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Navigating Christian Liberty - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Romans 14:1-15:13

  • 2020-10-11 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


This morning we continue our study from Romans 14 regarding issues of conscience. This week I was reflecting on some of the issues of conscience that come from other times and other places. For example, maybe you've heard the fact that D.L. Moody, the founder of Moody Bible Institute, and Christians of his time taught that it was wrong for men to wear ruffled shirts. I won't ask for a show hands for how many of you have done that. American evangelist Billy Sunday taught, and others embraced his conviction, that it's wrong for women to chew gum. And if you fast forward to our day, there are views just as disparate and surprising around our world. One Asian country, to which I've traveled, there are some believers who believe that it's pandering to the flesh to wear deodorant. There were some boys in my middle school that believed that. American Christians are often surprised to learn what European Christians are willing to do in the exercise with their Christian liberty. I think it's surprising, to many, to learn that when I go to speak in Italian pastor's conferences, most of the lunch meals there's a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white wine on every table at the pastor's conference. And yet, while Europeans are comfortable with that, I remember Sheila and I were talking at one point to a European Christian who was standing there in front of us swirling her wine in the glass, wondering how in the world American Christian women could ever consider wearing pants to church. You know, issues of conscience from different places or times can be even a little bit humorous. But, frankly, when there are issues in your family or your church, they're anything but funny. They can be seriously divisive. And that is the first concern that Paul addresses here in Romans 14 and that we'll study together this morning.

Now, before we look at Romans 14, let me step back and remind you that when we talk about Christian liberty, when the scripture speaks of Christian liberty, it does so of three different kinds of Christian liberty. First of all, it teaches of a liberty from God's law as a way to earn a right standing before God. In Galatians, in fact the entire book of Galatians centers on this reality, but in Galatians 2:4, Paul speaks of "false brothers [brethren] secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy on our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us [bring us into bondage]." And in context, it's the bondage of trying to earn our righteousness before God, to earn our acceptance before God. In Galatians 5:1 Paul says, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." When it comes to your liberty from keeping the law as a way to earn your justification, Paul says don't ever surrender that freedom. If anybody tries to add anything, even a command of Scripture to the gospel of grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone, don't tolerate it for a moment he says. It's interesting, isn't it, that Paul told the Christians in Rome to be patient and tolerant with those who believed in justification by faith alone but struggled letting go of their traditions and Old Testament ceremonies. But when the Judaizers in Galatia assigned saving merit to those very same actions, Paul called it another gospel and gave it his anathema.

A second kind of Christian liberty in Scripture is liberty from the Old Testament ceremonial law. In Romans 14:14, we'll discover, he talks about freedom from the dietary laws. But in the book of Colossians 2:16 he says, "Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day - things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but [literally the Greek text says, "the body is Christ"] the substance belongs to Christ." The shadow was the Old Testament ceremonies. The body casting that shadow is Jesus Christ and when the body comes why would you cling to the shadow?

A third expression of Christian liberty, in the New Testament, is liberty from manmade rules loosely based on Scripture. That was the issue in Corinth, particularly concerning food sacrificed to idols. It was connected to Scripture in some way, but it ended up, Paul says, as a manmade rule and not something the Bible clearly taught. On this question, Paul says, don't let others bind your conscience with their rules even if they use the Bible to defend them. You see, the fact that a person thinks his convictions have a biblical basis, doesn't mean they are, in fact, biblical requirements. In fact, that's what constitutes issues of conscience.

Now, it's a combination of these last two issues that Paul addresses in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. And when it comes to the moral choices that we have to make, specifically the third category - those that aren't addressed explicitly in Scripture - we have Christian liberty. But Christian liberty is not without limits. In fact, the focus in Romans 14 is not on exercising our liberty, but on limiting it. There are real dangers connected to Christian liberty, dangers for ourselves and for others. So, we need help deciding when to exercise our liberty. If I had to sort of encapsulate all that we're going to learn in Romans 14:1 through Romans 15:13, I would express it like this: Christian liberty is a liberty to be wisely used, not a license to be abused. Christian liberty is a liberty to be wisely used not a license to be abused. How can we use our liberty wisely? Well, in Romans 14, Paul provides several foundational principles concerning the wise and biblical use of Christian liberty.

