Understanding Christian Liberty

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Understanding Christian Liberty

Understanding Christian Liberty

Romans 14:1  Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2  For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3  Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4  Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5  One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6  He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

Chapter 14 is another passage that causes controversy for many. When we do a superficial read of God’s Word we come up with many false ideas. I was speaking with a person recently about some spiritual matters they were facing. They did not know how to deal with it and in part of the response the person stated that he knew we are not supposed to judge other people. The fact is that that is not true.
Many people love to quote Matthew 7:1:

Matthew 7:1  Judge not, that ye be not judged.

In my Bible, Matthew 7 has more than just one verse. If you read just a few more verses of that chapter you come to verses 3-5 which talk about a mote and a beam. There would need to be judgment in order to discern what the mote is and what the beam is. Then in verse 6 Jesus stated that we should not give that which is holy to the dogs, nor cast our pearls to the swine. That too would require judgment. Thus when we look at verse 1 of that chapter, we understand that Jesus is not forbidding judging. He is forbidding hypocritical judgment.
In John 7:24 we read:

John 7:24  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

Incidentally, those who want to caution others against judging are already enacting judgment just by making that statement. We are all judging things. What many people want is for their views to be acceptable, but not God’s views.
In our text, Paul is continuing to write to the saints in Rome and to all saints in the broader sense. He is directed by God to speak of judgment. He is speaking of the person who is weak in the faith. That is a judgment call. The person that is weak in the faith is one who has not yet come to understand what liberty in Christ is about.
Being weak in the faith has nothing to do with neglecting sound Bible doctrine. It has nothing to do about committing or living in sin. We see in verse 2 that it has to do with eating certain foods.
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was given laws as to what foods they could eat and which foods they should not eat. God was using that to teach them the importance of Biblical separation. In the New Testament, Peter was given a vision of some foods that were formerly forbidden under Old Testament law. Peter, according to his training, believed that he could not eat the foods on the sheet. He was given that vision by God. God told him not to call unclean that which God had made clean. The greater point there was that Peter needed to be prepared to go to the Gentiles and preach the Gospel to them as well. Peter was prejudiced. In Galatians 2 Paul needed to publicly rebuke him for his hypocrisy.
In verse 2 we see that the weaker brother is the one who believes he should only eat herbs. He needs to come to understand the liberty he has in Christ. Again, that liberty is not the liberty to sin, but rather to eat a variety of foods that were formerly forbidden. The eating of herbs was not even a Biblical position. There were certain meats that Old Testament saints could eat.
The stronger brother does not separate from the weaker brother in this sense. He seeks to help the weaker brother to see what God actually says. Verse 3 shows us this. We do not judge the weaker brother as being unsaved because he lacks teaching. The stronger brother needs to take the weaker brother and help him along. Verse 3 shows us that God has received the weaker brother as much as He has the stronger brother. Both are saved. Both need to learn how to work together for God’s glory. Pride gets in the way of learning.
God directed Paul to address the divisions that were present among the saints. You notice here that God did not tell the stronger brothers to separate and start a new church. The stronger brothers are needed to help the weaker brothers to become stronger. Today, there is a lack of humility and a lack of submission to God’s authority and then there are divisions that get engrained due to fleshly desires.
Again, we are not talking of doctrinal compromise. We are talking of those things where God has given us liberty.
In verse 4 the illustration of servants is brought forward. The master of the servant is the one who needs to deal with his servant. Others should not interfere in the affairs of another man’s servant. Again, this has nothing to do with sin. It has to do with preferences.
In verse 5 God directed the apostle Paul to deal with keeping certain days. This too is not given in isolation. The Lord’s Day, or the first day of the week, should be kept for church attendance. Cows need to be milked and sick people need to be looked after. However, we do not need to go and plow the field on the Lord’s day. We do not need to go shopping on the Lord’s day. A pastor would have a different approach to the days of the week than a farmer would. The pastor would be involved in visiting with people and studying God’s Word at all times. The farmer sees these things as important, however he needs to go and plow his field and seed the crop and take off the crop. He cannot give the same amount of time to each day as the pastor can. Each has their duties to perform and each needs to take the time to read God’s Word and to meditate on God’s Word as they fulfil their calling before God.
The call of God is specific for each person. The person needs to know what God’s call upon his life is and he needs to be fully persuaded in that calling. If he is not, he will not be effective in what he should be doing.
In verse 6 we see that the person that regards a day a certain way is doing that unto the Lord. The person who does not keep the day in the same way, is not doing it unto the Lord. Again, God is not saying that we can skip church on Sundays and go fishing instead. He is talking about things that are open for man to choose. Hebrews 10:22-25 clearly tells us we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is. The writer was directed to remind the saints that some people were neglecting to honour God in this area.
There are other days where we have liberty to choose what we will do. Among the Jews, there were those who still believed they needed to keep all the feast days. God says it was not sin to keep the feast days, and it was not wrong to skip some of them. The key was not to dismiss the finished work of Christ in its proper place.
We need to keep in mind that Paul’s primary recipients were Jews. The Passover was replaced by the Lord’s Supper. There is no need to keep the Passover as it was given in the Old Testament. However, if some weaker Christian believed that he needed to continue to keep that feast in a similar manner to the Old Testament, he was free to do so. Over time he would learn the significance of the Lord’s Supper and he would drop off the rituals.
There is no Biblical reason for a Gentile to try to replicate the Old Testament Passover. A Gentile believer needs to be instructed to work on those things that are important, rather than waste time trying to practice something that was not given to the Gentiles in the first place. There are Jewish organizations that want to encourage Gentiles to take part in Passover celebrations. Saved Jews are not bound by the Old Testament Passover laws. Jesus fulfilled that. New Testament saints, whether Jew or Gentile are under the new covenant. We keep the Lord’s Supper.
Incidentally, those Jewish organizations are para-church organizations. They are not answerable to a local church. They do not follow God’s authority, but seek to interfere in the important place of the local church. We have lost sight of the importance of the local church and have allowed these para-church organizations to develop and to weaken the faith of many.
Pastors need to teach the whole counsel of God and help each member understand the Word of God. Pastors need to teach by word and example. We do not need to be compromisers. We need to understand the things that are important and we need to be careful to teach others what things are important and non-negotiable and those that give room for personal preference. We are not talking of “primary doctrines” and “secondary doctrines”. There is no such thing in the Bible. That is a humanistic idea that should be rejected by true believers.
True Christians always need that humility that gives room for others to grow. That again does not mean we need to tolerate sin. The Bible is very clear on that. The liberty is not license.

Galatians 5:13  For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Paul summarized these verses with verse 6. Everything that God’s people do needs to be for His glory. We participate in certain things to give God thanks. We refrain from certain things to give God thanks. We can learn from one another as we submit to God’s Word as our authority and as we seek to understand the liberty that we have in Christ.
Pastor Bartel

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