Romans 14:1-4 “On The Issue of Opinions and Conscience”

Today I am just going to put up the basic outline of the sermon from yesterday. I think you can read through and follow quite well and hopefully it could be a help to you in your Christian walk (or understanding a Christian mindset if you are observing). Thank you for your attention.

Romans 14:1-4 “On The Issue of Opinions and Conscience”

With all that is going on in our country right now, the question as it relates back to the church is, “What is the greatest threat to a church through all of the pressures we are facing?” Is it a virus? Is it the danger now of social unrest? Is it politics? Is it economic? Is it the rapid changes in society and even technology? 

It sure seems to be changing by the minute, doesn’t it?  I would submit to you that the greatest challenge facing the church right now from within is the matter of conscience.  Opinions are deeply intertwined with the conscience, and we will see this in the text of Romans 14.  There are a multitude of opinions floating about in our circumstances: opinions towards how things should be handled, if they’ve been handled rightly or wrongly, whether to be very concerned or that people are concerned too much; practically everything has the potential for tension as a matter not only of opinion, but furthermore, conscience: the rightness or wrongness of any choice.  This tension of conscience was an issue in New Testament times, too.

If we are not careful, we will cling more to our opinions than to our Lord, and this is where divisions will tend to rise.  Opinions, as will be mentioned below, are not matters of black and white (clearly sin, clearly righteousness), but often those gray areas that may evoke strong emotions but lack a certain degree of conclusiveness. On such issues there is great variance even among people who would claim Christ through salvation by grace through faith.

The conscience is best dealt with as a matter of principle, not specific details like a cookie cutter.

There are three primary principles to consider when dealing with the conscience.  Our primary text today will be Romans 14:1-4.  If you have a Bible or want to look it up, look up that passage to begin with before proceeding.

 

