Today my dad, the interim-pastor at The Fountain of Grace Church, preached again. Here was his sermon:
First Scripture reading: Psalm 133:1-3 1 A song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing– Life forevermore.
Second Scripture reading: Romans 14:14-23 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. 22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ has purchased marvelous freedom for those who belong to Him by faith. Think about the freedoms we have in Christ: we are freed from the penalty of sin, we are freed from the curse of the Law, we are freed from guilt and shame, we are freed from death and condemnation. We’re freed from the entire old covenant which basically said, “if we live perfectly God will accept us, we can go to heaven and live forever.” Now we’re under the New Covenant that says, “Jesus lived perfectly for us, and He died for us, so that by His living and by His dying all who believe are accepted by God, can go to heaven and live forever.”
In the context of Romans 14, we have freedom from all the dietary restrictions of the old covenant. That’s exactly what it says in Romans 14:14 “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.” He’s referring to food here, and so we’re taught that all the dietary rules of the Old Covenant are done away with. There is no more “clean” and “unclean” foods under the New Covenant. We have freedom from those restrictions and freedom to enjoy all food in moderation.
Paul says this comes straight from the Lord Jesus. Indeed Jesus taught this very thing in Mark 7:18-19 18 “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) In other words, the New Covenant is about the purity of our hearts, not about clean and unclean foods. All foods are clean. And we have freedom from all dietary restrictions.
But that is not the main emphasis of Romans 14. It’s not whether or not we have freedom, but whether or not we have love. And if we have love, we may choose not to exercise some of our freedoms. And in this passage God is going to give us seven truths to teach us how to walk in love.
The first point is: Don’t grieve your brother. In Romans 14:15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. And here we see that our actions can hurt other people, grieve them, make them sad, and that violates the law of love. “Do no harm.” Yes we have freedoms as Christians but shouldn’t our love for each other be the primary thing?
I remember hearing about a very wealthy man in London who was an atheist; and he said that he once believed in God and professed Christ as his Savior, but as a new believer he watched the way the elders of the church lived. And one of them drove a brand new Mercedes Benz every year. And this man started thinking, that’s what I’d like to do. And slowly he began a slide from faith in Christ to love of money. Until one day he saw no need for God in his life. Now was it ok for that elder to drive a new Mercedes? Of course it was, we can drive whatever we want. But an inescapable law is that our actions affect other people. And we are not to grieve our brothers and sisters but rather love them.
The second point is: Don’t destroy your brother. Vs. 15 says “do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.” In context he means, don’t shake the faith of those coming out of Judaism; you Romans can teach these new converts to go against their consciences, and thereby tempt the to return to Judaism, to the rules and regulations, and thereby you have destroyed their faith in Christ and their life in the New Covenant.
But notice why we should not destroy them. Christ died for them. Have you been noticing how Paul always takes people to the cross for whatever he is teaching them? We will really see this as we begin to study our next Book, 1 Corinthians. There Paul says right up front, 1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” You Corinthians, whatever problems and issues you are facing in life, there is one solution: The cross of Calvary. And all true instruction is centered in the cross. Always remember that. You should have an ear for listening to any sermons and ask yourself, no matter what the topic or passage, was that message centered in the cross?
And here Paul says don’t destroy the one for whom Christ died. In other words, Christ gave up His life for people, and we’re not willing to give up a piece of meat? When Jesus was talking about giving up His life, He said in John 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” Jesus’ life was His own to do with as He pleased, and He chose the path of love, to lay down His life, to give up His very blood, His entire body, all of Who He was so that you could believe and live. And this is the essence of Romans chapter 14. We have certain freedoms; they are ours to do with as we please. But the path of love is the path of giving up for someone else.
Now today the issue for us is not eating meat, there are other areas that can offend a weaker brother. Just substitute the word “meat” for anything that offends your brother. I remember hearing of a man who was saved out of a lifestyle of impurity, and it bothered him for years afterward to hear a saxophone; apparently he connected it with the music he used to hear in impure movies. Well his pastor loved classical saxophone, even played it. But he chose around this weaker brother to not play that kind of music.
Some people are saved out of a life of drunkenness, and they know if they had one drink they’d be right back into it. Wouldn’t it be loving not to offer them a glass of wine when you have them over for dinner? And there’s all kinds of these issues; a person is saved out of a culture of acid rock music. God just changes his heart and gives him a love for music about the gospel. Well maybe don’t have Christian rock blaring in your car when you give him a ride.
