GOPSEL CULTURE  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  50:25
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Today’s one another focus on living in harmony with one another or a shorter version is unity. Chapter 14 and the 1st ½ of 15 are one extended discussion about how to get along with people in the church who disagree with you on something you feel passionate about.


Paul is going to say that for most of these things, unity > uniformity. Somebody in the early church said it this way:

In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

Paul said in Romans 12:16
Romans 12:16 ESV
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.


These chapters explain how to live in harmony with those you disagree with in the family of faith.

Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about disputed matters.

Paul is saying that there are things we will disagree about in church that should not lead to division. Now, he is not saying that there’s never anything in the church shouldn’t divide over. Throughout Paul’s letters he has identified things that should make us separate.
Galatians 1:8 ESV
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
We should label them a false teacher and not entertain them in the church.
1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
Romans 14:1 ESV
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.


But not everything rises to that level, and here Paul introduces a category called “OPINIONS.” A theologian named Michael Bird gives three levels of importance for issues in the church that I find helpful:

Matters essential for salvation

person of Christ, the way of salvation

Matters that are important to the faith and the church, though not essential for salvation

inerrancy of the Bible; gender roles and marriage. BTW, these 2 are almost always spelled out clearly in Scripture

Matters of indifference

non-essentials, debatable things, preferences, opinions. The Greek word for opinion is Twitter. We are not to Twitter over inconsequential, OPINIONS. This is what Romans 14 is about . . .


Not everything in Christianity is a first order issue--but here’s the catch: The longer you’re in church the more you start to like your opinions on everything and think everyone else needs to live by your opinions. In fact, in your mind, these are not even opinions anymore; they are just the way things are--the way mature Christians see the world.


And here’s the deal: for many things in the Christian life, God has not spelled out what he wants to the letter. He gives us principles and expects us to use wisdom in applying them to new situations. And that’s maturity...


Maturity is having the wisdom to know what the right thing to do is even when it is not spelled out in Scripture. As a parent, that’s my goal for my kids. I don’t want to have to tell my kids what to do in every situation for the rest of their lives. I want to teach them the principles so that they can figure out what to do on their own. It’s the same with God in Scripture. You are supposed to use principles to develop wisdom to know what to do in new situations.


But here’s the thing: we should always show restraint in equating our wisdom--our application of a principle--with the Word of God. Unless you can give it a chapter and verse, don’t give your perspective in the application equal authority with God’s Word.

Spiritual maturity is not just developing strong convictions, it is learning to show restraint in the weight you give those convictions.

Paul then addresses 2 contentious issues in the Roman Church. These are not going to be the same things that are contentious in our church, so we’ll just use these as examples and glean from them wisdom for how to deal with contentious issues at our church.
Romans 14:2 ESV
One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.


The city of Rome was a city filled with temples, and almost everyone is Rome was an idol worshipper. And most of the meat sold in the market had been presented to an idol for its blessing, and some if it was actually offered to an idol. You put the meal out in front of the idol, which they wouldn’t eat, and this wold lead to the meat being sold at a discounted rate.


And so, some of the Roman Christians, particularly the Jewish ones, felt like the fact that the meat had been offered to an idol permanently tainted it, and to accept the discount was to participate in idol worship. Plus, a lot of the meat was pork, and Jews looked down on that anyway.


So, to avoid all this, many Christians simply refused to buy meat in the market and ate only veggies. They were like, “Isn’t that what Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel in the OT? We’re like them.”


But other Christians in the Roman church said, “No. No. We know that idols are not really gods. There is only one God. And his power would counteract any of the idol magic. Plus, Paul taught us in the book of Galatians that Jesus’ death has cleansed all things for us.” So pass the bacon.”
Romans 14:5 ESV
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.


There were Jewish Christians in this church who still thought that the Sabbath (our Saturday) was the day they should worship on. That had been a big deal in Israel for 1500 years, so why change it?


Furthermore, they thought that even though they were Christians they should still observe Jewish holidays, since God had established them for Israel to remind them of various things throughout the year. They understood these things weren’t necessary for salvation, but still, observing them was good practice since God had established them.


Decent argument, right? Other Christians said, “No, these things are part of the old law and the death of Jesus has completely released us from these things. Observe them if you want, but there’s nothing inherently special about them.


I want you to note: Paul had an opinion on both of these issues about which one was right. Paul was definitely on team “meat-eater.” In vs. 14 he tells us:
Romans 14:14 ESV
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.


