Dos and Don'ts
We are in Romans 14 and we are studying the issue of what's usually or often referred to as "doubtful things" as it is translated in Romans 14:1. Actually the Greek there is really talking there about things that relate to individual opinions. This means you're talking about issues in life that are not specifically defined or addressed by the Word of God. There are many different things as I pointed out last time. There are many different areas of life, usually cultural applications that have been deemed sinful by different people, different religious groups, different pastors, or different seminaries.
Usually we think of things related to the use of alcohol, the use of tobacco and we also see people who say you can't play cards and be a Christian, you can't go to movies and be a Christian, you can't watch TV and be a Christian and in some circles you can't do anything including watch sports on a Sunday afternoon. They say that's violating what they think is the Sabbath. There are all kinds of different taboos that have been developed over the years in terms of Christianity. Christians don't do these things, they say.
I ran into this in one of the most extreme ways in my experience in the very first church I ever candidated at after I was out of seminary. It was a Bible church in Opelousas, Louisiana. If you know anything about Louisiana you know that Opelousas is right in the heart of Cajun country. It was quite an interesting experience.
The parsonage looked like it had been cobbled together from left-over parts from different building projects. The master bedroom had four different patterns of wallpaper, all of which clashed with the floral, flocked mirrored type wallpaper that was in the master bathroom that you could see through the door. Carpet differed from room to room. It looked like all the cabinetry was made from leftovers from building mobile homes, high quality construction material. So that was very interesting but that wasn't the most interesting part.
I went in to interview with the pulpit committee. There were five men. If you remember "Amos Moses" sung by Jerry Reed, there was a character in the song who had his left arm gone clean up to the elbow. He sat right in front of me. His son was also a deacon and had to translate every question into Cajun French and every answer into Cajun French which kind of slowed the process down. But that was very interesting.
The first question was for me to explain my philosophy of ministry. The second question was whether or not I would preach against smoking, drinking, and dancing. We never got to the third question. There was an hour of debate over why in the world they would want me to preach against smoking, drinking, and dancing. The bottom line was, and you often find this among some Christians, that they viewed their congregation as almost exclusively converts from the Roman Catholic Church. Their experience with the Roman Catholic Church is that going to church was just something you did on Sunday. The rest of the week it was just pure antinomianism. All you had to do was go in and say a few "Hail Mary's" and "Our Fathers" and you were good to go. That meant there was no sense of any kind of accountability or moral absolutes within the functional operation of Catholic Christianity in southern Louisiana so they had reached a conclusion that if you were going to have a testimony as Biblical Christians you couldn't do anything that the Catholics did. That meant the pastor had to preach against smoking, dancing, and drinking continuously.
I didn't quite come from that background. We didn't quite agree on those things, that smoking, dancing, and drinking were inherently sinful, so therein we discovered a conflict. It was a most unusual thing. I preached the next morning on Sunday morning and walked back as is typical in traditional churches that the pastor goes to the back door and shakes hands with everyone as they leave. Everybody left. I've preached in a lot of churches in a lot of places and have never except that one church, not been invited somewhere for lunch. When I turned around I saw I was the only one left. I had no idea where to go to eat. It was a very clannish place and there are places like that, still today.
There are Christian groups like that who have set up a rigorous code of conduct. It may be that the things they have in their code of conduct are not necessarily wrong. The problem is it's not a Biblical code of conduct. They have come to convictions that are not necessarily revealed or mandated in Scripture. Then, this is where it's wrong. It's not wrong to come to convictions in the area of these doubtful things. What's wrong is to come to convictions in your life in the area of doubtful things and then want to impose that on everyone else because God has not spoken with regard to these areas. We have to understand that there's room for disagreement among believers about these things because God has not specifically addressed them in His Word. They are neither moral nor immoral. They are not spiritual absolutes.
Paul brings us here to a discussion. He focuses on two categories of Christians. The weaker brother or immature believer and the stronger or mature believer. As I pointed out last week, there's actually a third category, not present in this particular passage but we clearly see evidence of this third category in the gospels. This category is the legalist or the Pharisee. The issue here is how are to live or how are we to deal with these doubtful things when it affects a weaker brother, not a legalist. See we run into people like I did in that church in Opelousas, Louisiana and their problem wasn't that they were weaker but that they were legalists. They wanted to impose their dos and don'ts on everyone else.
