Over the last several weeks I’ve purposely NOT gotten into statistics nor ‘step 1, 2, 3′ formulas when sharing about these social issues, but have tried to provide higher laws so the reader could be armed well enough to see wisdom and perhaps a different perspective on the issues.
So today I share about alcoholic drinks in the same way – going to higher principles rather than debate this or that point about the merits of drinking alcohol.
Higher Law – Love
In Romans 14:1 Paul sets the subject by saying; “Him that is weak in the faith receive, but not to the point of quarreling over matters of dispute.”
Paul is about to discuss how to handle Christians who believe different things about what they should eat or not eat, drink or not drink, and on what day of the week to worship. I quote from Word Meanings of the New Testament by Earle: “…Paul has in mind the type of person who makes a major issue out of minor matters…observing meticulously man made rules and regulations.”
The phrase ‘quarreling over matters of dispute’ is also translated ‘receive…but not for disputes over opinions’, and ‘receive…but not with the idea of arguing’.
What is there to Argue About?
“For one believes that he may eat all things, another, whose faith is weak, only eats vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt those who eat only vegetables. And the vegetarian must not judge those who eat everything, for God has received him.” (v3)
“Who are you to judge another Man’s (Jesus) servant (the person in question)? To his own Master he stands or falls; and yes, he shall be held up for God is able to make him stand.” (v4)
Which Day to Worship?
Paul continues: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each should be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regards one day as sacred does so unto the Lord, and he that thinks every day is alike does so unto the Lord. Whoever eats all things does so unto the Lord for he gives God thanks. And he that abstains from meat, to the Lord he doesn’t eat it, and gives God thanks.” (v6)
Paul dealt with similar questions in I Corinthians 8:4-6. The issue was eating meat that had earlier been used as a sacrifice to an idol in the pagan temple, which was then sold to local meat markets and restaurants. Some Christians wouldn’t eat the meat, others had no problem eating it.
To them he said; “We know that an idol is nothing in this world, and there is no other God but one…however, not every man has this knowledge.” (I Cor 8:4-6)
To the Romans he said something very similar: “I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean in itself: But to those who consider something unclean, to them it is unclean.” (14:14)
These issues are why Paul included drinking in Romans 14:21 – “It is good neither to eat meat, nor drink wine, nor to do anything that causes your brother to stumble, or is offended or made weak.”
“Take heed lest by any means this power (of choice) which is yours, become a stumbling block to those who are weak in the faith.” (I Cor 8:9)
I like what Paul told the Romans in 14:13: “Let us not pass judgement on one another any more (in these issues); but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle in the way of a brother.”
That Is the Issue
Paul’s teaching in Romans 14:1 was to receive a person who is weaker in the faith, but not to the point of argument. Instead, those with higher knowledge are to refrain from their freedom if one of weaker faith is joining them in a meal and it would damage that person’s conscience to see them down a medium rare filet mignon while they had a salad. In other words; walk in love and eat a salad too.
I ministered at a particular church years ago, and the pastor and his wife, Italian Americans, invited me for a delicious Sunday spaghetti dinner in the best of Italian traditions. An elder of the church and his wife joined us as well, and as we were seated the pastor poured a red wine for each person as normally as one might pour a glass of water. I drank the wine, though I don’t drink alcoholic beverages.
I was in Russia in 1991, leading a team of Americans starting a church with some Russian friends, in Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains about 1200 miles (2000km) east of Moscow. Our hostess and her friends went to great expense to provide mountains of traditional Russian food, including white wine which was poured in each glass, which we all drank, though none of us (Americans) drank alcoholic beverages.
Love was required in each situation. The issue isn’t drinking or not drinking, eating meat or not eating meat, worshipping one day or another – the issue is love. Don’t be one of those people Paul was aiming at, the ones who major on the minor issues and want to argue their pet doctrine to the point of causing distress in the local body.
“So then, everyone of us shall give account of himself to God…but if your brother is grieved with your menu, then you aren’t walking in love. Don’t destroy him with your food, for whom Christ died. Don’t let your good (freedom) be spoken of as evil…It is good not to eat meat, nor to drink wine, nor anything that causes your brother to stumble, or is offended or made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God.” (parts of Romans 14:12-22)
Next week: Have you noticed that Christians take offense faster than any other group of people? What causes that? Stay tuned…