Romans: The Clearest Gospel of All
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

#36 – Dealing with the Weak
(Romans 14)

I have just come from one of the greatest events in the history of the Adventist Church.  In fact, it was so important and the General Conference got so excited that they actually sent a reporter to observe and to write a report in the Review and Herald.  What was this event?

For the first time in the history of the North American Division, the white pastors of the South Carolina Conference and the Black pastors of the South Atlantic Conference met together in a combined workers meeting.  This may not mean anything to you because we don’t have regional conferences in this part of the country.  In the south, it is very different.

I took my field school in Charlotte in 1964, 25 years ago.  In those days, black was black and white was white and the twain never mixed.  And they were fighting with each other like cats and dogs.

I remember one young man from Southern College [in those days called Southern Missionary College] said to me, “God never intended the blacks to ever be brought to the United States.”

I said, “Where did you get that from?”  He could not give me a Bible answer.

And the Blacks kept saying, “We have an equal right to this country.”

I said to myself, “Whatever your argument, one thing is clear:  this issue is a contradiction of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

But when I saw these two groups of pastors 25 years later meeting together, eating in the same cafeteria, living in the same cabins and fellowshipping as if there was no difference, I said to myself, “The gospel is still the power of God.”  I tell you, any distinctions in the church is a contradiction of the gospel.  On the cross, Jesus abolished all enmity, all partition walls, all distinctions, all separation between a holy God and sinful man and between man and man.  Wherever we have distinctions in the church, we are failing to reveal to the world the power of the gospel.

Unfortunately, this problem of relationships has always been a major problem in the history of the Christian Church.  You only have to read 1 Corinthians 3:3-4 and you will discover that the church was divided over leadership.  Some were for Apollos, some were for Paul, and Paul is rebuking them for this:

You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?

Sounds very familiar today, doesn’t it?  Some are for Ron Spear, some are for Wieland, some are for Sequeira, some are for Gibson.  That is a contradiction of the gospel.  There is only one Lord in the church:  Jesus Christ.

If you turn to the Epistle to the Galatians and read chapter five verse 15, Paul says,

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

“You are biting and devouring one another.”  Terrible!  Then you turn to Ephesians and Colossians and Paul is reminding the Christians that there has to be unity in the Christian Church.  Then go to Philippians 4:2-3 and you will find that there were two women who were at odds with each other, Euodia and Syntyche.

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.  Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

They were at odds with each other and Paul is saying, “No.  This is not as it should be.”

Now, as we come to Romans 14, we discover likewise in the church of Rome we had divisions.  Some thought in that church it was a sin to eat meat and so they ate only vegetables.  Others thought that it is a sin not to observe the Old Testament feast days and they also insisted that everybody follow them.  Now if each believer had kept his own personal convictions to himself, there would be no problem.  But the trouble is they were insisting on their own ideas being pushed upon others.  When that happens, you have division.

Now we must be absolutely clear that some activities we know are wrong.  The Bible says so.  And we know that some that some activities we must do because they are right and because the Bible says we must do them.  But what Paul is discussing in chapter 14 in the last part of verse one are issues that in the New King James Version says “over doubtful things.”  If he was writing today, he would use the phrase that we normally use:  “grey areas.” Romans 14:1:

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

I have a policy and I know some of you don’t follow it.  It’s obvious.  But I have a policy that in fundamentals we must be united but in nonfundamentals, these grey areas, we must have charity.  It is impossible for sinful human beings like us to see eye to eye on everything.  Even in the best of homes, even in the best of marriages, there is always sometimes some disagreement.  If there isn’t, then one partner is acting like a slave.  But the moment each person acts as a human being, you will always have things upon which to disagree.

What Paul is doing is discussing how do we deal with relationships over these problems of the grey areas.  Unfortunately we have similar problems today in the church, right here in this church.  In all the churches we have problems over theology, we have problems over reforms, diet or dress reform.  That’s why this chapter is extremely significant for us today.

With this in mind, let us look at the chapter.  You can divide Romans 14 into two sections.  In the first 12 verses, Paul is counselling the members at Rome.  The counsel that comes through him is “receive one another.”  We will look at that in detail.  The second counsel that Paul gives is found in verses 13 to 15 and that is that we need to edify one another.  Receive one another and edify one another.  Now let’s take each of these sections.

