Romans 14:1 – 15:7 is dealing with what we could call the gray areas of the Christian life. These are the nonessentials that have no bearing on whether or not someone is saved. These are matters that are strictly between the child of God and his Lord. Since this is true then Christians can and will disagree in the nonessentials.
Since these are gray areas of the Christian life, we are not to judge one another nor hinder another’s obedience to the Lordship of Christ. The weak in the faith are not to be bossy, trying to impose their beliefs on the strong and the strong in the faith are not to be bullies, trying to force-feed their beliefs down the throats of the weak. This is what this section is about and it gives us three principles to maintain unity when Christians disagree:
(1) Accept one another (Romans 14:1-12). When Christians disagree in the gray areas of the Christian life we accept one another because God has accepted us (Romans 14:1-3); we accept one another because Christ is Lord of each and every child of God and we are lord of none (Romans 14:4-9); and we accept one another because God is judge and we are not (Romans 14:10-12).
(2) Build up one another (Romans 14:13-23). When Christians disagree in the gray areas of the Christian life we build up one another because we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ we don’t cause a child of God to stumble (Romans 14:13); we don’t hurt a child of God (Romans 14:14-15); we don’t forfeit our witness to a watching world through family quarrels (Romans 14:16-18); we don’t tear down the work of God in a child of God by hindering his or her walk with the Lord (Romans 14:19-21); and the strong Christian does not flaunt his liberties (Romans 14:22-23).
(3) Please one another (Romans 15:1-7). When Christians disagree in the gray areas of the Christian life we please one another and not just ourselves. This third principle for maintaining unity when Christians disagree is our subject under investigation. There are three aspects to this principle that we will take one at a time in separate posts.
First, we are to please one another on the basis of the Savior’s example (Romans 15:1-3).
The strong are to have regard for the weaknesses of others (Romans 15:1). The strong are not to just think of their rights and their own pleasures but are to think of how they can use their strength to help others. Those without strength need help and the strong can either give them the help they need or selfishly only help themselves. The Bible says that “love does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:15) and that “love bears all things” (1 Corinthians 15:7). The strong Christian who does not have regard for the weaknesses of others is unloving and not following the Savior’s example.
Think of our Lord’s example in this area. For our sake, while we were helpless (without strength or ability to help ourselves), at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). To accomplish our salvation, the Lord “did not look out for His own personal interests but also the interest of others, and although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [utilized], but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:4-8).
Let’s make some application with this. The strong Christian knows that eating meat is not condemned in God’s Word. The weak Christian believes that eating meat is condemned in God’s Word. The strong Christian then is to lay aside his liberty for the sake of the weak Christian. The strong Christian is to have regard for the weaknesses of his brothers and sisters.
The strong Christian knows that drinking wine is not condemned but that getting drunk is condemned in God’s Word. The weak Christian believes that drinking wine is condemned in God’s Word. The strong Christian is to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and he is to lay aside his liberty for the sake of the weak Christian.
The strong are to have regard for the weaknesses of others.
The strong are to have regard for the good of others (Romans 15:2). Isn’t this very logical? Not having regard for the weaknesses of other family members is to not have any regard for their good either. Having regard for the weakness of other family members is to have regard for their good also. If one believes that it is wrong to drink wine and a stronger Christian disregards that weakness, will he not cause the weaker Christian to either judge him as an unbeliever (which is sin) or to violate his own convictions (which is sin).
Knowing that something is not condemned in Scripture does not mean that it is commanded in Scripture. This simply means that Christian liberties can be set aside for the good of others and to build them up rather than tear them down. Improper exercise of Christian liberties will indeed tear down others who believe that those liberties are wrong.
The strong are to have regard for the good of others.
The strong are to have regard for pleasing others (Romans 15:3). Pleasing others entails self-denial. However this is a characteristic of the strong that have a heart of love. The strong are never more like Jesus than when they are not seeking their own pleasure but instead are laying aside their privileges to have regard for the weaknesses of others and the good of others.
The strong are to have regard for pleasing others.