Let's read together the first 12 verses of Romans 14. You turn with me in your Bibles to this text, and you follow along as I read it. Romans 14:1-12: "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not to have quarrels over opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but the one who is weak eats only vegetables. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person values one day over another, another values every day the same. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and the one who eats, does so with regard to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and the one who does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat, and he gives thanks to God. For not one 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. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But as for you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you as well, why do you regard your brother or sister with contempt? For we will all appear before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, to Me every knee will bow, and every tongue will give praise to God." So, then each one of us will give an account of himself to God."

Now, in this text, we begin to see the principles of Christian liberty unfold. The very first principle for exercising your Christian liberty is this: expect legitimate differences on issues of conscience. Expect legitimate differences on issues of conscience. There were significant differences of opinion and conviction over issues of conscience in the church in Rome. And by including this in the letter that the Holy Spirit intended not just for Rome to get, but for all churches including our own, the Holy Spirit was warning us to expect that there will be legitimate differences on these kinds of issues in every church family. Expect it! Don't be surprised by it. It's shocking to me how many Christians come to a church and they think we're all going to think exactly alike on everything. And they're surprised when that doesn't happen. Expect these differences. Expect it at Countryside. Now, in Rome, the issues were primarily about their liberty from the Old Testament ceremonial law.

So, let's consider, first of all, two 1st century examples - the examples that were present in the Roman churches. Specifically, there were two issues on which there was a huge disagreement in Rome. The first issue was eating unclean foods. Look at verse 2: "One person has faith that he may eat all things, but the one who is weak eats only vegetables." Now, did you guys see what Paul said? He says, he who is weak eats vegetables only. That's my new life verse, right there. I'm going to celebrate that at lunch. No, actually this is not an attack on vegetarians. To understand what Paul means, you have to consider the historical context. We have to go way back to the beginning of when we started our journey through the Book of Romans. Let me just remind you that in the churches, the house churches in Rome, there were both Jews and Gentiles. The history of the church likely began on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2:10 says there were people from Rome at Pentecost who heard Peter's sermon and the implication is that they heard, and they repented, and then they returned back to Rome. And they took the gospel there. So, it is very likely that the churches in Rome began with Jewish people who attended the feast of Pentecost, heard Peter's sermon, repented, returned home, and planted the churches there around the city of Rome. Now, they had been initially then Jewish. But in the year 49 AD, this would have been less than 20 years after the churches were established, an imperial edict from the Emperor Claudius forced all the Jews to leave Rome. Well, there was an exodus of everyone Jewish and so the churches, then, were now filled with the Gentile converts that had been saved since those churches had been founded. They're primarily Gentile. But five years later, after the death of Claudius in the year 54 AD, the law was rescinded, and Jews were allowed back into the city of Rome and some Jewish believers returned as well. Three years after that, in the year 57 AD when Paul wrote this letter to the churches in Rome, the churches then were primarily still Gentile but there were some Jewish believers who had come back and were a part of those churches as well. Perhaps there were a few of the Gentiles in the churches in Rome who were God fearers, that is, those who had become proselytes of Judaism, who had attended local synagogues there in Rome, who had embraced the Mosaic law. But, likely, most of the Gentiles in the churches in Rome were not like that. Most of them were probably saved out of their paganism. Romans 1 seems to almost imply that. They were saved out of paganism and so they had never embraced the Mosaic law. They had never followed it before their conversion, and they certainly didn't afterwards. However, most of the Jewish Christians in Rome still observed the Mosaic law. In fact, in Acts 21:20, the believers in the church in Jerusalem said this, "many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law." This was true in Rome. The Jewish Christians, there, were convinced that they still needed to obey the Mosaic law, including all of the dietary restrictions. Now before you're too hard on the average Jewish layperson who had come to Christ, remember that even the Apostle struggled with this. You remember Acts 10, Peter has this vision of unclean animals and God says "rise, kill, and eat" and Peter says, "I can't do that. I've never eaten anything unclean." And so, this was a struggle.

