The television show “Friends” was very popular in its day, despite the fact that nothing serious ever happened in the show. It contained no earth-shattering scenarios. Instead, it seems to have been an exercise in trivia. What led to the popularity of this long-running television show? One writer suggests that it is because it describes a place where you can be yourself and where you will be accepted and will be called “friend.”
We hunger for such a place. We hunger for that sort of acceptance; for those who will know us and who will accept us as we are. That is what the church is supposed to be all about. Unfortunately, it often is not the case. This dichotomy between the ideal versus the reality is not a new phenomenon. Paul’s words to the Romans suggest that it was an issue in his day as it is today.
A CALL TO ACCEPTANCE
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. (Romans 14:1).
There is a paradox of psychology that says people rarely change until they find that they have been accepted for what they are. Paul has already shown in the early chapters of his epistle to the Romans that we have been accepted by God the way we are. It is on the basis of God’s acceptance of us that we are called to offer our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to be changed into something new and glorious.
Religion says, “Change and then I will accept you.” The gospel says, “You have been accepted by God; now change as a result of that acceptance.” Because we have been freely accepted by God, we are now to show that same acceptance to others. This includes an acceptance of the one who is weak in faith.
The New English Translation is accurate when it translates this as weak in THE faith. It may be that Paul is not speaking of the strength of their faith, but rather to their holding of the entire system of teaching of Christianity. Jude 1:3 speaks in a similar fashion when is talks about how we are to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Several different translations have been offered
for this last phrase:
If this is how we are to understand this passage, then it is speaking, not of the one who is shallow in his convictions, but to the one who is relatively unlearned with regard to the Christian faith. It is one who has come to faith in Jesus, but who is unaware of all the ramifications of that system of belief.
We are called to accept such a one and not to be continually putting down his opinions. That does not mean we cannot teach him and encourage him and even correct him, but that it is to be done in a spirit of gentleness and acceptance.
PRACTICAL EXAMPLES OF ACCEPTANCE
is going to deal with two real-life situations the church at
At the heart of the matter was not an issue of Jews versus Gentiles, but acceptance versus unacceptance of believers in Christ. Therefore Paul is not going to focus upon the question of what you should eat or what day you should or should not observe. Instead, his focus will be upon the acceptance of believers.
1. The Example of Eating: One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:2-4).
Paul presents a contrast in these verses. It is a contrast between two people. They are evidently being presented as the servants of God. This suggests that they are both Christians. However, one is described in verse 2 as “he who is weak.” This seems to set him in contrast with the other person.
Has faith that he may eat all things
Eats vegetables only
He is not to look at the weaker brother with contempt
He is not to judge the one who eats
You don’t get to judge the servant of another. You are only allowed to judge your own servant and, in the spiritual realm, you don’t have any servants because YOU are the servant. You rise and fall in the eyes of your Master, not in the eyes of the other servants. That does not mean you never listen to what other servants have to say. But it does mean that the final judgment is up to your Master. And it means that you are not to be in the business of passing judgment upon others.
Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Do not judge lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Given as it is in the present tense, we could translate that to say, “Stop judging, lest you be judged.” Yet the context lets us know that this does not mean we are not allowed to pass judgment upon wrong doctrine or even upon sinful practices. Instead it tells us:
• We should first make sure that we have done a thorough self-assessment to make certain there are not blind spots to sin in our own lives. Jesus described the importance of taking the two-by-four out of your own eye before you go looking to take the speck from someone else’s.
• We shall be judged in the way we have judged others: For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2).
• We are not to cast what is holy to dogs. That in itself indicates an act of discernment on our part as we discern what is holy and who are not (Matthew 7:6).
We are directed time and time again to be discerning upon the sinful actions that we see, yet we should do so remembering that we ourselves are sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness. That means our judgments are to be gracious, even as we have been shown grace by the Judge of all the earth.
It also means that we should be aware of the limitations of our own judgments. We should realize that we do not necessarily have all the relevant facts of any given matter and that there might be both facts and circumstances of which we are unaware.
2. The Example of Observance: One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5).
This second example involves the regarding (literally, "the judging") of one day above another. The issue involves the observance of various holy days. Paul does not specifically state that it is about the Sabbath or about the feast days or days of fasting. He references the idea in general and that is how we are to take it.
One man regards one day above another
Another man regards every day alike
Once again, there are two different individuals involves. Once again, they have a difference of opinion and a different standard of judging. One man thinks it important to observe special days. Another sees no difference between one day as opposed to any other. Who is right? Who is wrong? We are not told. The reason we are not told is because it is not important. The important thing is that we serve the Lord as we do observe the day or else that we serve the Lord as we do not observe the day.
PRINCIPLES OF ACCEPTANCE
Paul now gives three principles that show how and why we are to accept other believers, even though we do not necessarily agree with their religious practices. It must be pointed out that the differences described here are not in the area of major teachings within the church. It is not a matter of those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God versus those who reject the faith. Instead, the issue is over relatively minor issues.
This is an important distinction. This passage cannot be used to justify the acceptance of wrong doctrine. The issue here is over the interpretation of religious rituals, not over the truth of the gospel.
Neither is this speaking of our freedom to engage in sinful activities. Paul is not considering whether someone does or does not commit adultery or whether someone does or does not bear false witness against his neighbor. Rather it speaks of areas of Christian liberty.
1. The Principle of Submission: He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:6).
Paul describes a situation in which someone has a heart of service and obedience toward the Lord. It is in such a mindset that such a person either observes certain days or does not observe those days. His observance is for the glory of God and His non-observance is with a heart of thanksgiving to God. It does not really matter whether he is observing or whether he is not observing, his heart is right before the Lord.
If someone is not involved in sin and his heart is right in giving thanks to God, then you have no business judging him.
2. The Principle of Lordship: For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7-9).
When we jump to judge another, we give the wrong impression that we are the final authority and that our judgment matters. It doesn’t. We have a Lord and Master who does matter and who is Lord of all.
When we bring judgment against another, we are ignoring the fact that Christ died for others and that it isn’t just about us and our own opinions.
You’ve heard the story of the group that was involved in a bus accident and were all killed and found themselves entering heaven at the same time. An angel met them at the gates, ushered them in, and began to give them the guided tour. What wonders they beheld! They ooohed and they aaahed and they were truly amazed. But as they came to one long corridor, the angel stopped and instructed them to take off their shoes and to be silent as they traversed its length. Behind closed doors they could hear laugher and merriment. When they reached the end, the angel told them they could once again don their shoes. “What was that?” they asked. “Was it a special holy place?”
“No,” replied the angel, “That was the Baptists and they think they are the only ones up here.” Heaven isn’t just about me and it isn’t just about you because we aren’t going to be the only ones up there. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we will learn not to be in the business of judging others.
3. The Principle of Judgment: But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God." 12 So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12).
When we judge others, we try to fill a position that we are not qualified to fill. God is our judge and, in the final analysis, He is the only One who is qualified to pass ultimate judgment. One reason He is qualified and you are not is because He knows all the circumstances. There is coming a day when He will judge with true judgment.
Paul makes mention of that day when he says we
shall all stand before the judgment seat of God (14:10). The phrase “judgment seat” is the Greek word Bema. The bema
was the raised platform upon which the judges and magistrates would
preside. To this day, the platform upon
which the prime minister of
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The judgment seat of God in Romans 14 is the same as the judgment seat of Christ in 2 Corinthians 5. They are speaking of the same judgment. It is a judgment before which we must all one day give account.