(Expositions of the “one another” passages: No 6)
TEXT: Romans 14:13
We continue in our studies of the “one another” passages in the Bible.
As I have said before, these teach us that we belong to one another in the body of Christ and so our interest in one another’s lives must go beyond the church services. Also, we are under divine obligation to deliberately adjust our lives for the good of our brothers or sisters in Christ. Last week, we saw the need for us to do all in our power to preserve harmony (“being of the same mind”) in the church. Today, we move on to consider one of the most difficult injunctions in the whole Bible, i.e. do not judge one another. Yet it is one of the most vital, if the unity of the church is to be preserved. Too many churches have been destroyed because of a failure to observe this. I have no doubt that KBC needs to hear this as well.
THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
In order to fully appreciate what the apostle Paul is talking about here, we need to understand the historical context of these words. Before the gospel took root in the world, Jews and Gentiles worshipped separately and thus developed two totally different religious cultures. The gospel brought them together, without one appearing as a visitor in the other one’s home (see Ephesians 2:11ff). This brought serious problems! Jews observed certain days and refrained from certain foods, while Gentiles had no such qualms. The result was that the Jews were condemning the Gentiles, while the Gentiles were looking down on the Jews. Serious disunity ensued (see Acts 15). Paul’s injunction was meant to resolve this problem in the early church before the church went up in flames! He managed.
THE PRINCIPLES DERIVED
What principles do we derive from this situation? (1) We must admit that our backgrounds colour our appreciation of our religious practices/ethics today. (2) It is difficult to divorce ourselves from these backgrounds. (3) What we often think are clear commands of God are more often than not a filling-in-the-gaps due to our own religious backgrounds. (4) Learn to live with the fact that there will be some differences in the way we prefer to worship God and to live despite having a common Bible, until the Lord returns. (5) Learn to give other brethren the benefit of the doubt, and so if you are to ere, do so on the side of graciousness rather than on the side of condemnation. (6) If you know that some brethren are sincerely stumbling due to what you are doing, then stop doing it out of love for them.
SOME APPLICATIONS MADE
In order for us to really appreciate how real this problem is, let me give examples that I have come across that I think fit into today’s church. I know you will disagree with me on those point where you feel strongly otherwise, but that is the whole point of what Paul is saying here! Dressing (especially women wearing trousers, suits when preaching), music in worship (choruses, instruments, choirs, song leading, clapping, A W Pink’s problem with non-Christians singing in church?), Lord’s Supper emblems (different cups, wine, unleavened bread, etc), female roles in church (women deacons, women ushers, women praying, women veiling), drawings of or acting as the Lord Jesus, what can and cannot be done on the Lord’s day (e.g. buying or selling, running a minibus), Technology (TV and radio, cameras in church services, projectors), etc. Paul is saying, ere on the side of graciousness!
This is usually a problem with you Young Turks because once you have grasped one truth it becomes to you the whole truth. You can develop an entire church doctrine or practice out of silence, or from a mixing of a few obscure verses that would confuse even Albert Einstein. That is part of growing up, but please grow up before you split the church into shreds! Stop judging one another. Learn to speak the truth in love. Do not tell them that they are unbiblical, but rather say that you are stumbled by their actions. Also, learn to accept others with their own convictions and respect them for it. Amen!