The first section is receiving one another and he is using an example in the grey areas.  I would like to say right at the outset that Paul is not discussing here the health message.  That’s not the issue.  The health message never was an issue in New Testament times.  What is the issue?  He is dividing the church members into two camps:  those who are weak in faith and those who are strong in faith.  It is extremely interesting to see how he defines the weak in faith, because we would tend to disagree with him.  He says those who are very scrupulous about the details of Christian living are weak in faith.  Those who have found their freedom in Christ are not those who are always going into guilt trips and condemning themselves and others.  Look at verse two:

One man’s faith allows him to eath everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

The King James Version says “eats only herbs.”  The modern translation says “only vegetables.”  The Greek word that Paul used is referring to things that are grown from the ground which would be vegetables in contrast to those who are eating by killing, which is animals and meat.

What was the real issue?  There were two groups of Christians in the Roman Church.  One group was those who were victims of Judaism, that is, they were converted from Judaism and came from a very strong legalistic background.  The other were mainly the Gentiles who came from a very Greek-minded people.  The Greeks, Hellenists, believed that the body, that all matter is evil.  When these people became Christians they said, “We must never pamper the body.  We must deprive it of good food.  We must live on vegetables.”  Vegetables, especially in those days, meant food that was tasteless.  There are a lot of Americans today who think that way.  They think that the vegetarian diet is tasteless.  That’s why we as Adventists have to prove to them that the vegetarian diet can be very tasty.  They only need to come to one of our potlucks.

But the issue was not health reform, the issue was those who were scrupulous about what they ate were weak in faith and those who enjoyed their food without wondering whether or not it was offered to idols or not or whether it’s good or bad, they were considered strong.  The issue here is we must not begin judging each other on this grey area.  That’s the issue.  Look at verse three:

The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.

We have as Christians no right to judge.  Why not?  Look at the last part of verse three:

...For God has accepted him.

Let’s go back to the argument.  There are two groups of Christians in the church:  the weak in faith and the strong in faith.  As far as God is concerned, both have been accepted by Him.  And since God is Boss and He has accepted both, so should we.  Look at his argument in verse four:

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?  To his own master he stands or falls,  And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Who are you?  When we went to the mission field, we were shocked to discover that there in the mission field in Africa we had two policy books:  one for the nationals, they called it section one, and one for the missionaries, section two.  In this policy book, there was a different scale for wages, moving allowance, etc.  It was always a bone of contention.  I don’t blame the nationals because, in the beginning, we gave the argument that we missionaries were educated.  “You are savages so you don’t need that much money.”  But what happened?  When these Africans got educated and came back with Master’s degrees and Doctoral degrees, we had to find another excuse.  So the battle went on and on until finally we were forced to do away with the two-section books.  It was a tragedy that we had to be forced to do it.

In that hot argument, one day the president of our union, who was a national, a Ugandan, stood up and he said, “I don’t know what you are fighting about.”  They were fighting over the wage scale.  Just like we fight here over women’s ordination, they were fighting over wage scale there.  The president, who was a fine, godly Christian man made a statement and I praise him for that statement.  He said, “If somebody out there sent his shamba boy [which means his garden boy] to come and dig my garden and plant vegetables for me, I am not going to ask that man, ‘How much are you paying your servant?’ I couldn’t care less how much he is paying him even though he may earn more than I.  But the fact that he has sent his servant to work in my garden, all I can do is say thank you for such a kind action.  This is what I do to the missionaries.  I don’t pay them.  The General Conference pays them.  They bring their salaries with them, but I know one thing:  they are working in my country and all I can say to them is, ‘Thank you for coming here.’ ”

Now here’s a man who understood the gospel.  That doesn’t mean that it was right but he was not fighting for his rights.  He realized that God has to solve this problem.

