Friday, April 11, 2008

"Happy is he who does not condemn himself..."

" what he approves."

My friend Mike and I talked a little bit about Romans 14 on our latest Growing in Grace program (April 6) as we discussed the subject of what it means to be weak in faith, and we'll be discussing it a little more on our next program too.

To briefly sum up our thoughts from Romans 14, we pretty much both agree that those who are weak in the faith are those who are relying on external works to maintain their salvation, or who at least carry some sort of belief that in their life with God they are still subject to certain religious standards or observances. Paul's examples in Romans 14 include those who believed they can eat all things vs. those who were weak and believed they could only eat vegetables (for religious reasons). Another example is those who consider a certain day as more sacred than others vs. those who consider every day alike. These days we may or may not deal with some of the specific examples that Paul gave, but yet I think his overall point stands... which is: "Accept him whose faith is weak" (v.1). Also, "The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him" (v.3).

Those who are strong in faith, and who know they are not restricted to religious regulations should not judge those who are weak, and vice versa. "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (v.4). Paul talks a great deal about this, and then in the end he says, "Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves" (v. 22).

(Side note: I used to think that those who were "weak in the faith" were those who drank, smoked, chewed, went to the bars, fornicated, etc. But it's clear that that's not what Paul is talking about here! Those who are weak in the faith are those who are stuck on religion and fleshly works).

The reason I bring all this up is because the sentence in bold above has been on my mind a lot lately. The main reason is because I personally have learned a lot of things in the past dozen or so years that have really freed me up in regards to the grace of God, and I've also been learning a lot of things in the past few years that have really been freeing me up in regards to what "church" is and what "the body of Christ" is. I've shared a lot of this stuff on my blog and I've discussed it with many of you on other blogs and forums.

As I learn and as I grow in freedom, I need to constantly remember that those who aren't on the same page as me are still standing before the very same Lord, and He has accepted them just as He has accepted me. Man, oh man, I will still come against the spirit of legalism in a very strong manner! I will stand up for the truth of grace and will proclaim it boldly! But I must be careful to not judge the people who God has accepted. If someone, just as an example, is fully convinced that they must "go to church" on Sunday, or even that there's really such a thing called "going to" church, which to me is not how I look at it any longer, because I see that "the church" is people, not a place, and I want to meet together "with" the church (the people) whether or not it's at a "church building"... then I must understand that the Lord still accepts those who I see as "weak" in that regard, and even much more than that, I am not their judge. If I go about acting as if everything that people do is worthy of MY approval or disapproval, then all I am really doing is heaping condemnation on myself, because I'm standing before the same Lord.

I don't want to confuse this "condemnation" with the condemnation or punishment of God, which no Christian is any longer subject to. Using this term in this way simply means that if I am distinguishing myself as "better" than anyone else because of what I do or don't do, or because of what I approve of or don't approve of, I'm really distinguishing myself as a hypocritical judge.

In re-reading what I've just written, I see that it might appear as if I'm coming across as a little "heavy" here. :) I seriously do not have that type of disposition as I write tonight! I just mean to say that I want to be serious about not judging anyone who I might see as weak in the faith simply because they don't have the same freedom I have. As I stand up for freedom and grace and as I stand against legalism and bondage, the temptation can be to look down on others, and I simply don't want to be that way!


  1. I love you brother and hope you consider the spirit in which I respectfully disagree again here. You said:

    "To briefly sum up our thoughts from Romans 14, we pretty much both agree that those who are weak in the faith are those who are relying on external works to maintain their salvation, or who at least carry some sort of belief that in their life with God they are still subject to certain religious standards or observances"

    I do not see this. What I am reading in the apostle Pauls exhortation is that it is instead a matter of thanksgiving and keeping a clear conscience from evil with God in living for the Lord and loving others as He has loved us. I actually see a sum up here in Pauls words:

    "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, for none of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 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." Romans 14:6-8

    Let us consider a brother who was both weaker than you and I, yet probably stonger in living for God than (I leave you out here as you are a strong believer) I.

    Eric Liddell, in whom they made the movie Chariots of Fire. Have you read the book the Flying Scotsman?

    Anyway he was weak in that he incorrectly viewed Sunday as the sabbath, yet God honored that in a public way as Eric simply was honoring and thanking God in his life as he knew how. Eric of course was a runner and knew much of disciplining himself to run the Christian race. Like him the apostle Paul buffeted his body to not be disqualified from living a life in seeking full reward in winning the race set before him.

    Eric died in a Japanese prisoner camp loving the chinese people more than himself.

    The author of Hebrews exhorts us to lay aside every weight...not just sin. Some weights may hinder us from glorifying God in our lives and drawing us backwards into sloth or even our old habits that conform to this world. Not everyone may have the same weight.

    Hey I love football and watch it every Sunday, but I know men like Eric Liddell may have had a cow about it and thats fine...then again he may have walked a little closer to God because of it.

    Either way I think we are to be believing towards our brothers who are weak and strong in that both simply want to live a life of thanksgiving to God...not depend on works to maintain salvation.

    Grace upon grace,


  2. Hi Brian,

    Yep it seems you and I disagree again on a certain subject. No new news there, :), and I thank you for voicing your disagreements lovingly.

    My main point, whether we agree on all the details or not, is the admonition I see here for brothers and sisters in Christ who are strong in the faith to not "condemn" themselves by looking down on others who they view as week. I personally relate all of this to the freedom many of us have found in Christ, and I'm essentially saying that the more I grow in freedom, and see others in what I would consider religious bondage, I don't want to be haughty or judgmental in my freedom. I also don't want others who are freer than me to look down on me when they see me as weak. :)

  3. I hear ya boo and yet we are to esteem others better than ourselves even though we have the same standing in Christ. I'm secure in my walk with God...keep on brother, your a blessing.

    Grace upon grace,