The Bible clearly has certain dos and don'ts and as we come to the second half of chapter 14 there are a number of dos and don'ts that the Apostle Paul lists. Just by way of review let's talk about the three categories of believers: the weaker brother, the mature brother, and the legalist. The weaker brother and the mature brother are both characterized by humility. They seek to put themselves under the authority of God's Word. That's the essence of authority but the legalist is arrogant. He is imposing his moral standard as a grid upon the Word of God.
The immature believer is uncertain about what he should participate in. He asks, "Is this good or bad?" He's heard some people say one thing and another say something else but he hasn't had time to think it through for himself and some of these areas may involve a violation of his own conscience. He may have been brought up a certain way. The context here indicates that the division between these two groups in the church in Rome was between those who were of a Jewish background who had norms and standards of the Mosaic Laws and the dietary laws and the observance of Shabbat and other feast days taught them and inculcated in them as they grew up. Now they're surrounded by a Gentile culture. They've become believers in Jesus as Messiah. When they go to a Gentile home suddenly they're confronted with food that they would not have eaten before. Someone is wanting to serve them a BLT or maybe some fried shrimp or fried oysters. That doesn't fit their Levitical diet so this is a problem for them.
If their conscience says it's wrong, how are they to handle this? Often they might be swayed into going ahead and eating. In one sense that wouldn't be wrong but it's a violation of their conscience so it causes them to stumble in their Christian life. So the weaker brother's uncertain because he hasn't had time to study things through. The mature believer has studied the Word. He has thoughtful convictions but he holds them with humility whereas the legalist has thoughtfully come to his conclusions but he's holding them in arrogance and seeking to impose them on others.
The weaker brother is uninformed. He hasn't come to his position based on knowledge of the Word. The mature believer has studied the Word of God. He's oriented to divine viewpoint and he's open to correction, if he's wrong. That's because of his humility. But the legalist is not open to correction. One of the men that I was deeply influenced by early in my Christian life when I was a teenage who really got me focused on the road to understanding the issue of creation and evolution was a graduate of Bob Jones. We have at least one member of the congregation who's a graduate of Bob Jones who's not legalistic but Bob Jones is sort of the paradigm of the legalistic Christian university. They have all manners of rules and regulations and he had brought this with him. He wouldn't let his kids watch TV or go to movies and finally, as he spent about 15 years in a grace-oriented environment, he actually broke down and allowed his wife to take him to see "The Sound of Music". He thought that maybe not all movies are bad. His humility finally began to develop.
Weaker brothers are grace oriented as are mature believer but a legalist is not. He's works-oriented. He's more concerned about a rigid code of conduct than truly understanding the Word of God and not comfortable with the fact that there may be some things you can do under certain circumstances but not under other circumstances. They want everything spelled out. The weaker brother is easily influenced and this may cause some problems for him. The mature believer and the legalist are not easily influenced. The difference is that the legalist is one to easily take offense. It's not that someone has intended to offend him but that he has chosen to be offended by something that was done in innocence. We'll come back and talk about that before we're done tonight.
There are five principles that basically summarize the teaching in the first twelve verses of chapter 14. First of all we have to distinguish between absolute commands in Scripture and areas where there is no specific command. We have to distinguish between these areas of absolutes and areas of freedom. The Scripture is very clear. Galatians 6:1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." The Apostle Paul clearly understood his freedom but he also understood that under certain circumstances he was not to exercise his freedom. So it's a self-limitation. Someone has once said that at times we have to say others can do something but I can't because of my position as a leader or of because of someone else that may be in the area, someone that I may wrongly influence that are not ready to handle areas of freedom. This was the problem that Paul deals with in both Romans 14 and the first part of Romans 15 and in 1 Corinthians 8.