Now, let's go back to Rome because, think for a moment, put on your sort of sanctified imagination and think about this: if you're a Jewish Christian, living in Rome, the meat that was sold in the market presented you with a couple of huge problems. First of all, the question was: was that meat, that was so beautifully displayed there in the display case, was that from a clean animal, one that the Old Testament law allowed? And if it was from a clean animal, was it kosher, that is, had it been properly slaughtered? Had the blood been drained and so forth? And if it was from a clean animal, and it had been properly slaughtered, there was a third question and that is: had it been, like most meat in Rome, offered to idols? You can understand why, if you're standing there in front of the meat counter in the market in Rome, it's impossible to satisfactorily answer all of those questions. So, when the Jewish Christians, who were convinced they had to keep the Old Testament kosher laws went to the market, they had to settle for fruits and vegetables. In fact, Josephus wrote, not of believing Jews but of all Jews, he said that there were some Jews in Rome who lived exclusively on fruit in order to avoid eating something unclean. So, again, put yourself back as a Jewish Christian, you visited the meat market, there were there was no refrigeration, so this was like an everyday deal. You're standing there in the meat market in Rome, you have in your basket, you have your arugula and brussels sprouts, God forbid, and there's one of your fellow brothers in Christ who comes, one of your Gentile brothers in Christ who comes up in the next line, and what does he got in his cart? A slab of pork ribs! Imagine trying to have a church social under such circumstances. And, by the way, they did. Remember, Christians often ate together. And so, undoubtedly, there had been fierce debates about these issues because the Jewish Christians were convinced this is what God required. And the Gentile Christians were convinced He didn't.

Now, although the food issue was primarily about meat, it also included wine for the same reason. Look down in verse 21: "It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine..." You see, in the pagan world, wine was also offered to the gods as a libation, as an offering. And, thankfully you know, the gods didn't drink much of the wine so there was plenty left over for you to sell in the market for a profit. So, these Jewish Christians, then, they went to the market and they were reduced to water and vegetables, a fate worse than death. Now, they probably used as their argument Daniel 1. I mean, think about this. You got to think like they're thinking. They're thinking, "You know we're going to stand like Daniel in our culture. We will not defile ourselves with these foods." So, they're defending it biblically. Since they saw it as a biblical issue, they were convinced that those Gentiles, who ate the meat, were less spiritually serious, were less spiritually committed. So, in the churches in Rome, then, there were these significant differences about what Christians should and should not eat. Could, here was the question, could Christians eat non-kosher foods? Of course, the answer from the Bible, is clearly New Testament believers are allowed to do so. I mean, in Mark 7:19, our Lord declared all foods clean. In Acts 10:15, in Peter's vision, God says to Peter, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy [or unclean]." In that vision, God showed Peter that the Old Testament dietary restrictions had been done away with, that God had cleansed that which had been formally unclean and, of course, that was symbolic of the fact that Gentiles, too, were to be accepted into the church. So, all meats we're now permitted. That's what Christ says in Mark 7. That's what Peter hears from Christ in Acts 10. That's why later in his ministry, Paul writes to his young son in the faith, Timothy. And in 1 Timothy 4, he talks about false teachers prohibiting eating certain kinds of food. And this is what Paul writes. 1 Timothy 4:4-5, eat "...everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God [that is what Scripture teaches about it] and prayer [that is your prayer of thanksgiving]." So, if Scripture says it's okay, and you thank God for it, then eat and enjoy. That's what Scripture taught. But those with weak consciences didn't understand that. This was one of those differences.

There was a second legitimate difference of conviction in Rome, not only on the issue of eating unclean foods, but also on observing the Old Testament holy days. Verse 5, "One person values one day over another, another values every day the same." Literally, one person judges one day more than another day. Undoubtedly, this is referring, like Colossians 2 that we just read a moment ago, to all the holy days in the Jewish calendar, the weekly Sabbaths, the new moon festivals, and the annual feasts. Now, if you were a Jewish Christian, you had spent your entire life observing those days because that's what the Old Testament taught. But Gentile Christians had not. They didn't have that background and experience. And so, there was this serious, legitimate difference. It happened every week, it happened every month with the new moon festivals, and it happened with all of the great festivals of the Jewish calendar that these differences were accentuated. So, on these two issues of conscience, eating only kosher food and keeping Old Testament celebrations and festivals, there were legitimate and significant differences (notice verse one) of opinion among the Christians in the Roman churches. So, those were the differences.