We will never agree on everything.  Some believe that we should not even touch eggs.  Some believe that we should not even touch cheese.  Fine.  But please don’t impose your views on others and say, “If you don’t do this, you are not a good Christian.”  It is God who judges.  Look at verse five:

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

If you look at the historical context, you will see that it is dealing primarily with the feast days.  Some Christians would like to say that it includes the Sabbath but the fact is that even New Testament scholars who are Sunday-keepers say that they believe through the word of God that the Gentiles in the early Christian Church kept the Sabbath.  These are Sunday-keeping scholars.  The reason they give is that if the Gentiles were not keeping the Sabbath, the Judaizers would have kicked up a stink about it.  But there is not a single ripple there of any opposition against the Gentiles for not keeping the Sabbath.  There was an issue about feast days all along in the early church.  So what Paul is saying is, “Some Christians believe that we must keep all feast days.”

In our own church, we have some people who say we must keep the jubilee.  When it doesn’t happen as it is supposed to, they fade into the distance without any apology for their error.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

Now remember the context.  This is over grey areas.  That’s how he begins the chapter.  Romans 14:6:

He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.  He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Now here is a fundamental truth:  every Christian is bought or redeemed by the Lord.  The church is defined in the New Testament as the body of Christ.  Every human body has a head; that means he has a boss.  Do you know who the head of the church is?  It isn’t your pastor.  It isn’t the conference president.  It is Jesus Christ.  Paul is saying that everyone of us must live according to the way the Lord is directing us.  By the way, He doesn’t direct each of us the same way.  He knows our background.  He knows where we are coming from.  He guides each of us differently.  But we, as human beings, have no right to judge others.  Verse seven:

For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.

In other words, what Paul is saying is:

  1. Both the weak in faith and the strong in faith have been received and accepted by God, therefore, we should accept them too.  That’s in the first three verses.

  2. In verses four to nine, Paul is saying, “Jesus is the only Lord in the church over all believers and we are to live under His guidance, under His direction.

Verse eight:

If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Do you know that God has bought you, not with silver and gold but with His precious blood?  I want to remind you of what we covered in the second half of chapter six of Romans, that to whomsoever you surrender yourselves as slaves to him you belong, either to sin, which is by nature, or to God who is the author of righteousness.  Verse nine says:

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

That is, He is the Lord of everyone who accepts Him, whether that one is dead or alive, because He will raise him up.  Now verse ten:

You, then, why do you judge your brother?  Or why do you look down on your brother?  For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

If there was ever a time that this church needed this counsel, it is now.  That is why, when you and I disagree on nonfundamentals, I will respect you for your position.  Please respect me for my position.  If you want to ask me for the reason why I take my position, I will be more than happy to give it.  But to condemn me because I don’t believe that there are two rooms in the heavenly sanctuary is a nonfundamental area.  I believe there is a sanctuary in heaven.  I believe there is a two-phased ministry of Christ in heaven.  That is a fundamental teaching of this church.  This denomination does not teach as a fundamental truth that there are two rooms because there are real problems with that position.  I’ll be happy to expose you to it one of these days.

But I do believe that the two rooms in the earthly sanctuary have a spiritual significance which are fulfilled in the heavenly ministry of Christ.  You may disagree, but please, I will respect you and you respect me.  We do not fight over it.  We don’t condemn each other over it because that is what brings division into the church.  Let each one be persuaded what is truth.  I have to answer to God.  I believe there is a judgment.  I will have to stand there.  Look at verses 10, 11, and 12.  But each of us will have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  Look at verse 11 where Paul quotes from the Old Testament:

It is written:  “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’”

I don’t have to answer to you but I do have to answer to God.  I do have to answer to you in the sense that I have to give you a Bible reason why I believe what I believe.  So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.  I’m perfectly aware of that and, therefore, I dare not say something that I don’t believe in from the heart because I know that one day I have to stand before God.  And He will say to me, “What did you do with the texts that I gave you?  What did you do with that text?”

And I will say, “God, when I studied that text, I went on my knees, I asked you for guidance, I used all the rules of interpretation, I took my Greek Bible and I studied it and I looked at the context and I did everything that You want me to do and I came to this conclusion.  If I was wrong, why didn’t you correct me?  You know my heart.”

You folks don’t know my heart and I don’t know your heart.  But we have to be honest with what we believe.  We must never take a position because we want to win a debate.  That’s not the purpose of Bible study.  We have to believe from the word of God, honestly following the rules of interpretation to find out what to believe.  And we must be able to give an answer. Verse 12:

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Verse 13:

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

This brings us to the second area of the chapter and that is:  edify one another.  Look at verse 14:

As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced [not by human beings but by the Lord] that no food is unclean in itself.  But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.

