“God’s Guidelines In Matters Of Judgment”

“God’s Guidelines In Matters Of Judgment”

Monday’s Column: “Neal At The Cross”

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Neal Pollard

In Romans 14, Paul emphasizes:

THREE FACTS ABOUT GOD

Even though Romans 14 is about the weak in faith and those who are stronger in faith, there is a decided emphasis on Deity–God’s acceptance (3), thanks to God (6), the judgment seat of God (10), praise to God (11), etc. The Lord is mentioned nine times while “Jesus” or “Christ” is mentioned several more times. Even when we have differences of opinions, we cannot forget about God’s presence and feelings. Another way to put any issue that would divide us is: “It’s all about God and not about us.” What are Paul’s three facts about God to help us here?

God Is Able To Make Our Brother Stand (4). Paul’s examples are about eating meat (3) and observing special days (5). Some did and some didn’t, and Paul says neither should judge the other’s Christianity on it for this reason. Each one is trying to please and follow the Lord the best they can (5-6). As long as they act from faith and not doubt on these judgment matters, they are not sinning (23).

God Is Lord Of All (9). We’ll be careful with each other’s convictions because we share the same Lord. We live for the Lord and die for the Lord; either way, we belong to the Lord (8). In all our political, social, and other earthly convictions, do we stop to remind ourselves abut this? We’re all on the same, level playing field as brethren, submitting to the same Lord. 

God Is Judge Of All (10-12). I don’t want to be my brother’s judge on anything, especially not things that are matters of judgment, opinion, and discretion. I’m also not qualified. If we get up at arms, let’s do so in defending God’s name and His authority. If we get worked up, let’s do so in seeking His glory and honor. 

THREE REMINDERS ABOUT THE CHURCH OF GOD

Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). Christians are part of His kingdom first (Mat. 6:33), and it comes before politics, nation, race, etc. Romans 14 reveals three reminders about this kingdom. 

We Are Reminded That None Of Us Live Or Die To Ourselves (6-7). We are not an island to ourselves. What we do affects others. We’re keenly interested in how what we do affects others (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23). I consider how what I do affects you, and you are to do the same. That may come as a sacrifice to me, but I’m called to consider more than just me. 

We Are Reminded Of What The Kingdom Of God Is And Is Not (17). It’s easy for us to lose sight of our identity, mission, and work. If we forget who we are, why we’re here, or what we’re here to do, there’s trouble. At Rome, people were confused over what the kingdom of God was about. Paul says it is not about earthly stuff, stuff you can take or leave that is neither right nor wrong. The kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy. Mastering this leads us to be acceptable to God and approved by men (18). By majoring in the majors and minoring in the minors, we’re most effective with God and men. 

We Are Reminded That We Pursue What Makes For Peace And Edification (19). I doubt the Lord was trying to make a bunch of doormats in Romans 14, but to think that way is to miss the point of following Jesus (cf. Mat. 20:25-28). We approach our personal convictions, and those of others, wanting harmony and preferring one another. 

THREE WARNINGS ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF GOD

Even as Paul emphasizes God’s supremacy and the church’s nature, he does not leave out how God wants us to treat each other over judgment matters.

Don’t Judge Each Other (13). We can redirect the energy it takes to try and read hearts and judge motives into trying to see through the eyes of others (1 Pet. 3:8-9). Peter gives a process. Be one, then you will see through others’ eyes, you’ll feel a sense of family, then you’ll be kind, humble, and so on. 

Don’t Destroy Each Other (15). Paul says don’t spiritually kill the brother Jesus died for. When we insist on our rights and our way, we are no longer walking in love. We’re supposed to be about building each other up. Disagreement can turn to resentment, and we start avoiding each other or being distant. Substitute “food” with “political party,” “pandemic issues,” “celebrating Christmas,” “new heavens and new earth,” “literal indwelling,” “representative indwelling,” and the like. The principle is unchanged. 

Don’t Tear Down God’s Work (20). The church may have more opportunities and open doors right now than at any time in our lifetime. Don’t think the devil isn’t bothered by that. He’d love for us to turn on each other. He’d love to see Christians dig deeper trenches of division. But of all people, God’s people should lead the way in genuine love, unity, compassion, and care. So, Paul says don’t tear down the work of God for the sake of things that won’t matter in eternity. Causing others to stumble is a problem because it can tear down God’s family. Follow your own convictions (22), but don’t equate them with God’s law!

A Passage I’ve Neglected To Apply To Myself

A Passage I’ve Neglected To Apply To Myself

Neal Pollard

To be fair, there have been several passages I’ve neglected to apply to myself, but, given the time of year we are in, this is certainly one. Paul writes,

“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For 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 you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:5-10). 

When we encounter a passage in Scripture, we are well-served to consider its practical application for daily life.

According to this passage, an individual is permitted to regard one day above another and another may choose not to do so. How might that apply to us today? What if one personally regarded December 25th over, say, August 17th (which, while it’s National Custard Day and National Thrift Shop Day, was an attempt to pick an ordinary day on the calendar)? Is that wrong? 

According to this passage, one may elect to observe a day (or not) and eat certain foods (or not) “for the Lord.” If they observe and eat, they aren’t wrong and should not be judged. Remember what Paul says elsewhere: “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17). Is application restricted just to customs under the Old Law, or could someone today act as our judge regarding some or all of these things? Even in Colossians, Paul was dealing with more than Judaisers. 

According to this passage, we must consider our actions in light of how they impact each other. As a local church and even an entire brotherhood, we don’t act in isolation because we are part of one big spiritual family. It also means each member, every weak and strong Christian, should first apply this passage to himself/herself and not just project it onto others. It is a two-way street. If one wants to personally show homage to Christ on a specific day, should he or she be respected and left alone to do that? That seems a fair application of this text.

According to this passage, we must watch judging our brother in matters like these. Further, we must avoid seeing him with contempt. That’s a strong word, meaning “to show by one’s attitude or manner of treatment that an entity has no merit or worth, disdain” (BDAG 352). Jesus reserved a scathing parable of two men praying in the temple for some because “they trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). Every weak and strong Christian, along with the rest of humanity, “will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” That should temper my spirit and speech, especially in matters which upon fair investigation turn out to be matters of judgment.

When I was younger, I sadly admit that I passed judgment on Christians who sent me religiously-themed Christmas cards or put up a nativity scene in their yard. Any sign that they attached religious significance to this season I attributed to their being spiritually weak and inferior. In light of Romans 14, I believe I was wrong to do this. This was a personal liberty granted to them by God through Paul in that text. If, as I presumptuously assumed, I was their “stronger brother,” then I should not act as their judge in the matter. I should set an example of patience, compassion, and acceptance.

This passage does not authorize the church to observe Christmas or to conclude, as one wise brother put it, “If I can do it, we can do it.” Scripture is filled with condemnation for the church, in its worship and teaching, setting up what God set down and setting down what He set up. Paul, in Romans 14, is talking about an individual Christian engaging in a personal observance. In a mountain of doctrinal and moral crises, let’s be sure to put this in proper perspective. More than that, let’s be careful to avoid being in either the camp which looses where God has bound or which binds where God has given liberty. And let it begin with me.

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