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20180429 Sunday Worship Sermon
Romans 14: 1-12 “For the Lord”
Church is a gathering place for all kinds of people.
Due to that, the appearance of faith is different from one and another.
Therefore, there can be conflict at times.
In the Bible, we can see that these conflicts also existed in the early church.
In the case of the Corinthian Church, it was divided into several groups, depending on which spiritual leader they liked.
Also, because of their gifts, especially from those people with the gifts of tongues.
In the case of the Galatian Church, internal problems arose due to theological problems.
In the case of the Philippian Church, conflicts arose because of two female leaders, namely, Euodia and Syntyche.
The Roman Church also had conflicts.
There were two groups of people in the Roman Church which made it difficult to be one.
One was the Jewish believers and the other was the Gentile believers.
The Jewish believers are those who have been of the Jewish tradition for a long time, and the Gentile believers refer to those who have come to believe in Jesus without a Jewish background.
These two groups of people had many conflicts.
Especially the problem of eating meat, which caused a major conflict between the Jewish and Gentile believers in the Roman church.
At that time, in the Roman society, most of the meat sold on the market was only meant for an offering of idols.
So, whether they could buy meat to eat or not became a conflict of the Christians in the Roman Church.
The Jews had a tradition of eating unclean food thoroughly.
The Jews had a very precise tradition of not eating the food sacrificed to the idol.
Christians with a Jewish background naturally retained this tradition.
But on the other hand, the Gentile believers did not care about anything and ate well.
Gentile believers said, "We are free people who believe in Jesus and are saved. There is no reason to worry about what food to eat. Why does it matter what food you eat to go to heaven? Does this affect your faith in Jesus?"
Then they looked at Jewish believers and criticized.
Conversely, the Jewish believers blame the Gentile believers and criticized saying, "No, do believers have to eat anything? Believers should have devotion.”
This is to blame and criticize each other.
Paul wrote in Romans 14 and 15 how to graciously deal with the conflicts between these two groups.
What does Paul teach in this situation?
Let‘s look at verses 1-3.
“Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them…”
Here, Paul calls these two groups of people "the stronger" or "the weaker."
Now, the important thing is that Paul did not call them "the righteous" or "the wrong."
It is not a question of whether they are conflicted or disputed, whether they are saved or not, whether they are dead or alive, but simply because they are strong and weak.
In other words, the food problem they were in conflict with is not an issue of truth or essence, but a non-essential problem.
That is why Paul first says, "Welcome those who are weak in faith.”
Yes, a good church is a church that congregants accept each other and do not blame.
The church is a good church if it can embrace everyone who has strong faith or a weak person.
Jesus always ate with sinners. And the Pharisees who saw this blamed Jesus.
At this time, Jesus answered:
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance…” (Luke 5:31-32)
But nowadays, we see the appearance of these Pharisees in the sight of many Christians.
They prefer to condemn and blame than welcome and accept.
Brothers and sisters, there are people of various faiths in the church.
There are new comers and old members in the church.
Therefore, how can new comers of weak faith be built up?
Those who are strong in faith should accept and understand those who are weak in faith.
In fact, there are many non-essential problems in our life of faith.
As to essential things, such as the question of salvation, we should not compromise.
But on non-essential matters, we need to be open minded and not to criticize those who are weak.
I would like to share a story that actually happened.
There was this church that built their new church building.
But as soon as they finished building the church, there was conflict and division in the church.
The reason of conflict and division was due to "What kind of carpet color do we have in the sanctuary?" There was a conflict between the groups.
One group claimed, "The sanctuary should traditionally have a red carpet," and the other group claimed "No, these days trends are green, so it should be green."
They could not narrow their opinion and fought, and eventually the church became divided into two. How terrible is this?
Unfortunately, whether you are aware or not, the church can have many disagreements, for example: “Should we put curtains or should we not? // Where should we position the pulpit, should it be in the center, left side or right side?”
There are many unexpected fights in the churches. Let me ask you.
What color should the carpets be for our sanctuary?
Should it be red? Or should it be green?
Brothers and sisters, the carpet color is not essential, is it?
It has nothing to do with being saved or not. It has nothing to do with going to heaven or hell.
Yes, it is not essential. So whatever we do, we can be free about what is not an essential problem.
No matter what others think, we can talk and act freely.
By the way, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10: 23,
“Everything is possible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is possible, but not everything builds up..."
Also Paul confesses in 8:13,
"If food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall."
What does this mean?
It is first to establish a community and ask for the benefit of the community.
Whatever you do with your faith, whatever you eat or drink, it is not a matter of rest.
It is not a question of the essence of faith.
But if it is a difficulty for the community, then it should be able to be careful and to refrain from it.
For me, it may not be a problem of faith, but for someone it can be an important issue and it can be tested. So Paul speaks that he will not eat meat for the rest of his life.
The important thing is to save people.
The important thing is not to blame each other, but to acknowledge and accept each other.