This statement was a tough one because when I look at the word “unclean,” I discover that it is the same Greek word as is found in Acts 10:14 where Peter had to face the unclean animals.  It is the same word.

But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.

Now if you take this statement as a blanket statement, you will go the wrong way.  You need to keep in mind what the context is in which you read this text.  There were many Christians in Paul’s day who were saying that food that was offered to idols was unclean.  So the issue here is not clean and unclean meats.  That is not the issue.  The issue here is that some people were saying that some foods were clean and some were saying that it was unclean.  There were factions.  Verse 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.

Every one of us as Christians, whatever we may do, always affects our fellow Christians.  Whatever you eat or drink, do it in relationship to God.  Whatever you do, whatever you say, whatever your behaviour may be does affect your fellow believers.  Paul is advising us here that we must do nothing that will bring stumbling to our brother, nothing that will grieve our brother, and nothing that will cause our brother to give up his faith.

One day I had a seminar in the highlands of Ethiopia.  It does get cold there in the highlands.  This was a town that was 9,000 feet above sea level and, believe me, it gets pretty cold.  Even with a fire, warm clothes are necessary in such heights on the equator.

I arrived on Friday just before sunset and, by the time I pitched my tent in the bush, it was sunset.  There was to be a meeting an hour later.  There was a cold wind blowing and the church was made of poles with a grass roof.  No heat in that church.  The wind was passing through and everybody who was there was shivering.  They were huddled up together trying to gain some warmth.

Before the service began, I said to the pastor, “Why don’t we make some hot drink and give the people something before the service?  That would help to put some heat into us.”

He was horrified.  “Pastor, do you realize what you said?”

I said, “Yes, I realize.  What’s the problem?”

“If we make a fire and make a hot drink, that is sin,” he replied.

I realized immediately that these people did not believe in kindling a fire on the Sabbath day, even for a hot drink.  In fact, the pastor told me that all they did was done on Friday and they ate the food cold.  If you know African food, it is not meant to be eaten cold.  It has to be eaten hot, otherwise it is tough.  But they ate it cold on Sabbath.  And they did not eat it with joy.  They forced it down because they had to keep alive.

I had in my little bag a little gas fire.  All I had to do was turn the knob and have a fire and I would have a hot drink, not for the whole church but for myself.  But I realized immediately that there would be problems with that.

You see, when you pitch a tent, you have no privacy.  It is not America.  They come to the windows to see you getting undressed.  What’s this foreigner like?  What does he sleep in?  They have never seen a sleeping bag.  They have never seen an air mattress.  They look and they talk and they say, “What wonderful things these people have.”

I knew if I made a hot drink for myself I would have no problem between me and God.  No problem.  But I knew that there would be a problem between me and them.  So, for their sake, I said, “No, I will shiver with them.”

We spent a whole week on the gospel and they found liberty in Christ.  Guess what?  The next Friday we had hot drinks before the service.  The Sabbath was no longer a burden.

But we have problems because we keep judging each other.  Every country has its own rules on how to keep the Sabbath.  Go to Bacchiocchi’s country, Italy.  They play football on the Sabbath.  Go to Scandinavia and they go swimming on the Sabbath.  Of course, if you go to England, they drink tea on the Sabbath, besides other days.  Then come to America and they take long rides for pleasure on the Sabbath.  Each country has their rules and they stick by those rules.  The problem is when you send missionaries to Africa from these countries.

As one Ethiopian said to me, “I never learned how to swim until I learned it from a missionary.”

I knew immediately that missionary came from Scandinavia.  I said to him, “Make sure that missionary is your advocate in heaven.”

What Paul is saying here is, “We must do nothing that will stumble or grieve or offend or lead somebody astray.”

Do you remember when Paul took Timothy to a synagogue one day?  The people said, “We will not listen to you.”

“Why?” he asked.

“You are bringing Timothy who’s half a Jew and who is not circumcised.”

He said, “No problem.  Bring me a knife.”  He had him circumcised and then said, “Now are you willing to listen to me?”

They said, “yes.”

Paul was against circumcision as a means of salvation but when it was putting up a barrier he said, “I’ll circumcise you.”

