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Dividing Over Debatables

Romans 14:1-6



Sad Math:  In this church age, when we are supposed to be adding and multiplying, we are subtracting and dividing.  Disharmony among God's people is at epidemic levels.  We may have great unity here, but most places are not so, and Satan has a plan to end it here as well.  And this problem goes far beyond the local church.  The bride of Christ, His Church, is made up of all believers everywhere.  But we are disjointed and disconnected from one another.  Sad.


Denominationalism is everywhere.  And Baptists, which don't consider themselves as part of a denomination, might as well be, and they split like none other.  The world sees it, is confused, and the devil is happy.


This problem is not new.  It is all thru your Bible, and church history A.D. 

1 Corinthians 1:11-12
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:13
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Galatians 5:15
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Philippians 4:1-2
1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

Paul had the church read this letter publicly.  Awkward!


Imagine if each week we stood and read lists such as:

Workers who didn't show up.

This week's gossips.

Those behind a few weeks on tithe!


This age old problem is still with us today.  We divide, and not over doctrine, but over debatables...gray areas.  Things which the Scriptures aren't dogmatic about.


v. 2          Eating meat was a debatable back then.  It was likely offered to idols, and so was discounted [since idols don't eat...you know, being dead and all].  Most of these folks were saved out of paganism. 


Observing the Sabbath was another of their issues.  Some continued that OT tradition and some believed Christ ended it.

v. 5          Sabbath.


ill.--The Civil War was the bloodiest in US history.  And civil war is what Satan wants to initiate in the church.


When the world sees in-fighting, they laugh us off.  We give them excuse not to believe.


Here's topics of my lifetime:

Facial hair on men, striped or colored dress shirts, pants on women, going to a restaurant that has a bar, or a gas station which sells alcohol or cigarettes, hair blocked or tapered in the back, parting hair in the middle, going to a G rated movie, wearing your hat backwards, playing dominoes or cards, owning a TV, eating in a restaurant on Sunday, color of new carpet, hymns or choruses, pews or chairs, hold a microphone or put it on a stand.  God help us!

I've been rejected by others for what version of the Bible I use or whether we would use a soundtrack in church.


And the devil laughs.


In Romans 14, the Holy Spirit nails it all to the wall.

We must learn how to develop our own personal convictions and then keep them as our own.  We must stand for something or we'll fall for anything.  Your parents' conviction isn't enough. [Pastor's either.]  We need to be tolerant and loving to others who may differ with us.


We don't all have to be clones in order to get along.  We don't need to be cookie cutter Christians.  There's strength in our diversity.  Now there is a nucleus of beliefs, fundamentals of the faith, which we must center ourselves on.  But we miss the mark when we take little preferences and convictions and decide to impose them on others.


How not to divide over debatables:


1.     Consideration principle.

We must learn to be considerate to those we disagree with.

v. 1  "Receive"  There are strong Christians and weak ones.  All are to be received.  Who is strong?  Is it the one who refrains from the meat?  In this context, actually, no.  A strong Christian recognizes his liberty in Christ, and realizes God made all meat clean and a piece of wood or rock can't change it.  He isn't enslaved to diets and rituals.  A weak Christian looks to a list of rules in order to be spiritual.  But both are to be received.  Don't make it a test of fellowship and distance yourself from them. 

The exception is moral compromise.  The Bible tells us to run from blatant sin, lest we be dragged into it.  If a Christian slips into doctrinal compromise or immorality, get away from them.  But be careful of the holier than thou attitude you can develop, and then start applying this to any minor disagreements too.


v. 1  'not to doubtful disputations'  =  Don't receive them just for the purpose of arguing, but for loving them to where they need to be.


I'm so thankful for mature Christians who, over the years, accepted me where I was, in my immaturity, and saw potential, didn't give up on me, prayed for me, encouraged me, and loved me!


Why should the strong receive the weak?

v. 3b

Romans 15:7
Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

When you came to Christ, it wasn't on the basis of what you do or don't do...you came just as you were, without one plea!


If God can receive us that way, we ought to be able to receive others that way.



Also, Respect.

v. 3 sums it all up.  We cannot look down our nose at them.  You are not to be the self appointed convictions Gestapo.  Judge not!

v. 4  Get your convictions from God alone.  We don't have to check in w/ one another.  We all have our own list.

ill.--some churches post their list.  One listed a bunch of well known sins, but left off smoking.  Why?  All the deacons smoked under the old oak out back!  Over the years, some have criticized us as pushing tithing too much.  Know what they all had in common?


Get your convictions from God and then live them!


ill.--Charlie was the conductor for the commuter train.  Folks who worked all day rode his train.  He took their tickets.  Some had an annual pass they had to show.  One of those was John.  Each morning they would greet each other by name.  One day John forgot his pass.  But Charlie would know him, he thought.  He didn't realize Charlie was under strict orders to view the pass each time.  Sorry John, I can't allow you on, he said.  John went into a cussing rage and stomped off.  Others gathered around the commotion.  That was terrible they said, how do you feel?  Fine.  Why?  "You see that man up in the viewing window...he's smiling."


It doesn't matter what others think about you if you are living your convictions which you got from God!


Consideration principle...


2.     Conviction Principle.

Your convictions must be conveyed to you by the Master, and you must be convinced in your own mind.

v. 4  People can advise you, but get your convictions from the Lord.  And who are you to try to fix somebody else?  God is big enough to take care of fixing His servants...He doesn't need your help.


How can convictions be conveyed by the Master?

1 Timothy 4:4-5
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused…
5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

The Word and prayer are how convictions are conveyed. 

ill.--I have a conviction against social drinking.  It didn't come from my parents, college, the Baptist denomination.  It came from the Bible, and my interpretation of 'look not thou on the wine when it is red.' [Word]

ill.--my wife doesn't wear pants to church, not because the Bible says not to, but because thru prayerful consideration, she felt that's how God wanted her to dress in His house.  [prayer]


Your convictions must be conveyed to you by the Master, and you must be convinced in your own mind.

v. 5b        'fully persuaded' means 'filled to the brim'.  If there's any doubt in your mind, if you can't do it w/ your whole heart, then don't.  If you err, err on the safe side, the side of caution unless you know 100%...fully persuaded.  Give God the benefit of the doubt.


ill.--ask me if it's ok to play cards.  My answer:  It's ok for me, but not for you, obviously, because you aren't fully persuaded in your mind, which is why you are asking.


consideration, conviction...


3.     Consecration Principle.

v. 6  If you can do something to the glory of God w/ a clear conscience, then go for it.  But if it bother's you...if there's a twinge in your spirit, then don't.  Thank God for prime rib if you can, if not, try to thank Him for broccoli!


Balance to this entire lesson:  the stumbling block principle: 

1 Corinthians 8:8-13
8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

ill.--There's certain places I can be asked to preach which don't believe I should have facial hair.  What do I do when asked?  I could be like many Christians today and say, that's just ridiculous, they are wrong, and bless God I'm not changing.  But you know what I do?  I shave it, and both they and my wife are happy!  No skin off my nose.


Some churches don't like some music my wife and I do, so we don't do that music there! 


We get so much more done when we work together, we add and multiply, instead of subtracting and dividing over debatables!

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