I recently had the blessing of speaking at a youth camp, and I was assigned a passage to preach: Romans 14. I wasn’t super happy with my preaching, but that’s kind of typical; it’s always after the sermon you realize “I should have approached it this way and taken that angle”.
Meh. What’s done is done, and if I preach it again, I’ll just make it better!
Here is what my outline of the chapter was (for those who were there and have asked, or those who are interested):
Two components to unify those of divided convictions
1. A Right Perspective (14:1-12)
a. Only God upholds believers (1-4)
b. Only God rules believers (5-9)
c, Only God judges believers (10-12)
2. A Right Priority (14:13-23)
a. Judge what’s worth judging (13-18)
b. Pursue what’s worth pursuing (19-23)
Now, as I was working through the passage, I came upon a verse that answered a long-standing question that I have had.
On the topic of disputable matters, the question often comes up regarding what the stronger brother does if the weaker brother continues to hold to their rigid and wrong ideas about Christian liberty. For example, when a stronger brother knows that it’s allowable to shop/work on Sunday because they have a biblical understanding of the Sabbath laws, but the weaker brother in your church keeps on holding to their wrong ideas about the Sabbath, what should the stronger brother do?
Should the stronger brother let the weaker brother remain in his immaturity? Isn’t there some time where you come alongside the weaker brother and “straighten him out”? If you love someone who has bad theology, should you not try to help them straighten out their crooked theology?
Romans 14 says a bunch of things on the issue, but I hadn’t ever really worked out 14:22 into the meaning of the text:
The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.
So if the weaker brother doesn’t “see the light” on whatever disputable issue you disagree on, you’re not supposed to take it upon yourself to straighten him out.
You must remember that The Lord alone is the one who can convict his heart of the truth (14:4), he answers to the Lord, not you (14:8), judging a fellow believer is you trying to sit upon God’s throne; a heinous crime in itself (14:10), your goal should be to make his path of obedience smooth, not harder (14:13, 16-18) and when you think it’s your responsibility to help that weaker brother see the error of his ways and ascend to a new level of spiritual maturity, shut your mouth (14:22).
God will do that; you cannot.
You can answer questions, yes.
You can pray for him, sure.
You can point him at the scripture and ask him if he has considered something, yeah.
But, the minute you discover that a weaker brother around you does not share your conviction and is being tempted to judge you for doing something that he thinks is sinful, you need to shut your mouth and give him no reason to stumble, despise you, violate his conscience or call something “sin” that isn’t.
The stronger brother lays his own ideas and freedoms aside for the sake of maintaining peace with the weaker brother, and the stronger brother doesn’t take it upon himself to try to play “Holy Spirit” in a person’s heart.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “the Beaker brother” Unger