Second, each believer must investigate and think through their own convictions in areas of freedom. If the Bible doesn't specifically address something then it's between each believer and the Lord as to whether or not they are going to enjoy freedom or participate in certain activities or not. Some of these are culturally determined. They are cultural taboos. They are things that may be accepted in some groups and not accepted in another. Part of this is just good manners and being considerate of other people's beliefs even though they may be wrong or you may think they're wrong. Each one of us must think through and investigate these areas.
In Romans 14:5 Paul says, "One person esteems one day above another. Another esteems every day alike." The issue there emphasizes that this is probably a distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the Roman congregation. There were Jews who were still observing the traditional, historical feast days. They thought that was important. As we studied in Acts, we saw that Paul still held a vow. We saw other things they did that Jewish believers did but not because they felt it had a spiritual significance but because this was part of their historical and cultural background. It was part of their upbringing as Jews. They observed Shabbat. They observed Passover. They observed Pentecost. They observed the feast days because that was part of their historical background and it honored the Old Testament, not because it had spiritual value. Some believed that they would continue to follow the dietary laws because that's what they were comfortable with, not because it's going to make them more spiritual.
On the other hand, I've talked to at least two or three Jews who were raised Orthodox and always ate Kosher and as soon as they became believers, the first thing they did was go have a ham and cheese sandwich. They wanted to exercise that freedom. We have to think through those convictions and come to our own convictions.
Where it gets into a problem is when we start imposing that on others. We do have liberty. 1 Corinthians 8:9 says, "But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak." Paul isn't saying you don't have the liberty to do "x, y or z". He's saying there needs to be maturity involved as to where and when it is exercised so that it doesn't become a problem for a weak, immature believer. We have rights. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:4 and following, "Do we not have a right to eat and drink, do we have no right to take along a believing wife…" That was causing a problem. Paul was single and when he would go to these churches and teach, he would try to support himself through his tent making endeavor and start a local business to support himself. But the other apostles would bring along their wives and their families and expect the local church to support them. Paul was saying that neither is right or wrong. This is a gray area. This is a doubtful thing. This is a matter of opinion.
Just as today you have some pastors and some ministries who charge for tapes. There's nothing in the Bible that says you can't charge for the teaching of the Word of God in order to have the financial resources to support the ministry. There have been many pastors and many ministries that choose that path. There's nothing in the Bible that prohibits it. You also have others who say they're not going to charge for anything but trust the Lord to provide and individual believers to support the ministry. These are individual decisions.
Paul made the same kind of decision. He chose to remain single and not to become a financial burden to the congregation but he doesn't say the other apostles are wrong because they brought their families along and expect the church to support them. Both, he said, are legitimate. It's just a matter of personal choice. So that's what1 Corinthians 9:4-6 is teaching. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 and 29, Paul says, "All things are lawful for me but not all things are helpful." So just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do it and even if we should do something it doesn't mean we should always exercise that freedom. Point number 3 is that in areas of freedom we must allow others the freedom to hold different convictions as firmly as you hold to your convictions and be comfortable with that and not impose your views on them or their conclusion because this is an area of personal opinion, not an area of direct revelation.
Fourth, we must exercise our freedom in love for other believers, being willing at times to restrict legitimate behavior when it might cause a spiritual problem for an immature believer. I want you to notice that it's not because it might cause a spiritual problem for a legalistic believer. Jesus never modified his behavior because the Pharisees would take offense at it. What we see is that Paul is saying to modify your behavior if it will cause an immature believer to have a problem, not a legalistic believer. A legalistic believer is not an immature believer. There's clearly a distinction in Scripture. This is definitely the part of the nature of what it means to love one another and to serve one another through our own decisions. We capitalize on our freedom when we can and we limit it, when necessary. That term "when necessary" is very important.
Fifth, our pattern is Christ. On the one hand, Christ demonstrates perfect love but on the other hand, He doesn't restrict behavior based on the legalistic and wrong standards of others. What we saw last time is that there are four things that characterize the weak believer. He's weak in faith, he doesn't understand the Word, but here it has to do not only with its content but he's not sure what to believe. He may think for a minute that it's okay to eat non-kosher or treif food but then his conscience bothers him. So he's weak in faith. He's weak in knowledge because he hasn't been under the teaching of the Word long enough to truly understand what the new principles are for the believer in this new age.
