The world of men is a huge diversity of different opinions and different was to look and accept mankind’s reverent approach to a Holy God. Therefore the body of Christ, His Church, is a sea of diversified people with as many different opinions. If one is to believe there should not be conflicting views within the Church, he would be correct. But if one believes there is not conflicting views within the Church he would be in error. To put that simply people are people and we all have our own way of grasping Christian doctrine. Through the power of Christ and a like mindedness the Church body can come together in unity in spite of the diversity of the congregation. (Philippians 2:2) If there is a door that is left open the adversary will walk in and create division to the unity within the Church. Paul in this chapter addresses the conflict that can arise when those that are mature in their faith, both Jew and Gentile, conflict with those that are immature in their faith. The Jewish believers who were mature in their faith realized that they are free from the ritualistic ceremonial requirement of the Mosaic Law, they were no longer binding as they had gained freedom through their faith in Jesus Christ. The Gentile believers who were mature in their faith understood that the idols were not gods and therefore they could eat the meat that had been offered to them. Still for those who were weaker in their faith these matters were troubling to them. Paul addresses this issue in order to prevent conflict between the strong believers and the weak. Knowing the more mature of the Jews and Gentiles would be better to understand most of this chapter it is addressed to them.
To accept means to welcome. We are all in different stages of our spiritual journey. Some are ahead while some are behind. But in regards to others we are all both, ahead and behind depending upon who we are in company with. We should welcome all Christians regardless of their spiritual maturity. We should lift those who are less mature and rise up to those who are more mature. Paul gives us two reason why we must accept those who are of weaker faith. (Verse 3) God has accepted them and we should accept them and we should accept them into the brother and sisterhood. We are all laborers to the Master, Jesus Christ, who are we to judge the laborer of the Master? It is Christ the Master who is to decide who is a loyal Christian.
The Christian cannot gauge his relationship with other Christians on if they are of the same spiritual maturity, as spiritual maturity should never be a requirement for fellowship. The Christian must discern between the one who is weak in the faith and the one who is rebellious.
The Christian must in a loving manner consider the reason that one may not be a mature Christian. They may be new to the Christian faith and in need of sound teaching. They may be caught up in the legalism that often surrounds the Church. And they may lack exercising their faith and be in need of exhortation.
Christians must avoid having useless debates over doubtful things. Paul gives us an example of a doubtful thing in the argument over not eating meat for spiritual reasons. They may be refusing to eat meat for fear that it was used to sacrifice to pagan gods. (1 Corinthians 8:1-13) They may refused the meat because in was not kosher as the Jews required and they stuck with the Jewish dietary requirements.
Some Christians of Paul’s day saw nothing wrong in this meat and ate freely of it. Other Christians saw a great wrong in eating the meat and it became a great issue in Paul’s day. This is not a relevant issue for Christians today but it is the example how Christians can get caught up in arguments that have no bases to their true faith.
In the mind of Paul it was the less mature ones that were the stricter in their fashion. It was not that they were weaker in their Christian life because of what they ate or did not eat, they were weakened by their legalistic attitude and lack of love towards others. So often the weaker ones did not see themselves as the weak in faith. They most likely thought them to be the strong. It was the meat eaters that were the weak ones. Legalism has a way of making people think they are strong and the ones that do not act as they did were the weak. It is like the Pharisees who viewed downwardly to those who were not able to keep the law perfectly.
There is a lot of bickering between some Christians over useless issues. Much effort is lost in the Church over silly bigoted issues that have no real spiritual value to the soul of men. Paul is telling these Christians to rise above their differences and conduct themselves as Christian brothers and sister.
Those who are weak in their faith still want to observe special days in their calendar. They still wanted to have festivals such as the new moon of the Sabbath. The Christian is not to judge those who observe these special days neither is the Christian to be judged if he does not. (Colossians 2:16) Every day is a gift to us from God and in itself is a special day. Paul believed that every day was special. There is not wrong in observing special days for rest, prayer and worship. The Sabbath day was created for man and not God. We need to set aside a day each week for the purpose of rest, prayer and worship.
Other people eat whatever they like and they thank God for His provision. Others will eat only that which their conscious allows them to eat and they give thanks to God for His provision. Either way whatever we eat we should honor God by giving thanks for His provision. Whatever we eat or do not eat it is the same, it is the same in whatever we do. The Christian is to all do hat he does for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Every Christian should be a living testimony to the glory of the Lord. The way that we as Christians conduct our lives has an effect on all that see how we live. How we live our lives as Christians also has an effect on other Christians as well. No man is an island in the middle of the sea. Our individual lives are not lived individually, from birth to earth our life is connected with the other lives around us. From the beginning of life until the end the Christian lives a life that is dedicated to God. Therefore, whatever we do we should do it for the Lord.
