pursuing Christs Peace and Righteousness
Good Morning Everyone! Lets go ahead and grab our Bibles and, if you would, turn with me over to Romans chapter 14. As always, if you do not have or own a Bible, please grab one of our back table as our gift to you.
So, its been a few weeks since Ive been up here and since we have been in Romans. And so, as we jump into this weeks text, we will give a little review as well.The biggest thing in this weeks text is that it continues to make the same points we look at last time, in verses 1-9. But in that same message, the same thread and examples that run through verses 10-23, we see three big points come to the surface. Those three things are what we are going to be focusing on this morning.
But we need tor review what Paul talked about in the previous 9 verses because that is the thread that pulls these three points together. Paul addressed a few issues in the last passage we looked at. He made the point not to quarrel over disputed matters, of matters of opinions. We looked at the difference in open-handed and closed handed issues. Closed handed issues being the Gospel issues, the ones that are required and necessary for us to be saved, for us to be Christians. These are the issues the will move us from the goats on the left to the sheep on the right. And Paul talked about the differences in opinions that some have, the difference between God-given law and personal conviction.
The three examples Paul gave with these points, obviously three issues that were plaguing the early church, especially in Rome. These three issues were whether certain foods could be eaten or if all foods were clean, it was the Sabbath Day, and it was in regards to whether we were still supposed to be celebrating the Jewish Old testament Festivals.
Again, that them continues through the rest of the chapter, but it is used to make three bigger points that we will focus on this morning. Lets go ahead and read this morning’s text, reading romans 14:10-23. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in whichever translation you have in your hands. Romans 14:10-23, Paul writes:
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
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.
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.
So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.
It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.
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.
So, as we read that section of Romans 14, the three main points we are going to look at this morning are found in verses 10-12, verses 17-19 and then verse 23. Starting in the first section, verses 10-12, we see Paul appealing to a bigger view of God and judgment than just looking at these food and drink. We see him addressing why we should make sure not to get bogged down in these quarrels and disputes.
Essentially, if we are to go down the road of making these open-handed issues in to more important, close handed issues, than we are making a judgment of salvation on the souls of those who take part in the quarrels. If we make them close handed issues, then, using the examples Paul gave in this chapter, we say that if someone refrains from eating a certain food, or worships on a different day that we do or decides differently about celebrating the festivals, we end up saying that we are saved and righteousness and they are not.
Paul and the rest of scriptures are clear; We do not get to say that about others. We can make an assumption, we can even make judgments based on the fruit we do or do not see. But we do not get to say, specifically based on this context, the open-handed issues, you are not saved because you think differently than I do.
In most cases, we are not able to know or see someones eternal destination. There is of course, a spectrum on which some of these issues lie, and some open-handed issues are mighty close to being close handed issues, or can look like close handed issues, especially if we take grace out of the picture.
Think about sin for a moment. First, think of the worst behavioral sin you can think of. Most likely, it’s not a sin that you struggle with. That sin is very likely a close handed issue in your mind and you could make a biblical argument that it is a closed handed issue in Gods eyes as well. Now, think of the behavioral sin that you struggle with the most. In your eyes, “yeah, of course its sin, of course its bad, but it’s not as bad as the sin I can’t stand and God is good and just to forgive and he has poured out mercy on us through Jesus Christ.” Just not for that sin over there… we may not say that out loud, but that’s the thought process and the mindset that we often have.
Pauls point here is that, no matter our sins, no matter our opinions on these issues, we will all stand before the good and perfect, almighty, eternal judge at the appointed time. This is not to say that confronting sin and fighting against sin is not important and we are called to lovingly confront our fellow brothers and sisters when they are sinning. Instead the point is that I they do something different from us, its not necessarily sin.
And the point is that we should be focused on making sure that we are right before God before we turn and look at where other people are before God.
Jesus makes this same point numerous times in numerous ways, most notably in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapter 7, the first two words of which have probably exceed Genesis 1:1 and John 3:16 as the most well-known words in the Bible. Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus tells us:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye
As Paul is saying here, each and every one of us will stand before God in judgement for ourselves. We are not fully responsible for each others faith. We are responsible for our own faith. This is in the same way that one does not become a christian just by being born to a Christian family. Those kids grow up in a Christian home, they often believe the bible stories, they go to church and are often involved in church, but at some point their faith needs move from being their parents faith to becoming their own faith. At some point they are responsible for putting their faith in Christ and repenting of their sins. We cant make them. We are responsible for teaching, for setting examples, for a lot of the peripheral aspects of them coming to faith, but they have to come to faith on their own.
