Download This  Study For Free!


Please feel free to Download this study.

GRAY AREAS QUOTES

John Stott points out that there is a difference between the weak in faith and those, like the alcoholic, who are weak in resisting temptation.  He says that "What the weak lack is not strength of self-control but liberty of conscience."  "Taken from ROMANS by John Stott.  Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

The "apostle takes up and uses an illustration – an illustration that was quite familiar to people at that time . . . The rich had many servants in the New Testament time, many of them slaves . . . So Paul, in effect, says, 'What would you think of a visitor who took it upon himself or herself to criticize and to judge and to correct the servants of the host?  You know that sort of thing is not done.  It would be very rude of you to correct another man's servant.  Anybody with a sense of delicacy or appropriateness would not dream of doing such a thing.  It is an uncouth person who tells off or openly criticizes the servant of another person in that person's house." "Taken from ROMANS Exposition of chapter 13 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2002 by Banner of Truth."

The application to us today is obvious; other Christians are God's servants and accountable to God for their service; they are not our servants and accountable to us.  When we start criticizing them, it shows that we have an arrogant attitude and are putting ourselves in God's place and treating them as our servants.  May each of us remember this truth when we begin to have a critical attitude toward our fellow Christians.

Here is an illustration that helps me to understand what Paul is teaching here, and it may help you as well.  Two young girls are learning in a gym class how to use the balance beam.  One girl is very athletic and picks it up quite quickly.  She urges the other girl who is very awkward to move across the balance beam as easily and as quickly as she has just done.  But, because of her urging, the awkward young lady fall and hurts herself badly.  The agile girl became a "stumbling block" for her awkward friend.  She should have been patient with her friend.  In the same way, we need to be patient with those whose consciences are not as quick to be free from guilt in areas where we are free.

Paul begins this section of verses with these words:  "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another."  Another proper way to put this is that is easier for us to understand today is, "let us stop being so critical of each other."  Not only can we be a "stumbling block" by flaunting our liberty in front of Christians who lack freedom of conscience in our area of Christian freedom, but we can also be arrogant and critical of them.  The girl in the previous illustration can also add insult to injury by making fun of the other girl's awkwardness.  We are not to be critical of those who are still awkward in their Christian liberty; even though it is very easy and human for us to do this type of thing.
What is pure and good for us can become evil if it has a destructive effect on our Christian brother or sister.  The words "spoken of as evil" is the Greek word blasphemeo" from which we get our English word "blaspheme."  Our Christian testimony can be ruined if we make some "disputable matter" an ugly issue.  Is it worth it?  Paul's point is that it is not worth it.  We who are strong in faith are to choose to avoid making it an issue by choosing to not exercise our freedom to do something when it will create a divisive and ugly issue.

This does not mean, though, that we are to be manipulated by the legalists who have set their own rules for our behavior.  Jesus created controversy by not going along with the rules of the Pharisees. See Matthew 12:1-14, 15:1-14

Ray Stedman gives an example of how, when Paul's principles taught in these verses are not applied, it can get very destructive:  "I once heard of a church that got into an unholy argument over whether to have a Christmas tree at their Christmas program.  Some thought a tree was fine; others thought it was pagan.  They became so angry at each other they actually had fistfights over it.  One group dragged the tree out, then the other group dragged it back in.  They ended up suing each other in a court of law and, of course, the whole thing was in the newspaper for the entire community to read.  What else could non-Christians conclude but that the gospel consists of whether or not you have a Christmas tree?  Paul says this is utterly wrong.  The main point of Christian faith is not eating or drinking or having a Christmas trees.  The main point is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  A non-Christian, looking at a Christian, ought to see these things, not wrangling and disputing and fighting and law courts, but righteousness." "Taken from FROM GUILT TO GLORY Volume II by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

One pursues love and peace; the other is combative and often unloving.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones refers to the last group as "spiritual detectives."  When we are "spiritual detectives," we look for faults in others, despise them, slander them, and feel that it is our job to root them out of the church; when we are supposed to love them.  We are to be seeking after their best and not seeking out their faults.  What happens immediately is that we lose what is most important to Christianity; we lose love, peace, unity, and joy.