Timothy said, “Okay.  If I have to go through this agony for their sake, I’ll do it.”

My dear people, that is what Paul is saying.

The next thing he is saying in verses 16 to 18 in chapter 14 is that Christians must have priorities:

Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righeousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

We are experts in “majoring in minors.”  At this workers meeting, the black brethren were having a hot discussion.  I had a hard time when I preached there.  Only two of us were speaking.  One was a black minister from the General Conference and the other one was myself.

Have you ever preached in a black church?  I’ll tell you, it really turns you on or it makes it difficult.  They don’t keep quiet.  “Preach on, brother.  Give it to us.”  It wouldn’t be bad hearing that once in a while in a white church.

The meetings were long.  I preached for two hours at a time and they just gave me the encouragement but I didn’t need it.  Then they had devotionals in the morning.  They had a white pastor first morning.  They had a black pastor the next morning.  There was a world of difference.  The black pastor spoke so loudly that it was like thunder in my ears.  The white one said, “Boy, I’m having noise pollution coming out.”

I said, “Yes, we all come from different cultures.”  The blacks love this dynamic preaching.  They respond in the church.  The whites are very conservative.  Here at home, I have a hard time finding people to pray in prayer meetings.  I would have no problem in the black churches.  They would all pray, maybe all at the same time.  They are very outgoing.  We have differences but no one is allowed to condemn the others.  The whites have no right to say, “You blacks do not speak correctly because you are so boisterous.”  The blacks have no right to say to the whites, “You are dead in church.”  Let each one be perfect.  We need to remember, we need to put our priorities first.  We need to refrain from majoring in minors.

I spoke of the black workers arguing among themselves, and they finally called me to solve their problem.  They asked, “Will there be babies in the New Earth?  Will babies be born in the New Earth?” Can you imagine them majoring in such a minor?

I said to them, “You mean to tell me that you spent an hour so far on this issue when there is such wonderful truth in the Scripture about Christ that we should know first?  Why don’t you wait until you go to the New Earth and settle this problem there?  It’s not important now whether there are babies born in the New Earth or not.  But we will argue, we will fight over things that are insignificant when we should be lifting up Christ.  Please turn to 1 Corinthians 8:8.  It’s the same issue:

But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Have you got it?  The fact that you are following meticulously the health reform message does not make you a better Christian.  You follow it because you want to live for Christ, not to have a few stars in your crown.  But food does not commend us to God for neither if we eat are we the better nor if we do not eat are we the worse.  Please remember that our standing before God has to do with our position in Christ, not in our performance.  Our performance has to do because we are living for Him and if He says to me, “I want you to have this diet,” I would say, “Yes, Lord.  I’ll do it because I love you.  You have redeemed me and I belong to you.”

One year I worked for a summer in the logging part of Sweden.  I was a student at Newbold College [in the U.K.] and I went selling books 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle.  The natives of that area were called Laps.  I’m convinced that they are definitely connected with the Eskimos of Alaska because they have the same features with high cheek bones and they have the same culture and patterns of life.  But there’s one problem there:  it is too cold to grow vegetables even in the summer.  We had a snow storm when I was there on the twenty-third of June.  It was a snow storm.  The ground below a certain level is permanently frozen.  You can’t even grow fruit trees.  No vegetables there.  The diet is fish, rain deer meat, and milk.  If you went as a missionary and said to them, “I will not touch your food even though it kills me,” I’ll tell you, this is not practising health reform.  The purpose of health reform is not to kill you.

I had one missionary say that:  “I will not touch it even if it kills me.”

I said, “It will kill you.  Because you do need nourishment.”  By the way, you wouldn’t go to heaven because it killed you.  You may stay there forever because we are not saved by what we do.  This is what Paul is saying.  Let’s go back to Romans 14 and read verses 19 and 20 and onward:

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.  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.  It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.  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.  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.

We must not bring factions into the church because we have disagreement in this grey area.  The issue is not whether it is right or wrong.  The issue is:  “Are you following the counsel of God between you and Him?”

Yet I am concerned.  I am burdened that we solve this problem.  We had a workers meeting in Ethiopia one day.  There were about 50 pastors with three speakers.  There was a General Conference [Adventist World Headquarters] man, Paul Gordon; there was a division man; and myself — three speakers.