This is what Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 8:4 and 7, "Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idol, we know that an idol is nothing in the world." But someone who's brought up in idolatry may still have the norms and standards in their conscience informed by thinking there's really something there. The superstition and the religion and the mysticism is so bred into him by his training that when he would go to the situations in 1 Corinthians which is going to the temple and eat at the restaurant there which was basically serving meat that had been sacrificed to idols, it would bother him. For him, he can't separate the two in his thinking so by going and participating in the restaurant there and eating that, it pulls him back into thinking as he did in his former life as an idolater. So that causes him to stumble. He needs to come to a firm conviction but he doesn't have that knowledge yet so he falters he stumbles in his spiritual growth.
A weaker brother is also weak in conscience. This seems to be a difficult thing for us to understand. The conscience is the location of the norms and standards in the soul. So you have an area of your soul that tells you what is right and what is wrong. When you do something that is wrong your conscience sends up a flare to warn you that you are on the verge of being out of bounds. The conscience functions like a traffic cop. Now if the traffic cop is wrong, it's wrong because the norms and standards are wrong. Even if the traffic cop is wrong and you disobey the traffic cop you've still broken the law because you've violated the respect for the cop.
What happens is that if you set up in your soul a pattern of violating the authority of your conscience, even if you or I might not think it's a Biblical standard, you're setting a precedent of rationalization and disrespect for your conscience. That, in turn, will cause problems down the road in your spiritual life because you start training yourself that it's okay to tell it to go away and not to bother you. Whether that standard is right or wrong what Paul is saying is that it's wrong to violate your conscience. This is a foundation for what he is saying here. 1 Corinthians 8:12, "When you thus sin against the brethren and wound their weak conscience you sin against Christ."
It's really easy for people to get impatient with weaker brethren who haven't quite figured it out yet but that's the nature of being a child and an immature believer. You haven't figured it out yet and sometimes it takes time. So in terms of defining weakness we would say the weaker brother is a believer in Christ who because of his weakness in faith, knowledge, conscience, and will can be easily influenced to violate his conscience by the example of a differing mature believer. He's going to go along with something, eating meat that's been sacrificed to idols or not observing the holy days, the Shabbat or whatever, and he doesn't have a conviction for that in his own soul so he's violating his own conscience which puts the mature believer in the position of causing spiritual failure and promoting spiritual failure in the life of the weaker brother.
In contrast, the stronger brother is a believer who understands his freedom in Christ. He understands the principles of grace. He understands the doctrines related to the Christian life in the area of essentials and non-essentials so he exercises his liberty with a peaceful conscience without attempting to impose his views on others and is willing to limit his freedom, when necessary, for the benefit of the weaker believer. That term "when necessary" is so important because you can be with one group one day and you know that if you're with that group and even though you'd like to have a glass of wine, you're not going to have a glass of wine. If they don't think Christians should play cards or they haven't figured things out yet about any number of areas, you're not going to make an issue out of that because it would just be a distraction. Instead, you're going to willingly limit your freedom in that particular area.
I had a situation occur some years ago when I was involved with a ministry with some black pastors out in southern California. I was invited out to dinner with two or three pastors and Wayne House was with me. We both ordered a glass of wine and one of those pastors, a black Baptist pastor, really got his panties in a wad over that. Not there, but later on the rumors came back to me how offended he was. See, that's the legalist. This guy wasn't stumbling. We weren't going to cause him to drink a glass of wine or to do something that violated his conscience but he was imposing his views upon us. If we had been aware of his beliefs then we would not have done something to create that problem. That's how the stronger or mature believer acts. He's willing to limit his freedom for the benefit of others.
When we talk about the conscience it's the place where the norms and standards are located in the soul. As unbelievers we fill up our conscience with a lot of standards which may not be Biblical. Those standards don't change just because you trust in Christ. You have to have your conscience educated on the basis of Scripture. Many norms and standards which are ingrained in the conscience of an unbeliever are Biblically false but that conscience is still his traffic cop.
