Romans Bible Study # 44
The *Krisis of Human Freedom
*(Karl Barth’s spelling of ‘crisis’ when he is
speaking of the ultimate crisis of man in relation to God.)
Principles of Conscience
14: 1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced [f]in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
Self-denial on Behalf of Others
15: 1 Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2 Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” 4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one [m]voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted [n]us to the glory of God. 8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,
“Therefore I will [o]give praise to You among the Gentiles,
And I will sing to Your name.”
10 Again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord all you Gentiles,
And let all the peoples praise Him.”
12 Again Isaiah says,
“There shall come the root of Jesse,
And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles,
In Him shall the Gentiles hope.”
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. NASB
Cultivating Good Relationships
1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
2-4For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
5Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
6-9What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It's God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That's why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.
10-12So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I'd say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we're all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren't going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
"As I live and breathe," God says,
"every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
that I and only I am God."
So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
13-14Forget about deciding what's right for each other. Here's what you need to be concerned about: that you don't get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I'm convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
15-16If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don't eat, you're no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don't you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!
17-18God's kingdom isn't a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness' sake. It's what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you'll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.
19-21So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault. You're certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God's work among you, are you? I said it before and I'll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don't eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.
22-23Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.
1-2 Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?"
3-6That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. "I took on the troubles of the troubled," is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we'll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!
7-13So reach out and welcome one another to God's glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! Jesus, staying true to God's purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do! For instance:
Then I'll join outsiders in a hymn-sing;
I'll sing to your name!
And this one:
Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together!
People of all nations, celebrate God!
All colors and races, give hearty praise!
And Isaiah's word:
There's the root of our ancestor Jesse,
breaking through the earth and growing tree tall,
Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! The Message
It amazes me how this chapter is right where I am at right now. And also in the Wed. night study, “Are you a fan or a follower?” Both of these studies focus on living a life of love. They provide a head-on collision against self-righteousness. Barth emphasizes how all that Paul has taught up till now about freedom in Christ is about to be brought under the rule of fellow believers who are weak and do not fully live in the freedom of Christ. We can not judge other believers. God only is in that position, because, along with His wrath, is His forgiveness. We do have the capacity to judge and we are allowed to use it...on ourselves. God can put a stumbling block in someone’s way, because He has a plan to redeem it and use it, but when we put a stumbling block in a person’s way we have no way of ‘fixing’ the situation. When I tell a person they are doing ‘wrong’, I have no way to enable them to do it right. Only God has that power, so only God should be correcting people. Christian community (as opposed to once a week, superficial contact ‘church’) puts you so “IN” the life of the other person that there are opportunities to show humility and acceptance, and extend grace.
Barth was a professor, teacher, John Piper is a Pastor. This passage is right up the alley of a Pastor so John Piper had about 9 sermons on this section alone. Most of these thoughts are his.
Romans 14:1-3 What not to do; you who have freedom don’t despise those who don’t; you who choose not to eat meat, don’t judge those who do. Why not? (Piper calls these big guns that God pulls out.) God has accepted this person, Justification by Faith, you must accept them too, for the same reason.
Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge, this ‘big gun’ is the election of sovereign grace that keeps us. God will make him to stand, get your hands off and quit doubting what God is able to do. You are not in a position to judge, all you are doing is building up your stinking self-righteousness.
Romans 14:5 God’s solution to these little disagreements is surprising. ‘be fully convinced in your own mind’, we would expect it to be, don’t sweat the small stuff, just let people go their own way, don’t give it a lot of thought, but that is not the Biblical solution. The exhortation is be fully convinced in your own mind. Think it out, wrestle it out with God, know why you believe what you believe and have ‘rest’ in your own mind about these issues, but then realize that grace has room for varying opinions on these issues and LOVE must trump all of this ‘right thinking.’
Romans 14:6 No differentiation is made between the weak and strong here regarding, the motive for why they are doing what they are doing. They are both fully convinced, acting in faith, for the Lord. In Galatians Paul rebukes people who are thinking to add to the work of Jesus Christ their works. This is a lie, heresy. But Paul is not doing that with the weak brother, he is judging his motive to be pure and is treating him as a brother, with love. He is judging that love toward God is the motive. His warning to the weaker brother is not to judge the other brother, who is ‘fully convinced’ of his freedom in Christ.