And regarding these differences, there were two categories of Christians. On issues of conscience, Paul identifies two categories. First of all, there are the weak in faith and, secondly, there are the strong in faith. Notice verse one: "the one who is weak in faith". And then verse two, here's the strong: "one person has faith". Or go down to chapter 15:1: "we who are strong". So, you have the weak in faith and the strong in faith. Now, weak and strong, here, is used of a person's level of understanding, believing, and applying the truth and sufficiency of Scripture. Let me say that again. Weak and strong, here, is used of the person's level of understanding, believing, and applying the truth and sufficiency of Scripture. William Hendrickson writes, "The strong were those who were able to grasp the significance of Christ's death for daily living, yet the weak were not." The one who is weak in faith had not come to a full understanding of the completeness of God's grace. The weak brother adds obligations and restrictions which are not necessary. He adds requirements that God has not required. He makes demands beyond Scripture but claims biblical warrant and authority for those choices and then, usually, he calls those choices convictions. These are my convictions.

Now, in the context of Romans 14, the Christian who is weak in faith refuses to eat meat that isn't kosher and insists on keeping the Sabbath and other Jewish feasts and festivals. But let me "principalize" that. Let me contemporize that. The Christian with a weak conscience is convinced, number one, that he must not do what Scripture does not expressly forbid. And, number two, that he must do what Scripture does not explicitly command. That's a person with a weak conscience, with weak faith. They go beyond the Scripture and its explicit statements and commands. Now, those with weak consciences often reverse Paul's assessment because they will not do something Scripture allows, or they feel they must do something Scripture does not command, and when they refer to their choices or decisions, in those areas, what do they say? "I have strong convictions". Paul says, "they are weak in faith". You see, strong convictions can be wrong convictions. If you add to what Scripture clearly and explicitly teaches, according to Paul, you are the weaker brother. Now, let me just say, if you fall in that category, don't be offended. Paul doesn't say weaker in some pejorative sense to shame you. Rather, it's to encourage you not to take pride in your convictions beyond the Scripture but, instead, to grow stronger in your faith. So, there's the weak and the strong.

Now, before I leave this, I need to make a couple very important distinctions because a lot of times we don't think clearly about this, couple important distinctions. Number one: you are not strong in faith because you always choose to exercise your Christian liberty. You know, some Christians simply ignore their weaker brothers. They always use their Christian liberty. Their attitude is, "Look, it's my life. It's my freedom. I have a right and I'm going to do it." Listen, if that's your attitude about your Christian liberty, then you're not the one who is strong in faith. You are biblically uninformed and spiritually immature. Because the point of Romans 14 and first Corinthians 8-10, is that spiritually mature believers are always thinking of others. And they often choose to limit their use of liberty for the benefit of others. So, that's the first distinction we need to make.

There's a second important distinction and that is: you are not weak in faith because you choose to do or not to do certain things that aren't in Scripture. The fact that you do or don't do certain things that aren't in Scripture, doesn't make you weak in faith. You are only weak in faith if you believe that God requires those things or forbids them. You see, many Christians rightly and wisely choose to impose limits on their liberty. I remember, years ago, I was talking to a man in our church and he told me that he had determined that he would never drink a drop of alcohol, not because he believes Scripture forbids it, clearly it doesn't, but because his father was an alcoholic and he was afraid that if he started drinking, it would enslave him. Listen, that's not a weak conscience, that's biblical wisdom. But if that shame man had believed that Scripture required that of him or that it required that of others, then at that point, he would have been weak in the faith. So, simply choosing to do or not to do certain things that aren't in Scripture doesn't make you weak in faith. It's only if you think that the Scripture requires it when it doesn't.

So, the first principle of Christian liberty is: expect legitimate differences over issues of conscience. Just expect it. It's going to be true. It's true here. So, don't be interacting with another family from our church and expect them to think just like you on all those things that aren't spelled out in Scripture. Expect the opposite of that. Expect there to be differences because we come from different backgrounds, different upbringings, different attitudes, different values on those issues that are beyond the explicit teaching Scripture. In every church, there will be stronger and weaker brothers and there will be these differences.