  • Principle #1: The matter of good and evil.
    • Genesis 3:1-8
      • “Eyes will be opened”-awareness=knowledge
      • Two sidenotes:
        • 1. Eve added to the command by saying “or touch (the fruit)” when responding to the serpent
        • 2. Eve was created after God gave the command originally (Genesis 2:17 is the command; 2:18 she is created)
        • Adam very likely informed Eve of the command as her husband; this may be why she was approached; Adam was on hand
      • Good= refers mostly to usefulness (kalos, agathos)
      • Evil=refers mostly to worthlessness (kakos)
      • One thing Satan didn’t say=we’d see things to be good or bad somewhat subjectively (from person to person)
      • Informants of rightness/wrongness: conscience, OT Law (10 Commandments), Bible, but also what we’ve been taught as well as our personal experiences
    • 1 Corinthians 4:3-4
      • A clear conscience does not mean we are righteous in the sight of God
      • Justification (to be declared righteous by God) functions in part to inform the conscience that we are not guilty
      • If we fail to understand our justification, fail to understand our freedom in Christ, we will struggle with knowing where we stand with God, as to whether we truly are forgiven or not
      • Think of the statement: “I know God says I’m forgiven, but I can’t forgive myself”– our opinions or feelings towards ourselves don’t determine where we stand with God, but God’s judgment, so get in His word
  • Principle #2: The matter of weakness vs. strength.
    • Romans 14:1 “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.”
      • Receive= to welcome in, to invite into either an abode, a community, or one’s own heart (core)
      • Weak in the faith=
        • weakasthenos –having limitations or restraints.  Think of a dog who wants to chase squirrels but is held back by a leash.  While there may at times be a desire to be free, the conscience can cause an internal “yanking of the leash” towards the choices we make. We can only go as far in clarity of conscience as we feel justified in our choice. We cannot go further without defying our personal conscience.
        • In the faith—refers to a believer, but also is in relation to justification
          • Think of having structure but lacking integrity, like brittle bones, formed but easily broken
            • failing to understand the fullness of God’s forgiveness but claiming Christ as Savior produces a person who looks like any other Christian in confession, but is easily thrown into doubt about their faith over choices or the standards of others
          • Just because we’ve trusted in Christ doesn’t mean we’re necessarily confident in our salvation; it doesn’t mean we are confident about standing before Him one day.  Confidence can only come from resting in His objective promises, not our subjective performance.
        • Weakness (once again, limitations or restraints)
          • Can exist because of a poor understanding of justification—leads to legalism and denial of eternal security
          • Can exist because we seek to be justified before others more than God—leads to anxiety; too many voices speaking in to our lives that don’t agree with their estimation of who we are
          • Can exist because we fail to see that forgiveness does not negate obedience, but empowers it—often a weakness of arrogance (Romans 6:15-16) “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
    • (Receive them) “but not to disputes over doubtful things”
      • “Disputes” refers to verbal harassment, quarreling–an intention to harm with words
      • “Doubtful things”—an easier way to put it is matters of opinions
        • Opinions are conclusions based on the use of reason
        • Different people have different lines of logic, therefore a variety of opinions
          • sometimes opinions align, but it is doubtful that any two people carry all of the same opinions
          • having the same opinion is not always the goal on disputable issues; having the same focus of mind, Christ, is the goal
          • Romans 14:1 is commanding us to welcome in those who have limitations in the faith but not to quarrel with them over opinions. It is implying therefore that we are welcoming them in to help build up their faith, to reinforce their justification and forgiveness in Christ or to call them up to the standard of living as justified.  This is one of the greatest ministries one believer has to another.
        • Opinions over what? Romans 14:2 “For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.”
          • “Believes” means to be persuaded that something is true
          • Consider the New Testament background of many believers in the Greco-Roman world—love feasts in honor of demonic idols coupled with sexual immorality among many with pagan backgrounds; there was much potential for shame from participation
          • Conscience has much to do with association, either through having been taught or asuming associations with objects, styles, etc. or as a result of experience, whether that experience is negative, positive, or neutral
          • Consider a simple illustration: you are offered a knife at lunch for cutting your food. No problem, right? Then you are told that the knife was used as a murder weapon. Does it alter your opinion towards this particular knife? Now, what if you were taught that all knives were only used for killing people.  Would you avoid knives by association? This is how the conscience works.  It associates feelings either of justification or condemnation with objects, activities, styles, etc.
          • One’s associations are sometimes but often not always the associations of others towards the same things
          • Love means taking this into consideration and doing what we can to not distract another believer from God; sometimes this is an issue that must be addressed rather than simply accommodated and we must use discernment
  1. Principle #3: The Matter of Justification
      • Romans 14:3– “Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.”
        • “Despise”—to treat as worthless, either by putting down or dismissing as unworthy of acknowledgment
        • Judge—to condemn, to determine someone else is sinning
        • Both despising and judging come as a result of projecting our opinions onto others; assuming they should associate in the same manner as we do
  • The solution is to rest in justification, that we each answer to God, not each other
  • Romans 14:4  “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
    • Stands—think of standing in confidence before God (multiple times in the NT the call is essentially “having done all to stand”)
    • Falling—thinking of falling in fear, doubt, uncertainty; perhaps falling away, receding, shrinking back
    • “God is able to make Him stand” (this is optimism based on truth)
      • A parallel to this phrase:  Phil. 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31-“Whether therefore you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God”
    • This is the goal of our choices
    • This must be the litmus test of what we do
      • Can I do this to the glory of God?
      • If I’m not sure I can do this to the glory of God, would this choice draw me away from giving God glory?
      • Given my social atmosphere, even if I feel confident, will this cause others to stumble? (This may at times only be known after a choice is made.  Would I stop if I was made aware that it caused another to stumble in glorifying God?)
      • Note that in all of this questioning, it’s not a matter of never causing offense. Living for the glory of God will cause offense. It’s whether that offense would draw away from God’s glory or whether the offense may give Him glory when appropriate (done in love and consideration), such as confronting sinful behavior.

Wrapping this all up, what is the basis for strength as a believer (to be the stronger brother)? Three suggestions:

  1. Confidence in justification comes from growing in our grasp of how salvation has affected our standing before God. (Paul’s confidence in Romans 8:31-39 summed up essentially says–“nothing can separate me from the love of God”–the book of Romans, from which Paul’s words come, is intended to help grow the reader in an understanding of salvation, its implications and its applications)

  2. Confidence comes from trusting God’s words more than trusting the opinions of ourselves or others.  

  3. Confidence comes from resting more in God’s acceptance of us than self-acceptance or the acceptance of others.

 

Prayer:

Father, as we face the truths of Your word, help us to consider their gravity for our lives. Help us to center ourselves under the Scriptures while many voices come and go. Help us to love one another, to be considerate, and to be obedient to You towards them. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you and God bless you today.

 

 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.