Romans 14:7 Our brothers in Christ, the fellow believers in the body of Christ are not separate from us in a way. Christ is in them and in us. When we choose to offend them, we are offending Him in them. “The One in the other,” as Barth says.
Romans 14:8,9 Life and Death are quite opposite, but both can be ‘for the Lord.’ If such opposites as that can both be glorifying to God, we should not be too surprised or amazed that God can use both days and not days, both eating and not eating etc. to glorify His name.
Romans 14:10-12 The biggest gun of all is brought out. The key is you have a fellow believer here, one who has been bought with a price. You cannot judge him adequately, only God can. God has an appointed time to do that, and He will do it perfectly, at the judgment seat. So armed with this knowledge, the focus of your time and judgment should be to remove the log from your own eye, in preparation for your judgment.
Romans 14:13 Determine, make it a point, work at it, that you not be the cause of another persons’ stumbling.
Romans 14:14 The freedom in Christ is total and positively amazing, but it is trumped by love of your brother, you will choose to limit your freedom because you love your brother more than your freedom. If in his heart, he cannot do ‘that’ in faith, you cannot do that in front of him.
Romans 14:15 Your freedom, must bow to the brother for whom Christ died. Love demands it. Love makes it ‘easy.’ Love empowers us to lay down our freedom. The same way it did for Christ himself. Be aware of the word “destroy” in this verse. This is a very serious issue with very serious implications. When a person has their faith shaken, and begins acting , not in faith, but thinking to themselves, ‘I am sinning in eating this’, that is a ‘first step’ on a destructive path, and the believer who has chosen their freedom OVER loving their brother has lit the match that caused this fire, that could ultimately result in destruction for the weak believer.
Romans 14:16 Your freedom in Christ is a good thing, but when love is subtracted, and others are caused to stumble, your freedom stinks!
Romans 14:17 The pinnacle of the argument is here. Righteousness, goes beyond freedom to include love and a willingness to be humble and caring in how you live, the choices you make.
Peace, goes beyond freedom to ‘ultimate peace’ is not just when everything is right in my world, it is when my brother’s heart is at rest also. Joy, goes beyond my personal freedom, to a world-view that includes the the joy in Jesus’ heart when He sees me choosing to lay down my freedom out of love for the ones that He died for. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.”
Romans 14:18 Love is ultimate, when you serve Christ in Love, Christ is pleased and men, (at least fellow believers) are blessed.
Romans 14:19 Verse 13 “determine this”, and now this verse “pursue”; this way of life requires that we be “all in.” Choosing to live this way makes for peace. Who in their right mind would not choose peace over contention, peace over anxiety, peace over destruction. The ‘building up of one another’ necessarily includes ‘me.’ When we are choosing this path of love and humility we will ultimately be building up ourselves. Once again in the Christian life, the way down is the way up!
Romans 14:20 Your freedom in Christ, if taken outside of the context of love for your weaker brother is now called EVIL. Paul has built an air-tight argument up till this point and now he is putting the final warning on it. Choosing to do something that causes another brother to stumble is evil, not a little off course, or something you should avoid, evil!
Romans 14:21 ‘Second verse same as the first’ only this time the spin is “not good.” Don’t do it, don’t do it, and by the way don’t do it. The Bible, the Holy Spirit is not at all hesitant to repeat the same thing over and over for emphasis.
Romans 14:22 You have come to your conviction of ‘freedom in Christ’ through deep study and you are fully convinced in your own mind. That is good, but to pull it out in front of someone for whom it will be a stumbling block, that is not good.
Romans 14:23 If as you are eating, you are doing it against your faith, against what you believe, you are chipping away at the very thing that connects you to the power and salvation of God. You can not do harm to your faith without doing harm to yourself and your walk with God.
