaker.
And the weak believer should not condemn the strong believer.
Rather, we should receive each other in love. Why?
First, because God has received or accepted both the weak and the strong (v3b). If God has received them, who are we to do any different?
Secondly, because it's none of our business (v4), it's God. God is the Master of both the weak and the strong and it's His business to enable the believer to stand, to hold him up, to prevent him from falling.
It is not up to us to be someone else's Holy Spirit. God will take care of it. Our job is to love them and to do our part in promoting unity between our fellow believers. Anything else is none of our business, it's God's.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 14:5-8