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What to do when you are in doubt about an issue? July 29, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Character, Christian Liberty, Judgment Seat of Christ, Romans, Sermons, Spiritual Emotions, Teamwork.
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Back from vacation…I’m interrupting the Sunday morning series on God’s Word to deal with an important issue.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE IN DOUBT

Romans 14:1-15:7

 

INTRODUCTION: When Christ died for us, He saved us from our sin and gave us a new nature. That is what Romans 1-8 is all about. In Romans 12-16, Paul describes how that new nature is to be lived out. Living God’s love out in your life affects every area in your life including those issues where the Bible does not clear up every doubt that you might have about that issue. That is the subject of chapter 14 and the first part of chapter 15.

 

BEGINNING WITH THE END 

Paul ends his instructions on doubtful issues with the instructions to receive each other in this area of doubtful issues just as Christ has received us. This is the general principle that we are to apply when someone disagrees with us over a doubtful issue.

 

It is important at this juncture to define what a doubtful issue is. A doubtful issue is any issue in which I am convinced in my mind that there is freedom but that other believers with whom I have close contact feel there is not this same freedom.

OKAY, GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE. 

We have two examples in this passage.

 

Romans 14:2 mentions that some believe that all things edible are lawful, but others for spiritual reasons eat only vegetables.

Romans 14:5 mentions that some believe that all days are the same, but others for spiritual reasons observe some days as being holy.

 

There are a lot of these types of issues.

  1. Some believe drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation is lawful, but others for spiritual reasons practice total abstinence.

  2. Some believe that Sunday is no different than any other day of the week, but others for spiritual reasons observe Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath”.

  3. Some believe that each Christian should vote his conscience; others for spiritual reasons prefer to vote either Republican or Democrat or perhaps even not at all.

  4. Some believe that corporate prayer in a small group is relatively unimportant, others find it to be a necessity for our spiritual growth and fellowship.

  5. Some believe that all types of music can be used for the glory of God in public worship, others believe that we should limit our worship music to a relatively small selection of types.

  6. Some believe that the mode of baptism is unimportant, others feel for spiritual reasons we should practice baptism by immersion only.

  7. Some believe that there is freedom in how we educate our children, others believe that only public schools or Christian schools or home schools are legitimate methods of education.

  8. Some believe that holidays like Halloween or the pagan practices that have been integrated into our Christmas and Easter celebrations are harmless, others believe that they are dangerous to one degree or another.

  9. Some believe that there is some freedom in the matter of divorce and remarriage, others believe that divorce and remarriage are forbidden in every case no matter the circumstances.

These are all issues that in our fellowship have been discussed at one time or another during the past two years. These are all issues over which good Christians disagree. There is debate as to what the Bible teaches in these areas. In the minds of some there is doubt as to that the Bible teaches in these areas.

AN ISSUE TO WHICH THERE IS NO DOUBT 

As we have seen already, there is no doubt as to how we are to treat the opposing side. We are to receive each other in this area of doubtful issues just as Christ has received us.

 

  •  

      We are to receive, we are to welcome as honored friends, according to 14:3, those believers who disagree with us, because they have been received by God. This is independent of how they treat us. This is independent of any offense we may feel they have committed against us. Why? Verse 4 tells us why. He is God’s. God will take care of him or her if they are wrong. That is the only basis on which we can deal with each other. Only God can determine who is truly right or truly wrong and we should leave it to Him to take care of.

  • How did Christ receive us (15:7)? The word implies hospitality, to be welcomed as a friend. When we receive Christ as Savior we are received as honored friends into His kingdom and that is how we are to treat those who disagree with us in these issues over which there is doubt. We find this same word used twice in 14:1-3. There are two things that are important to understand from these two verses.

SO HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Verse 1 gives us the practical application of these principles. If you have a broader understanding of Scriptures than those who are on the other side of the issue, receive them, welcome them as honored friends. Don’t debate them (verse 1). Don’t despise them or hold them in contempt (verses 3 and 10). Do not grieve and destroy your brother or sister in Christ (verse 15). Don’t dissolve the work of God (verse 20). Don’t cause them to stumble (verse 21).  

OBJECTION #1

Does that not make us a slave of those who disagree with us if we submit or we acknowledge our differences as legitimate differences. Look at verse 18. We are to be slaves in these matters, slaves of Christ. We do that, according to verse 19, by pursuing peace and edification. The word “pursue” is used in other places to mean “persecution”. We are to chase peace and edification like a hound dog trying to tree a ‘coon. This is not passive. This is very, very active. All you have to do to understand this, is to lay in bed at night and listen to a pack of ‘coon dogs in the distance chasing a raccoon or a ‘possum. They get closer and closer and louder and louder and more excited and more excited, that is the way that we are to pursue peace and edification of those with whom we disagree, without debating them but rather, if necessary, submitting to them.

