All the Rest Is Commentary
Introduction: We have come to our last study in Romans and I am sad. What a great discussion we have had about our salvation! I have learned more about God's will, and if you have been with me each lesson, I trust that you, too, have advanced in your knowledge of this important topic. This week we learn about the advantage of being a hypocrite. Well, perhaps not. I'll let you decide. Let's dive into our study of the Bible once again to see what we can learn!
- Vegetable Eaters and Sabbath Keepers
- Read Romans 14:1-4. What does eating vegetables have to do with faith? I've been a vegetarian for decades! Has my faith been weakened (but my heart strengthened) because of it?
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:18-21. What is the issue? (Whether those who eat meat offered to idols are giving allegiance to demons.)
- Paul's first answer is found next. Read 1 Corinthians 10:23-24. What would you conclude that Paul thought about eating meat offered to idols? (It might be permissible, but not beneficial.)
- Let's continue by reading 1 Corinthians 10:25-29. What is Paul's final answer? (Don't worry about it unless someone raises the issue.)
- Now that we have a better understanding about the nature of the vegetable debate, what does Paul counsel those who think God does (or does not) require the eating of vegetables to avoid any issue of worshiping idols? (Paul tells us that this is one (of presumably many) "disputable matters," ( Romans 14:1) and that Christians should not get into arguments about it or condemn those who disagree.)
- Read Romans 14:5-6. Is Paul talking about the day we go to church? Is that a "disputable matter" like eating vegetables? Does this mean no church attendance on any special day? Would it be okay to join with our Muslim friends and worship on Friday?
- Read Hebrews 10:25. Why would Christians be told not to neglect a regular religious meeting if no particular day mattered? (Many of the older Bible commentaries, like Barnes' Notes; Adam Clarke's Commentary; Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown; Matthew Henry's Commentary and others argue (convincingly in my mind) that Paul is not talking about the weekly Sabbath. Rather, Paul is talking about the Jewish Sabbath feasts. The Jewish Christians were brought up celebrating them and the Gentile Christians were not. In general, these festival Sabbaths were fulfilled in Jesus, so continuing to celebrate them was purely optional.)
- Read Isaiah 66:22-23. What does this suggest about the weekly Sabbath? (We will continue to observe Sabbaths in Heaven! Read what Barnes' Notes says about this verse: "There can be no permanent worship of God, and no permanent religion on earth, without a Sabbath; ... while the observance [of the Jewish festivals were] made a part of the ceremonial law, the law respecting the sabbaths was incorporated with the ten commandments as of moral and perpetual obligation." I agree.)
- Tolerance and Hypocrites
- Read Romans 14:7-12. What should be our main worry in our Christian walk when it comes to obedience and our fellow Christians? (Our own salvation! In the end, we will be judged by God, not by each other. Thus, judging each other on disputable matters is a waste of time - and harmful to the body of Christians.)
- Read Romans 14:13-14. What should be our goal with regard to fellow Christians who disagree with us on disputable matters? (Don't create problems that will discourage them from staying in the church!)
- Is it possible that something which is sin for one person is not for another? (Yes. Paul says he does not think that eating some food is sin. But if a vegetable eater thinks it is sin, then for that person it is sin.)
- Read Romans 14:15-18. What does Paul say about hypocrites - people who hide some of the things they do? (If we think something is fine (meat-eating, for example), and we eat meat in front of a vegetarian (who thinks meat eating is not fine), then we are not showing love. Paul tells us to refrain from this.)
- Let's list Paul's rules on disputable matters:
- Don't look down on those who disagree with you;
- Don't judge those who you think may not hold the proper standards;
- The standard for one person may not be the same as for the other; and,
- If you have a different standard, don't practice it in front of those who have not yet mastered rules 1-3!
- Read Romans 14:19-20. Do we have some goals that are more important than others? (Yes. Peace and lifting up fellow church members are our goals. Getting the standards straight on food is, at best, a lesser goal that should be submitted to the higher goals.)
- Read Romans 14:21-22. If you are a righteous meat eater and wine drinker what may you be called upon to do? (You are at least called upon to keep it to yourself. Paul endorses some hypocrisy. But, more than that, you may be called upon to give it up altogether if it causes a fellow Christian to lose faith.)
- Read Romans 14:23. What is the theological basis for approving different standards? (Remember, Paul starts out this discussion by saying this is limited to "disputable matters." The key to recognizing sin in our life is ask whether we are living a life led by the Holy Spirit. Our life in the Spirit, our Christian walk, is progressive. Paul suggests that the Christian with the stronger faith realizes that meat offered to idols means nothing. But, until the Spirit leads you to that higher ground of faith, you should act based on your current level of faith.)
- The Love Angle
- Read Romans 15:1-3. What do love and self-sacrifice have to do with our tolerance towards those with a weaker faith? (Just like Jesus gave up His own rights, so we need to adjust our freedom in faith to benefit the weak Christians in our circle.)
- What rights did Jesus give up? (The right to live as God, the right to be free from harassment, the right to be free from torture, the right to be free from unjust accusations and unjust punishment. The right to be free from being put to death for a crime He did not commit - just to name some.)
- Read Romans 15:4. How does Paul's call for you to possibly give up your rights on disputable matters compare to the rights given up by Jesus? (Paul tells us that history should teach us something to bolster our hope. The little we give up compared to what our Lord gave up reminds us of the astonishing love He has for us.)
- Read Romans 15:5-7. When God accepted you, were you off-course on only disputable matters? (I think Paul has now gone beyond his discussion of those things which are merely disputable.)
- What seems to be Paul's goal for us? (The ultimate goal is to give glory to God. We don't do that very well if we are divided. A "spirit of unity" among His believers is the best vehicle for glorifying God.)
- We can, by God's power, decide to control our own divisive impulses. What do we do about fellow Christians who are creating division? (Read Romans 16:17-18. Paul tells us to avoid them.)
- What does Paul suggest motivates those who create division? ("Their own appetites." Paul does not say exactly what those appetites might be, but pride, arrogance, the love of a dispute come to mind.)
- Read Romans 16:25-27. Friend, we have learned how, through Jesus, we are saved by grace alone. If you have not made the decision to rely only on Jesus for your salvation, will you make that decision right now? We have also learned how those who are saved have an obligation to live like it. If you have crossed over into salvation, will you make the choice every day to live a life led by the Holy Spirit? A life that brings glory to God?
- Next week: We start a new series of lessons on the lives of special people in the Old Testament.