The same goes for each of us. We are not responsible for each others faith. Our faith is our own. And our actions are our own. No one else is responsible for our sins. We will all individually stand before God in the last judgment day and give an account for our actions. Paul and the rest of scriptures is clear that every knee shall bow before God and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as LORD.
The question is if we bow our knee and confess with our tongue before its too late. We only get one life and one chance. Every one will bow, but to great sadness, many will bow their knee after its too late. If we do not bow our knees know, God ensures and promises that all will acknowledge and know who God is and what his rightful place in the universe is.
But Paul points out that, despite us being only responsible for our own actions and sins, as a church family, as Christians called to be Holy, we need to be aware of how our words, our actions and our attitudes affect those around us.
And for us to be aware of our own sins, we need to know that how we affect those around us, if we are negatively impacted or affecting those around us, for us that is sin. James says in his letter, 4:17, So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
And the right thing to do is to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Love them by determining not to put a stumbling block or a hinderance in the way of a brother. Love them by remembering how our actions, thoughts and attitudes affect each other. We love each other by putting aside our liberties in order to build up others. R.L Whiteside says, “A man should never insist on exercising his rights or liberties if harm comes from doing so.”
Paul talks about the Kingdom of God, where our focus is supposed to be and how that applies to this all. Verses 17-19:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Those open-handed issues, those disputable matters, those things, they don’t matter in the Kingdom of heaven, the Kingdom of God. Eating, drinking, days of the week, whatever else you put into these categories, they wont matter when we are in the presence of the LORD.
Instead, what will matter? What will be important in Gods Kingdom? Thinks like righteousness, Joy & Peace in the Holy Spirit. Serving Christ. pursuing peace and the mutual upbuilding. As Paul also mentions in Ephesians 4, the mutual edification, the building up of the body of Saints.
The focus in the Kingdom of God will be God himself. It will be praising and worshipping him, tongues from every tribe, people in nation singing together as we gather around the throne to lift a joyful noise to our true king.
I always love the last verse of Amazing Grace, When We’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing his praise, than when we first begun.
We have some description and some aspects told to us today, through Gods Word in the bible about what that time will look like, but the truth of the matter is, we cannot fathom what heaven will be like. What we can rest assure of is that it will be the fulfillment of all that we were created for. The Westminster Catechism asks, What is the chief end of Man? What is outr purpose? Why are we here? Those esoteric, philosophical questions that is in our nature to ask. The answer is quite simple. To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Paul continues in the next few verses, essentially saying, Dont throw all that away for these differences. Remember, Paul is not even saying “Dont have these differences.” But he is saying is that they are much less important that Christ, whom we should always keep our eyes squarely fixed on.
Christ is the thing to remember in all of this. He is the LORD of both the Living and the Dead. He is to whom every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. He is the one who is sitting at the right hand of God the father and he is the one whom we sing and give all praises to.
He is the one who ended the old covenant and ushered in the new covenant. He is the one who breaks us free from the chains of sins and sets us free indeed. It is only through him that we can know God the Father. And it is only through him, us knowing him in this life, before it’s too late that will make us declared righteous and acceptable to God, adopted into his family as children, co-heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
This, the work of Jesus Christ, his work on the cross. His death and his resurrection. The forgiveness of sins, given by the grace of God alone, accepted through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, as revealed in the scriptures, His Word, the Holy bible alone. And all of it done to the glory of God alone. It makes anything else seem secondary, which it is.
Now, again, that doesnt mean that they are unimportant. Live by your convictions. Every thing is indeed clean. But we all have our personal convictions in certain areas. Eat meat, don’t eat meat. Worship on Sundays, on Saturdays, on Wednesdays, on whenever. Read whatever Bible translation you want. Attend whatever church you want, within the confines that they preach and teach the bible. Serve how and where in the church you can and want. Be a blessing.
All those things are secondary to Christ and him crucified. But if you have a conviction, follow it. If you are convicted not to eat a certain food, dont eat it. No matter that is allowed in general or whoever else is eating it. If you are convicted to go to a certain church, go there, or to avoid a certain church, find another. And if you do not share that same conviction, who cares? Do not get in the way of those who do.
The last line in the chapter is Important, I think. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Basically, just because it’s allowed in scripture, if it feels wrong to you, if you have a conviction, then if you do it, its sin. It goes back to what I quoted from James earlier and it also reminds me of 1 Corinthians 10:23, where Paul writes: “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
But again, even in that section of 1 Corinthians, Paul brings it back around to whats important. Same book, same chapter, just a few verses later, verse 31, So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
We live for God and we live to bring him glory. We bring him glory by obeying him. One of the ways we obey, every first Sunday of the month is we celebrate communion,
We remember and we celebrate what unites us and brings us together. The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we come together to celebrate that unity. To pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.