OBJECTION #2 – BUT THAT IS A TERRIBLE BURDEN

You are correct! Not only are we to pursue peace but according to Romans 15:1 we are to bear with the scruples of those with a stricter conscience than ours, not by pleasing ourselves but by pleasing, i.e., accommodating ourselves to the opinions, desires, and interests of others. Paul does not pretend this is easy. The word “bear” implies something burdensome, something heavy, something that is perhaps exhausting to carry. That is why the picture of Jesus pleasing us, accommodating Himself to our interests, bearing our reproach in 15:3 is such a beautiful picture of what we need to do. In the same way that Christ bore our sins for our interest we are to bear the opinions of others for their good and their edification.

OBECTION #3 – HOW ABOUT THEM? 

This does bring us to a very thorny problem. What is the responsibility of the person with the stricter conscience? Are those with a less strict conscience at the mercy of those with a stricter conscience?

Romans 14:3b answers this question for us. Just as those with a broader understanding of the issue are not to despise those with a stricter understanding, those with a stricter understanding are not to judge, not to criticize, not to look on them as a criminal or to dispute with them as before a court of law. When they do this, even if they are right in their opinion, they are doing several things…

TAKING THE PLACE OF CHRIST

According to verses 4 and 10-12, the believer with a judgmental attitude has taken the place that belongs only to God. The place of judgment. The place of evaluation. Obviously, the Bible teaches that we can and should evaluate others to see if they are qualified for certain responsibilities or to know if they are believers of the truth or not but it is left to Jesus Christ alone to judge our opinions and how we lived them out. That is not my place and that is not your place.

CHRIST DIED FOR UNITY NOT UNANIMITY

According to verses 8-9, the critical believer has not only taken the place of God but he has attempted to destroy the unity for which Christ died. Christ died to save us from our sin, He died to give us an eternity with Him but He also died to make us one body in Him. He died that we as a body of believers might be united together in Him. Verse 15 warns us not to destroy with our critical attitude, those for whom Christ died. Romans 15:5-6 sums this up for both sides of the issue: “Be like-minded according to Christ.”

THE QUESTION FINALLY ANSWERED

There is a third group that is addressed in chapter 14. First, there are those with a broad understanding of an issue. Then, there are those with a narrow understanding of the issue. Finally, there are those who are not sure where they stand on an issue. There are two commands to this group. These commands apply to all of us but they are especially appropriate for those who are in doubt, those at whom the title of this sermon is directed.

ESTABLISH YOUR CONVICTIONS

Command #1 is given in 14:5—Be fully persuaded in your own mind. Do not let there be a shadow of a doubt about your position. Investigate, try to understand the issue. Paul expands on this concept in verse 14. He says, “I know and am convinced, persuaded, not just by logical arguments but by Jesus Christ that the opinion I hold is right.” He says though, “There are others who are not so convinced and if they are not convinced then they should stay away from the broader position.” Why? Because in verse 20 it is evil, it is bad, for one to partake, to be a participant of something of which their mind is not convinced that it is okay.

DON’T PARTAKE UNTIL YOUR CONVICTIONS ARE ESTABLISHED.

This brings us to the second command. It is implied in verses 22-23. “He who doubts is condemned, is damned if he eats.” If you are not convinced, don’t you dare follow the broader understanding of the issue. That is simple but that is the way that you should look at issues for which you are not convinced in your mind about the truth.

What is certain is that as a believer, whatever my opinion is, I am to fulfill the law of love in everything I do. There is not one area in my life, in which I cannot express the love of Christ. When I give up my rights the way God wants me to give up my rights, when I refuse to criticize and judge and condemn, that is, view others with the attitude God wants me view them, when I honor as a friend those believers, even though they differ with me on various issues, I am showing God’s love in my life. It does not really matter what your position is, if you have the stricter or the broader position or no certain position at all, you are to love your brother as Christ has loved you.

Last year I preached from this same chapter and mentioned a number of issues, many more than I have mentioned this morning that raised the eyebrows of a number of people. One of those was mode of baptism. In that area, I have a stricter conscience than some other believing Christians. I am not talking about liberals but people with solid Christian credentials. I believe they are wrong. The constitution of this church holds them to be wrong. I must follow my conscience but my attitude toward them must be Christian. Perhaps we cannot work together in the same church because of this issue but I am not to judge them, that is Christ’s responsibility.

AN INVITATION TO THE FAMILY OF GOD

We have talked today about some family matters. I trust that you understand that we have a wonderful family and Christ is the head of our family. The only way to become a part of His family is to be received by Him as an honored friend.

The only way to be received by Christ is to understand that you are a sinner. Like a sheep gone astray, your end is doom. You are spiritually condemned by God but Jesus bore your sins in His body on the cross so that you might become righteous, acceptable before God. Jesus paid your sin debt, was condemned, and punished for your sins. When you trust Christ as Savior your debt of sin is paid in full and you are received into the wonderful family of God.

Will you trust Jesus today and be received into His family?

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Comments»

1. Micky - July 29, 2007

I AM A SINNER, WHO SPENT ALL HIS CHILDHOOD IN ORPHANAGES. I DESERVE TO GO TO HELL, BUT JESUS, THROUGH HIS SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS – DELIVERED ME FROM MY INEQUITIES – I’M BLESSED!
http://michael-micky.blogspot.com/

2. roberttalley - August 1, 2007

Thanks for commenting, Mickey!


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