It is to save and build up the community.
What Satan did to Adam and Eve was to corrupt by tempting, using the Fruit of Knowledge of good and evil. Satan feeds not only Adam and Eve, but also us every day.
What happens if we eat the fruit of good and evil?
People will blame and fight by saying, "this is good and that is bad. This is right and that is wrong, I am right and you are wrong..."
This is Satan's strategy to break down the community. We should not fall for it.
Why should we acknowledge and accept each other in the community?
It is because God has already accepted them.
In verse 3, Paul says, "For God has accepted them…”
If God accepted them, they are also children of God.
If God accepted them, it is natural that we should also acknowledge and accept them.
Although the brother next to us may seem to be wrong in our eyes, we are not the owner of his life but God is the master of his life.
We should not condemn or criticize the brother because we have different thoughts and views.
Also, if we do not want to judge people with weak faith, it is important to make decisions according to their own beliefs. Let's look at verse 5.
“Some believe this day is better than that day; others regard every day as the same. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds."
Here it says, “Let all be fully convinced in their own minds”
This is to ask each person to decide.
Jewish believers placed great importance on the Sabbath and many seasons.
They believed that even after believing in Jesus, they had to keep all these days.
On the other hand, Gentile believers were free to deal with any of these days or seasons.
Among Christians some cherish certain days.
For example, there is a person who must fast on Friday, because the Lord died on the cross on Friday. Some people say that they should not do anything but worship on Sunday.
What is important is that Paul did not stand on either side of this problem.
Paul’s position is that it is necessary to acknowledge and accept the difference of opinion from each other, because the food issue and the date issue are problems of difference depending on their own beliefs.
Yes, each of the non-essential problems can be determined by their own determination.
This is Christian freedom. Will I go to work after I finish the worship service on Sunday?
Or will I go to play? Or will I just rest? This is a matter for each one to decide.
Will I attend a dinner party at company and drink?
Or Will I refuse? / If I drink, how much will I drink?
It is a matter for each one to decide according to faith conscience.
Please do not criticize that it is different from your thoughts.
You should not be satisfied with all these problems "just be yourself."
This is because it can be wrong if one considers his thought to be the whole of the standard.
So, in verse 6-8, Paul says one very important condition.
“The one who takes care of the day also counts for the Lord, and the one who eats for the Lord, is thankful to God. He who does not eat forgives for the Lord and gives thanks to God. No one of us lives for himself, and no one for himself is dead. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord."
Here, in this passage, these words "for the Lord" are repeated many times.
Whatever God's children do, the motive must be ‘for the Lord’, and the ultimate goal must be ‘for the Lord’.
It is important to consider one specific condition when you say what you will do according to your faith.
That is "for the Lord".
No matter how self-conscience one is, no motive or purpose can be a problem if it is God-centered rather than Self-centered.
Even though there is a difference in thought or behavior, we can accept and can be accepted if the motive or purpose is "for the Lord."
What is important here is that the purpose of this "for the Lord" is not optional.
This is not a matter of choice.
It is not a matter of whether we admit or not.
Do you believe in Jesus?
Then, whatever you do, you must be a person to do for the Lord.
It is not living for "me" but living for “the Lord."
When we believe in Jesus, "for me" is changed to "for the Lord."
Those without faith see tradition and form, but those with faith see content.
People without faith see only the environment and people.
But people with true faith are only interested in what does Jesus think when doing something.
Let’s look at verse 9.
"For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living." (verse 9)
Jesus was crucified and died not only to save us from our sins, but to make us our Lord's possession.
In other words, if we are saved from sin, this means that we belong to the Lord.
Jesus' death on the cross has changed our identity.
We no longer belong to darkness, sin, destiny, and curse, but have the status of children of God.
Therefore, whatever we do, we must do for the Lord.
Finally, we learn another criterion that we should not criticize.
Let’s look at verses 10-12.
"Why do you criticize your brother? Why do you despise your brother? All of us will stand before the judgment seat of God." For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God.” (verses 10-12)
Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether something is "for the Lord" or "for oneself."
People with conflict also say to each other that "for the Lord" and "for the Church."
We must remember these words at this time.
We have no reason to criticize whether it is for the sake of the Lord or not.
Because if we go before God's judgment, it will be revealed naturally.
The Lord will judge whether we are really doing for the Lord or not.
God's judgment is not the place to go with the work of others but the place to stand with our own affairs.
In the end, whoever did, we are standing alone before God.
Therefore, we should not speak with others or criticize others.
The only one to judge is our God.
Brothers and sisters, as far as the issues that cannot be answered directly in the Bible, each of us has the freedom to make our own decisions based on our faithful conscience.
We must acknowledge this freedom and respect each other's personality.
Do not criticize other believers.
And be careful not to forget the motive and purpose of living in “for the Lord.”
I pray that all of us will all embrace, tolerate, and are working hard for the Lord, in the name of the Lord.