Romans 14:1-3: Gospel Based Community
Welcoming people of differing convictions is a hot topic today. Inclusivism is the politically correct thing to. Divisions among Christians are a perennial problem and the new sub-section we are beginning in Romans speaks to these matters. Paul has been talking to us about being living sacrifices as our response to God’s mercy to us in Christ. He has covered several areas of ethics. He has spoken about our minds, our attitudes, our body life and use of gifts, the love we ought to have to various parts of society, and our responsibility to the government. Out of all these sections, the next one is the longest treatment in this section. Paul deals the issue of Christians welcoming one another for 35 verses from 14:1-15:13. Compare this with 7 verses on submitting to the government, 4 on living in light of the second coming, 5 verses on body life, etc. This issue gets so much air time because it is a particularly big problem and because it is so important.
This next section holds many important topics for us; here is just a sampling of what we will have to cover in this section. Freedom of conscience, sabbatarianism, abstention from alcohol, OT dietary laws, the difference between a sin and a matter of conscience, the nature of Christian liberty, the sins of the left and right, the nature and limits of Christian unity, I hope you can see how relevant a portion this is today. The historic divisions among Christians and the modern climate of inclusion make this portion most pertinent. Today we begin looking at the gospel oriented nature of the community of the church, in 14:1-3, ‘As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.’ We want to allow Paul to show us the gospel welcome we ought to extend to all believers, and the gospel attitudes we ought to extend to all believers.