Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In our previous readings, Theophiluses, we have learned a great deal about sin and salvation. In God, we are given new lives freed from slavery to sin and death. For this reason, we are to love one another and work no evil to our neighbors. Our reading today expands on these truths.
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
The Little Things
There are many differences of opinion that have divided the Church for a long time. Is communion a symbolic act, or a divine miracle performed through a priest, or something other than these? Does baptism as an infant count, or do you have to be of the age of reason to be baptized? Is self-defense permissible, or are we called to some form of pacifism? All of these are valid questions worth considering, but what bearing do they have on faith?
Paul compels us to accept those who are weak in faith – those who have doubts, who struggle with the big questions, who still require the milk of scripture and are unprepared for the meat – but not to accept doubtful disputations. These are the questions of no clear consequence to the faith, like whether we can eat “unclean” beasts or any flesh whatsoever. If one brother finds it good to eat all things, even meats offered to idols, this is within the demands of our faith; similarly, if one finds it better to eat only plants, this is also within the demands of our faith.
We are not saved by eating of certain foods, or partaking in holy communion, or receiving baptism in some particular time and way. Now, it is true that we are commanded to baptize, and to come to the Lord’s table, but these are not essential to the core of our faith. If a brother believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and meditates upon His Word, yet does not take communion or views it differently than another brother, is he any less our brother? If a brother does not raise his hands to receive a blessing, is he any more blessed than a brother who does not? If a man has never spoken in tongues, is he any less a child of the Father than one who has?
These are the little things. Do not judge the brethren over these trifling concerns, for God has received us. Who are we to judge our Lord’s servants, for they are not our servants but His. Let Him judge, for his justice is true and his mercy covers a multitude of sins.
Living unto the Lord
When asked how my day is going, I have but few replies: “I can’t complain,” “Better than I deserve,” “Eh, it goes.” To me, each day I awaken is a day in which I am not dead, and that’s as far as I let such things define me. I am persuaded on this, and whether everything seems to be going my way or everything is going wrong I will tend to view the days the same. This is what Paul means – some people have “good days” and “bad days”, while some people have “days.”
If you are the sort to reflect on how good or bad a day has been, do so unto the Lord. If you don’t reflect in this way, then do not reflect on it unto the Lord. If you eat, give thanks to the Lord for what you eat; if you do not eat, give thanks to the Lord that he gives you life even when you do not eat. When you sleep, give thanks unto the Lord for sleep, and when you do not sleep pray to the Lord for strength and endurance.
All these things are for the Lord, for we live and die for our Lord. We are no longer our own, for we were bought at the price of the blood of Christ. When we were sinners, we lived unto ourselves in sin and death, but now we are remade to serve our Lord. So it is, whether we live or die, whether we eat or do not eat, whether we sleep or wake, we do so for the Lord of the dead and the living.
We are all accountable to the Lord, brethren or not. Every knee shall bow at the judgment seat of Christ, and every tongue shall confess to God. We shall all be made to give account, sinner and redeemed alike, for the Lord is the judge of the living and the dead.
Why, then, do we judge and condemn our brethren? Are we given authority over them to judge, or are we less guilty than they? Therefore, judge not one another, and so usurp not authority which does not belong to us.
There is one thing which we must judge for ourselves, however. Recall that Jesus said of those who cause the little ones who follow him to stumble, “It is better that he have a millstone around his neck and be cast into the sea.” This is the great danger we all face – we are to build one another up and help them become stronger in the faith, not add to their troubles or make things seem harder for them.
Paul describes this clearly in verse 14, where he repeats a lesson delivered to Peter in Acts. God has made all foods clean to us, so there is no food which we are condemned for eating. It echoes another teaching of Paul, when he says, “All things are lawful, but not everything is expedient.”
If a brother believes that certain things are unclean, then to him they are unclean (whether or not they are unclean to God). It is better to forgo these unclean foods than to cause him to stumble, or to diminish your work and truths. If your brother believes it wrong not to be in church on Sunday, it is better to be butt-in-pew than grab your few extra hours of sleep (though, admittedly, it’s a good thing to commune with the brethren). If your brother believes it wrong to partake of alcohol or drugs, it is better to be sober at all times than to cause him to stumble and doubt (not saying drugs are good, kids…but they’re not necessarily bad all by themselves).
Righteousness, peace, and joy
The kingdom of God is more within and among us than of this world. What we eat, what we drink, and what little things we can disagree about are not significant, for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. When we serve Christ, whatsoever we do is acceptable to God and approved by men (though, let it be said, sin does not serve Christ).
Peace is a fruit of the spirit and an aspect of the kingdom of God. What we do to make and preserve peace is therefore pleasing to God, and so we should strive to be at peace with one another and edify one another. It is not evil to eat meat or drink wine, but it is evil to offend the weak in spirit by doing so. Whatever is necessary to preserve a brother from stumbling or being made weak is our act of love and charity toward them.
If you have faith, hold fast to it before God. If you allow it and do not condemn yourself for it, and God condemns it not, then you will be happy and well. If you doubt, then that which you do is not of faith, and whatever is not of faith is sin. Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Let us Pray
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Merciful Father, we give thanks that you are our God. We pray at all times that you guide us to live rightly, giving glory and honor to Your name, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ. We pray that we might not offend our brethren nor judge them, for justice is thine and you have commanded that we not cause our brethren to stumble. Unite the brethren in love and charity.
Whether we eat, or drink, or whatsoever we should do, let us do it in faith. Let not the strong confound the weak, nor the wise lay snares for fools, but rather let us edify one another and so bring glory and honor to You.
We ask all these things in the name of your Son, our Lord, who is seated at Your right hand and even now is Lord of the living and the dead.