So, that brings us to a second principle of Christian liberty, and that is, except those differences in a spirit of unity. Except those differences in the spirit of unity. That's the message of verses 1 to 12 that we just read together a moment ago. You see, there is a very real danger when it comes to issues of conscience that there will be significant disunity. What are the factors, the principal factors, in that disunity? This is what Paul's concerned about. What are the factors? Well, it starts with what we just discussed and that is those legitimate differences. But something else is required - that may present a potential for division in disunity, but for legitimate differences to descend into disunity, there has to be a second factor present. And that is, sinful conflict. Sinful conflict. Legitimate differences on issues of conscience can be properly handled and there can be unity. But, those same legitimate differences, can quickly and easily degenerate into sinful conflict. Now, sinful conflict over issues of conscience, comes in two ways. First of all, it comes from conflict that is initiated by the stronger brother. So, there are these differences between us, and conflict can start from the stronger brother; the person who knows the Bible doesn't require that. How does that happen? Look at verse one. Paul is talking now to the stronger brother. If you're here this morning and you understand that only what is explicitly spelled out in Scripture should bind your conscience and then everything else falls in the into an issue of conscience, this is for you. "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not to have quarrels over opinions." Now, that expression, "not for passing judgment on his opinions" is literally, in the Greek text, "not for quarrels of opinions." Not for quarrels of opinions. If you are strong in the faith, you can interact with the weak solely for the purpose of straightening them out - to argue with them about their views and convince them of how ridiculous those views are. Paul says, "Don't do that." Don't accept a weaker brother or sister into your life for the purpose of convincing them to believe your view. That's going to bring conflict.

Another way the stronger brother can bring conflict over these issues is in verse 3. "The one who eats [that's the stronger brother, one who thinks it's fine to eat whatever meat is in market] is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat…" Now that expression, "regard with contempt", comes from the Greek word for "nothing". It means to regard another person as a nothing or as a nobody. The stronger brother, understanding what he does about Scripture, can be tempted to dismiss the weaker brother as a nobody, a spiritual nobody, and act very condescendingly toward him. It's like, "Anybody should understand that! How in the world doesn't she get that?" So, conflict can begin when there's legitimate difference and the stronger brother displays those attitudes.

But there's another way sinful conflict can begin. It can also be initiated by the weaker brother and, by the way, both of these happen, right? It can be initiated by the weaker brother. Verse 3 goes on to say, in the middle of verse, "the one who does not eat [now we're talking about the weaker brother] is not to judge [the Greek word is "chrono". It means to pass judgment on, to condemn the one who eats] for God has accepted him." You see, if you're here this morning and you're the weaker brother, that is, you are prone to add things to the Scripture to kind of "principalize" Scripture and come up with your own list of what Scripture commands, when you can't show me a chapter and verse that says, "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not", if that's a temptation for you, then here's what happens in your thinking. You can easily begin to see yourself as like, "God's one, holy remnant" - those who believe what I believe about this - we are the really spiritual ones. And Paul says, "Don't do that!" Don't stand in judgment over those who disagree with your convictions. Don't think, "Well, you know, if they are Christians at all, they certainly are worldly" if it's not clearly spelled out in Scripture. That's what he's saying. By the way, both of these sinful attitudes were already present in the churches in Rome. Look down at verse 10: "But as for you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you as well, why do you regard your brother or sister with contempt?" In Greek, both of those verbs are in the present tense. We could translate it like this, "Why are you judging your brother? Why are you regarding your brother with contempt?" Paul says, "Stop it!" I like the way one commentator puts it. He says, "To the strong, Paul says, 'Don't sneer!'. To the weak, Paul says, 'Don't frown!'" There you go. That's a very good summary of what he's teaching here. So, the crucial factors in disunity over Christian liberty are legitimate differences over issues of conscience that degenerate into sinful conflict, initiated either by the stronger, the weaker, or by both. Those are the potential causes of disunity.

Because of that potential for disunity, Paul provides us here with the biblical cure for disunity when it comes to these differences - the biblical cure. When we allow our Christian liberty to cause division in the body of Christ, our problem is always with our thinking. And so, Paul sets out to correct our thinking. He said, you got to think differently. He said, first of all, if you're going to keep these things from becoming divisive, then you have to remember - we do not decide our brother's acceptance. Christ does. We don't decide our brother's acceptance, Christ does. Notice, we are to accept each other. Verse one: "Now accept the one who is weak in faith..." The strong are to accept the weak. By the way, the verb implies a continuing attitude of acceptance. As long as the person adding to God's requirements isn't attaching any saving merit to those actions, then accept him. Receive him. We aren't to accept someone who disagrees with us just so we can straighten them out. We are to accept him on the basis of his union with Christ, not his agreement with us on all the issues. The strong accept the weak.