The fact that an unbeliever has these absolutes in his soul is used by Paul to indicate the existence of God in Romans 2. An unbeliever knows there are absolutes, even though his absolutes are wrong the fact that he knows there are absolute rights and absolute wrongs is evidence of a creator who has made him in God's image. Part of His imageness is that he has these standards of right and wrong.
Now a weak conscience is one that has norms and standards that aren't derived from the Bible but the person who has a weak conscience hasn't quite figured out how to redirect his conscience and how to re-educate his norms and standards. Therefore when someone with a weak conscience finds a rationalization which goes against his conscience without Biblical support he then sets a precedent for violating correct norms later on. If you're violating your conscience even if it's wrong you set a precedent for violating it later on.
In Romans 14:12 it says, "So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God." The bottom line is that we're accountable to God, not to each other in these areas so we're not to be spiritual policemen running around imposing our convictions in these areas of doubtful things or these areas of personal opinion on each other. We have to learn what is clearly stated from Scripture and what is not.
In the next section, Romans 14:14-15:4, Paul lists various dos and don'ts. I thought that the way I would address this rather than going to technically address it verse by verse I would just summarize this by going through the various things we're supposed to do and the things we're not supposed to do. Actually I'm going to go through the things we're not supposed to do first. First of all he says we're not to put a stumbling block in the path of a growing but weaker believer. We're not to do something that would cause him to violate his conscience because of a lack of understanding or a lack of knowledge on his part. We need to develop a sensitivity there.
In Romans 14:13 we read, "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way." The problem here was that out of arrogance the stronger believers were judging the weaker believers and saying, "They just won't grow up." They were not understanding the fact that maturity isn't a rapid process. It takes time to learn and to study so they were judging one another. The weaker brothers were sometimes judging the mature believers.
When I finish this I want to talk about what it means to put a stumbling block in another's way. It is to create a trap they fall into that causes them to injure themselves as it were spiritually. I always liked Dr. Ryrie's comment that when you talk about something like this that in order to cause someone to stumble they have to be moving. There are a lot of Christians who aren't moving. They just want to be critical and tell other believers what they can and can't do. So this is clearly dealing with a young immature believer who is trying to go forward.
Second, we're not to destroy them with food. Romans 14:15 says, "Yet if your brother is grieved [upset] because of your food, you are no longer walking in love." If you are eating what he thinks you shouldn't be eating then you're creating a problem. You go out to eat and you know this is someone who is weak and doesn't understand the issues and they don't believe you should eat pork and you order a BLT then you're just creating a problem. You're not being sensitive to the situation. Romans 14:15 continues, "Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died." This is a brother in Christ. You're to help them, not hinder them.
Third, don't let your good thing become evil. See, enjoying your liberty isn't a bad thing. It's a good thing, Paul says, but if you're doing it in a certain context where it hurts another believer it's not a good thing... It's not someone who goes out to eat and they have a glass of wine and then there's someone who watches them around the corner and says, "Oh, I saw so-and-so having a glass of wine. I'm going to go have some." Then they go out and they get drunk. This is not that kind of situation. It's talking about the fact that you're both sitting down together and you are personally engaged with the weaker brother where you are. You might even go so far as to order a glass of wine for them knowing that would be a problem or they have certain restrictions on their diet for what they believe are spiritual reasons and you want to go ahead and force the issue and so you order them a ham sandwich. That's how you create that stumbling block. It's not that someone just passes by and observes you enjoying your freedom. You can go too far with some of these examples. Paul says in Romans 14:16, "Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil but be willing to limit it."
Fourth, don't tear down God's work. God is at work building and maturing the immature believer and you shouldn't create a problem in the process. Romans 14:20, "Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. " No matter how wonderful you may think it is to eat lobster and shrimp and oysters and to eat pork and pork sausage and ham sandwiches and bacon, it's not worth it to cause a problem in someone else's spiritual life. As Paul said in verse 17 that eating and drinking are not relevant to the kingdom of God. We'll have to come back and look at that before we're done.
Fifth, he says not to give offense. Romans 14:20, "Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense." So if it offends him and he violates his conscience you have aided and abetted him in his sin.
Sixth, don't cause a brother to stumble. Romans 14:21, "It's good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak." We have to maintain that distinction.
