“Wrestling With Romans”
Love for the Weaker (Chapter 14 Verses 13-23)
The answer? Stop judging other people, leave them to God (v13a). Be careful how you use your freedom, that you don’t cause someone to stumble (v13b). For Paul the temple food issue was nothing (vv14-15a), but his brother or sister in Jesus was something else, you could cause someone’s destruction (v15b; 1Corinthians 8.11). You could cause a demolition, destruction job to be done. You carelessly exercise your freedom, you say you’ve have your rights, and your just going to do your own thing? Well, says Paul, you look out! There are two obligations here, the first is towards your fellow Christian, you ask, “am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, you are! The second is towards Jesus himself, Jesus died for that fellow Christian, that’s how much he loved that Christian. But you, because you had to exercise your freedom, you destroyed the person, that’s how much you loved the person. Well, that’s not what God’s kingdom is about (v17), it’s about building each other up (v19), where is peace and joy in such destruction (v17)? Where’s the Holy Spirit in all this? Quenched, grieved, the fire’s been put out (1Thessalonians 5.19).
Yes, it’s a solemn thought, there are people who destroy the work of God (v20). Don’t you be having a misguided view of God’s perseverance of the saints, it’s possible for us to stumble someone, it’s possible for a person to destroy a local Church, heaven knows, it’s been done so often. Better they’d never been born (Matthew 18.6). Such sin is a wounding of Christ himself, sinning against him. You remember when Saul was persecuting the Church? It was considered by the Lord to be so serious, so grievous as to be persecuting Jesus himself (Acts 9.4). Literally just as though you had stood up and struck Christ himself. To what degree do you sin? There’s a very disquieting silence on that. I don’t know. But it demands abstention, says Paul (v21b). You see this man Paul’s extravagant commitment to his fellow Christians, always willing to yield his rights in order to minister to others, he’s willing to give up his freedom for the weaker person. But be clear, it is immature teachable weakness that Paul speaks of here, he’s not talking about blackmailers, who have chosen to remain for years in their weakness, for their own advantage. To such schismatics, we must never yield, or sacrifice the freedom Christ died to purchase for his Church. You know what you believe? Fine! Believe it, before God (vv22-23).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)