Sunday, November 27, 2011

Romans 14 - What Paul Says...

Romans 14:1-15:13 is a critical passage for helping us understand how to deal appropriately with differences in the church. This passage is sometimes used as a sort of "trump card" for ending discussions about differences. Is this what Paul intended? What does he actually say?

I've already written about both the issue at hand and the broader context. Now I'm going to attempt to tackle what Paul says in this passage.

We must remember that Paul is writing to a church that is likely experiencing some division between Jewish and Gentile Christians over OT food laws. Specifically, they were probably disagreeing about what they could eat and what they could drink. How they viewed days, especially the Sabbath, was also likely a cause of grumbling.

Paul writes to this church in part to correct this problem. I've tried to summarize Paul's thoughts into ten key points:

  • Some Christians are weaker in the faith while others are stronger. Do not pass judgment on each other, but welcome one another.
  • Regarding eating/drinking and days, each must be convinced of what he believes.
  • All that Christians do, whether in life or death, must be to the Lord.
  • Each person will give an account of his life to God.
  • Every Christian should avoid being a stumbling block, and instead strive for peace and mutual upbuilding.
  • Related to food and drink, nothing is unclean in and of itself.
  • Anything not from faith is sin.
  • Jesus Christ did not please himself, but provided us with an example of bearing with others for their edification.
  • Each must welcome the other for the glory of God.
  • Christ is the one and only hope for both Jews and Gentiles.

How might we summarize these points in one paragraph? Here's my attempt:

Some Christians are stronger in their faith while others are weaker. While nothing is unclean in itself, each person must be convinced of what is right (related to specific OT ceremonial laws) and live accordingly. These differences, however, must not divide believers. Rather, Christians ought to avoid passing judgment and instead welcome one another. All this is to be done to the Lord, keeping in mind that everyone will give an account to God. Christ’s followers should avoid being stumbling blocks to one another, and instead strive for peace and mutual upbuilding. Jesus provided us with the ultimate example of this. He did not please himself, but bore with others’ weaknesses for their edification. Keeping in mind that anything not from faith is sin, we ought to welcome one another for the glory of God. The basis of all this is the person and work of Christ, who is the one hope for both Jews and Gentiles.

What would you add?

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