This is the point. Should we despise the very people that Christ valued so highly? Did Jesus think it was worthwhile to deny Himself His very existence for them, yet we don’t think it’s worthwhile to deny ourselves anything for our brother? Jesus gave up everything for us, and we won’t give up anything for them? That’s the point. Don’t destroy your brother for whom Christ died.
The Third point is: Don’t let your good be spoken of as evil—vs. 16. He’s speaking to strong Christians and he says you don’t have concede the point just to love the brother. You don’t have to let your weaker brother tell you how wrong it is to be free. Christians can drink a glass of wine, can listen to the saxophone and can enjoy good Christian rock. Don’t let him speak evil of your enjoying the gifts God gives you. In other words, you can be willing give up some freedoms because your love your brother, but don’t let him teach in the church all these regulations and restrictions and restrictions. He should be taught to focus on the things that matter.
The fourth point is: Don’t get off topic. Stay with things that matter. That’s what Paul says in verse Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
And here he tells us to focus on the main things, the big things, the clear things. Be big minded and well as big hearted. Here are the main points of Christianity: righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and again he reminds them of the cross.
As if to say, Jesus died on the cross to make you righteous. There was a great exchange at the cross whereby He took on your sin and gave you His righteousness. Romans 4:5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. God’s kingdom is about people who have received righteousness by faith, and are now living in righteousness.
And peace. When Jesus died He removed the enmity between all believers and God, and brought peace. Colossians 1:20 Jesus “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. And now we should live to promote peace among brothers. That’s what he says in vs. 19: Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
And when He died, He purchased the Holy Spirit for us, and in Him we have real and lasting joy. The joy of a Christian cannot be understood by anyone else. We rejoice in all things, even in the midst of trouble. Joy is the immediate result of receiving the Gospel. Remember, it’s called “glad tidings of great joy, which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10). This joy comes from having as Savior, from knowing deep down that you are right with God, of having assurance that our guilt was nailed to a tree and buried in a tomb, that you will live forever. John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. At the cross “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Righteousness and peace and joy has replaced the rules, regulations and rituals. Fourth point is don’t get off topic. Keep with the main things, the big things. These are the things that bring the approval of God and man, as verse 18 says Romans 14:18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
The fifth point is: Don’t destroy the work of God. Romans 14:20 “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” Isn’t it clear that believers are the work of God. Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. We are God’s workmanship. This word workmanship is the Greek word “poema” where we get our word poem. You might remember a man by the name of Isaac Waats, he wrote poems and hymns for the church. Usually for him these poems just rolled out of him, but one time he wrote a poem that he said took him all day and all night to make it perfect. He said he wanted this poem to be a reflection of who he was. Did you know that believers are God’s poem to the world? And so we could think of it this way; that at the cross God worked not just all day and all night, but three days and three nights to remove your sin and make you the perfect poem. And now He works in us by His Spirit, making us a reflection of who He is. Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Believers are the works of God, therefore, be careful not to work against God by tearing down what He is building up.
The sixth point is: Don’t cause your brother to stumble. Vs. 20 says “It is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.” It’s wrong for us to do anything that causes someone else to stumble in their faith. “Oh they’re a bunch of hypocrites, I could never go to church with them.” And while that’s just an excuse not to go to church we shouldn’t be hypocrites either; we should never trip someone up.
I like to walk and run around Findlay State Park. And Findlay has some very sharp corners, and one time last year I’m running down the hill and I take the sharp corner to the left, and there’s a huge log fallen right across the path, and I couldn’t avoid it and I tripped and down I went. Now nobody put that there on purpose, but we can lay a stumbling block or obstacle in the way of our brothers and sisters by doing things that offend them. And a Christian should make up his or her mind, never to put a stumbling block or obstacle in the way of their brother or sister. Romans 14:13 Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. He repeats it in verse 21: Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.
Finally, point seven is: Don’t condemn yourself. Vss. 22-23 Romans 14:22-23 22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. In other words, keep faith primary, never do something that goes against our own conscience.
Here’s the message of Romans 14: although we are permitted to enjoy all kinds of freedoms, we are not commanded to do so. We are not obligated to exercise every freedom we have in Christ. In fact, the greater our love and spiritual maturity, the more willing we are to relinquish freedoms for the sake of serving the Lord and loving His people. As we mature in the faith, we become more interested in other people’s well-being, even as Jesus had freedom to remain in heaven, but chose the path of love instead, died on the cross, rose from the dead and purchased our eternal life.
You are Loved!