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Romans 14




SCRIPTURE: Romans 14

Unity has always supposed to be a characteristic of God’s people.  In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus said that our unity as Christ followers is part of the evidence of His reality.  Unity has been and continues to be most important.

But the people of God have always seemed to struggle with unity.  In the Old Testament there were rebellions against Moses.  Later the nation of Israel would literally divide into the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom and the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom.  In the New Testament, almost every letter Paul wrote to individual churches had some mention of conflicts, divisions, and disunity that existed within that particular church.  Even the joyous letter to the Philippian church had hard words to two women who were at odds and, as a result, were splitting the church.

When we get to Romans 14, we shouldn’t be too surprised that Paul has to deal with some issues of disunity in the church at Rome.  Interestingly enough, Paul attacks this problem from a couple of different directions.

For example, it seems there were some folks who ate only vegetables and there were some other people who enjoyed some meat with their vegetables.  No big problem, right?  No, they were using their dietary decisions to judge others.  The vegetarians were convinced they were much better than the meat eaters.  And the meat eaters were judging the vegetarians.

But it didn’t stop there.  There were some folks who thought that one particular day of the week was better than all the other days of the week.  And there were others that thought all days were of equal value.

Before we giggle and shake our heads at these immature, misguided Romans, let’s remember that we are all capable of such comparisons and judgments.  In fact, most of us who have been in church for any length of time have probably chosen a side in a goofy argument that really didn’t matter.

So, Paul’s approach in the first half of this letter is to tell those folks to quit judging each other.  In other words, they should quit fussing and fighting about stuff that really didn’t matter.  God is the ultimate judge and judging is His business, not ours.

But then Paul takes a much different approach beginning in verse 13.  Basically, he makes this incredible statement.  If you are doing something that is causing someone else a problem in the church, you should stop doing that.  Let me stop and say this doesn’t apply to the non-negotiables of Scripture.  There are some most important things that we should never compromise on.  There are some most important thing that we should never change just because someone is offended.

But there are other things, the non-essentials if you will, that we should be glad to change if it makes it somehow better for someone else.  I know this sets us up to be taken advantage of.  But at the end of the day, the immature always take advantage of the mature.  On the other side of this issue, if we are not willing to acquiesce on the non-essentials, we probably will never have an opportunity to help the immature move toward maturity on any issue, non-essential or non-negotiable.


Romans 13




SCRIPTURE: Romans 13

This is a most interesting chapter that speaks to the responsibilities of the Christ follower in the culture.  Paul begins this chapter by talking about human government.  I want to take this back a bit further.

God has established three institutions: the family, the government, and the church.  By the way, they were created in that order.  One of the reasons God created these three institutions is we humans need levels of authority in our lives.  Of course, authority with no power to punish is not to be followed or feared.  So, when God created these three institutions, He implemented discipline processes even within the local church.

As sinful humans, we tend to rebel against authority in our lives regardless of the source or the right to have authority.  In our country, particularly in the rural, conservative south, it is almost a national past time to rebel against the authority of government.  For some interesting reason our rebellion seems to grow as the seat of that authority gets further away from us.  In other words, we seem to have less trouble with local government, more trouble with state government, and the most trouble with the federal government.

The Bible inserts itself into the middle of that rebellion and reminds us that government is ordained and instituted by God.  The Bible goes on to say that as Christ followers we have a responsibility to submit to governmental authority.  As verse 5 says, we are to do that not just to escape God’s wrath but because we understand that is the right thing to do.

The obvious question is what do Christ followers do when they live in countries where the government is not exercising authority in a Biblical manner.  What do Christ followers do, when the government is acting in ways that are opposed to the Bible?

In those cases, we have to remember that there is a Law that is higher than the government’s.  That Law, of course, is the Law of God.  And any time the Law of God is contradicted by the law of the land, we have a responsibility to be obey God’s Law.  If that obedience gets us in trouble with the government and we are called to account, then we have a responsibility to respond in a Biblical manner.  (Matthew 10:19; Acts 4:19-20)

Perhaps a good measure here would be what you got in trouble with the government in the first place.  Were you in trouble for doing what God said?  Or, were you in trouble for doing what you wanted to do?  

When you get to verse 8, you can see where these two questions play out.  In verses 8-10, we are reminded that loving others in a Biblical way resolves a lot of issues that could get you in trouble with the government.  

As Paul closes this chapter, he reminds us that we really are living in the last days.  In light of that, we should live in significantly different ways.  Our lives should be distinct from those who don’t know Jesus.  Our lives should not be lived to satisfy our own desires but to bring attention and glory to the one, true God.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

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