Seventh, don't do things just to please yourself without regard for others. Romans 15:1, "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves." That word "bear" means to carry something. I think it comes across a little better if we were to say, "We who are strong ought to put up with the scruples of the weak and not just to please ourselves." Too often mature believers might just get impatient with the mature believer.
In terms of the dos what are we supposed to do? First of all we're to walk according to love. Romans 14:15, "Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love." We're to make sure that what we're doing is best for the person we are with at the time. Second, we are to serve Christ. Romans 14:18 "For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men." So we are to serve Christ and that means loving one another and being sensitive to their spiritual condition.
Third, we're to pursue peace. Romans 14:19, "Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another." This is clearly stated in several other passages in the Scriptures that we are to pursue peace with others. So the question we should ask is, "Does this action of mine edify and is it going to maintain peace or harmony in our relationship?"
Fourth, we're to build up one another. Again this concept is that we're to focus on edifying one and building one another up. Fifth, Paul says we're to put up with the weaknesses of the weak. We're to bear those weaknesses. That's a limitation for now but as they grow and mature, it won't be in the future. Sixth, we're to please our neighbor for his good. Paul says in Romans 15:2, "Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification." So that becomes the standards. We are to help them along the road to maturity and not create roadblocks or speed bumps.
Seventh, we are to edify the weaker brother. We can do this through conversation. We can do this through encouraging them to read through certain material or to listen to certain lessons so they can come to convictions on their own and grow to maturity.
So having said all that, let's go back and look at a couple of passages that seem to be problems for some people. Romans 14:17 is one of those passages that comes along in the New Testament every now and then and someone says, "Oh, you teach that the kingdom of God is future. That it's not today. Well, it seems like this verse is saying that the kingdom of God is present because it's a present tense verb." Paul is writing here that the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
There's a couple of things we need to understand anytime we're talking about the kingdom of God. First of all we need to understand that a kingdom is characterized by three things. A kingdom requires a king. The king needs to be present. A kingdom requires a domain and a kingdom requires a people. Now what kingdom are we talking about when we're talking about the kingdom of God?
When we go back to the Old Testament we realize there was the prophecy from the prophets that God would bring a kingdom upon the earth in the future that would be centered around Israel. The king of that kingdom was to be the Messiah who was a human descendant of David and that this Messiah would rule over a domain in the land that God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He never changes those terms. The king will rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem over the descendants of Jews, specifically Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All through the Old Testament until you get to the end in Malachi this is the understanding of the kingdom.
When the New Testament begins in the gospels, John the Baptist shows up on the scene and says "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand." He never redefines the term kingdom. It is what they were taught to expect in the Old Testament and this is what is announced by John the Baptist. When Jesus begins His ministry He says the same thing, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." When he sent his disciples out, he sent them not to the Gentiles but to the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the message that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. All of these are assuming the same thing for the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God, those terms are used interchangeably. It was expected to be what the Old Testament predicted, a literal geophysical kingdom on the earth.
That kingdom does not exist until Jesus returns from heaven to the earth to establish His rule on the earth. This is a fundamental concept so when we come to a verse like this that may be a little difficult to understand for some. We have to understand that under the laws of interpretation and hermeneutics, the terminology must be defined in an obscure passage by the clear passages that are governed by all the other passages in the New Testament. So the kingdom of God must be a reference to this same geo-political kingdom promised and prophesied in the Old Testament that is going to be established.
It won't be established until Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulational period to establish His kingdom on the earth. This will only take place at the end of the Tribulation. In amillennialism Jesus is now serving as king over a spiritual kingdom. Covenant theology redefines the literal kingdom promised to the Jews in the New Testament as a spiritual kingdom because the Jews rejected Jesus, God rejected them. This is part of replacement theology. They believe that God rejects Israel and replaces them with the Church so that the literal promises of a literal land and a literal king and a literal throne in the Old Testament are no longer literal. They are now spiritual and Jesus is now sitting on the spiritual throne of David in the heavens and He is now ruling over a spiritual kingdom which they say is the Church, the body of Christ today.