Romans 15:1 (Again the chapter divisions were added in about the year 1200 AD, they are not “real” but just markers for us to easily find different passages of scripture.) The thought continues. Actually the hammering continues, this is so important to Paul, to the Holy Spirit, that He will continue to bang away at this for many more verses. This very long section is the heart of a Pastor who has overseen various bodies and has seen this problem over and over and is attacking it with everything he has. You are not on the earth to ‘please yourself.’ There is a shocker. Talk about counter-culture. Advertisement in this country would totally fall apart if this foundation of our consumer culture was to crumble. But in the Body of Christ it has already crumbled. Just because you can does not mean you should or should even want to.
Romans 15:2 Love puts you out. Love knocks you off your throne. Love draws you to a place where you willingly, delightfully, submit to your brother.
Romans 15:3 The quote is from Psalm 69, it didn’t make sense to me, so lets read that Psalm. Now having read that an amazing correlation is being given to us here. Christ did not live to please Himself but God. When we choose to live to ‘please/not give offense’ to our brothers, we are living like Christ. The ‘reproaches’ fell on Christ because He was consumed with doing the Father’s will. So it was the reproach that people felt against His father that He was actually bearing. In the here and now, when we choose love for Christ/for our brother over freedom, the reproach of our ‘self’ will rise up against us, and that is OK.
Romans 15:4 Where do get the grace to persevere, where is a source that we can always go to for encouragement? If you answered the Bible you are absolutely right! Hope will spring up as we read the living and active and true word of God. That is a fact.
Romans 15:5,6 The goal is to be so caught up in HIM that all these little things are ignored and He is exalted by a united, loving Body. That is the church that the gates of hell will not prevail against!
Romans 15:7 The foundation of our acceptance of our brother is Christ’s acceptance of us. And if the one is lacking the other will be also. So if you are having trouble in this area, look to the root. Do you know, really know, that Christ has accepted you?
Romans 15:8 Now we are staying on the subject, but we are going back to the very important and still relevant theme of Jew and gentile. How God has shown and is showing love to His chosen people from of old and how God is showing love to the gentiles, the outsiders, who have been brought in. Christ has become a servant to the Jews, showing them the way to God in a way that they could understand as an answer to the ancient promises to that people, and He has become a servant to and accepting of the gentiles through showing incredible mercy to them and bringing them into the covenant and the promises of the Hebrews.
Romans 15:9-12 Paul brings out 4 scriptures to prove that this truth of mercy being shown to the Gentiles and them being brought in was spoken of by God, and is fulfillment of promises also.
There was no quicker way to turn a Jewish crowd against you than to bring up God’s mercy to the Gentiles. Jesus got crowds absolutely incensed by bringing up God showing mercy to the gentiles. Jesus: Luke 4:23 And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.
This is key for me and hopefully for others. Be very aware of your anger, sometimes it may have a root in, they should not be getting a blessing they are not loving God as good as I do. That stinks in His sight, because everything that we are in Him is a gift from Him to glorify Him not exult us.
Romans 15:13 “The God of Hope”, God is our hope, He Himself. God speaks to us through the word of promise, the Bible. (verse 9, 10, 11, 12) Paul quotes scripture to build hope, to ‘prepare’ for the prayer of hope. The word of God is essential to produce hope. The Holy Spirit is the source of hope, not anything in ourselves. Our falleness, our sin, our depravity, is self-reliant, self-exalting, self-determination, “I am not hoping in God and grace, I am hoping in my intellect, my financial savvy, my strength...etc.” It is the power of the Holy Spirit, outside of us, that comes in and gives hope to the hopeless. The Holy Spirit creates faith in our heart to believe. To connect us with the promises of scripture. The power to receive, connect with God, finds its source in God, believing is totally from God. This connection then allows the inflow of joy and peace into our hearts. “so that you will abound in hope” Hope can always grow and abound more and more. Hope is to be with us and is needed by us until this life is over. Hope feeds on its own fruit. “Hey that promise was for me, and it is true, now I can believe another promise.”
WE NEED THIS DESPERATELY, and so we will now pray the prayer of Romans 15:13 for each other as we close.