Ethiopians don’t have much money.  The average family in Africa has meat about five times a year.  Even then, it’s a scrawny old chicken for a family of 10 or 15.  All each one gets is a small piece.

This meeting we had was in a small town where we had a very rich business Adventist man.  Out of love for us he had a banquet in the middle of this workers meeting.  Guess what he did?  He had the fattest calf.  This was a polite way of saying, “I welcome you in Ethiopia.”  It is almost unethical to have a banquet without killing the fatted calf.  The pastors were really enjoying themselves.

My boss, the division man, was furious.  In fact, he was so furious that he could hardly enjoy his own cabbages and potatoes.

“What’s bothering you?” I asked.

He said, “Can’t you see what they are eating?”

I said, “Look, brother, when you came here the G.C. gave you a freight allowance.  You brought in Loma Linda Foods.  You brought Linkettes and all this plastic food so that you may have a variety in your diet.  How much of this have you shared with them?  You know very well what they eat day in and day out.  In fact, one of the biggest problems in Africa is a protein deficiency.  Why are you grudging them a little meat, man?  Why are you making it such a big issue?”

Well, he wouldn’t listen to this bush preacher so when the afternoon meeting came he stood up and said, “Not one of you will make it to heaven.”  Even the G.C. man was horrified at that statement.

Now, Ethiopians are a very polite people but there was one African pastor who could not take it.  He stood up and said, “Brother, how come Jesus went to heaven?  He did eat meat, you know.”  To make matters worse, the other pastors clapped their hands.

And I said, “They’ve got you.”  Now I agree that it was the wrong attitude, but they got him.

This man did not come down.  It was like adding fuel to the fire.  He became so hot that I had to stand up and say, “Look, I don’t care what you two are saying but one fact is true:  I am in charge of this part of the vineyard.”  So I said to my boss,“You keep quiet and let me speak.”

I said to the pastor who spoke, “Let’s be absolutely honest.  You did not eat that meat because Christ ate it.  You ate it because it was tasty.”

And he said, “Yes.”

I turned to my boss and said, “You did not give up meat because you wanted to serve God.  You gave up meat so that you could go to heaven.  That’s how you are coming across.  What is the difference?  He’s serving self and you’re serving self.  You are both in the same camp.  You’re doing opposite things.”

He had no right to condemn the African pastors.  If he was in their shoes, how many missionaries from this country are willing to go to Africa, live in their homes and live like them and eat their food?  The Peace Corps will do it but how many missionaries do it?  Then we have a right to condemn them?  You try eating like they do.  They’re struggling for survival.  Why do we begrudge them?  What is Paul saying here?  There are two principles that I want to mention:

  1. Whatever your lifestyle and whatever you do, you must do it because of a faith relationship with your God.  If I practice the health message, it is not because I want to live seven years longer.  I may have to die tomorrow as a martyr, some of you may even want to shoot me.  If I practice the health message, it’s because this body is a machine and I want God to use it to His glory.  It does save me hospital bills in this country but that’s not the reason that I’m doing it.  Whatever we do it for has to be based on a faith relationship to God, and our faith is based on knowledge, not on what you tell me or on what you do or don’t do.

  2. We must do nothing — even though in our minds it’s okay — we must do nothing that will cause a fellow believer to either stumble or be grieved or to take the wrong direction and be destroyed.

These are the two principles.  In closing, I would like to read a verse that will put it together.  1 Corinthians 10:31-33 and the first part of chapter 11:1:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God — even as I try to please everybody in every way. . For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.  Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

We belong to God.  We must live for Him.  Don’t do anything because of your rights.  Please remember that the church of God, your fellow believers are important.  We must live in love.  We must do nothing that will in any way hinder the spiritual growth of our fellow believers.  Then he closes with these words:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

May we all imitate Christ who went about doing good and never condemned the publicans and sinners but accepted them and said, “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  Gradually, He began to change them outwardly.  May God help this church that we will be united in love.  We may not see eye to eye in these grey areas but we will be united in love because we all belong to Christ and have been accepted by Him and, therefore, we are all in the same boat.  We’re one hundred percent sinners.  I don’t care who you are, we’re one hundred percent sinners saved by grace.  May God bless you.

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