See in amillennialism which means no millennial, no literal thousand year rule on the earth, they say there's no future kingdom. We're in it right now. It is a spiritual kingdom now because the Jews rejected Jesus but to get to their beliefs you have to quit interpreting the Bible on a literal, historical, grammatical basis. You have to interpret the Bible according to a spiritual allegorical sense of the Scripture.
The second point we have to recognize is that Jesus is not now reigning as king. He is not referred to as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords until He receives the kingdom. He is not that now. He hasn't been given the kingdom yet. Let's see how that is shown from Scripture. In Revelation 17:14 that's the first time he's called King of kings and Lord of lords. This is right before the battle of Armageddon as He is coming to establish His kingdom. Revelation 19:16 is in the context of His coming at the time of the battle of Armageddon when He comes to establish His kingship.
We understand when He receives His kingdom based on Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus as the Son of Man who is being described in this passage, one of two figures described here in Daniel, the Ancient of Days, which is God the Father, and the Son of Man. The Ancient of Days gives the kingdom to the Son of Man. Daniel is looking at these visions in Daniel 7 where he sees the vision of the future kingdoms of man, the kingdom of Babylon, the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians, the Greek kingdom, and the Roman kingdom. Then all of the kingdoms of man are destroyed by the Son of Man who comes to establish His kingdom on the earth.
As Daniel concludes what he saw in his vision he says in Daniel 7:13, "I was watching in the night visions and behold, one like the Son of Man [emphasizing the humanity of the Messiah] coming with the clouds of heaven. He came to the Ancient of Days and they brought Him near before Him." This is the Son of Man being brought before the throne of the Ancient of Days. Key word at the beginning of Daniel 7:14, "Then, at that time, to Him [the Son of Man] was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting kingdom that shall not pass away and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed."
Jesus right now is not receiving the kingdom. He is sitting at the right hand of God the Father. In Revelation 3:21 John writes what Jesus says, "To Him who overcomes, [that is the believer who perseveres in the Christian life to maturity], I will grant to sit with me on my throne [that's in the future] as I also overcame [in the 1st Advent] and sat down with My Father on His throne". The only person sitting on a throne in Revelation until you get to Revelation 20 is the Father. All through this period, up until the Father gives the Son the kingdom, the Son is sitting on the Father's throne which is that last line in the verse.
What Jesus is saying in that in the future when He comes in His kingdom He will grant Church Age believers the right to sit with Him on His throne which is in the future just as in the past when He ascended to Heaven He sat on the Father's throne on His right hand. So this is talking about a future event saying that Jesus is not now sitting on a throne that is His. He's sitting on the Father's throne.
This is all future so when Paul writes this he's telling us as believers not to get all caught up in debates over what you need to eat and what you drink and what days of the week you should observe, if any. He's saying that's not an issue in relation to the kingdom of God. What is an issue in relation to our future destiny in the kingdom of God is our development of experiential righteousness in terms of spiritual maturity, which is also related to peace in terms of peace within the body of Christ. As he states in this context we are to pursue the things which make for peace which edify one another and joy in the Holy Spirit. When we are walking in fellowship we experience the joy and the happiness of God, the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, verse 17 doesn't have anything to do with a present form of the kingdom or with a spiritual part of the kingdom. I really emphasize this because there are some folks in this congregation and some folks related to you who have been going to one or two formerly doctrinally sound churches who have been hearing this kind of preterism and "already not yet" view of the kingdom and these distortions that come out ultimately of a replacement form of theology. There have been wolves in sheep's clothing who have taken over the pulpits in some of these churches and caused problems. Now they're not directly affecting us as a congregation except for the fact that we have family members who are very concerned about their parents or children who have been involved in those congregations and haven't had the doctrinal discernment to realize what has happened to them and they haven't left those congregations.
In Romans 14:21 Paul says, "It's good neither to eat meat or drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak." The idea here is that stumble is the word proskopto which means to strike something or to hit someone with something in order to cause them to fall down. Then the word offended is the word skandalizo, the noun meaning to set a trap for someone. It's sometimes translated to become offended. It's used both actively and passively but we see it in the passive sense in relation to the Pharisees who were offended when they heard Jesus.
