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Encouraging Spiritual Growth

A Double Danger


Romans 14:1-4

1Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3Let 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. 4Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth of falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up:  for God is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:19-23

19Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20For meat destroy not the work of God.  All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith:  for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

Romans 15:1-7

1We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on Me. 4For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20For ye are bought with a price:  therefore glorify God  in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Throughout this study, we have seen an emphasis on edifying and encouraging one another. This means that the church is to be a place of optimism based on hope, a place of care based on concern and a place of love based on truth.

The book of Romans is primarily known for its theology and great teachings about justification by faith. Christian theology is always God’s truth in day-to-day life. Romans 14 and 15 are not suggestions. They are spiritual outgrowth.

This study examines how Christians should respond to one another when they have sincere differences of opinion.  We need to structure our lifestyles so other believers are built up and Christ is honored. Practices we sacrifice for that goal are a small price to pay.  As Christians, we can either encourage or discourage the spiritual growth of one another, depending on the attitudes and conduct we have toward one another. His concern was that these differences not be allowed to create an environment hostile to the spiritual growth of all in the church. He pleaded for understanding and tolerance toward one another regarding issues that were not, in fact, essential for salvation.

Paul noted that this difference of opinion causes a double danger:  First, other Christians might grow impatient with those who set up these limitations; secondly, the Christians who limit their lifestyle could start to judge those who do not do so in the same way.  In either case, harmony and unity are disrupted. Paul urged them, regardless of their position on minor issues, to accept each other and refrain from argument.  Arguing is not the best means of changing one’s opinions. Rather than argue and debate, wrote Paul, let each one be satisfied in his own mind and conscience.

Romans 14:6-9

6He 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. 7For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8For 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. 9For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.

As verses 6-9, above, point out, each Christian is the servant of Christ, and it is to Christ that he is accountable both during and after this life. Instead of the strong despising the weak, and the weak criticizing the strong, and each hurting the other, let each person, first of all, look to himself and to the Lord. No single believer lives to himself. We are not our own. We have been bought with a price, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, above. Since our whole lives and even our deaths find their meaning in the Lord, in view of eternity, differences disappear.

We are reminded in the Scriptures that Christ observes all we do, and He holds us accountable for our actions, so one Christian is not to use his personal convictions and opinions to judge whether or not another Christian is accepted of God.

Every Christian belongs to God.  He is able to instruct and discipline His own to conform to His will. Questions are at different points on the way to spiritual maturity, but no one anywhere has arrived at a perfect likeness to Jesus Christ. Instead of finding fault with other Christians, every Christian should be a good steward of his own life, taking care not to do or say anything that might hinder the spiritual progress of a brother or sister in Christ.

There are some general guidelines that can help us live fruitful lives. Some are clear, Christian doctrines that are essential to Christianity. These include truths, such as Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus is the only Savior, and the list continues.  There are some moral standards that are clearly revealed in the Bible, such as the Ten Commandments. There are a multitude of issues that the Bible does not directly or specifically address at all; however, principles for living are clearly visible throughout Scripture and these provide adequate guidelines for application in our everyday relationships with others.

The Kingdom of God is not concerned with food and drink, but with righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Christians are not isolated individuals, but members of a fellowship. Within that fellowship they share in the righteousness made possible through Christ’s sacrifice. They share in the peace the Lord’s redemptive work brings to a life. They share in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. These are the real common denominators of the Church, The Body of Christ.

When Christians are divided because of non-essentials, they give outsiders an occasion to make fun of them and their Christianity. Remembering what the Kingdom is will result in a life that is pleasing to God and approved by men. Liberty is precious, but it carries responsibility.

Although a person may consider himself strong in the faith, he must not suppose that he already has all the enlightenment on a given subject. The strong Christian must not become “holier than thou.” In every decision, it is God’s judgment that counts, not our own or that of anybody else. Learning to please God requires that we stay attuned to the message of His Word.

When Christians become preoccupied with issues that are not essential or fundamental to Christian living, they lose touch with the central reality of Christian living—the work of building up, not tearing down one another. The strong Christians at Rome, who had a wrong attitude toward weak Christians, were short on patience. Their need of patience is referred to twice in verses 4 and 5 of Romans 15, above. If all we want to do is to get on with our own life and do as we please, it is easy to become impatient with those who need our help.

Where the attitude of Christ prevails among Christians, there is a spiritual environment conducive to spiritual growth. Let’s never forget that Christians are not free to judge one another.  Christians are not in the judging business. It is neither their purpose nor their privilege to judge others.  Every Christian is a servant of God and the life and work of each are subject to the judgment of God, not to fellow servants.

It is dangerous for us to judge one another. Jesus gave us one excellent reason in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said in Matthew 7:2, For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

We would not want God to judge us harshly as we have been inclined to judge our fellow human beings. The practice of judging is dangerous also in the way it produces a negative atmosphere within the church. Members come to focus on the faults, shortcomings and failures of their spiritual brothers and sisters rather than putting the proper emphasis on God’s grace and the love and compassion and patience His grace should engender in our relationships with one another.

 

Author: Nannie Mae Jordan
(Transcribed by Joyce Carter   Transcribed and Formatted by Jerry Knight)

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