In Colossians 2 he says directly that after Christ there is nothing inherently special in any day of the week. Paul calls those who didn’t understand this “weak” in their understanding of the gospel. And he wants them to be strengthened in faith by becoming better informed by the gospel.


So Paul is not saying, “Everybody is right here! To each his own!” Paul thinks the weak are wrong. And that’s what makes this passage so helpful. Paul shows you what to do with people in the church who disagree with you on things you think are important. When you are really convinced they are wrong.


Again, we’re not talking about things directly addressed in Scripture or things essential for the faith--WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT somebody who says, “I think there are multiple ways to God, or I feel good about living with my girlfriend. That’s not what Paul is talking about.


We’re talking about wisdom in the grey areas where Scripture is not clear. He says in those areas, UNITY is more important than UNIFORMITY. You say, “Oh, pastor, this is easy. I’d never let anything not directly addressed in Scripture divide me with someone else.” Really?


Growing up I heard Christians argued about what you should wear to church: Some said that God deserves our best in worship, and that should include what we wear. They said, “If you were going to meet with royalty you would dress up, so shouldn’t you dress up to come before God?”. Other Christians said, “No--man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart. It doesn’t matter what you wear.”


I was taught that a praying knee and dancing foot couldn’t exist on the same leg.


The church I grew up in was totally teetotaller. We were taught, “The Bible says, ‘Wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging and whoever is deceived by it is not wise.’


Technically we are free in Christ to drink alcohol, but that doesn’t mean it’s wise. We know that 1 in 7 people who drink develop a problem with it, and so even if you don’t develop a problem with it, someone who follows your example might, so the most loving thing to do is avoid it altogether. Right?


Others Christians say, “But the Bible specifically says that God created wine for our enjoyment. And Jesus drank it, so it can’t be inherently sinful.

Just because something can be abused doesn’t mean we avoid it.

The more Biblical approach is to live out before your neighbors and kids a healthy, God-glorifying relationship with alcohol than to avoid it altogether.


That was the world I grew up in: Always-wear-your-Sunday-best- to-go-to-church and don’t drink or dance or chew or go with girls who do.


Is it ok for Christians to read or watch the Harry Potter series? Some in this church say, “Clearly, this is witchcraft. The story is literally about witches and wizards and some of the terms come straight from the occult. So, no, we should avoid any hint at Satanism.”


Others say, “Look. It’s fantasy like Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia. There is good and bad. The kids even celebrate Christmas so they are clearly not Satanists. Plus, JK Rowling is a member of the Church of England. I’ve even got a book in my library called The Gospel According to Harry Potter.”


Some say, “That’s a Buddhist practice, and you can’t separate the practice from the origins. Yoga in its original formulations is about clearing your mind and finding oneness with the things around you, and that’s not Christian. And they are right.


But others say, “I’m not going into all that when I do Yoga. Yoga is just good stretching and there’s nothing anti-Christian about letting your mind rest and listening to gong sounds for a few minutes.” So we have Christians with different ideas on Yoga in this church. And don’t even get me started on Yoga pants.


Get a home-school mama and a public school mama together and ask what the best educational approach is and then just get some popcorn and sit back and prepare for a UFC bout.


Home-school mom be like: Sure, you can send your kid to the place where they outlaw prayer like in the times of Nebuchadnezzar and teach your kid that he came from monkeys and where he might get shot by a deranged lunatic… that’s fine … but we love our son and want him to develop a biblical worldview so we homeschool. Statistically they are more likely to walk with Jesus if you do that, so clearly homeschooling is the godly choice.”


Public-school mom: Yeah, that’s cool. We just want our kids to have things like… social skills. We think it’s cool that Timmy can churn his own butter and make his own clothes but we want our son to know things like … math.


And we think our kids need to learn how to deal with the temptation of the world and not just run from it. After all, Jesus promised he would protect us in the world, not to vacate from it—and if all the Christians flee the public school, where is that going to leave society? How can we be salt and light to the world if we vacate it? Keeping our kids in public school is an act of love for our neighbor.


Do we hear ourselves? You are passionate about these things. People in Paul’s day were just as passionate about eating meat offered to idols and Jewish holy days. You say pastor what’s your opinion? I’m not telling you. I will tell you that on the school question, we’ve done private school and public school and saw advantages in each.