Jesus didn't offend them. Jesus taught the truth. But they didn't like it and reacted to it and took offense. That's what I was pointing out last week. We live in a culture today in which all kinds of subgroups are taking offense when no offense is intended. Now I totally recognize that there are people in this culture who are racists and have all kind of problems and are offensive. But in many cases what you have is minority groups who take offense when no offense is intended. We've lost our sense of humor. We've lost our sense of lightness and being able to joke with each other.
When I used to work with a lot of black pastors and black groups they used to joke but I couldn't joke back with them. They would call me various names I won't say but it was all meant to be done in fun. But if I had said those same things to them they would have taken offense. It was clearly a one-way road. It was quite interesting but I'm not going to say some of the things they used to call me. We had a lot of fun with it but I was always careful to realize it had to be a one-way road. If I reversed on that they would take offense. That's a problem we have today culturally. We take offense instead of just treating one another with grace and love.
In Romans 14:22, Paul says, "Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves." So you need to just go along with your conscience. If you violate your conscience it's still going to cause you problems when you ignore the traffic cop as it were. You're still going to get ticketed in your soul, as it were. "But the one who doubts is condemned if he eats." He's not condemned because he's doing something wrong by eating. He's condemned because by eating he's violating a norm or standard, even though it's not wrong, in his soul.
This is where Paul says, "For whatever is not from faith is sin." He goes on to say in Romans 15:1, "We, then, who are strong or mature ought to put up with the scruples of the weak and not to please ourselves." Don't be self-absorbed in the process. The word there for "bearing with" is the word baptazo and I think the best idea there is that you put up with it because they're immature. Just like you put up with the silliness of the children because you know they'll grow up and learn better. You know the weak are powerless. This is the word adunatos. They're unable to do something. They're powerless because they're immature.
Then in Romans 15:2 Paul says, "Let each of us please his neighbor for his good leading to his edification." We're not to focus on us. It's not self-absorption. We're to focus on the maturity and spiritual growth of others. Why? Because our model is Christ. Christ did not come to this earth to do what gave Him pleasure. Did He have joy? Did He have pleasure? Sure, but that wasn't His focal point. Then there's a quote from Psalm 69:9 which says, "The reproaches of those who reproach you fell on Me." This is taken from a Psalm and is applied to Jesus who is taking the reproaches of God upon Himself. He was reviled. He was hated. He was abused but He didn't seek His own personal pleasure over his service to God. In the same way we're not supposed to seek our personal pleasure over serving one another and serving Christ.
We have the conclusion of this section in Romans 15:4-6, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning that we through the patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope." So when Paul wrote this he was talking about the Old Testament. So when we finish Romans in the next month we're going to go back to the Old Testament. We're going to go back to 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, a wonderful period in the Old Testament which has a lot to teach us.
The first part of 1 Samuel deals with the judges and their moral relativism which is very applicable to our period today. They had a false solution to that. They wanted a monarchy on their terms and this also has application for us. They sought a political solution without a spiritual reality. Then of course 1 Samuel ends with God providing the true solution through the type of the Messiah who was David. According to Paul, there's a lot for us as Church Age believers to learn from a study of the Old Testament. Paul concludes in Romans 15:5-6, "Now may the God of patience and comfort…" Notice how he emphasizes these two qualities of God. Patience. As mature believers we have to be patient with some of the wrongheaded notions of immature believers. He emphasizes the patience of God. Just as God has been patient with us we need to be patient with others. "Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another according to Christ Jesus." The emphasis here is on unity based on the truth of Scripture. Christ is the standard. Not us. Not our opinions no matter how well grounded they might be. This is so there would be unity in the body of Christ and there would no division over non-essentials.
Paul clearly teaches elsewhere that there should be divisions over essentials but where they're non-essentials, we need to set those aside as not being relevant and focus on serving the Lord and glorifying the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Next time we'll come back and go into the remaining part of Romans 15. We're very close to the end because most of Romans 16 is Paul giving various greetings to people in Rome. We are very close to finishing a study of Romans after almost four years. Probably by October we will be in 1 Samuel.