Verse 3: "...the one who does not eat [the weak] is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him." In other words, the weak are to accept the strong. Why? Because God has accepted him. God has accepted him as His child, received him into his family, and so, you should accept him too. Now, this raises a key question and that is: what does it mean to accept? The leading Greek lexicon says this word means, "to receive or accept into one's society, home, and circle of acquaintance." I love that - "to receive or accept into one's society, home, and circle of acquaintance. In other words, you're to receive the other kind of brother, weak or strong, you're receive them into warm and genuine friendship, into your heart. You're not just to tolerate them. You're to welcome them into intimate fellowship and treat them as brothers and sisters. One author, Delling, puts it this way. He says, "As Christ has taken every member of the church into fellowship with Himself, so incorporate each other into your Christian circle with no inner reservations." I love that. Let me read that again, "As Christ has taken every member of the church into fellowship with Himself, so incorporate each other into your Christian circle with no inner reservations." Accept them! The same Greek word, by the way, is used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, in Psalm 27:10 where David says, "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up [accepts me]." In John 14:3, our Lord Himself says, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you [receive you] to Myself [I will accept you into My company]". Philemon 17, Paul says to Philemon, "Accept Onesimus as you would me." Look at Romans 15:7: "Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us, for the glory of God."

Folks, we are to accept each other in spite of our differences over these issues. Why? Because Christ accepted us and we're to accept one another just as He has accepted us. Francis Schaeffer used to talk about the chasm, and he said (or the gulf is another way to say it) this chasm or gulf, he said, Christians invariably put the chasm in the wrong place. He said it should be between us in the world. But many Christians end up putting the chasm between themselves and other Christians. Listen, that's contrary to the spirit of Christ. I mean, think about Ephesians 2. Christ, there, is called "our peace". He bridged the chasm between our souls and God. He brought peace. He brought us near. He brought us together, Paul says, in Ephesians 2. In fact, if you're here this morning and you haven't trusted in Jesus Christ, you need to understand that chasm is very real between you and God. And it is because of your sin. You are sinful like the rest of us, and God is holy, and there is a huge chasm between you and God - no matter how well you may think you are on terms with Him. The only bridge across that chasm is Jesus Christ. There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. And He formed that bridge by the sacrifice of Himself on the cross. And God raised Him from the dead. And the only way that bridge between you and God can be passed, can be made passable, is through the work of Jesus Christ. You have to repent of your sin. You have to believe in Him as your only hope and follow Him. But Christ bridged that chasm. If you're a Christian, Christ bridged that chasm between you and God and, Ephesians 2 goes on to say, between you and other Christians. He made peace, not only between you and God, but between you and other believers. So Christian, stop acting like there's a chasm between you and other Christians. As John MacArthur writes, "If the perfect, sinless Son of God was willing to bring sinners into God's family, how much more should forgiven believers be willing to warmly embrace and accept each other in spite of their disagreements over issues of conscience?" A cure for disunity over Christian liberty is to correct your thinking, and that starts by remembering that we do not decide our brother's acceptance, Christ does, and therefore we accept them. Next time, Paul will remind us that we are not our brother's Lord, Christ is. That's the message of verses 4 through 9. And we are not our brother's judge, Christ is. That's the message of verses 10 through 12.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for how imminently practical Your Word is. Thank You for this passage that allows us to be united, in spite of these differences that may exist. Lord help us, as your people, to accept one another. Lord, for those who have truly understood the gospel and embraced the gospel, who follow the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, Lord, help us to focus on the things that unite us and not on the unimportant things that divide us. Lord, give us a spirit of unity as Paul is urging here. Help us to realize that we are to accept one another as Christ has accepted us. And Lord, I pray for the person here this morning for whom that chasm, between You and their soul, still exists because of their sin. Lord, help them to see it. Remove the blinders from their eyes. Help them to see the reason for that sense of distance between them and You is because of their sin, and that the only bridge over that chasm, is Jesus Christ our Lord, the one mediator between God and man. And may they throw themselves on His mercy, even today. Lord we ask that You would use these truths very practically in our lives, in the life of this church. Help us, Oh God, to accept one another. We pray in Jesus's name. Amen!