Principled Compromise and Convictions (Romans 14)
Love Brings Principled Compromises in the Body (Romans 14)
Now accept the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. 14:2 One person believes in eating everything, but the weak person eats only garden plants. 14:3 Those who feel free to eat freely are not to condemn those who are unwilling to eat freely; nor must the person who does not eat freely pass judgement on the one who does— because God has accepted him. 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 14:5 One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind. . . 14:11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.” 14:12 Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God. . .14:17 For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. 14:18 For the one who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people. 14:19 So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another. . . 15:2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good to build him up. 15:3 For even Christ did not please himself . . . (Romans 14-15:2).
Old Torah and Love - At the end of ch. 13 Paul emphasized the meaning of Torah commandments. Literally, “love does not work [ergon] evil to a neighbor, thus love fulfills Torah/the law” (13:10). This is the OT. An Amishman said to me once (totally sincerely), “If you want to read about our church, just read the New Testament.” We are to “wear Christ” as our identity and thus “make no provision for the flesh (Adamic/old identity) and its desires” (13:14). Paul puts his fullest “applications” in ch. 14. Since Jesus is Lord, how should we then live?
Old Torah and Works - Keeping “kosher” foods and festivals, e.g., “works [ergon] of Torah” in contrast to Christ’s new covenant fulfillment, is a major theme in Romans. This Roman congregation likely had Jews, Gentiles, God-fearers, proselytes (circumcised Gentiles), as well as seekers. They interfaced with hostile Jews flooding back into the city returning after the ban of Claudius 49 A.D. was lifted by Nero (Acts 18:2). It was not easy for Jews to adopt a different lifestyle. They were not like modern “reform” or secular Judaism. We read of Peter being told by God, no less, to take and eat the “unclean” (Acts 10:13-14) - Three times?!!! God gave 40 years for the transition (e.g., before He obliterated the distinction demonstrably, 70 AD).
New Torah Love - So, it is no surprise why Paul’s sermon on being in the new covenant is applied in this way, directed to break down “party lines” - which party lines develop precisely because we wear other identities rather than “in Christ.” Notice verse 14:19, “So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another.” Beyond the details of this original context, this is the operational principle in the Body. This applies to all of our modern schisms and in/out distinctions. Nothing is to compete with this fundamental identity because this a matter of Lordship, first and foremost. There are “things indifferent” (veganism, days, wine, etc.) - But Lordship is not a “thing indifferent”! Lordship and identity in Christ are what we should not relegate to down on the list. “Before his own master he stands or falls” (14:4). Otherwise, before you know it a person wears their convictions and status on their shirt-sleeve and it is imprinted on their t-shirt. We must strive reach out to those that not like ourselves in this congregation.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more