A. There have been many instances in church history where Christians have differed in their interpretation of certain Scripture passages or about doctrines.
B. Our day of worship is an example. I grew up being taught not to work on Sunday. For the most part, all the Old Testament stipulations concerning the Sabbath were applied to Sunday.
1. Sunday, however, is not the Sabbath though some refer to it as the Christian Sabbath.
2. Nor is there any justification I can find for transferring Sabbath regulations to Sunday.
3. Here again, however, this is an issue believers differ over.
C. Other examples include: dancing, drinking, smoking, movies, playing cards, manner of dress, gambling, listening to secular music, attending sporting events on Sunday, etc.
D. In fact, our denomination-Southern Baptists, was formed over the difference of opinion concerning slavery.
E. Our differences over such matters can be attributed to various things: tradition, what our parents taught, what a particular teacher or preacher taught, our culture, what we learned in school, etc.
F. It is really not important who taught us what or why we think as we do. The more important matter is whether our thinking or conclusions align with what the Bible actually teaches. This passage is not dealing with being sensitive to clear commandments but rather opinions.
G. Jesus was fond of saying; “You have heard it said,” and then saying, “But I say.” So much of what the people were taught-and from religious authorities, was wrong because they left out the inner motives. They bound people by traditions with the same intensity as they did God’s law.
H. We must be sensitive to and respect those who disagree with us, especially in matters the Bible is not clear on. An example would be the various opinions held concerning what events will take place near, at and after the Second Coming.
I. Paul deals at length with sensitivity among believers in this chapter.
J. Perhaps an old adage is pertinent: “In essentials; unity, in nonessentials, liberty; in everything, love.
I. Grace And Dealing With Immature Christians (vv. 1-11)
A. Our different stages.
1. It is important for us to remember believers are all at different stages of spiritual maturity.
2. I knew a lady once who was a Christian counselor, and we would talk about some of the odd ways believers would act-ways out of character for a Christian. She would always remind me that the actions reflect their level of spiritual maturity-babes, children, young adults or parents.
3. Not only are we at different stages but we also have different things in our background-either before or after coming to know Christ.
4. Combine this with family and church tradition and it becomes easy to understand why we have differences.
B. Paul says we are to accept fellow believers who are weak in the faith while not arguing with them about what they think is right or wrong.
1. Arguing leads to further divisiveness and is never a good witness to the lost or those young in the faith.
2. You are familiar with the prominent saying about Baptists: “We multiply by dividing.” Sad but often true.
3. You are also familiar with the saying; “Variety is the spice of life.”
4. Rather than dividing us, variety can enhance our relationships and help us grow spiritually when approached and handled in a Christlike spirit. When it isn’t, it results in conflict.
5. We can accept, listen to and respect others without accepting their beliefs or opinions. There is a history for why they believe as they do. Normally, no amount of arguing will convince them otherwise. God will have to take care of this.
6. “A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.”
7. In the years of my ministry, I have had numerous discussions with other believers about things we differed over. Some I’ve already mentioned. I could add another: which translation of the Bible is best.
8. I attended college with a man who was firmly convinced God inspired the scholars who translated the King James Version of the Bible but had not any other translations. There is no proof whatsoever for such a conclusion, but it was futile to argue with him about it. He is free to use whatever translation he wants and to form whatever opinion he chooses.
9. Where we get into trouble is when we try to force our opinions about these and other inconclusive things on fellow believers and then make them rules for association.
10. Where the Bible is clear, stand firm, but where it is not, give openness for differences.
11. A further problem is encountering some who take unclear matters and make them clear-at least to them.
12. Both the weak and strong believer can make two mistakes: the believer who understands his liberty in Christ can look down on the weaker brother, while the weaker believer can fall into censoring, criticizing and judging.
C. Paul’s Examples
1. The first deals with eating and specifically relates to meat sacrificed to idols.
2. A little background will help. In Paul’s day, the ancient practice of animal sacrifice was at the center of religious, social and domestic life. The sacrifice was made to a god in a pagan temple, but only a portion was burned. The rest was sold. When buying meat in the marketplace-which Christians had to do, there was no way of knowing whether it fell into that category or not unless one asked.
3. The same was true when eating with friends or acquaintances. Apart from asking, there was no way to know.
4. Some believers would ask, and if it had, they would either not purchase it or not eat it if with friends. Some chose to be vegetarians.
5. The weaker Christian is the one who had a problem eating it. The mature Christian recognized idols were nothing so the fact the meat had been used in pagan sacrifice was immaterial.
6. The matter of one day being more holy than another was a further example.
7. Paul is certainly not saying the Lord’s Day is unimportant, but do we worship the day or the one who made the day. Remember when Jesus said he was Lord of the Sabbath. He demonstrated meeting a need on the Sabbath was not work as the religious leaders taught but rather the right thing to do.
D. Some modern examples.
1. I remember the time my dad would not shop at Kmart because they were involved in selling material considered pornographic or would not go to a movie with Mom because it had one curse word.
2. I remember when the Southern Baptist Convention boycotted Disney.
3. If I watched a Disney movie or shopped at Kmart, did that mean I supported Disney’s direction or pornography? I didn’t see it that way, but others did.
4. Would arguing, fighting, fussing and dividing help anything? I didn’t think so. In fact, I think the SBC suffers sometimes in such decisions, but you may disagree. It’s not always what we stand against but the manner in which we do it.
5. In most cases, I’m against abortion, but I don’t think I have the right to kill the abortion doctor because he’s doing something I don’t agree with. But there are some Christians who obviously think it’s permissible.
E. One’s personal conviction is important and should be observed as well as respected by those who don’t believe the same way.
1. Consider this possibility: Is it possible to sin against our consciences without actually sinning against God? And if it is, should we abstain from those practices we feel are wrong because to do so would lead us to sin against our consciences?
2. Reference the last verse in the chapter: If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. (v. 23) Note the emphasis on you believe is not right.
3. If I attend a church where the majority of the people do not share my convictions, should I require them to change or should I find somewhere where most of the people share my convictions.
4. Have you ever thought this is why we have so many different denominations? We differ not so much on doctrine-though there is some of that, but on church practices and government.
5. Paul says we should not look down on those who don’t share our opinions as long as we are not compromising an explicit teaching of Scripture.
6. Rather than us informing them how wrong they are-remember those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still, we are to leave it up to God. Paul maintains God will tell them whether they are right or wrong, and it is his power and only his power that will convince them otherwise.
7. Those who are immature in the faith and hold immature opinions are really trying to please the Lord by the way they live just as the more mature believer is. And I have found this to be true. However we can be sincere and sincerely wrong. But the convincing of this should be left up to God.
8. Our part is not to condemn or look down on others who believe differently. Each of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. I’m responsible for me, my beliefs and how they affect my actions not someone else’s.
9. Paul uses a quotation from Isaiah to support this conclusion. (45:23)
A. So while we should stand uncompromisingly against things strictly forbidden by Scripture (adultery, lying, homosexuality, murder, theft, etc.) we should not create additional rules formed from our opinions and give them the same standing as God’s law.
B. To do so creates division and unrest in God’s churches.