Stronger and Weaker Brothers
Pastor Steve Ellison
Romans chapter 12 through chapter 15 tells man how to be godly and righteous in every conceivable relationship he could ever possibly have. Romans 12 begins by laying down the foundational relationship upon which every other human relationship rests, the relationship with the Creator. Next the Holy Spirit told us how to properly relate to other believers. Then He turned His attention to how we relate to society including our enemies. Chapter 13 identifies God as The Authority and points out that all other authority is appointed by God. Chapter 13 also tells us what our relationship to all human authority, and especially government, ought to be like. Chapter 13 concludes by showing us how we can properly relate to our neighbors, which is by simply being clothed with Christ.
Chapter 14 begins a passage which will show us how to get along in a world where we will always be surrounded by those who are weaker in the faith than us and also by those who are stronger in the faith than us. It seems that the church at Rome had two distinct groups. I suppose that pretty much every church then and now has the same two groups. One group was strong and one group was weak. It is my observation today (thus I assume that the same was true then also) that both groups consider themselves to be the strong ones. It seems to me that rather than both groups being strong that instead, both groups are weak.
In Romans 14, the Holy Spirit identifies the defining issue and the two groups. The terminal points of the passage (verse 1 and verse 23) clearly spells out that the defining issue here is faith. Faith equals strength and doubting equals weakness. The Holy Spirit used two examples to illustrate this issue of faith. There was a dispute about what foods to eat and a dispute about what days to observe/celebrate. Both of these disputes center on non-moral issues, in other words not something based on the character of God. The questions of what food to eat and what days to celebrate are morally neutral questions.
The Holy Spirit identifies the two groups as the strong and the weak. According to the Holy Spirit, the strong believed that all non-moral issues are acceptable or clean. The weak had trouble believing this. They continued to believe that some non-moral issues were not clean, not acceptable. The first group considered themselves to be better because they embraced freedom, liberty in Christ. The second group considered themselves to be better because they clung to their traditions believing that they were pleasing God by denying themselves certain privileges and continuing to do things that they believed would honor God. Romans 14:3 tells us the tragic outcome. The strong began to look with contempt on the weak. The weak began to judge the strong. They began to be unloving toward one another.
Both groups in the church at Rome had the same exact problem. They took their eyes off the Lord. The weak took their eyes off the Lord and began to put them on their scruples. The strong took their eyes off the Lord and put them on their freedom and liberty. I am so thankful that modern churches are not guilty of becoming unloving toward one another over such petty issues as whether to eat meat sacrificed to idols and what day to meet for worship. Instead, we argue and become unloving over more important issues like the color of the carpet, the style of music, the place of meeting, what kinds of seating to have, whether to have banners, etc. May the Lord have mercy on us all…….…….…..firstname.lastname@example.org