We may not argue about eating meat sacrificed to idols and whether to observe the Feast of Tabernacles but there are many secondary issues we fight over. So here are Paul’s instructions on how to handle these conflicts in the church:


Romans 14:5–6 ESV
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Whatever you do, you should be able to do it as an offering to God.

Can you listen to this, watch this, participate in this as an offering to God? Be fully convinced you can, because, here’s the thing: If you feel like something is wrong, and you do it anyway, it’s wrong to you:
Romans 14:23 ESV
But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.


Does that make sense? Even though it was not wrong in itself, because you thought it might be wrong and did it anyway, it was wrong to you.
james 4:17
James 4:17 ESV
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.


The point is--obey your conscience, and don’t do something unless you are fully convinced. BECAUSE it’s always dangerous to go against your conscience. We don’t talk about conscience much anymore--and that’s a tragedy, because your conscience is a gift from God. It’s a type of moral intuition where you know something before you can articulate it--a kind of 6th sense.


That’s the etymology of the word: con-science. Science: to know. Con: with. It’s something that goes “with” head knowledge that goes beyond it. Before your head knows it, your heart feels it. It’s a gift of God--be very cautious in going against it, because numbing it is dangerous. Because, if you get used to doing what your heart feels is wrong, you’ll gradually tear it apart until doing wrong doesn’t even feel wrong anymore.


Romans 14:5 ESV
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.


As I showed you, Paul challenges the weak in this passage to get stronger. He calls them weak and very gently explains how he sees the gospel applying to these questions. So, even though your conscience is a precious gift from God, that doesn’t mean it can’t be wrong and become better informed. And sometimes you have to challenge and reform it.



I grew up hearing that any kind of rock beat in music was sinful. It was the devil’s beat and even if you put Christian words to it, that was like serving a T-bone steak on a plate of manure. Later I learned that wasn’t true, but even after I knew that here, my heart would still feel uneasy when we’d sing a song in church with a drum beat in it. My conscience had to grow in the truth.


It bothered Peter’s conscience to eat with Gentiles. He’d grown up thinking that was impure. Paul told him in Galatians 2 that his conscience was wrong and needed to get more in line with the gospel.


One more: Some of you grew up being taught interracial marriage was wrong, and even after you came to realize you were wrong, it still bothered you to see an interracial couple. You have to retrain your heart to feel the right thing.

Obey your conscience, but be open to it being retrained.

Are you humble enough to learn from another Christian that you may not see something the right way?

What kind of great church would this be if members were willing to listen to each other and change their minds? Humble enough to listen--TELL ME ABOUT WHY YOU FIND THAT SO OBJECTIONABLE-- and secure enough in their identity in Christ to be wrong.


Romans 14:3 ESV
Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.


When you feel freedom to do something that someone else has a problem with, you’ll probably be tempted to say, “Why are you adding rules to the Bible? You’re such a legalist.” (DEF of LEGALIST-- someone stricter than me) But one of two things is true: First,

You might be wrong.

I’ve changed my mind a good deal over the years. Nothing essential for the faith. The more I grow in Christ, the more I realize how much of my perspective has been shaped by my own selfish and sinful prejudices and cultural perspective. Or two

God has graced you with insight he hasn’t given to someone else yet.

Just realize that you didn’t arrive at that insight because you were smarter--God gave you that insight as an act of grace. So be patient and gracious with others as God has been patient and gracious with you. When the roles are reversed, and you don’t approve of something someone else does, don’t reject them: …and one who does not eat must not judge one who does, because God has accepted him.


When someone else does something you don’t approve of, you’ll be tempted to say, “Oh, you are just not very spiritual.” “You are so worldly.” Or maybe even, “You’re not really a Christian.” (The word “judge” (krino) means to pronounce doom.”)


But what does Paul say? “God has accepted that person despite their mistakes. So who are you to reject them?” Do you realize how many times you’ve been wrong on in your spiritual life, and yet still God has never stopped accepting you? Who are you then to reject someone else? Friend,

The good news of the gospel is that God accepts us despite our mistakes and that should influence how we accept one another!

How can you not fellowship with someone that God is in fellowship with?

Are you saying that your fellowship is more selective than God’s? In fact, by not welcoming them, you are implying that God’s acceptance of them is misguided! In 15:7 Paul says,
Romans 15:7 ESV
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Michael Bird summarizes this: Paul is bent on stressing that Jesus is Lord of the weak (teetotaling Sabbatarian vegan Jews) and the strong (bourbon-sipping, Saturday-shopping, bacon-munching Gentiles).

