Romans 14:1 – 15:7 is dealing with what we could call the gray areas of the Christian life or the nonessentials. All Christians are to agree upon the essentials of the Gospel because we are saved by the knowledge of the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Failure to agree upon the essentials of the Gospel means that there can be no union or partnership with those with whom we disagree (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). But there is to be liberty in the nonessentials and we are to maintain Christian unity with those who agree on the essentials but with whom we may disagree on the nonessentials. So this section of Scripture gives three principles of guidance to maintain unity when Christians disagree: (1) Accept one another (Romans 14:1-12); (2) Build up one another (Romans 14:13-23); and (3) Consider one another (Romans 15:1-7).
For now we will examine the first principle of guidance for maintaining unity when Christians disagree.
Accept one another (Romans 14:1-12). When Christians disagree over the nonessentials they are to accept one another. With those whom we agree on the essentials of the Gospel but disagree over the nonessentials we are to put out the welcome matt and not the wrestling matt. We do wrestle against the spiritual forces of wickedness that seek to corrupt the Gospel and cause us to compromise it (Ephesians 6:10-17). We do war against speculations and every lofty thing raised against the Gospel (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We do separate from those with whom we disagree over the essentials of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). We do not wrestle with, war with, or separate from Christians with whom we agree in the essentials (a necessity for even being a Christian) but with whom we disagree in the nonessentials. Instead we accept one another. Romans 14:1-12 gives us three reasons for maintaining unity with other Christians when we disagree in the nonessentials.
First, we accept one another because God has accepted us (Romans 14:1-3). These verses make it plain that agreement in the nonessentials is not the basis of God’s acceptance of us and it should not be the basis or our accepting one another. Both the strong and the weak in the faith are in the faith and should accept one another because God has accepted them or else they would not be in the faith. In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty!
Second, we accept one another because Christ is Lord as we are not (Romans 14:4-9). The main point of these verses is that no Christian has the right to “play Lord” in another Christian’s life. How the Lordship of Christ works itself out in another Christian’s life is the Lord’s business and not ours (Romans 14:4). My business is to be sure that whatever I do, I do for the Lord’s sake, being fully convinced that this is what he wants me to do (Romans 14:5) and that He very well may want another Christian to serve Him in a different way (Romans 14:6-9). This truth is illustrated in John 21:15-25 where the Lord told Peter the kind of death he would die in order to glorify God and Peter turned around and saw John following them and Peter asked the Lord, “What about this man?” to which the Lord responded, “If I want him to remain until I come [live], what is that to you? You follow me!” So our concern is to be busy doing what we are convinced the Lord wants us to do and not worry about what he wants someone else to do.
We accept one another because Christ is Lord and we are not. In the essentials, unity; in the nonessentials, liberty. Another way of putting it is this: in the essentials, we must agree; in the nonessentials, we must allow Christ to be Lord. We accept one another because God has accepted us and we accept one another because Christ is Lord and we are not.
Third, we accept one another because God is Judge and we are not (Romans 14:10-12). Since we are not the Lord, then reason demands that we are not the Judge either. These verses quickly put us back in our places as servants of the Lord who are not God and who are not the Judge. Instead of standing in judgment over our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must all stand before the judgment seat of God. For Christians, the judgment seat of God will be a time when we will give an account of how well we lived under the Lordship of Christ. Faithfulness to the Lordship of Christ will result in praise from the Lord when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Lack of faithfulness to the Lordship of Christ for Christians will result in shame and loss of reward but they will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). The Lord will judge His servants and their service or lack there of to Him. As servants, we are not to judge the service of another.
We do not have the ability to accurately judge the service of another to the Lord because we are not God. That is why we are told, “Do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Notice that the Lord has the ability to bring to light the things hidden in the darkness. This is another good reason to wake up, lay aside the deeds of darkness, and behave properly as in the day (Romans 13:11-14). The Lord is not going to allow us to get away with hidden sin. You can hide your sin from me and I can hide mine from you but we none can hide it from the Lord.
Notice also that the Lord has the ability to disclose the motives of men’s hearts. Here the Lord will reveal the reason we do or do not do something. Whether our actions are because we love the Lord and are submitting to His Lordship, whether we were making provision for the flesh under the pretense of living for the Lord, or whether we were seeking the praise of men under the pretense of dying for the Lord.
The Lord will judge us and He has the perfect ability to do it. We will not judge each other because we are not God and do not have the ability to judge accurately. That is why we shouldn’t be doing it now. In the essentials, unity; in the nonessentials, liberty; in all things charity. When Christians disagree we accept one another because God has accepted us in Christ Jesus; we accept one another because Christ is Lord and we are not; we accept one another because God is Judge and we are not.