Jesus Christ died and rose again from the grave so that He is the Lord of the living and the dead. Christ is the Lord of all, both living and dead. (Acts 10:36) The weak Christian is a servant of Christ and the strong Christian should not accuse him. All will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Paul quotes from Isaiah 45:23 in that all will give praise and honor to the Lord. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-10) Paul states that all will have to recognize Jesus as Lord, both righteous and unrighteous. All are responsible to God and so we should help those who are weak in their faith. The Christian who is strong in their faith will be held accountable for their lack of help to those who are weak in their faith. It is the command of Jesus that we are to love one another. (John 13:34)
Christ will be the judge of all Christians at His judgment seat, which is called the bema seat. “This is the bema seat, equivalent to the judge’s seat in the Olympic Games. After each game, the winners came before the judge’s seat to receive crowns for first, second and third places. Likewise, the Christian’s works will be tested by fire, and he’ll be rewarded for those which remain . . . The judgment seat of Christ is only concerned with a Christian’s rewards and position in the kingdom, not with his salvation.” (Smith)
In Paul’s quote from the Prophet Isaiah “that every knee will bow” emphasizes that all will appear before God and give an account in humility. This being the case for all we should let God deal in judgment of our brothers and sister.
Those who are spiritually mature must think how their actions will affect other Christians. Paul continues with food as the example. Some thought that eating meat was wrong and they should be obeying the Jewish food restrictions. They thought that some food was unclean to eat. Jesus had shown that all food was clean. (Mark 7:19) Paul himself felt free to eat any kind of food. But a Christian who felt free to eat any kind of food may hurt another Christian’s conscious. If what a Christian does becomes a stumbling block to another Christian, then in this situation we are to respond in love. The proper reason for showing love towards our brother and sister is that Christ died for them and that person is valuable to Christ.
If ones conscious tells them they are doing wrong or committing a sin, to force that person to commit that act then that person’s faith would become even weaker. Weakening another Christian’s faith is not an act of love but a harm to their spiritual heath. We should show consideration for what they believe to be wrong. According to a man’s conscious what is right for one may be wrong for another. These things are not for one’s judgment but for the judgment of the Lord and Master of His servant. When delivering the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned about judging one another. In the measure that we judge others we shall also be judged. (Matthew 7:2)
This prohibition of judgment of another does in no means remove the responsibility of admonishment or rebuke. (2 Timothy 4:2)
A mature Christian is not someone who causes trouble for another because of personal opinion. God’s kingdom is more important than food or drink. God’s kingdom is the sphere in which God rules in the hearts of those who have been saved and set aside by Him. The Christian should and must be more concerned in having a right relationship with God. Through the power of the Holy Spirit a Christian will have peace within himself and have a calm and content relationship with other people. A Christian is to have sympathy with other people’s opinion.
Our liberty though Jesus Christ and our freedom from the law is good, but we cannot use it to destroy another brother in Christ. If we do that, then we have taken something that is good and made it evil. Serving the Lord with a heart for His righteousness is the kind of service that is acceptable in God’s sight and will be approved by men.
As a Christian body, as the body of the Church, as members of Christ body a Christian must do everything possible to build up and make the faith strong. A Christian must not do anything that will make another Christian sin against God. The conscious of a man is that which always seeks the higher moral ground. What one conscious may convict another conscious may not? Therefore, what may be sin to one may not be sin to another. But we as individuals are not the judge of that which the conscious convicts of another. That belongs to the Lord who is the Master of that conscious.
There is one thing that we have that everyone has, and that is an opinion. But that does not mean that we should share our opinion with someone that would find it offensive or cause them to violate their own conscious. As one who acts against the others conscious is committing sin. A Christian must always act in faith. A Christian must trust God completely as without faith it is impossible to please Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
If our actions are actions of personal liberty causes another to stumble in their faith, then we should not do it in their presence. We do not have the liberty to cause another to stumble, offend, or weaken a brother.
Each Christian must ask God what there is in their life that may be hindering their walk with Him. The answer to that question will require faith because we often cling to the things that hinder us from having a complete and full relationship with God. True happiness is found with a close walk with Jesus and not being condemned by the lifestyle that we approve.
Paul gives us one more check that we can test ourselves with. “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” If what we are doing troubles our conscious then it is not from faith and likely it is a sinful behavior.