If God has justified them, they cannot condemn each other. If God has raised them up, they cannot put each other down. If they belong to the Lord, they belong to each other. If everyone calls him “Lord,” they must call each other “brothers and sisters.” If God has accepted them, they must accept each other.


Recognize the sincerity of your brothers and sisters in Christ, and respect them even if you can’t fully go where they go. The church is unique--our

Unity is not merely the weak conforming to the strong; it is the strong accommodating and bearing with and seeking to understand the weak.

Paul follows that up by saying, in vs. 4


Romans 14:4 ESV
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.


This one principle would dissolve so much conflict. They don’t answer to you. If they are wrong, God will correct them. Stop acting like they answer to you. Now, this doesn’t mean I stop speaking my convictions. Paul keeps expressing his in this passage. But after saying his convictions, he still embraces those who disagree as brothers and sisters and he doesn’t look down on them.

Can you accept in close fellowship people who see the public school/home school question like you?

Why is it that home school families only seem to hang out with each other? Why do public school families only hang out together? Can you accept into close fellowship those who answer the “who should we vote for” question differently?

Speak your convictions, but don’t stop embracing them and including them.

If God embraces them and welcomes them as beloved family, so should you.


Romans 14:15 ESV
For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.
Romans 14:19 NASB95
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
Romans 14:21 ESV
It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.


Paul is saying, “If my eating Baal-blessed bacon is harmful to my brother, and they just can’t shake feelings of it being wrong, and their conscience is wrecked when I eat it, I’d rather give up pork than hurt them spiritually. That’s love, friends. To the Gentile Christians, Paul is like, “Look--stop bringing your BLT sandwiches to discipleship group because your Jewish brother/sisters are freaking out.” And the Roman Christians were like, “But Jesus died for bacon!”


And Paul was like, “Yeah, but even more importantly he died for your brother. Your focus should be the same as his: how can I help and build up my brother?

John Stott: “Did Christ love him enough to die for him, and shall we not love him enough to refrain from wounding his conscience?

If your drinking alcohol really grieves someone’s conscience, don’t do it in front of them. Don’t talk about it. If it makes them stumble, love them more than your freedom.


Romans 14:17 ESV
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.


Truth matters. And some things are worth dividing over. Again, throughout his letters Paul would show that. There is a time to divide--but the bar for division should be really, really high. One of Jesus’ last prayers was for the unity of the church. So, if I am going to separate, it should be about an essential matter. The kingdom of God is not (about uniformity in) eating and drinking (It’s about peace and love and unity)

Unity in the body of Christ is more essential than uniformity in nonessential matters.

So, remember Michael Bird’s three levels of importance

Matters essential for salvation

Matters that are important to the faith and the church, though not essential for salvation

(Again, these two are almost always spelled out clearly in Scripture). These we sometimes have to divide over.

Matters of indifference

non-essentials, debatable things, preferences, opinions. (alcohol, politics, school choices, and lesser-important doctrines like Calvinism). These we should never divide over. But that’s easier said than done, because some of these things we are passionate about. For many things, family fellowship is more important than being recognized as right and unity is more important than uniformity.

Can we be a church like this?

Our community needs a church like this. We’ve got media outlets and politicians bent on polarizing us. They need a church that is more passionate about Jesus than we are our opinions on non-essential matters. That’s why I rarely tell you about many of my opinions from up here… It’s not that I don’t have them or I’m scared, it’s that I want this church about the gospel and not about uniformity about nonessential and debatable matters.

Can we be that kind of church? Can we do it for Jesus?

Paul’s summary: 14:8
Romans 14:8 ESV
For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

We are the Lord’s and it is not pleasing to him to be united to Christ and divided over debatable issues.

Insisting on uniformity with your opinions can be a very self serving thing. Selfishly, we want to justify ourselves and show why we’re right and only be around people who echo back to us how right we are.

Love lays down the desire to be exonerated as right so we can serve and build up each other and please Jesus.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a part of a church where our unity in the gospel was more important than our division over debatable things?

Can we do it for Jesus?

Some of us need to go home and change some of our social media post. If you are divided with someone over a nonessential - be reconciled today. Let’s be a church where our love of the gospel is stronger than our perspectives on debatable matters.
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