How to be United when Divided (Romans 14:1-15:13)

By Andrew E. Courtis

There are many differences in the life of the church – differences that range from personality to preferences. It is the responsibility of God’s people to mutually accept one another. Not an acceptance that tolerates or ignores sinful conduct, but an acceptance on non-essential issues that the Bible doesn’t specifically prohibit. Sadly, there has been much division and in fighting on such matters, and this is not pleasing to the Lord. For the Christians in Rome there was an issue that had the potential to cause unnecessary division and Paul addresses this in Romans 14:1-15:13. Though Paul uses the specific issues of diet (14:3) and days (14:5-6), the principles from this passage apply to all matters that the Bible doesn’t specifically address in which believers differ on. He calls for God’s people to receive (14:1-12), build (14:13-23) and please one another (15:1-13).

 

1. RECEIVE ONE ANOTHER (14:1-12)

In these verses Paul provides three reasons why believers should receive one another. Firstly, God has received us (14:1-4). Paul outlines the differences between a strong believer and a weak believer. The strong believes that all foods are permitted for eating, so they experience liberty. Whereas the weak believe that certain foods are to be avoided (14:2). Both are to accept each other because God has (14:3-4). Secondly, believers ought to receive one another because Christ is our Lord (14:5-9). It is easy for us to pass judgment on others who don’t do things the way we do it, but if another believer has a conviction, and Scripture doesn’t specifically address the issue, then they ought to accept that fact that they are striving to honour the Lord. Finally, we ought to receive one another because we will all be judged one day (14:10-12). We are not to be judge on such matters; this is God’s business.

 

2. BUILD ONE ANOTHER (14:13-23)

In addition to receiving each other, we are to build each other up. The Biblical view of body life in the church in not to put up with people, but to mutual encourage and support. How can both the strong and weak build each other up? In verses 13-23 Paul provides two principles that will help build others up. The focus here is on the strong building up the weak. Firstly, we should cultivate a right perspective (14:13-19). It is easy to make matters of diet and days big issues, but we are to remember that God’s kingdom does not center on such things. Instead, the kingdom of god is about “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (14:17). Secondly, we should cultivate a right personal conviction (14:20-23). Paul doesn’t want believer to abandon their convictions (both the strong and the weak), because “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (14:23). Instead, we are to maintain our personal conviction before the Lord and seek to not damage the conscience of others (14:22).

 

3. PLEASE ONE ANOTHER (15:1-13)

With the example of Christ before us (15:3), it is the duty of God’s people to not please themselves, but to seek to please one another with the view of building them up (15:1-2). Paul then provides a benediction in which he prays that God would grant his readers the “endurance and encouragement” to live in harmony with one another with the view of bringing glory to God (15:5-7). This section concludes with a reminder that this unity is important because it leads to the glory of God. This was seen in God bringing together Jews and Gentiles in salvation (15:8-13).

 

Study Questions:

  1. What are some of the “grey areas” in which some Christians will disagree on?
  2. Why do you think Christians tend to disagree on such things?
  3. What does it mean to “receive one another”? See 14:1-12
  4. What does it mean to “build one another”? See 14:13-23
  5. How can we “please one another”? See 15:1-13