As we pick up our study on Romans 14 and what it does (and doesn’t) teach about offending our brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s do a quick review of what we learned last week:
FACT #1: There were people who were “weak in faith”
FACT #2: There were people who were “stronger in faith”
FACT #3: There were issues that were “matters of opinion”
FACT #4: These issues were NOT to divide God’s people
Based on these facts, what are some things that we can learn and apply to our lives today, as 21st century Christians who live in a culture that is highly sensitive to “offending” anyone?
APPLICATION #1: We must carefully & properly identify these “matters of opinion” – When it comes to matters of faith (which are the things that the Bible has clearly/specifically addressed – i.e. the essentiality of baptism, salvation by grace, the organization of the Church, etc.), we do not have the right to “overlook” them, or to use Romans 14 as a guide for handling those kinds of issues (Rev. 22:18-19; 2 Jn. 9; 2 Tim. 1:13-14; I Tim. 6:2-5, etc.). However, we are often guilty (as were the Pharisees in Jesus’ day) of turning our “matters of opinion” into “matters of faith” (Mt. 15:9). Some examples of this might include:
- - Our preferences concerning the amount/selection of songs in our worship services (“new songs” vs. “old songs”, less singing vs. more singing, etc.)
- - Our opinion concerning Power Point and other technological aids
- - Service times/formats (the biblical “necessity” of Bible class, Sunday night services, Wednesday night services, etc.)
- - Preaching styles (How long should a sermon be? “Old school” preaching vs. “New school” preaching, etc.)
- - Specific rules concerning “dress code” (are we biblically “required” to wear certain things to worship, or is it more of an attitude issue?)
Although we may feel strongly about some of these issues (and our feelings may even be based on our interpretation of certain Scriptures), they are simply NOT in the category of “matters of faith” (in my opinion:)
APPLICATION #2: The person is more important than the issue – Regardless of where we might stand on these, or any other “issues”, it should never cause disunity, dysfunction, or a judgmental environment within the Lord’s Church. In contrast, we are to “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” What does this mean?
- “Stumbling block” – from the Greek word, “proskomma”, meaning, “an obstacle in the way which if one strikes his foot against he stumbles or falls; that over which a soul stumbles, i.e. by which is caused to sin.” – Thayer’s Greek Lexicon; or “opportunity to experience inward pain (take offense) or make a misstep; cause for offense; cause for making a misstep” – BDAG Greek Lexicon
- “Hindrance” – from the Greek word, “skandalon”, meaning literally, “the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick; any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall; any person or thing by which one is drawn into error or sin” – Thayer’s Greek Lexicon; or, “an action or circumstance that leads one to act contrary to a proper course of action or set of beliefs; temptation to sin; enticement to apostasy, false belief, etc.” – BDAG Greek Lexicon
If I understand these words properly, this can refer to ANYTHING that causes our brothers & sisters in Christ to sin. The following questions now arise, which we will try to answer next week:
- - “Is this a reference to ‘hurting someone’s feelings’, ‘bothering them’, ‘upsetting them’, etc.; or is this a more serious spiritual offense?”
- - “How would I know if I was ‘strong in the faith’ or ‘weak in the faith’, and what could I do about it if I found out that I was the ‘weak’ one?”
We will continue this important study next week, but how would you answer these questions right now if you were asked?