So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” – Romans 14:10-11
Scripture speaks clearly:
I really shouldn’t be surprised, not after all these years. However, I still find myself amazed and humbled by how directly and how clearly scripture speaks to me when I take the time to study, to pray, to reflect, and to meet with a small group, sharing life and growing in faith.
My Saturday morning men’s Bible-study is twelve weeks into our Romans conversation; and, once again, “The Word” blew me away. 7:00 AM; Wake Forest Presbyterian Church; a handful of serious disciples – fortified by fresh-ground coffee (thanks, Dan); grappling with the ongoing challenge to follow Jesus.
We covered a lot of ground, Reading Romans 14, and the first 13 verses of chapter 15. Then God seemed to speak directly into my spirit when (for the third time in as many days) I heard the following words:
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13
For me, this seemed to put the balance of the discussion in its proper order. First, trust in God. Then – trusting God rather than barreling forward because of confidence in myself (my own fine arguments and my fabulous opinions) – I will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, having set trust in God as the keystone for confidence, I can go on to write about the balance of our conversation.
GOD IS THE JUDGE: The apostle Paul (a brilliant thinker who helped to shape the future of Christianity via his understanding of how Christ’s teachings translated into a theology the church could build on) makes some startlingly open-spirited observations about disagreements between people who trust in Jesus, but differ regarding what is “right” and what is “wrong” when it comes to the personal practice of faith.
Here are a few examples:
- Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval – v 4
- So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” vs 10-11
- Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. vs 12-13
- For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. vs 17-18
Then, just in case you think I’m trying to slide by with too much “permissiveness” on this one, along comes the following healthy dose of conviction, all wrapped up and nicely presented via verse 23. Paul reminds me, in no uncertain terms, that I need to make sure (as does every believer) that I can be at peace with God regarding the kind of life that I live/advocate/bless. “But if you have doubts… you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”
And that brings me back to where we started. It’s not about my (fabulous) opinions, or about my (fine) arguments. First – and always – I need to trust in God. That’s where my “confident hope” has to come from.
But remember, all you eager “judgers” out there, “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.”
Do I hear an “Amen?” – DEREK